(Pocket-lint) - Huawei perhaps isn't a name you'd associate with fitness trackers in general, but then again just a few years ago - at least here in the west - you wouldn't associate it with smartphones either. The Chinese company has gone on to become a world superpower in consumer electronics, and with its wearables it's trying to infiltrate the fitness segment too.
We've already reviewed the great, but imperfect, Watch GT, which showed a lot of promise in an attractive device with stupendous battery life. While that was going more after the likes of Samsung's smartwatches, the Band 3 Pro is a classic fitness tracker.
For just under £80, it promises a tonne of awesome features including GPS tracking, advanced heart-rate data and sleep-tracking, as well as waterproofing. The question is: is this budget tracker any good?
Looks and resilience
- Dimensions: 45 x 19 x 11mm / Weight: 25g
- Obsidian black, Space blue, Quicksand gold
- Two-pin charging port/clip-on holder
- Touch-sensitive home button
- Waterproof to 50m
It's safe to say that the Huawei Band 3 Pro looks like a fitness tracker in every given way. It's that classic, flat-edged, thick band. It's a style perhaps synonymous with Fitbit, the company that virtually created this market section, and has sustained it almost single-handed for the last few years.
The Band 3 Pro's strap is a flexible and durable silicone material with diagonal lines on the outside for added texture. It's also got rectangular holes all the way up the strap as far as is possible, to ensure that even the smallest wrists can get it to fit snugly.
We didn't have any issues getting a good fit on our medium/large wrists. And while there's only one single loop to hold the strap in place once fed through the clasp, it has a catch on the underside to ensure that the strap doesn't stick out or flap about awkwardly. In our testing it stayed securely in place, no flapping, even during running sessions. Despite being quite a short catch, it holds well.
It's a lightweight fitness band that's easy to put on and wear all day and night, so if you're after something that tracks your sleep as well as your daily movements then that box is ticked too.
The 'watch face' is a small rectangular vertical display built on top of the plastic housing. It's fairly simple looking, but features a gentle curve on the glass to make it look more natural, following the subtle curve on the top of the wrist. The screen portion is ever so slightly raised from the main body, with a subtle lip all the way around the bezels, with shiny chamfers cut into the corners of the housing to give a dash of high-end feel.
Perhaps the one sad part is you can currently only get the Band Pro in three colours: a fairly plain all-navy; an all-black; or a white-and-gold model. For something to be worn on your person all day, a few more options would be welcome, as would a strap that's easily swappable.
From a looks perspective, the only other thing worth noting is the slim, long pill-shaped outline beneath the display on the front. This shows you where the touch-sensitive 'button' is for performing a handful of simple tasks, when the simple touchscreen gestures aren't applicable. This approach is a bit mixed up to us, however, as it's not a physical button, rather a capacitive touch area.
Impractical for swimming
- Only touchscreen for control
- No physical button
Had it marketed itself as a basic fitness tracker for everyday steps and sleep counting, among other very basic activities, we'd forgive the Band 3 Pro for its intolerance to water. However, it is water resistant up to 50 meters and claims to offer dedicated swimming tracking.
Now we're not well-seasoned professional swimmers by any stretch of the imagination, but for this observation, that's not important. The problem is with the fact that this has only capacitive controls. Anyone who has ever got a smartphone wet, or tried to use a phone with wet hands, will know how much touchscreens do not get on with water.
That means if you are going swimming, you need to start your activity before submerge your arm in the wet stuff. That's not to massive an issue. It just means keeping your hands/wrists out of the water until you're ready to start swimming. Inconvenient, yes. Impossible, no.
However, then comes the trouble of stopping your activity. If you're in a public indoor pool, you're not going to be able to pause, stop or save your session without first heading into the changing/locker rooms, getting your towel (which may well be in a locker), drying the screen off and then stopping the activity. If you're in open water, perhaps at the beach, that means getting out of the water, and getting to your towel, wherever you left it.
Yes, there's a chance we're over annoyed at having had to walk 20 metres, barefoot over pebbles, getting sore feet, just to stop an activity, when we could have left our towel (and footwear) in a more sensible location. Still, it seems silly that you can't just stop the activity when you actually finish - which would have been possible had a physical button been fitted instead. It seems like a major oversight for a device which claims to be a good swimming tracker.
