Friday, November 21, 2008

Suunto T1c Review

A few months ago I decided that it was time to start exercising to get back into shape. Like many folks these days, I had simply enjoyed stuffing myself too many times. Now the reason this introduction has some relevance to watches is because exercise works better if you keep track of your progress as you do it. And that brings me to the subject of this review, the Suunto T1c. You know the way those digital meters on an exercycle keep tabs on your pulse, time and calories burned, well, the T1c does that too.

A little background first, Suunto is a Finnish company that makes a series of digital watches that are all very advanced in their capabilities. Some have GPS capability, some can measure altitude, some can track the weather and some seem to be capable of doing just about everything. Overall, the company’s products are geared towards an active, outdoor lifestyle. If that describes you, these folks have something you'll appreciate.

On to the T1c. The watch is in many ways a typical digital watch. It gives you the time, the day and date, it has an alarm, a backlight and it can handle another time zone. So far, nothing special although the reverse contrast display and the sweeping seconds indicator (a digital dot that orbits the dial) are pretty cool. It measures 44mm in width (including the pushers) and 12mm in height. (Mind you, the T1c seems to wear smaller that its dimensions would suggest. I think it’s because of the integrated band.) The watch band is plastic and can be replaced when it wears out. The case is plastic as well with a stainless steel back. Water resistance is rated at 30 meters. All really quite conventional so far. Where things get interesting though is when you press the Mode button and unpack a curious accessory in the Suunto box.

Before you get started, there are a few preliminaries to take care of. The first thing you have to do (after setting the date and time) is to enter some information about yourself. The watch needs to know your age, weight, gender and approximately how active you are based on a scale (included in the manual and online). Don't be put off by this step by the way. The controls are intuitive and it only takes a minute to set up. You are now ready to put the T1c to work. Pressing the Mode button puts the watch into Training mode where it is now ready to start measuring you as you exercise. The accessory I mentioned gets used now too. In the box, you will see what looks very much like an elastic belt, which is exactly what it is. This belt contains a small wireless transmitter that, when worn across the chest, tells the watch how you are doing. The belt is thankfully soft and unobtrusive so wearing it for an hour or so is no problem. One caveat, there are two pads on the inside part of the belt that need to be moist to work. A little hand cream seems to do the job nicely. (The belt is washable if you are concerned btw). Suuunto does tell you to wet these pads but the importance of this step is great. The belt will not detect your pulse otherwise. (Suunto warns that people with pacemakers should not use this device by the way).

I wore the Suunto T1c while riding my recumbent exercise bike. The bike itself has a computerized digital display that measures calories burned among other things so I was able to gauge how accurate the T1c was. It did pretty well, coming in within 5 percent of the bicycle computer's reading. (For all I know it may be the more accurate of the two). That seems pretty good to my reckoning and more than informative enough to be used to track one’s workout. In addition to tracking an individual workout, the T1c also stores the results of your workouts for later reference should you want to check your progress over time. You can also set the watch to measure your progress as a function of your heart rate using the heart rate zones feature.

Overall, the T1c is a pretty slick piece of equipment. It really is an exercise computer that happens to have a watch on board. Mind you, the T1c would do fine as a daily wearer. It is comfortable and its timekeeping functions are excellent. Its utility as a workout tracker though is very helpful indeed if you are serious about getting into shape. Wearing the T1c (and its sensor belt) effectively puts an electronic monitor on any exercise routine you choose to do. That makes tracking both your heart rate and the all important “calories burned” very simple. I wasn’t sure if I would like using a watch like this while exercising but seeing those totals come up after a workout is addictive to me. If you are into exercise or thinking about starting an exercise routine, consider the T1c a recommended accessory.

P.S.-Before anyone asks, I have dropped 33 lbs in the last 7 months and now weigh 179lbs. Getting there :)


Blogger John F. Opie said...

Hi -

Got one as well for the same reason, congrats on your weight loss. Haven't had the time here, but it's on the list of things to do in 2009...

Thanks for the tip with the hand cream. Have been indeed having trouble with contacts there...


11:39 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

My solution to the time problem was to park an recumbent exercycle in front of the TV. Instead of just sitting these days, I cycle through the news or a show or two. Works pretty well for me. Good luck with it.


2:06 PM  
Blogger gambie said...

As before congratulations on the weight loss, just thought I would just ask you what you thought of TOY WATCH. I'm sure you have heard on them, if not:

Personally I really like them, very unique and a great origional concept. Great blog, keep it all up. And please do check out mine. Many thanks.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

My sister-in-law has a Toy Watch. I kinda like it. Seems pretty well made.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Gambie said...

Ohh right, thats good. They are nice. They seem to be gradually increasing in popularity. They seem kinda expensive for what they look. Have an opinion?

1:25 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

They are expensive but there is a fashion element to be considered as well. That adds to the price. They are not premium watches by any standard but they also don't seem to take themselves too seriously either which is good. Overall, not bad.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous relojes said...

sunto are fine i do preffer polar

11:50 AM  
Blogger diavolo770 said...

I just got a t1c after losing the Polar HRM that I had. It seems to be more user-friendly than the Polar I had (which, by no means was the top-of-the-line) and the Suunto has a nicer display and I like the fact that it gives me the average heart rate I am training at. I don't use the zone alarm functions since I have to have music playing through my headset when I run or do any kind of cardio. I've only used it a few times and the only dripe I have is that even when I am sweating like a pig and I know the contacts on the belt are wet, sometimes it says "searching" to find the belt. Maybe this has to do with interference from the transmitter on the cardio equipment I use, maybe I need to change the belt code. No matter, I like this HRM (not quite love it, but like it) and think it will help me get with the weight loss program I'm on.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

Quick question: I just bought the same Suunto t1c that you've got, and I'm struggling to work out how to move my training totals across to the counts for this week, last week, this month and last month (When you press the Lap + button from the time mode... Do you know how to do this?
Currently my totals say zero, but when I go into training mode, my sessions and data are all there.

Please help!


PS I am also a librarian- I'm a Biological Science librarian at a University in Sydney.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

That I'm afraid I don't know. I just use it monitor things on an individual workout basis.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, i bought the suunto t1c too and i was just wondering if the calories burned are real? do they show the real number of calories burned or is it just for stimulation, to get you going? because i know that some watches dont show the real number.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I believe that the calorie count is the result of an algorithm based on the data that you enter when programming the watch.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have this watch too. Well, let's say I had it. It died after a few months and I'm not sorry that it did. I know the calorie counts were wrong sometimes (it's difficult to burn 1000 calories). It frequently failed to register my heart rate and it's not user friendly. I'd use something else.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

You should let Suunto know that. It shouldn't have died so soon.

4:54 PM  

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