I’ve seen people inquire as to the difference between the older X9 watch and its improved replacement, the X9i. While I was showing my brother my X9mi, he stated he would like to get one for himself. I purchase him an older X9 because it was cheaper, but I'm now considering keeping the X9 for myself. So as someone who now owns both an X9 and an X9mi, I though it would be interesting to point out what I see as the major differences between the two watches. While I tend to like the old X9 more than the improved X9i, for the purpose of this article I will try to focus only on how the two watches differ rather than why one is better or worse than the other. Please note: I have only owned these watches for a little more than a week. This article makes no assessment as to the durability or reliability of either of these two watches or their features during long-term use!
The stated differences between the two watches (according to suuntowatches.com) are as follows:
Each of these differences will be discussed throughout this article. I will go through the stated differences one by one first, and then I will go through some of the features available on the X9 that are not on the X9i.
- The X9i is compatible with digital Mapping services worldwide
- The X9i features a new USB charger and PC connector so you can charge through your PC (no more cradle)
- The X9i has a much faster fix rate
- Comes in Black or Tan
- The X9i has MGRS(Military Grid Reference System)
1. The X9i is compatible with digital mapping services worldwide.
Both of the watches use the same STM software and both are compatible with Google Earth via STE. I cannot comment on the listed improvement of the X9i being compatibility with digital mapping services worldwide because I’m not familiar with any of these services. Anyone interested in either of these watches should inform themselves as to whether or not it will be compatible with his/her particular mapping requirements. I have found that both watches perform the same functions within STM.
2. The X9i features a new USB charger and PC connector so you can charge through you PC (no more cradle).
This is one of the major differences between these watches. At first glance, one might think that having to use a cradle would be more difficult than simply charging the watch while connected to a computer via USB, and to some extent this is true. The X9 will not charge via a PC connection (it doesn't use a USB connection) it must be plugged into a wall socket, and the cradle can be somewhat cumbersome and difficult to use. However, the X9’s charging cradle does offer a nice advantage for field charging the watch. The X9’s charging cradle holds a regular 9v battery that can be use to charge the watch while out in the field. There’s no need to make your own charging device or buy a solar charger. Simply carry the small cradle along with some extra 9v batteries in your pack and you can charge the X9’s battery in the field or at home if you don't want to plug the cradle into a wall socket. I was also able to purchase a car charger for my X9. I'm not sure how much I'll use it, but it was only $5.00. No car charger is offered for the X9i. (NOTE: The X9i can be worn on your wrist with the new USB charger attached; however, the X9 MUST be removed from your wrist in order use the charging cradle. The different chargers are not interchangeable between the two watches.)
3. The X9i has a much faster fix rate.
The only thing I can say regarding this claim is that this has not been the case with my particular X9 and X9mi. The initial fix on my X9mi under fairly ideal conditions took roughly 15 minutes to get a 5 bar lock with an epe = 1m. Subsequent fixes on the X9mi take from 30 seconds to 2 minutes to obtain an equally solid fix. The initial fix on my X9 at the same location under the same conditions took only 3 minutes to get a 5 bar lock with an epe = 1m. Subsequent fixes on the X9 also take from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I have not noticed any difference in GPS performance under similar conditions after the initial fix. Both watches seem to keep the same level of GPS lock under all circumstances. One area where the X9mi does do better is on the number of satellites it will lock. My X9mi will lock on 8 of 8 satellites, while my X9 will only lock on 7 of 7 satellites. I do not doubt Suunto’s claim that the fix rate has been improved; it has simply not yet been evident with my watches. More long-term testing is required in order to better understand the level of improvement in the X9i satellite reception.
4. Comes in black or tan.
From what I can tell, the X9 comes in what Suunto calls the “tan” version but with a positive face and the X9M version which is black with a negative face. I think the bezel can be replace on either version which would make the X9 look almost identical to the X9i (the X9 also has a white inner bezel). Suunto.com has a video on how to replace the bezel, but I don't know where to purchase a new bezel.
