Huawei TalkBand B2 Smartband Review
Upgraded. The TalkBand B1 is already more than your usual fitness tracker, including as it does a Bluetooth headset. With this new model, Huawei offers a similar design and also tries to break into the premium line. With materials such as leather, glass, and aluminum, this is generally a success. Apart from that, the Smartband delivers good battery runtimes.
For the original German review, see here.
With the TalkBand B2, Huawei presents the second generation of its Smartband. The Chinese manufacturers haven't changed much in the design of the predecessor model. It integrates a fitness and sleep tracker with a compact Bluetooth headset. However, the exterior has been completely reworked and shines with an elegant premium look.
Correspondingly, the price is higher. The previous model is currently available for about 90 Euros (~$100) and cost 129 Euros (~$140) when first on the market. The new TalkBand 2 is available from 169 Euros (~$185), and the premium variant with leather armband costs 199 Euros (~$220). Full-fledged smartwatches like the Asus ZenWatch can be bought for the same amount.
Our test examines whether the Huawei TalkBand B2 is still worth it and for whom.
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Judging by the exterior, the Huawei TalkBand B2 has developed significantly, and it offers the desired premium flair. Above all, the more expensive variant, which corresponds to our test machine, lives up to this expectation. The armband (real leather) is comfortably soft and fits snugly on the wrist. There is an additional armband in the package, this one made of hypoallergenic and sweat-resistant plastic. The rest of the smartband consists of aluminum, and it gives an excellent impression in terms of both look and feel. At 32 grams, it is very light, and it is available in gold, silver, and black.
The headset component is built into the frame. In order to remove it, two mechanical buttons must be pressed into the case at the same time. This doubled security ensures that the headset cannot be removed accidentally. If it is taken out, the user has access to the micro-USB slot, which serves to charge the built-in battery. The headset itself is plugged into the inner ear with silicon earbuds. So that it works for all ears, the TalkBand B2 includes three different sizes.
Additionally, the TalkBand B2 is certified for IP57 and resistant to dust and water, ready for either showering or swimming. The armbands are easily exchangeable, so that you can quickly switch one for the other, wearing the plastic armband for athletic activities and the leather armband for everyday use. Since they have a standard fastening, you can use the delivered armbands with other watches as well.
The Huawei TalkBand B2 is quite comfortable to wear. Thanks to its low weight and rounded angles, you hardly notice it in everyday use. Even when you don't generally wear a watch, you'll quickly get used to this smartband.
The Huawei TalkBand restricts itself to the essentials in terms of connectivity. The core element is the Audio-SoC CSR8670, which provides Bluetooth 3.0 and a digital signal processor (DSP). The Bluetooth connection takes care of not just voice calls but also audio signals from various media. In practice, this indeed works very well, and the sound quality of the headset is very convincing. Highs come over cleanly and clearly. Even on maximum volume, there are hardly any distortions. With films, we miss out on the bass, which is essentially absent except in the very best cases.
The device can be charged via the micro-USB port.
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The Huawei TalkBand B2 is no Android machine; instead, it uses the FreeRTOS operating system, which offers simply a user interface.
The TalkBand B2's core element can be found in the Huawei Wear App on the smartphone, which reads and processes the collected data from the smartband. This does not require a constant connection. The alarm can also be configured here, the activity alarm can be turned on and off, and the Bluetooth disconnection reminder can be managed. Lastly, the TalkBand B2 vibrates when it loses connection with the smartphone, in order to prevent you from forgetting the phone. The activity alarm reminds you to move in user-definable intervals.
The app also counts your steps and burned calories and manages sleeping behavior. You shouldn't have to worry about your data, which is saved on the device and cannot either be saved to the cloud or otherwise exported. The resultant disadvantage, though, is that you also can't save the data.
The app and the TalkBand B2 are compatible with smartphones from Google Android 4.0 and up, as well as Apple devices starting with iOS 7.0. The corresponding apps can be downloaded from the Play Store or the App Store. It's good to take this platform-friendly approach, but it's unfortunate that Windows machines are not supported yet.
Communication & Speech Quality
For its connection with the smartphone, the Huawei TalkBand B2 just uses Bluetooth 3.0; other interfaces are not available. The stability of the wireless connection was very good inside the testing time window. The connection was lost between the two devices only once, leading us to have to restart.
Once it is connected with the smartphone, the Huawei TalkBand B2 can also be used to make calls. The headset sits comfortably and securely in the ear, even when the head is tilted backward.
Missed calls are also shown on the smartband. With a simple motion, you can decide to dismiss the notification or call back. However, this decision can't be postponed, since the call is not shown again after the first time. Also, only the last caller is shown. Users who want to be sure that they haven't missed additional calls will have to take their phone out of their pocket.
