Huawei Watch review: Huawei's original smartwatch is still a fine buy

The Huawei Watch is attractive and packed with features; it might not be the newest, but it's still decent for the money

5
Price when reviewed 
289
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When the Huawei Watch first came out in 2015, it was a fine example of Android Wear done well. Now, of course, it has been surpassed by the Huawei Watch 2, so should you skip a generation and get the newer version? Well, the Huawei Watch 2 packs a faster processor and more RAM – though neither are exactly essential for a wearable at this point in time. More importantly, it comes with 4G, GPS and NFC support – which makes it more of a solution when you want to go out without your phone. On a run, say.

If you don't value these things, then the original watch is well worth a look. It's a slightly sleeker design too, and actually comes in smaller despite its larger screen. It can be had relatively cheaply  too – at least compared to its original £289 asking price. The review below should give you more guidance if you're still on the fence.

Jon's original Huawei Watch W1 review continues below:

Huawei first showed off its Android Wear smartwatch at MWC in Barcelona, but despite a warm reception from the press, sales of the wearable were put on ice. It seems an odd decision, because had Huawei released it back then, it would have swept the world of Android Wear all before it.

What is it that makes the Huawei Watch so good? If I’m honest, the differences aren’t huge, but with smartwatches it’s the little details that count, and here the Huawei Watch has it nailed.

It has a circular watch face, just like the LG Watch Urbane, but unlike that brash timepiece, the Huawei takes a stealthier approach. The bezel is slimmer, the body thinner and the styling altogether more sophisticated and understated.

And, just like other rivals – the Apple Watch and Motorola Moto 360 2 – the Huawei Watch is available in a number of different “styles”. These range in price from a base of £229 on Amazon UK inc VAT (on Amazon US it's frm $200 for the black leather) for the Classic with a standard black leather strap, up to £389 for the Active version with a black-plated stainless steel link strap. There’s even a rose-gold version (for anyone who’s had a taste bypass).

There’s no technical difference between the Active and Classic versions aside from the colour, but whichever one you go for, they all look wonderful. I was sent the basic Classic with black leather strap for this review, but even this cheapest version looks stunning, and as a bonus it’s extremely comfortable to wear as well.

 

Huawei Watch review: Display

It's the display that steals the show here, however. It measures 1.4in across, and with a 400 x 400 resolution, delivers the highest pixel density (at 286ppi) you’ll see on any smartwatch. For reference, most other Android Wear devices have 320 x 320 screens. The recent refresh of the Motorola Moto 360 improved things, but not by much, moving up to 360 x 330.

Practically speaking, the difference isn’t huge, but it is possible to tell the difference if you look closely, and as I said before it’s the small things that count. It’s a shame so many of Huawei’s 40 preloaded watch faces fail to take full advantage of this glorious screen, and are either rather cheesy or obviously computer-generated.


Huawei Watch review: It's equipped with a heart rate monitor

Still, it’s a boon for watch-face addicts and anyone who likes to create their own faces via apps such as WatchMaker and Facer. And since the technology used in the screen is AMOLED, it makes a big impact, with inky black and vibrant colours the order of the day.

And it will look good for a long time to come, too. It super-tough sapphire crystal glass screen is something more normally found on boutique, high-end Swiss watch manufacturers costing many more times the price.

Huawei Watch review: Specifications and software

Inside, Huawei’s new wearable is considerably less exciting. Powering affairs is a Snapdragon 400 processor running at a frequency of 1.2GHz, just like nearly every other Android Wear device currently on the market.

There's 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth 4, and it has a heart-rate monitor and six-axis motion sensor for fitness tracking, while charging is taken care of by a magnetic, clip-on puck. This gets the watch from zero to 100% in just over an hour. There’s also a barometer, which is used by the Huawei activity-tracking app to gauge how many stairs you’ve walked up and down in a day.

When it comes to responsiveness, it’s butter smooth most of the time, with the odd slight stutter and hiccup. Again, it’s no different to any other Android Wear device in this respect, and the stutters certainly don’t get in the way of usability.

Huawei Watch review: The watch takes a standard 18mm strap

Battery life is surprisingly good. Despite a comparatively small 300mAh power pack – the same as the smaller Moto 360 2 – it lasted almost two days, with the Always-on screen option activated and the brightness set to maximum during the day and minimum during the evening. I still found myself charging the watch most nights, just for peace of mind, but if you forget, it’ll get you through two working days.

As for software, it sports the latest version of Android Wear, and this works as well as it does on any other Google-based smartwatch. You can read up on the details in our Android Wear review; the only difference here is that Huawei supplements the standard install with its own set of watch faces, plus a set of apps for fitness, activity tracking and heart-rate monitoring.

These look very attractive, but in practical terms, the only thing out of the ordinary is the stair-tracking function, and you can get that with a Fitbit anyway.

Huawei Watch review: Front

Huawei Watch review: Verdict

The one thing that might give you cause for concern is the price. The Huawei Watch is more expensive than any other Android Wear smartwatch. It’s pricier than the Moto 360 2 and LG Watch Urbane, and its base model is only £10 cheaper than the equivalent Apple Watch. Whether you think it’s worth it will depend on your perspective, and your platform.

If you have an iPhone, the best smartwatch to own remains the Apple Watch. It does everything and more than the Huawei Watch, and isn’t much more expensive (at least, the cheapest Sport model isn’t).

If your predilection is for an Android smartphone, on the other hand, this is the best you can buy right now. From its crisp, vibrant AMOLED display to its sapphire crystal glass top, and its slimline body to its sophisticated high-end watch looks, it nails every aspect of the smartwatch formula. A surprisingly pleasing smartwatch debut from the most unexpected of quarters.

See also: The best smartwatches of 2015 - for something a little less expensive

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