Review

Honor Band 6 review: A smartwatch disguised as a smart band

Honor announced its latest smart band, the Honor Band 6, earlier this year, and when it was introduced, I was a bit intrigued. Drawing the line between a smart band and a smartwatch can already be a challenge, but the Honor Band 6 looks incredibly similar to the Honor Watch ES we reviewed last year, making that distinction all the more complicated.

The Honor Band 6 is also a pretty big departure from its predecessor, the Honor Band 5, in terms of the design, with a bigger display and an upgraded UI. The feature set, however, hasn't changed a whole lot, but it's already a fairly complete fitness tracking experience.

Specs

Body 43x25.4x11.45mm, 29g
Strap Silicone strap, swappable
Display 1.47-inch AMOLED, 364x194, 282ppi
Sensors
  • Accelerometer
  • Optical heart rate sensor (with sleep monitoring and stress monitoring)
  • SpO2 sensor
Battery life Up to 14 days with typical usage, 10 days with heavy usage
Water resistance 5ATM
OS LiteOS
Price €49.99

Like the Honor Watch ES, specs like the RAM, processor, or internal storage aren't made available to the public, but it's not a type of device that requires very powerful hardware, especially with LiteOS being as light as it is.

Design and display

Like I said at the top, the Honor Band 6 feels incredibly similar to the Honor Watch ES, but smaller. In was sent theis Meteorite Black colorway, which it's an all-black design with a metal frame, a matte-finish plastic back that houses the sensors, and a black rubber strap. If you don't like the all-black color, though, you can get it in Sandstone Grey or Coral Pink. You can also change the straps later if you get tired of the color you got.

Honor Band 6 watch face displaying the time date temperature heart rate and calories burned

Because it's smaller, it's much easier to forget you're wearing it, and I think that's a good thing since it means it's pretty comfortable to wear all day. Helping with that is the fact that the whole thing weighs just 29 grams, including the strap, so it's a very subtle presence on your wrist. However, if you're comparing it to the Honor Band 5, it's significantly wider, so it may make a difference for you if you're considering an upgrade.

Honor Band 6 on a wrist seen from the left where the Honor logo is

The strap also feels very nice and the material used is fairly flexible, so it feels quite nice overall. One thing I don't like is that the free loop where the strap is meant to go has a very evident protrusion that's meant to hold the strap in place using the adjustment holes. That may sound like a good idea, but it makes it pretty hard to remove the smart band intentionally, too, and I have to squeeze the loop to stop the strap from getting caught on it.

Honor Band 6 watch band loop with a protrusion to lock the loop in the adjustment holes

On the right side of the Honor Band 6, you'll find the home button, which replaces the button on the front of its predecessor.

Right-side view of the Honor Band 6 with a side button

Meanwhile, the left side only has an Honor logo. There's no microphone or speaker here, so you won't be able to take calls on this watch.

Honor Band 6 seen from the left with the Honor logo engraved on the frame

The rear of the watch has all the sensors needed for fitness tracking, as well as two pin connectors for charging.

The rear of the Honor Band 6 with physical sensors and two charging pins

Finally, the front features a 1.47-inch AMOLED display, arguably the biggest difference between the Honor Band 6 and its predecessor, which only has a 0.97-inch panel. This is what makes the Honor Band 6 feel a lot more like the Honor Watch ES, and to go along with that, the interface has been tweaked to look even more like Honor's watches than its smart bands. I haven't personally used an Honor Band 5, but looking at videos online, you can tell how much smaller the screen was, and the UI was far less colorful and animated beyond the watch faces.

Honor Band 6 on the left next to the Honor Watch ES on the right displaying their watch faces

One thing you lose here compared to the Honor Watch ES is support for an always-on display, which I personally don't mind at all, but it can make or break a product for many people. There's also no ambient light sensor, so the display brightness won't adjust automatically.

Fitness and health tracking

For general health tracking, the Honor Band 6 offers a pretty complete set of monitoring features that help you understand how you're doing. It has 24/7 heart rate monitoring, stress monitoring, and sleep monitoring, and SpO2 measurements, just like you can get on Honor's more expensive products. You also get things like activity reminders when you've been sitting for too long, and a female cycle tracker, which I can't personally test.

Huawei and Honor's health tracking is pretty great overall. For example, your sleep data offers some pretty detailed insights into your habits, so it's easier to pinpoint where you need to improve.

Daily and weekly sleep tracking data in the Huawei Health app

Where you do miss out compared to more expensive products like the Honor Watch ES is in the workout features. Just like the Honor Band 5, you can only track ten types of workouts with the Honor Band 6 - indoor and outdoor running, walking, and cycling; rowing machine, elliptical, swimming, and free training (simply called Other). Six types of workouts can also be detected automatically, so if you forget to log a workout, the watch will do it for you. That's a significant step down from the 95 workout modes that the Honor Watch ES supports.

