I have updated my Geek.com MSN Direct SPOT watch review two times over the last year and decided it would be nice to post a new review of the latest generation model here on my blog since I am such a HUGE MSN Direct SPOT watch fan. You will always find one model on my wrist, which is funny considering I rarely wore watches before SPOT models came out in early 2004.
palmsolo’s review: Suunto n6HR SPOT watch with heart rate monitor
I was wearing the CES 2005 Commemorative Swatch model with the outstanding battery life for a couple of months until my excellent Microsoft PR rep, Susan, sent me the Suunto n6HR to evaluate. I started my spring workout season to try to get in a bit of shape for an upcoming Hawaii vacation and summer 7s rugby. I primarily go jogging for a couple miles and do a bit of weight lifting as well. The Suunto is actually helping motivate and keep me out on the road due to the geeky feature of it serving as a heart rate monitor recording device and workout assistant.
The Suunto n6HR
The Suunto n6HR is a MSN Direct watch so I get news, sports, weather, movies, and more on it as well as the ability to use it as a heart rate monitor receiving station. The watch is lightweight (only 2 ounces), waterproof to 100 meters, has a removable band (the leather one on the model I tested is very comfortable), and has a battery that lasts a long time (8-10 days).
The MSN Direct site allows you to manage your channels because there is a limit to how much data you can download to the watch. My current favorite channels are Glance, Movies, Sports, Daily Diversions and Weather. Microsoft recently added Local Events to the Calendar channel so you can select the type of events you are interested in (I chose Festivals & Special Events, Comedy, and Religious Music) so these now show up on my Calendar channel for the city in which I am located at the time.
Viewing local Events
Each MSN Direct watch comes preloaded with certain watch faces that are specific to the manufacturer and then you can visit the MSN Direct site and download others that you like. The Suunto n6HR lets me download two additional watch faces. Microsoft has added some new watch faces and the current collection includes Basketball, Bling Monogram (personalized with your initials), Circuit (small LED indicators are a binary representation of the current minute (VERY GEEKY), Dual Time, Jikan (Kanji lettering), LeMans (race fan face), Modern 60s (my favorite because it shows the signal, battery life, and cool time counter), Quarter (my past favorite), and Tree.
Circuit watch face
My favorite face; Modern 60s
The antenna on the Suunto is around the watch face, making the band much more comfortable compared to some other SPOT watches. There are two buttons on the left for activating the backlight (a cool green color) and switching between channels. The three buttons on the left are for scrolling up or down and for selecting a channel or feature.
Leather watch band
Left side buttons
Right side buttons
Unlike the other Fossil and Abacus watches I reviewed, the Suunto charges via a USB cable that clamps like an alligator on side of the watch. The interesting thing about this method is that there is a SDK available where developers should soon be able to release applications that can be installed on the watches that connect via USB.
The Suunto n6HR connects wirelessly, via digital FM technology, to the heart rate monitor strap that you wear around your chest just by the solar plexus. The heart rate monitor has an elastic, adjustable strap to make wearing it comfortable. The electrodes on the back of the strap must be damp to send the signal to the watch so I dab a bit of water on them as I start my exercise routine and sweat then maintains the wetness for the signal as I progress through my workout. I am quite a hairy guy (as shown below) and was worried that I may have to shave a spot on my chest to get a good signal, but the Suunto maintained a connection with no issues.
Caution: The photo below may be too graphic for small children 🙂
The heart rate monitor strapped around me
At the start of your workout you simply go to the Time channel and then scroll to the Chrono function. You then start the chronometer and start your workout and you should see the time progressing as well as your heart rate showing on the display. You can also set heart rate limits, both low and high, so that alarms will go off as you approach and then go outside the limits. You can then view your workout data right on the watch in the logbook file area. However, the preferred method of using the data is to sync via the USB sync/charge cable to your desktop with the Suunto Training Program software.
One of my training logs
Using the online service to download a training plan
The Suunto Training software allows you to download the data from your watch and analyze it for ways to improve your workouts. You can schedule workouts in your training plan and have them synched to your watch or to Outlook. You can also register with the Suunto Sports site and share training plans and workout data with others. The Suunto n6HR is available now for $399 and it comes with a 2 year warranty.