Honor Watch GS Pro Smartwatch Review
Case and features - 4 GB memory for music
Two factors differentiate the Honor Watch GS Pro substantially from other current wearables: its robust housing and its battery capacity of 790 mAh, the highest that we found so far with a smartwatch.
The case has been tested by Honor to military standards. More and more manufacturers advertise their smartwatch with the military standard MIL-STD-810G, but they rarely reveal the details. It should be noted that the standard includes many individual tests - the associated document is over 800 pages thick.
With certificates in 14 categories of this standard, Honor is well on the way. The Watch GS Pro is resistant to negative pressure (altitude), temperatures between -40 and +70 °C, thermal shock, contamination by liquids, solar radiation (sunshine), rain and humidity, sand and dust, salt fog lasting up to 96 hours, immersion, vibration and shock, etc. The strap, which must also be able to withstand all of this, is made of either fluoroelastomer or nylon mesh.
The hardware inside is largely identical to Huawei's Watch GT 2 Pro, which was released at about the same time, but with a leather strap and a titanium and ceramic case it takes a completely different line. Both still use the Kirin A1 as processor, like the Honor Magic Watch 2 and Huawei's Watch GT 2, but unlike the latest Huawei smartwatch, the Watch GS Pro cannot be charged wirelessly.
Via microphone and speakers or a Bluetooth headset and the connected smartphone, you can make calls with the Honor Watch. Thanks to 4 GB memory, you don't need a smartphone to listen to music.
Setup and operation - Outdoor watch cannot be operated with gloves
Anyone who has already read other reviews of Honor or Huawei wearables this year will already have guessed: Even with the Honor smartwatch there is no way around installing Huawei Mobile Services unless you also own a smartphone from the company. The Play Store is of no help here, because the version there is no longer up to date. The easiest way to install it is via the Huawei App Gallery, which you can get from the Huawei homepage (consumer.huawei.com/en/campaign/mobile-services). The iPhone is not affected by this circumstance. All you have to do is download the Huawei Health app from the App Store.
Once the app is installed and connected to the Watch GS Pro, the smartphone is first used to set up the health-monitoring parameters, including interval and alarm limits for heart-rate measurement, and options for sleep monitoring and motion reminders.
The Watch GT 2 Pro can be operated via two side buttons and the touch screen. However, in the test, the touchscreen did not respond to the touch when wearing gloves if they were not also equipped with a touchscreen-compatible fingertip; nor did it respond temporarily, for example by temporarily increasing the sensitivity as on Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3. This does not really fit with a watch that the manufacturer advertises among other things as being temperature resistant to temperatures well into the sub-zero range.
Huawei offers 4 GB of flash memory to its premium smartwatch. Alternatively, the player of the Watch GT 2 Pro controls the music app that is currently active on the smartphone; this can also be a streaming app like Spotify.
With additional data such as sunrise and moonset, moon phases including quarter and three-quarter moon, as well as tide information are part of Honor's outdoor strategy; but they will also make it easier for Huawei smartwatch users to plan vacation and leisure activities at the respective location.
Health and fitness - doubts about the SpO2 value
For many, a key argument for a fitness tracker or smartwatch is their health functions. Huawei's software, which is also used in Honor's wearables, has already impressed in tests of other wearables such as the Honor Magic Watch 2; especially with the visualization of the data in clear diagrams, both in the Health App and on the wrist.
The data it logs and displays throughout the day include heart rate, which is also used for stress analysis, and the number of steps taken. In addition, the sensors determine distances and altitude differences, and the software provides calorie consumption and compares what has been achieved with the personal goals. If the Honor Watch GS Pro is worn at night, a sleep log evaluates the nightly rest on the basis of light or deep sleep phases as well as waking phases and the so-called REM phases (Rapid Eye Movement phases).
