Technology

Suunto's Sexy Sports Watch


Suunto_t4_110x100
Editor's Rating: star rating

This stylish timepiece carries through on its claim to provide a personalized workout, but the learning curve is steep

High-tech sports equipment is often many things other than sexy. Girding the gear for the wear-and-tear demands of jostling and sweat resistance can make for some solid, but unattractive, accessories. Suunto's handsome T4 training watch escapes the ugly trap, and, by way of smart programming, may help you do the same.

That's because the $199 T4 packs Suunto's software that's capable of recommending workouts tailored specifically for you. That's a pretty tall order, but luckily, the T4 is long on smarts and thin on geekiness.

The watch takes your fitness, based on height, weight, gender, maximum heart rate, and activity level, into account and then recommends workouts for the coming days to help improve your speed and endurance. Given your performance, the program alternates intensity and time, and throws in rest days when needed. You can even skip a day or work out harder and the coach adapts your program accordingly. Very cool.

Back to the Book

The smartest feature, though, may be the watch's built-in Training Effect software, which measures effort level on a scale of one to five to help you determine whether you're working too hard or not hard enough. If you're hitting five consistently, you need to take it down a notch. If you're languishing at one, you need to step it up. The watch also keeps track of this data in an accessible log.

If this all sounds a bit dense, that's because it is. The big downside of all these capabilities is a somewhat annoying complexity that may test your patience. At the very least, be prepared to have your ego blunted as the T4's sophistication brings you to your knees, forcing a close read of the manual.

Still, the T4's looks just might make it worth the effort. This is one of the sexiest looking training watches on the market. Its crisp display is large and luxurious, the equivalent of a wrist-mounted 30-inch Apple (AAPL) display. This makes it a snap to view time, calories burned, and heart rate on the display as you exercise and makes for some sweet-looking performance graphs when you're done.

Dirty Straps and Finger Fumbles

The band is notable too. It's made of cloth, not rubber, making the T4 ultra-light and suitable for everyday wear. Some might want a $200 watch to sport a more substantial band, but it looks great and can be adjusted to fit any wrist comfortably. The downside is how quickly it absorbs sweat and dirt. After a few weeks of use, my T4 looks and, well, smells like it has been through a lot of hard runs. Fortunately, the band is washable and replaceable.

The T4's five side-mounted metal buttons let you to scroll through the watch's many functions. They're sturdy and textured to make them easier to handle, but they're also smallish and may be hard to maneuver for folks with bigger fingers.

Mental Workout

Suunto, like too many other exercise-equipment manufacturers, is all about accessories. The company offers a series of "pods" that can add pedometer, biking, or GPS data through the T4's capable brains. There's also a pod that links the T4 to your PC for even more exercise geekery. Each of these pods adds anywhere between $50 and $100 to the total tally.

The bevy of built-in features includes basic stopwatch, dual time zones, alarm clock, and adjustable heart rate alarms to warn you when you're pushing yourself too hard. All good stuff. It's also water resistant to 100 feet. These functions all work as advertised.

The T4 is immediately attractive, thanks to a glorious screen and hip band. But it will take you some time to adjust to its brainier functions. To get the most out of the coaching and Training Effect software, factor in a fairly steep learning curve. But, as with all exercise, the payoffs are worth the effort.

Matt Vella is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

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