(Pocket-lint) - Since ditching the Wear OS platform - thankfully long before the Google ban - Huawei has built a strong collection of fitness-focused smartwatches. When you look at the models already available you see a couple of strong features: battery life and fitness data.
What's interesting is that, for the most part, none of the reborn Watch GT watches have looked particularly sporty. They're classy, glass and metal watches built with style in mind. They're not quite business attire, but neither do they look like active wear.
Enter the Huawei Watch GT 2e. This watch has all the same strengths of previous models, but comes in a much more sporty design, while featuring a whole host of new fitness-tracking options. Better still, it's considerably cheaper than its less athletically appealing siblings. Can it do no wrong?
- Finishes: Graphite Black, Lava Red, Mint Green, Icy White
- Dimensions: 53 x 46.8 x 10.8mm
- Stainless steel & plastic build
- 5ATM waterproof (50m)
Like the other GT 2 series watches, the 2e has a round face, which is covered entirely by a single piece of glass. It tapers off to the sides to create the appearance of a bezel, which has slim, subtle pinstripes underneath it. It's a lovely effect, something we noted about the Watch GT 2. It adds the illusion of a bezel, while simultaneously maintaining a seamless finish.
Underneath that, the casing is a relatively minimal stainless steel housing with two rectangular slanted buttons on the right edge. It's a sensible design choice, ensuring that the buttons don't protrude far enough to be accidentally pressed when your wrist is bent backwards (during various weight/strength training exercises).
Whether you get a black stainless case or classic grey/silver finish depends on which colour strap you go for. Huawei offers a selection of four colours; our review unit is the Mint Green, which has a bit more of a subtle khaki green look than you might expect, but it's still our favourite colour of the lot.
The strap itself is what gives it that athletic look. The green TPU strap is dotted with lots of black-accented pill-shaped holes, with the central row acting as the fixing point for the buckle. Interestingly, the white and black model have a different strap design - these both have a more traditional single row of rectangle holes for the strap.
Previous Huawei watches and, indeed, a lot of smartwatches let you quickly swap out straps without impacting the overall visual appeal. That's not easily done with the GT 2e though. Because the strap meets the watch in a coherent, seamless way, if you do remove the strap then you have to replace it with one that's exactly the same shape and size. In fact, the strap isn't easily removable at all. So our advice: pick the colour you really want - you'll likely have to stick with it.
- 1.39-inch round AMOLED panel
- 454 x 454 resolution
Huawei's Watch GT series all have great-looking displays. They're fully round, with densely packed pixels and vibrant colours delivered by the AMOLED panel. It's the same here with the 2e.
That makes it the perfect template for some creative watchfaces. This is one area hugely improved since the beginning of the Watch GT range: Huawei now offers a much larger selection of watch face styles. There's everything from your classically-designed traditional watchfaces, through those that mimic digital watches, and others that step outside the box with graffiti-like stylings. Some offer a number of different complications to keep an eye on health stats, weather, and so on, while others strip that all away and just show you the time.
The only real issue with the watch faces, in comparison with the likes of the Apple Watch, is that the customisation options are practically nil. You can't really change any of the watchfaces beyond what's offered. You can't change colours, add complications, or tweak the style in any way.
While the screen is vibrant and detailed, it lacks when it comes to animations. This is a mainstay feature of Huawei Watch GT displays, and it's part of the reason the battery lasts so long. Because the refresh rate of the screen is so low, animations stutter. So, when you're interacting with it - whether to check notifications or swipe through the widgets - there's no fluidity to the animation on the screen.
That's when the screen is actually on. Most of the time it isn't. By default, the watch display is off and only activates when you raise your wrist. If you want it on all the time, you can activate an always-on feature of sorts, which will deplete your battery a bit faster, and displays a much more basic watch face. It's useful, but when on, it deactivates the raise-to-wake feature.
- 100 workout modes (even parkour!)
- Huawei Health app on smartphone
Undoubtedly the biggest feature of the Watch GT 2e is the plethora of workout modes available. Huawei has now included 100 workout modes to help you track everything from running and cycling through to various strength and dance exercises. We could try to list them all here, but that would be an exercise in futility. The short version is: if you can think of it, it can track it.