- 0.95-inch rectangular AMOLED colour screen
- 120 x 240 resolution
The Band Pro is no smartwatch, so you don't get a bright, sharp, high refresh-rate OLED screen like you might on an Apple Watch, for example. With that said, you do get a colour 0.95-inch rectangle AMOLED display. It's not incredible, but it doesn't need to be. Colour saturation and contrast are high enough that you can easily see what's on the screen pretty much all the time. Being AMOLED, that means it's off most of the time, and automatically wakes up when you raise your wrist.
As user interfaces go, the software in Huawei's fitness band is very simple. It has a grand total of three different watch faces, which is hardly generous. So those of you who are all about getting customisation, you're not going to find it here.
This software is about giving you the basics you need to make use of its features. There's little in the way of added flourishes. Animations are quite slow and stuttery - similar to the Watch GT - probably because the refresh-rate on the screen is quite low.
As we say, you do get what you need to make use of its features. Swiping up or down from the home watch face takes you through the shortlist of options, including notifications, which mirror - again in basic faction - the notifications from your phone. You can't interact with them or reply to messages, but you can see enough to tell whether they're important or not.
The Settings menu gives a few options, like setting timers, finding your phone and changing the watch face. Otherwise, the main features include a screen for seeing your live heart rate, a workout screen for launching activities, a sleep screen that shows your previous night's sleep time, and a screen to tell you how you're getting on with your daily goals/steps.
Performance and features
- GPS, heart-rate monitor, VO2 Max measure
- Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity
- 100mAh battery
One thing you don't expect to see in an £80 fitness tracker is GPS. Typically in this kind of device you'll get step- and sleep-tracking, along with basic activity tracking and none of the advanced heart-rate monitoring or maps/routes of your runs. Huawei's band does both of those last two things, so really is punching above its price point.
Those hoping for perfect performance, however, will be disappointed. First off, it's quite slow. While an Apple Watch or Garmin might lock our location within a few seconds of launching into an activity, Huawei's band takes a lot longer. We'd often be waiting 30 seconds to a minute after starting an activity before the GPS location was found and the countdown for the session started.
For the most part, the actual distance and route measured were both pretty accurate in our use - as compared to the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (a much more high-end tracker/watch). But, again, it wasn't perfect: we spotted that the Band 3 Pro would lose our GPS location for a few seconds, more than once. So while it initially starts pretty much showing the same distance as the Garmin during a run, by the time we got to the end, there could be a significant difference in the measured distance. And that is not ideal. Running a 10K, then running another 100m to ensure the Huawei Band also measured 10K proper is a tiny bit demoralising.
Once you sync the data with the app on your phone, the data you get from it is pretty thorough. In fact, Huawei's Health app offers a lot of data points helping you see all manner of information. This is as true of daily average measurements like heart-rate and sleep as it is of running tracking.
For running you see a map with pin points where each kilometre ends, with the duration, average pace and calories burned along the bottom. Then there are extra tabs, showing a breakdown of pace per kilometre, and charts for showing your heart-rate zones, pace and cadence. There's a detailed breakdown, which includes VO2Max, stride length, steps, average speed and aerobic training effect.
As for battery life, that's certainly good enough. With two to three sessions tracked, and wearing the band all day and most nights for sleep tracking, we got roughly four to five days use from a full charge.
If what you're looking for in a fitness tracker is something that's affordable and packed with as many features as is possible, the Band 3 Pro is a good choice. The experience isn't as polished or reliable as a Fitbit might be, but it's much cheaper given the inclusion of GPS and heart-rate tracking.
For £80 you're never going to get a perfect, all-singing, all-dancing device. With that said, the Band Pro does a strong job. However, we'd like to see a few more finishing touches. Easily changeable bands would be a bonus, while a physical button to make swim-tracking actually useful would add far greater versatility.
Overall, the fact as that you'll struggle to find anything with GPS built in at this price point. And with all the data points that this band tracks so effectively within the smartphone app, the Band 3 Prio is great. It just needs a little bit more refinement to be truly outstanding though.
Fitbit Inspire HR
In price and design, the Fitbit Inspire HR is definitely the closest big-name competitor to the Huawei Band 3 Pro. It has interchangeable straps, heart-rate monitoring and advanced sleep tracking. It also has a physical button, which the Huawei is missing, and it only costs a little extra. What's more, Fitbit's platform is great.