In contrast to Fitbit Sense, for example, the Health App does not allow you to specify whether the watch is worn on the dominant or non-dominant wrist. Several test runs have shown that this factor is indeed relevant: When worn on the dominant wrist, there were deviations of between 6 and 8%; when worn on the non-dominant wrist, the deviations remained below 1% in each case, which means that the majority of users should obtain reliable values.
We had the Honor Watch GS Pro compete with a Polar chest strap to measure heart rate. At rest, it measured approximately the same beat and counted a maximum of 2 beats per minute less than the chest strap. When the performance increased, the negative deviation increased to about 6 beats. We observed both displays in parallel. The chest strap then showed an average and maximum of 119 and 151 bpm (beats per minute), while the Honor Watch and the Health App for the same workout showed 113 and 145 bpm, respectively. In other workouts, the deviation was not quite as constant at six beats, but was within a comparable, overall acceptable range.
According to the Honor smartwatch, the author's oxygen saturation never dropped below 99%. According to the wearable, she even often enjoyed the extraordinarily good saturation of 100%, although a medically certified pulse oximeter showed lower values in each case, usually between 95 and 96%. The deviation ranged between 3 and 4 percentage points in direct comparison. That may not be much and plays only a minor role in this value range. However, it is questionable whether our test device will ever display anything other than 99 or 100%. If the actual value falls below the normal range (about 94-98%), and the Watch GS Pro remains above it by 4 percentage points or more, the false picture it displays could be significant.
Other recent wearables from Honor and Huawei have shown to be more reliable in measuring blood oxygen saturation. It is therefore quite possible that our test device is not representative in this respect.
If the test device is not an exception with regard to SpO2 measurement, this would also affect the training analysis. This also shows the value VO2max, the maximum amount of oxygen that the body absorbs and transports into the cells under stress. Sports watches then evaluate the aerobic training effect, which in turn is relevant if you want to improve your endurance. The Honor/Huawei software also provides this analysis - basically good, but of course only if the measurement is correct.
In addition, the Honor Watch GS Pro determines typical parameters such as pace, speed and calorie consumption, and also stride length, cadence and altitude ascent and descent during outdoor training from duration and distance. With skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing, the watch also features three new winter sports. Huawei didn't make a fuss about this when it presented the Watch GT 2 Pro, but these three new sports are on board.
Battery and runtime
The long duration is one of the strengths of the Honor smartwatch. According to Honor, the 790 mAh battery capacity is enough to last up to 25 days, and with active GPS - one of the largest consumers - a runtime of 48 hours is possible. We took the watch on a longer hike. Its net time, relevant for GPS usage, was 4 hours 15 minutes. Over the total time of 7:45 hours, the battery decreased by 9% from 93% to 84%. If you extrapolate the consumption, you arrive at slightly less than 48 hours. However, the gross time of the hike was also 3.5 hours more.
Fourteen passed tests according to military standards - a comparatively high number - prove the watch to be a robust sports watch, and the somewhat chunky design of the Honor Watch matches this. But it is surprising that the touchscreen of such a watch is not made more touch-sensitive for the winter, at least temporarily per setting. The software of the Honor Watch once again pleases with its great visualization of health parameters. Of course, this point loses value if the measurement results are questionable.
The Honor Watch GS Pro forms an interesting contrast to the Honor Magic Watch 2, which is also still available.
Against the background that the hardware and software of the Watch GS Pro and Honor Magic Watch 2 as well as the Huawei watches Watch GT 2 and GT 2 Pro are the same in many respects, Honor is expanding its portfolio more skillfully than Huawei: While the parent company has further refined its fine watch, Honor has added a rugged smartwatch alongside the more delicate Magic Watch 2.
The two predecessors (Magic Watch 2 and Huawei Watch GT 2) will remain on sale at 179 Euros (~$210) each. For the Honor Watch GS Pro, Honor launched a campaign during the test phase that will continue until the end of October. Until then, you can get the device on hihonor.com for 199 Euros (~$233) instead of the regular 249 Euros (~$292).