by Alan Dixon | 2006-02-21 03:00:00-07
I spent extensive time testing the original Suunto X9 wrist-mounted GPS (see X9 Review). In that testing I found a number of problems that hobbled its usefulness, especially for the North American market. Since then, Suunto has extensively revised and improved the X9 (now the X9i):
With the revised X9i, Suunto addresses many of our criticisms of the original X9. The new X9i is far more useful in the field than its predecessor, especially in North America. The X9i can still benefit from improvements in battery life and user interface for navigation tasks, but these are minor gripes.
The X9i is targeted for done-in-a-day activities. It is at its best when the GPS receiver is on full time and you are not worried about running out of battery power. The X9i focuses on performance measurements like speed, distance, and altitude gain and loss, more than navigation. This is in keeping with industry trends. GPS manufacturers are putting their dollars and technology development into the hot portion of the market — wearable, personal-performance-measurement GPS units. Garmin is focusing just as hard on this market with their Forerunner series. To Sunnto’s credit, the X9i holds to some of its navigational roots with a barometric altimeter and magnetic compass, which the Garmin Forerunners lack. Still, it may be a while until GPS manufactures design a slim profile, watch sized GPS unit focused on navigation.
With Topo! Version 4.0 you can download or upload waypoints to the Suunto X9i. Connection to the computer is via a USB cable (provided with the X9i). This makes loading waypoints into the X9i a piece of cake.
Despite the remaining glitches, the X9i is a big improvement over the original X9. I regularly enjoy my X9i for training, on day trips, and even long weekend outings.
The ideal ultralight, wrist wearable, GPS unit of the future would combine the best features of both the Suunto X9i and the Garmin ForeTrex. With the industry focus on done-in-a-day activities and performance measurement, it may be awhile until we see a slim wrist unit with a barometric altimeter, a magnetic compass, and good navigational GPS functions all rolled into one. Until then you’ll have to decide between:
1) The slim wrist mounted form, barometric altimeter, and excellent magnetic compass of the Suunto X9i
2) The excellent navigational functions, ease of use, good battery life, field replaceable batteries, and lower price of the Garmin ForeTrex 101 (it’s wrist wearable, albeit in a bulky design, and lacks a barometric altimeter, and magnetic compass).
"Suunto X9i GPS REVIEW," by Alan Dixon. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/suunto_x9i_gps_review.html, 2006-02-21 03:00:00-07.