When the Huawei Watch W1 was first launched a couple of years ago it was the best looking Android Wear device you could buy. It still is, and while other smartwatches in Huawei’s range have superseded it since it first came out, the latest price when this article is written, sees the price still less than $350 makes it a tempting option.
Even if you don’t fancy splashing the cash on a two-year-old smartwatch, there are also deals on the newer Huawei Watch 2, which are even better. You can get the Bluetooth Huawei Watch 2 for a mere $199! .
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 $350 on Amazon US for the black leather 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.
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.
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 : 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 slightly 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.