Suunto X-Lander Watch

  • When I first received the watch, and saw all of the features that it had, the saying “jack of all trades, master of none” came to mind. However, after just over a fortnight of pretty comprehensive testing, I can say that the X-Lander completely blows that phrase out of the water.

    The four main features of the X-Lander are the time-telling bit (pretty important in a watch!), an altimeter, a barometer and a compass. I’ll go through each in turn and then some general comments about the watch.

    The time function is very well thought out. When you are in it, you can choose between setting alarms, having a stopwatch running or having a countdown timer. The alarms (there are three of them) are very easy to set – there are plus and minus buttons you can use so if you overshoot your intended time you don’t have to go through the whole cycle again.

    The stop watch is very easy to use. It can either be used as a regular stop watch, a split time stopwatch or it can be used to mark two different finish times.

    At this point I’ll say that the instructions are very easy to understand and follow. This is true for all of the sections and will save me repeating myself ad infinitum! There are numerous diagrams to aid use if you’re having trouble.

    The countdown timer is what it says on the tin. I used it to time when my washing would be completed but there are a myriad of potential uses for it.

    When I was first playing around with the altimeter, I wasn’t particularly impressed. It had a tendency to think that it had descended 20ft when I went into the shower! When using it around town, I got the impression that it was trying to be too accurate – it would show a change of a few tens of feet when I hadn’t really moved. However, I was proved completely wrong about it when I took it skydiving. I set it to 0ft in the plane (it is very easy to set your altitude).

    We took off and climbed steadily - the watch has an ascent rate calculator and it was off the reading, ie more than 999ft/min, for most of the flight.

    In my skydiving helmet I have what is called an audible altimeter. Basically, it beeps at different heights when I’m in freefall to tell me when to open my parachute, for example. On the plane ride up, it beeps at 1,000ft to tell you that it’s working. These devices are extremely accurate and I was very impressed with the X-Lander when it showed 1,000ft at the exact moment that my audible alti beeped.

    The altimeter isn’t just an altimeter though. It also has an altitude difference measurement mode, a 24hr memory mode, a logbook and a history. I’ve not used these features but I’m sure they could come in handy for more avid mountaineers. The history mode does show you the highest altitude that you’ve reached and for me that says 13,800ft. My audible altimeter shows that on the jumped I left the plane at 14,000ft exactly. I would expect the audible to be more accurate as it is a dedicated altitude measuring device whereas the X-Lander does a bit of everything!

    Another point to note is that I was able to read the display in freefall. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t recommend using the X-Lander on its own as an altimeter, it is a great back up to an analogue alti. Back on the ground, the reading returned to 0ft.

    I’ve not really used the barometer feature. Whilst I’m sure it works well, I just haven’t had the time to become familiar with how it works and to test it out accurately. The temperature gauge seems to work well though. It gives (my) room temperature as about 20°C. Suunto say that it must be taken off the wrist for 15 minutes in order for it to adjust. I’d say it adds about 8°C to the ambient temperature when it is on your wrist.

    The compass is a useful feature on the watch, and seems accurate. However, it can be a bit temperamental and refuses to work every so often. That being said, when compared to a Silva compass it more or less held its own. I wouldn’t ever advocate using it as a substitute to a Silva but in the absence of a standalone compass it will work.

    There are bearing tracking and declination adjustment modes but I prefer to use a proper compass so didn’t use these features.

    Now onto some general ramblings about the watch itself. For its size, it is incredibly lightweight. When wearing it, you don’t notice that it’s there. The strap seems sturdy, something that is a must-have. A feature that I really liked was the fact that the end of the strap slots into the retaining band and is therefore kept out of the way.

    This does make it a tiny bit more difficult to take the watch off but isn’t a major drama at all when you get used to it (which takes a minute!). The strap is also very adjustable, with holes occurring every 6mm (yeah, I measured!).

    Another great feature is that you can change the battery yourself! You have to be careful in order to ensure that the X-Lander remains waterproof but this isn’t hard to do.

    There are a few downsides to the watch but none of them are serious. In time mode, the seconds are shown by blocks that light up around the circumference of the watch. When you get used to it, it is easy to see what the time is to the second, but it can be a bit odd at first.

    The speaker for the alarm sounds is on the underside of the watch. Therefore, when wearing it, the sound is muffled. Not a problem during the day but I found that when setting alarms to wake up I was sometimes struggling to hear them. I never missed anything with it though and the obvious solution is to take it off before you go to sleep. I don’t because I’m weird like that and feel odd if I’m not wearing a watch.

    The light can be a bit annoying to use. You need to press one of the buttons down for two seconds to activate it. When it’s on, it is perfect. It will stay on for five seconds if no other buttons are pressed but will stay on as long as something is pressed every 5s. Very handy if you’re setting an alarm at night – you can see what time you’re on!

    However, a separate light button would serve the watch very well. It can be a bit annoying when you want to see the time but have to hold down a button in order to do so. Again, not a major complaint but just a little niggle.

    However, despite the X-Lander’s few problems, it is a very good watch overall. Suunto say to be careful with it and I treated it very a very good watch overall. Suunto say to be careful with it and I treated it very carefully at the start. I went rock climbing several times with it and it doesn’t seem to have been damaged at all. It is no G-Shock and shouldn’t be treated as one but if you don’t abuse it, it will last you a long time.

    Whilst it is quite expensive, it is a very well made watch and has some features that you didn’t think you needed before but now realise you can’t do without! It comes with a two year guarantee. All in all, this ‘wristop computer’ (Suunto’s words not mine!) is a great purchase for both military use and the outdoorsy civilian types!

    *Sorry about the poor quality of the pics of the watch in use, was using a friends Go Pro camera and guessing what angle would work!*

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