Honor Band 6 displaying Indoor cycle and Pool swim workout modes on a list

You also don't get the guided workouts that you could get with that watch, so it's not as complete of a fitness tool. Personally, most of my workouts are bike rides, so this is fine enough for me. As with anything, it's all about what you have the need for, and while the Honor Watch ES was more serious about exercise, the Honor Band 6 is much cheaper and focuses on the essentials.

Once you start working out, the Honor Band 6 does a good job of tracking your activity, and you also get plenty of insights into things like your heart rate, speed, pace, altitude changes, calories burned, and so on. If you're into swimming, it can also measure your performance there, with information such as your SWOLF score.

Heart rate speed and altitude charts related to a bike ride in the Huawei Health app

One thing that still bothers me about this is that the watch doesn't show me the option to track my outdoor cycling, I need to start it from the Huawei Health app on my phone. This is because the watch can't track your location itself, so in order for outdoor workouts to function as intended, you need to start them from your phone. However, outdoor running and walking are available on the watch itself, they just don't track your location and estimate your traveled distance. It may be harder to estimate distance while cycling, but the watch should just be able to pull my location from my phone.

One thing I learned recently is that Huawei Health can sync my data to Google Fit, which definitely helps in making this watch more useful to me. However, I've noticed that it doesn't sync free training workouts, so that's a bummer.

Software and battery life

Software is yet another element that helps the Honor Band 6 feel a lot more like the Honor Watch ES than the Honor Band 5. The UI for the software is now nearly identical to that of Huawei's more expensive watches, which means a lot of the interface is more animated, there are more icons to help visualize options on the screen, and it overall feels much more lively and detailed than the Honor Band 5 did.

Honor Band 6 displaying stress levels throughout the day and an average level of 49

As you'd expect, the watch face is customizable with a few options out of the box, and a lot more are available through the Huawei Health app on your phone. There are dozens of options with very different styles, and you can also just use a picture from your gallery, though the interface on the app doesn't make it easy.

You can swipe sideways from the watch face to get access to things like music playback controls, your activity records, heart rate, stress levels, and weather, and pressing the side button opens the menu, which offers the following features:

  • Workout
  • Workout records
  • Heart rate
  • SpO2
  • Activity records
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Breathing exercises
  • Music
  • Weather
  • Notifications
  • Stopwatch
  • Timer
  • Alarm
  • Flashlight
  • Remote shutter (requires an Honor phone)
  • Find phone
  • Settings

I've said it before and I stand by it - I still prefer a smartwatch that puts the emphasis on its smarts, such as those based on Google's Wear OS. Huawei and Honor's LiteOS is perfectly serviceable for fitness tracking, and you get basic things like notifications for messages and calls, music controls, and weather information, but it's not a super smart device. You can't install apps or do things like replying to notifications. The thing is, this operating system being so light is what lets it run on cheap devices like this, and you're not going to find a Wear OS smartwatch anywhere close to this price.

Honor Band 6 displaying the notification list with two notifications from Telegram

Another thing that's enabled by this simple software is the incredible battery life. I got this watch with 85% battery out of the box and it took about a week before I had to charge it to feel confident it wouldn't die during the day - when it was at about 9%. I then charged it to 100% and it's currently sitting at 48% from that same charge, roughly seven days later. I have been working out less often this week, which may have helped the battery go down a bit slower, but either way, you rarely have to worry about charging this smart band.

Conclusion

The Honor Band 6 is a big evolution of Honor's smart bands, and for that, it's commendable. It keeps a small and subdued design that's characteristic of a smart band, and it's still very comfortable to wear, to the point where you can often forget it's there. It's wider than a typical smart band, but that makes way for a much bigger display, which in turn has a much more lively interface that makes it much more appealing to use. As I've mentioned, it feels more like a smaller Honor Watch ES than a new Honor Band.

Honor Band 6 displaying a 94 percent SpO2 measurement and a 68bpm heart rate

It also includes the essentials for health and fitness tracking, with the most common workout types being supported, along with some basic smart features like music controls, notifications, and weather info. It supports the same 10 workout modes as its predecessor did, so in terms of features, it hasn't changed all that much.

It does come with a noticeable price increase, though, as the Honor Band 5 officially retailed for €34.90 on Honor's Spanish website, while the Honor Band 6's official price is €49.99. However, you can also look at this as a watered-down Honor Watch ES, and from that perspective, you're sacrificing some of the workout options, an always-on display, and swappable watch bands in exchange for a smaller device that costs half as much.

The Honor Band 6 isn't yet available from Honor directly, but you can find it on AliExpress, where it's going for as low as €37.99 right now, depending on where you are. If you're more of a fan of the typical smart band form factor, you may want to consider something like the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, which also offers more workout tracking modes.

 

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