Monday, January 02, 2006

Suunto Vector Watch/Altimeter/Compass

I have had a Suunto vector since 2002, and wear it pretty much all the time. It has some good and bad points you might like to consider if you are going to buy one or similar.

First of all as a watch, it is very big. You get used to it and its ok if you have big wrists. The time display is biig too which is nice if you eye sight is not to good. The back light is fine excet it is annoying that it comes on only after keeping a button for a couple of seconds. Stop watch, timer and alarm work fine. The seconds are indicated by a strange and excentric radial display, but the touch of a button replaces the date with digita sconds. The date is displayed in the irritating MM.DD format, and this cannot be configured to the standard DD.MM format.

The liquid crystal display suffers from a very poor viewing angle, with the really annoying feature that you can misread the time as one of teh seven segment digit displays may appear dark when viewed from an angle. This can result in misreading the time. A friend who works on the design of liquid crystal displays syas they used a very cheap disply. I find this annoying considering (1) it was quite expensive and (2) Suunto has (had) a reputation for quality.

The barometer and altimiter is the best bit. A little display gives you the baro trend which is nice. For things like sailing, where the altitude is constant it is nice to have a barometer. For walking in mountains with a fairly stable pressure the altimeter is great. If you are walking somewhere with lots of trees or high sided vallies GPS is useless and the altimeter with its rate of climb/fall gives a very good indication of the time you might expect get to the bottom of the hill. Obviously you have to reset the altimeter at known places to allow for pressure changes, but in alpine climates once a day will often do.

The compass is rubbish. It needs regularly recalibrating by doing a strange rotating dance while in calibration mode that does not always work. If you do this in public people give you funny looks! You have to hold the thing quite level for it to be accurate and there is a silly little spirit level in the face to help you. It is not much use asa marching compass, as it needs to be dead level and it times out quite quickly, and it is useless as a baring compass. It might occasionally be useful as a back up, but I find that as I dont use it as a compass I don't calibrate it, so if I did need it it is wrong. If you see what I mean.

It is water resistant and I have snorkeled with it but it is not suitable for diving.

The rubber strap lasted 4 years in continuous use and then split. Which is quite good going I think. Over the same time I have changed the battery once.

Overall verdict: If you want a wrist barometer altimeter its pretty good especially if second hand. if you have small wrists consider wearing it on a string. As a compass forget it.

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