Some of the highlights in this latest range of activities include parkour, skateboarding, HIIT sessions, ballet dancing, belly dancing, and so many others. It's kind of ridiculous. But then, without testing them all we're not sure how useful that data is, or how accurate the tracking is.
We did test some more common sporting activities like running, indoor cycling and strength exercises, and - for the most part - the GT 2e tracks those fairly accurately. Compared with our Apple Watch on outdoor runs, it showed almost exactly the same distance, pace, cadence and heart rate. Heart rate was 1-2 beats-per-minute different, pace was a couple of seconds per km out, and distance was 50 metres off on a 3.6km run.
On an indoor cycling session the heart-rate monitoring was almost exactly the same too. The only difference being quite a big swing in difference between the estimated calories burned. On a 55 min bike session, Apple's system estimated a total 571 calories burned, with 448 of those being 'active'. On the Huawei system, it estimated a total of 659 calories.
It's on the strength training we experienced something of a wobble. The watch seemed to track quite well during the actual activity, but the Huawei Health app on our Android phone failed to pull in that session to display it within the app. We're not sure why, but it seems that while some activities can be tracked on the watch, the smartphone app doesn't show them after syncing. If we did the same exercise, but chose 'Other' as the workout type, it would sync across, but not when choosing the 'Strength' option.
As well as being a strong workout tracker, the Huawei Watch GT 2e makes a great everyday activity tracker. It can track your steps and constantly monitor your heart rate, giving you a daily, weekly and monthly trends. It'll also automatically measure your sleep quality if you wear it at night.
One new feature is SpO2, which measures the oxygen saturation levels in your blood, giving a clear indicator of what is classed as healthy and what isn't using a colour-coded bar around the screen. It's similar to the approach Huawei uses for tracking most metrics on the watch, in and out of exercise sessions. It's clear, easy to read and understand.
Like other smartwatches, the GT 2e will mirror your smartphone notifications. As always, though, there's a lack of interactivity with these. It's not like the Apple Watch or Google's Wear OS where you can easily reply to a message. You can read them, but that's basically it. You'll need to get your phone out if you want to respond to emails or messages.
- Up to two weeks battery life
- Magnetic cradle for charging
Huawei claims you can get up to two weeks of use from a full battery on the Watch GT 2e. That is possible if you didn't use the watch to constantly track heart rate, or do any GPS measuring workouts, keeping the usage to a minimum.
Our own use case was using the watch to track a workout every day. Some of those were 20-25 minute HIIT or strength workouts, others 45-55 minute indoor cycling sessions, while others included runs outside, tracking our route using GPS. In a full week, we didn't manage to completely drain the battery, but did dock it on its magnetic charger at the end of the week as the battery level got close to that anxiety-inducing 20 per cent mark. Still, that's a good seven day's of active use.
It's better than the kind of battery life you'd expect from a full colour screen smartwatch. But when you take into account the fact that the screen refresh rate is super low, and that most of the time that display is switched off, it all makes sense.
If you haven't got the budget to spend on a smartwatch from Apple, or a high-end fitness watch from Garmin, the Huawei Watch GT 2e is a great middle ground. It's inexpensive, yet will track pretty much all the activities you could want. Whether that's just regular daily movements, actually tracking your indoor and outdoor workouts sessions, or a combination of the lot.
To get the battery life it wants from a device with a bright, sharp colourful screen, Huawei has had to force some compromises with the Watch GT 2 series: the lack of interaction with notifications; and the low refresh rate of the display. But, on the whole, the Watch GT 2e is a great excercise companion for most workout types.
As a fitness tracking watch the Watch GT 2e is versatile, long-lasting, and the design on point. For the money it's a great fitness device.
Alternatives to consider
For double the price of the Watch GT 2e you'll get a full colour screen watch from Garmin. It's a great alternative, and Garmin's experience in sports data comes to the fore.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
If you're looking for a round smartwatch that does fitness and core smartwatch features well in equal measures, the second-gen Active is one smartwatch worth checking out. It is considerably more expensive than Huawei's Gt 2e though.