December 11, 2008

Should you update T6 to T6c firmware?

In recent weeks I have been writing a lot about Polar HRMs. Today we will change tune a little. Some of you may remember that I have pretty large collection of HRMs including few from Suunto. This post is about the upgrade of T6 to T6c firmware.

Few months ago Suunto Finland started offering update of firmware for the T6 owners. It is offered as for a fee update that costs either 79 EUR for the firmware update or 99 EUR if you also want to get the comfort belt along with the update. That os very nice price considering the Comfort belt sells for around 79 bucks at the Suunto dealers.

The upgrade has been offered to European users since September or so while US based T6 users had option to either wait until Suunto builds the capability in the US or take the plunge and buy a new T6c (and hope to sell T6 on eBay for more than few bucks. About a month ago I sent question to Suunto inquiring about the possibility to upgrade. The help desk suggested that the service is not yet ready in the US, but that I can send my watch to Finland. It was a no brainer for me - the T6 functionality is nowhere near the T6c so the next day my T6 was packed, properly insured and sent off to Suunto service center in Finland. I checked tracking info few times during the following week to make sure the watch made it to Service center. Then I forgot all about it and carried with my training using the Polar RS800CX.

On Friday after Thanksgiving Suunto called me to get the credit card number and make sure I wanted the comfort belt as well. They took the CC number over the phone, ran it and then told me that the watch should arrive some time during the following week. It actually took only few days before DHL showed on my doorsteps and handed me envelope with upgraded T6. Suunto sent along instructions for pairing the watch with pods and first of the two books that they ship with T6c. I started setting-up the watch - as you could expect the memory was completely wiped clean and I had to set it up like a brand new watch. Which is really just a matter of few minutes if you know all your parameters. The key i to set User parameters like birth year and sex which should be no problem for most; height and weight can be easily measured; activity class is easy to deduct for your individual level of training and performance. Max HR can be tricky, but Suunto gives you initial formula that you can fine tune based on lab result or observed max in maximum intensity workouts and only METs need to be determined based on race performance, 12 minute test or lab testing. It is few more parameters to setup as the T6c not only measures the HR, R-R and other data. It also calculates EPOC and TE directly in the watch. Once I set the watch up (including adjustments to units, time and recording parameters) I paired it with the foot pod and memory belt. Then the watch was ready for the recovery run I did later in the day. As you could expect it performs exactly the same as T6c. The only difference between the two is visual.

Following are few pictures of the black T6c and the upgraded T6 in case you are considering the upgrade. On first one the T6c on the left and upgraded T6 on the right side. (note that the extra icons on the display are due to different parameters set on each watch - the T6 has alarm set and T6c has HR limits warning on. If I set them both the same way they would show the same icons in the same places).

Black T6c left, T6 upgraded to T6c right

Next photo shows the T6c in close up. Notice the three icons on the left side of the bezel - they indicate the three possible displays - time, display 1 and display 2. There is no baro/alti position and function on this watch (compared to T6).

Black T6c

On this picture you can see close up of T6 in time mode. Notice that the watch has four icons on the left side of the bezel - only three positions are actually used in T6c firmware. There is no alti/baro function any longer after the upgrade.

T6 upgraded to T6c: Time

Here is T6 in Display 1 - searching for HR belt and pods. Note that the middle icon is selected (the one with the heart).

T6 upgraded to T6c: Display 1

This is the same picture only on Display 2 - see the little dot on the left side of the display indicating Display 2 is selected.

T6 upgraded to T6c: Display 2

You may be asking if you should update your watch to T6c firmware. I hope the pictures above and following description will help you make that call.

If you want the T6c and are willing to pay for the update this may be the cheaper way than buying the T6c and selling the T6 on eBay. Although Amazon had some great deals on T6c on Black Friday when the watch was to be had for 213 USD shipped, but now they are back to 305 USD. You may not like the update especially if you used the baro and alti function in T6 a lot. You will lose it with this update. Also if you used the numbers on the right side of the display to understand the settings of the watch you may miss that as well. In the T6c the numbers on the right side of the display indicate the TE as you go through the workout. So those are the negatives for long time users of T6 (not really negatives for me). If you do not use the alti/baro or can live without it I would recommend the upgrade. You will gain quite a lot through the update and will have a brand new watch with following functions:

  • ability to use comfort belt,
  • ability to pair second HR belt with the watch like memory belt,
  • ability to switch between the sensors without any user interaction,
  • better structure of the menu - you can actually find things in this one, customizable displays.

Overall I like the updated T6 much better that the original one one. But I never really used the baro and alti standalone functions (note that the altitude is still shown on the time display and captured during the workout).

So what do I you need to do to get this done. Well as a first step get in touch with Suunto Help Desk and ask them for address and paperwork needed to get the upgrade done. I had to prepare a simple letter describing what I wanted to be done and fill-out form for import duties and taxes declaring that the watch is being sent to Finland for repair and will come back o the US. Then pack your watch carefully and send it off. I suggest not to include your credit card number in the package - you never know where that package may end up. And you may also want to insure the package just in case the watch gets lost - I recommend to insure it for 309 USD so you can get a new T6c from Amazon if your trusted T6 does not make it to Finland. Then patiently wait for Suunto to call you for CC number and in few days after that you will have your own new T6c in package that you like. The whole process took less than 14 days for me and I have shipped the watch on Thursday night and got it back on Wednesday morning in less than 2 weeks.

I know for the price of the shipping and upgrade you can get a new T6c and sell your T6 on eBay. That may be the other option if you want a brand new watch with full 2 years warranty. It is entirely your call.


Karen said...

Thanks for the info! The transmitter on my t6 seems to have stopped working - I am waiting to find out if Suunto will replace it. I was wondering about upgrading to the t6c, and you've provided some good information.

K-SPoT said...

What about temperature reading? Im assuming since the barometer function was removed, so was the temperature reading?

kxux said...

K-SPoT: the watch has altitude display - it is one of the options in time mode and also visible during exercise. You just do not have the baro mode and can not see the barometric pressure. I guess they do not consider it important for fitness watch and kept it only on the ABC models. You will end up calibrating the altitude more often as the barometric pressure changes between the training sessions. It is pretty much the same as for the Polar watches where you are advised to set altitude before each session.

Uncharted W said...

Hey KXUX, I know this post is old, but I have recently got my t6d and would like to know what is the icon in the top left of the screen (looks like a little speaker image). It shows on your photos of the t6c too.

Please let me know if you can: