A couple of weeks ago, I was pulled back into the smartwatch market with the OPPO Watch, and just in time, Honor quickly introduced two new watches of its own. I started by reviewing the more expensive Honor Watch GS Pro, which is a rugged smartwatch designed for outdoor activities like hiking.
I was a little wary of reviewing the GS Pro at first because a lot of what I liked on the OPPO Watch had to do with its "smart" capabilities - using the Google Assistant, replying to notifications, and so on. But while the OPPO Watch taught me that good smartwatches exist, the GS Pro taught me that smartwatches can be good at different things, and it turns out this is still pretty nice.
|Body||48x48x13.6mm, 45.5g (without the strap)|
|Case||48mm, Black plastic, stainless steel bezel|
|Strap||Black fluororubber strap|
|Display||1.39-inch AMOLED, 454x454|
|Battery life||Up to 25 days|
|Storage||4GB, 2GB for music|
Honor isn't actually all too open with some of the specs, so the dimensions are measured by myself, though the weight is provided by Honor. I also don't have official numbers for internal storage and RAM, but I've reached out to learn a bit more, and I'll update this if I hear back from Honor.
Update: Honor has provided us official numbers for the dimensions, storage, and RAM, and they've been added above.
Design and display
As I said at the start, the Honor Watch GS Pro has a rugged design that's meant for the outdoors, and it has a MIL-STD-810G rating for durability. That means it's a very bulky watch in terms of size, and it definitely feels significant. It's hard for it to go unnoticed when I move my wrist or even when I'm trying to sleep. At the same time, though, it's not as heavy as I would have thought it to be. Just walking around and wearing it casually, it doesn't really feel that much more noticeable than the smaller OPPO Watch.
I will say, though, that the overall aesthetics of the device feel really cheap. Honor's parent company, Huawei, is no stranger to rugged devices, but if you look at something like the new Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro, it looks stylish and classy despite its solid build. The almost completely plastic build on the GS Pro just makes it very hard to recommend wearing this watch as a fashion piece, and it looks much more like a tool, something you use for its features rather than an inherent desire to use it. It might look better in the other color options, though, those being Marl White and Camo Blue.
Still, the staple features of Huawei's watches are here, including the two buttons on the side. These are the power button, which also serves as the home/menu button, and the function button, which can be a shortcut to an app or feature you prefer. Under the buttons is a very subtle hole for the speaker, which works just fine for calls. I've taken a few calls on the GS Pro and I've had no problems whatsoever.
The back of the watch, where the heart rate sensor is, is also plastic, and again, it feels sort of cheap to look at. Here, you can also see the two charging pins, which means there's no wireless charging here, unlike the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro. Charging pins can bring about problems when sweat starts to build up around them, but quite frankly I've only had to charge this watch once, so it really hasn't been a problem yet.
One thing that feels great is the strap. As you can kind of tell by looking at it, it's a somewhat rubber-like strap, but it's so much nicer than what I got on the OPPO Watch. The tightness can be adjusted to a ton of different levels, so it's easy to get the perfect fit, and I think all those holes make it more breathable. It really goes a long way to making me feel more comfortable wearing it, and I appreciate that a lot. The material itself also feels a bit better than on the OPPO.
Of course, up front, you get the display, which is a 1.39-inch round AMOLED panel with a 454x454 resolution, almost a carbon copy of the Huawei Watch GT 2 from last year. AMOLED panels are very common in smartwatches, and this one looks great. Blacks are deep, colors are vibrant, and it's just pleasant to look at. There's more than enough watch faces to choose from in my opinion, and some of them are customizable, so you can choose if you want to see the weather, your altitude, heart rate, and so on.
Like the Watch GT 2, there's an always-on display here, and I understand that's a big feature to a lot of people, but it really isn't to me. I didn't bother turning it on for my own use, but if you do want to, you'll be happy to know that it does support some colored watch faces for always-on mode. When you try to enable it, you immediately get a warning saying battery life will be cut in half, and the raise-to-wake gesture will be disabled. This is pretty much the same as previous Huawei watches.
Software and features
As you'd expect, Huawei/Honor watches don't run Google's Wear OS, they use Huawei's own LiteOS. While the name suggests it's a pretty lightweight system, it's still packing a ton of features. It can track over 100 types of workouts, including activities like hiking and skiing. I mostly stuck to the basics, though, including walking, biking, and crossfit.
For outdoor activities, the GS Pro can use GPS to track your movements, and it even has a cool feature called route back. Basically, if you're hiking or exploring a place for the first time, you can start the workout, and once you reach your end goal or decide to turn back, the watch can guide you along the exact path you took so you don't get lost. The idea is pretty solid, especially for hiking or adventuring on unmarked trails. It can also just trace a straight line to your starting point, in case you can find your way there by yourself.
Another new workout feature it comes with is running courses. If you're a runner or you want to get into running, these can help you focus by guiding you through workouts. You can start with the basic run/walk plan where you intermittently run and speed walk, and scale up from there to more intense workouts. The watch will tell you when to run or walk, and it will let you know what your heart rate is and what it should be. It will also keep updating you on how long you've been running and how many calories you've burned, all through voice reminders, so you don't have to look at the watch yourself. However, likely due to some software bugs, the watch always tells me my target heart rate is 0, so hopefully, Honor will get around to fixing that.
Aside from specifically tracking your workouts, the GS Pro comes with all these apps out of the box:
- Workout records
- Workout status
- Heart rate
- Activity records
- Breathing exercises
- Call Log
- Air pressure
- Find phone
Again, this is very similar to previous Huawei watches. There's always something interesting to many of these apps, like the Weather app including information about sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, the current moon phase, and tide information if it's available for your region.
Another cool app is Music, which can be used to control playback from your phone, but also play locally stored music on the watch, with 2GB of storage reserved for that. If you play music from the watch, you can connect to your earbuds directly from the watch, and while the watch remains connected to the phone, it can't route audio from the phone to the earbuds, so your calls will be heard from the watch's speaker. If you have your phone with you, you'll want to use that as your source of music, so all the audio is routed to your earbuds as needed. Plus, using it this way means you can use streaming services instead of locally stored music.
While the GS Pro does a few things well, the operating system is also very limiting in other ways. The best way I can put it is that it's a great smartwatch for fitness, but I appreciate the "smarts" in a smartwatch more, so there are things I miss from Wear OS. For example, you can get and see notifications on the GS Pro, but you can't interact with them in any way, and there's not even an indication of what app is sending the notification. You also can't just swipe away notifications, you have to focus on them first, and they just start building up quickly. I also don't love that notifications are completely hidden on the watch while I'm exercising. Sometimes I do want to focus, but I would also like to be able to know if someone is telling me something important or urgent.
Aside from notifications themselves, I also sort of miss being able to install apps. Sure, using Telegram on my OPPO Watch probably made me look like an idiot, but it was really useful in a pinch. Sometimes grabbing my phone is inconvenient, or maybe I'm just lazy, and it's great to have that freedom. What I miss even more is the Google Assistant, and the ability to turn my lights on or off with it, or ask questions about things. Again, these are things I can do with my phone, but it's just more convenient to have it on the watch. Like I said at the start, there are different types of good smartwatches, but I'm personally more in favor of watches that take the "smart" of a "smartphone" and put it on your wrist, rather than strictly dedicated fitness watches.
With all of that being said, Huawei's Health app is a fantastic tool for the purpose of fitness and overall health. It presents so much more information than other apps, and it's incredibly insightful. Huawei Health really helps me realize how terrible my sleeping habits are, and it measures a ton of different metrics that help me see where I need to improve, plus it tells me what different kinds of sleep are and why they're important. It's really nice to have all this information available to me so readily.
The app and watch also do a pretty good job of tracking your exercise and presenting plenty of information about it. Burned calories, heart rate, pace, speed, and so on are all visible here, and it's all presented quite beautifully. Though I think there might be some issues with some of my exercises not fitting into any category, as you can see in this 40+ minute bike ride, where the circle chart doesn't seem to know what level of activity I was doing. Interestingly, the watch itself shows that the activity falls in the "Extreme" category for almost the entire duration of ride, and apparently, that happens in every workout session I have on record. That may have something to do with why it fails to sync properly with the app.
The watch also includes features like stress monitoring, which mostly checks for variations in your heart rate, and SpO2 monitoring, which detects the amount of oxygen in your blood. Sadly, it doesn't track your SpO2 levels automatically, so you have to measure them yourself, which I didn't do. But you can see my stress levels over time below.
And yes, screenshots from the app are the only way I can present this information effectively, because there's no way to take a screenshot of the watch as far as I could tell. I will give Huawei credit, though, at least this data syncs to the cloud and I don't need to reset my watch to pair it with a different phone, so that's a big advantage over the OPPO Watch right there.
Performance and battery life
Considering the Honor Watch GS Pro isn't exactly rich in terms of "smart" features, there's not much to be said about the performance. Almost everything works as well as it needs to, though I personally would like some more fluid animations for the software. Notifications sync instantly from the phone to the watch, and there's really not much in the way of noticeable slowdowns. One issue I did have was with playing music locally. Sometimes, as I'm going through a playlist, a song just fails to start playing at first, and I need to tap the play button again. This only happens when playing music stored on the watch, and it doesn't happen every time, but it happens more often than I'd like.
But the limitations of the software are almost worth it when you consider the amazing battery life on this thing. Honor claims up to 25 days of battery life on a charge, and I'd honestly be inclined to believe that claim. I received the watch at around 45% battery life, which you can see in my hands-on video recorded on a Friday. I didn't have to charge it until the following Wednesday, and as I've said before, that was the only time I charged the watch. It's been almost a week and a half, and I've still got about 20% battery left.
Granted, I don't use the always-on display, but my usage includes tracking workouts in real time on an almost daily basis, usually for about an hour and a half. About 40 minutes of that time is spent outdoor cycling, which means I'm also using GPS tracking, and I always use it in performance mode, not battery saver mode. I also use it to track my sleep, and of course, there's the real-time heart rate and stress monitoring. With that in mind, 10 or 11 days of battery life is pretty incredible in my eyes.
Let's come full circle by repeating what I said at the start - the OPPO Watch I reviewed a couple of weeks ago taught me that good smartwatches exist, but the Honor Watch GS Pro taught me that there are different kinds of good smartwatches. The GS Pro is a fitness and health smartwatch first, and it delivers on that incredibly well. It tracks a ton of health data and presents it in beautiful and easy to understand graphs, plus it offers explanations on things like sleep. It provides so much more insight than the OPPO Watch in that regard. Plus, it's designed for outdoor adventures. It's rugged and has cool features like Route Back that help you get back to where you started if you get lost. As a fitness watch, the GS Pro is really good.
But it comes with sacrifices, including the design. Yes, it's rugged and durable, so you can count on it wherever you go. But to do that, it opts for a plastic, cheap-looking design that makes it unsuitable for anything except being a fitness tracker, according to me. It's not something you wear because you like having it on your wrist.
It also misses out on "smarts". Notification management is far from what I'd consider ideal, there's no app ecosystem, and there's no Google Assistant. I love all the things I can do with a Wear OS smartwatch like the OPPO Watch, and I truly miss those things while using this one. At the end of the day, I'm more partial to watches that have these smart features than those with extensive health tracking.
Still, I recognize how great that health tracking is on the GS Pro, and for the audience that wants that kind of data, it's definitely a valid option. That audience, however, may also want to consider the Huawei Watch GT 2, which launched at the same base price and has a nicer design. You can buy the Watch GS Pro from Honor's website in some European countries, including Germany, where it usually costs €249.90, though it's currently on sale for €199.90.