5. The X9i has MGRS (Military Grid Reference System).
The X9 does not have MGRS.
That is a list of the improvements made to the X9i, but there are some aspects of the original X9 that have been removed from the X9i. I can only speculate that these items have been removed due to feedback provided by the end users; however, I don't fully understand why most of these items were removed from the X9i.
1. The X9 gives you more Navidata information. The X9 has all of the Navidata information found on the X9i plus the following:
DIF – Altitude difference (current location to next waypoint)
ATF – Altitude to finish (current location to end waypoint)
This altitude information is nice to have. If your next way point is in one mile, it makes a huge difference whether that mile is + or – a thousand foot change in altitude. I'm assuming Suunto removed this information on the X9i because significant changes in altitude are usually visible in the field. Still, depending on your visibility and your distance to the nextwaypoint, it seems like it would be nice to have this information available to you on your watch.
2. With the X9i, you only have the option of setting an altitude reference, and you can only set it while in Alti/Baro mode. With the X9, you have the ability to set either an altitude reference or a sea level reference, and you can set these references in the Alti/Baro, Navigation, or Activity modes. With the X9 you can also set your GPS Fix rate from both the Activity and Navigation modes. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a watch that is this button intensive, every little bit helps.
3. The X9 has the same 7-day Baro graphs as the X9i, but the X9 also saves temperature data which can be viewed as the high and low temperature for each day over the last 7-days. It’s not really necessary, but again I’m just pointing out the differences between the two watches.
4. The X9 also has an XTE alarm. (For those who don’t have this watch, XTE is a cross track error. It displays your current deviation from your preset course.) For me, this seems like a nice feature (I've yet to test it in the field). You can set the alarm to go off if you stray a certain amount (e.g. .50mi) from your preset course. When the XTE alarm reaches its set limit, the alarm will go off every 10 seconds until you are back within set XTE amount.
5. The X9 also allows you to turn ‘INFO’ on or off directly form the watch. With the X9i, this setting can only be changed in STM. (I think this is a software glitch within the X9i.) With the ‘INFO’ setting turned on, the watch will display what mode you’re in for a second when you first switch into each mode.
It’s my understanding that the case and construction on both of these watches is identical. I believe Suunto has used this same case on most, if not all, of its 9 series watches. I like the case. It feels incredibly solid and durable. The watch is somewhat large, but I have become completely accustom to its size in just a couple of days.
There is, of course, a difference in price; however, I don’t want to elaborate too much on the price issue because prices can vary quite drastically between retailers. I will point out that the X9 is no longer in production and the watch is only still available at select retailers. The warranty issue was also of concern, but I was informed by Suunto customer service that all X9 watches still available at authorized Suunto dealers are still covered by the original Suunto warranty good for 2-years from their date of purchase. Even so, when I tried to register my X9 on suunto.com, a box popped up informing me that Suunto wrist tops are only warranted for 2-years from the date of purchase or 2.5-years from the time of manufacture. This was the first time I've ever heard of the 2.5-year restriction, but I was still able to register the watch and I was told by Suunto that I must keep a proof of purchase in order to receive warranty coverage from my date of purchase.
There you have it, a full list of difference between the two watches. If anyone has anything to add to this list, please feel free to do so. I need to state again that the X9 is no longer in production. If you’re interested in an X9, you may be out of luck. It really doesn’t matter, however, because the X9i is the improved model. On the surface, it’s hard to tell exactly how the X9i is a “improved” model, but that only because most of the stated improvements are internal. I was surprised to find that I actually like the old X9 more than the improved X9i, but this is a purely subjective conclusion. There are many people who find the X9i to be a huge improvement over the older X9 in both quality and usability, and I have read a number of complaints about the X9's battery life and poor GPS signal reception. (FYI: I read on this forum that you can send you X9 intoSuunto to have the software and the battery updated.) Over time, X9i may prove to be a better watch, but my initial observation is that both watches are of equally good quality and features.