The speech quality is surprisingly good. The headset still can't compete with premium products of specialized manufacturers, but for this kind of usage, it is more than sufficient. The conversation partner is quite understandable, and speech is clearly conveyed. Only a large distance between microphone and mouth becomes noticeable in a somewhat quiet acoustic (on the part of the TalkBand user). Apart from that, ambient noise is also conveyed well.
Accessories & Warranty
In the Huawei TalkBand B2's packaging, there are surprisingly many accessories. Apart from the TalkBand itself, there is a USB cable, a second armband, two additional in-ear attachments for the headset, and a small instruction booklet with security information. The manufacturer does not provide a power cord. This is not a big problem, since the smartband is generally charged during the day and the smartphone at night, allowing them to share one cord.
Huawei provides a 24-month warranty for its product.
Input Devices & Service
The fitness and sleep data are collected only via the integrated 6-axis position and motion sensor. This works surprisingly well in practice, and in most cases the TalkBand B2 recognizes reliably whether we are walking, running, or cycling. With sleep data, it usually takes a moment before the device recognizes it as such. We were able to measure differences of up to a half hour, which is still tolerable. Mostly the given duration was at least correct. Other devices like the Sony Smartband SWR10 have to be set in night mode first.
The headset can be used very easily and intuitively. This is used for incoming calls when the headset is taken out of its holder. If it is currently in the ear, the power button can be used to accept the call or end the conversation.
The capacitive touchscreen reacts well and reliably to inputs. It scrolls extremely well over the user interface, which aside from time and date also displays the current steps, burned calories, and the most recent sleep cycle. It can also directly start a fitness activity and manage the Bluetooth connection.
One additional feature is the remote release for the camera. For this, the camera app must be open on the smartphone. Unfortunately, this only worked during testing with the Huawei P8. With the Kazam Tornado 348 and the LG G3 nothing happened. With the ZTE Blade S6 and Wiko Ridge FAB, Google Search was opened instead. The interface could still use some polishing, it seems.
A further gimmick: The TalkBand B2 can search for the connected Smartphone. The misplaced machine turns its display on, plays music, and calls for its user. Here it doesn't matter if the device is on silent or not. This worked very well with all smartphones during testing and can also be seen in the following video (starting at 03:25).
The 0.73-inch (1.85-cm) PMOLED display of the Huawei TalkBand B2 is protected by a scratch-free Corning Gorilla Glass 3. It has a resolution of 128x88 pixels and manages a pixel density of about 213 ppi. Single pixels can be recognized from a very short distance, but that doesn't have an effect on the usage of the monochrome panel.
One larger problem is presented by the mirrored surface. Even in bright rooms, reflections can be very irritating. Apart from that, in these sorts of conditions it becomes obvious that the screen does not have very strong brightness. The content is still readable, but in outside use this becomes problematic.
When using it outside, the Huawei TalkBand B2 quickly comes up against its limits. We often had to screen the smartband with our hand in direct sunlight in order to read anything at all. If the sun shines directly on the display, it isn't possible to tell whether the TalkBand is even active or not. In view of the fact that this includes a fitness tracker, which generally bespeaks outside use, this makes for a rather frugal presentation.
With its TalkBand B2, Huawei offers excellent battery life despite the relatively small 80 mAh battery. A standby time of up to 12 days and a usage time of up to 5 days are possible. The manufacturer makes claims for a speaking time of up to 7 hours.
In practice, with a constant Bluetooth connection, we achieved an excellent runtime of between 3 and 4 days, depending on how high the calling intensity was. This is an advantage of the TalkBand smartwatch, since most models only make it through a single day.
The machine also recharged very quickly, requiring just more than 1 hour for a full charge.
With the Huawei TalkBand B2, the manufacturers take a step in the right direction. We like the new design, the high-quality materials, and excellent workmanship very much. The proven concept of fitness tracker plus Bluetooth headset is convincing on account of the marked improvement in terms of speech quality. Here Huawei has made improvements in an important area.
The TalkBand B2 integrates a fitness tracker with a headset and packages it all together in an exterior with high carrying comfort.
Unfortunately, the software is not quite fully developed, so that the camera control does not work on all the smartphones we tested. Apart from that, caller names aren't shown on the smartband yet, to say nothing of notifications from other programs. An integration of SMS, e-mail, and the most important messaging clients should at least be considered here. However, our test machine is equipped with software from the previous series; it is possible that Huawei will have made improvements with the models that go on the market.
One major irritant is the weak panel illumination. In the sun it's barely possible to read anything on the TalkBand B2. However, it has a battery life of several days, something most high-quality smartwatches can only dream of.