Hands on: Huawei Band 3 Pro review

A bigger fitness band with all the usual tricks

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Our Early Verdict

The Huawei Band 3 Pro has a larger screen in color with a few odd improvements over its predecessor, but its pricier as a result.

For

  • Screen is pleasurably larger than Band 2 Pro
  • Improved GPS tracking is promising
  • Clever, quirky new features

Against

  • Price bump from last year's model
  • Navigation is imprecise and a bit annoying
  • Features are dubiously useful

The Huawei Band 3 Pro builds on its predecessor but isn't much of a fitness band innovation, which isn’t a surprise for a Huawei product. But this isn’t a bad thing to more-or-less keep pace with the midrange fitness band trends.

The new Band 3 has all the hallmarks of a slightly-better-than-last-year’s-model iteration: a bit bigger screen (that's now in color), sleight design tweaks and a few new features. If you didn't pick up last year's model to take on your running, biking and/or swimming adventures, this is the incremental upgrade you might want to pick up.

Huawei Band 3 Pro release date and price

The Huawei Band 3 is out October 16 in London and costs €99 (about $114, £86, AU$160).

Huawei Band 3 Pro

Huawei Band 3 Pro (center-left and center-right) flanked by a pair of Huawei Band 2 Pro wearables.

Design and display

The Band 3’s 0.95-inch (240x120) AMOLED screen is slightly wider than its predecessor (0.91-inch, 128x32) – but most importantly, this one's in color, which adds some fun nuance and clarity that the Band 2 Pro lacked. Instead of a rounded display tapering into a thinner band, Huawei's new fitness watch has a firmly rectangular screen that keeps the wristband noticeably thick. 

My wrist is large and I didn't mind the wider band, but those with smaller wrists might – or anyone who likes their fitness bands more nimble. The Band 3 Pro remains light, though, so we'll have to wait for real testing to see if its large size is cumbersome on long runs.

The new design includes a thick steel screen bezel around the Band 3's display, which stands out from the screen in some of the Band 3 Pro's colors (Obsidian Black, Space Blue and Quicksand Gold). For other hues, it is deliberately black to fade in with the dark screen. The bands only come in silicone, as befits a fitness wearable)

As in the last model, the Band 3 Pro has a heart rate monitor on the underside of the tracker. It still managed to track my heart rate even though I wasn't certain the long, flat bottom was making contact, so we'll see during testing if it can monitor BPM during movement-intensive workouts. 

Features and interface

Like the Band 2 Pro, the new Band 3 Pro has onboard GPS, but can also be tracked via other satellite-based methods: GAL (Galileo) and GLNSS (Glasnost). 

This is the big pitch of the Band 3: better satellite tracking produces more precise logs of where, and how far, you've gone. The Band 3 Pro tracks your movement even without a phone, and will upload data to your phone after you've returned.

The Band 3 Pro heart rate monitor doesn't seem terribly different from last year's model, let alone the cheaper Honor Band 3 released earlier this year. It does have a couple new tricks, including an "upper limit alarm" that sounds if you're not within normal heart rate – handy if you want to keep your heart rate within a manageable range lest you, say, turn into the Hulk above certain BPM.

The fitness band also includes the second version of Huawei's TrueSleep tracking tech, which has "PPG heart rate monitoring accuracy reaching ECG level," according to Huawei. The company claims that the Band 3 Pro should not just be able to track sleep, but identify "typical sleep problems" like irregular routines and light sleeping.

The Band 3 Pro is waterproof up to 50m and can identify swimming strokes, Huawei claims – something that will be pretty fun to test. Conceivably, this could let you parse out your pacing if you switch strokes mid-workout.

It has a 12-day battery life with continuous sleep and heart rate monitoring disabled, or five days with both turned on. With GPS turned on, it'll burn through the battery in  seven hours, so exercise wisely.

We had plenty of criticisms of the previous model's clunky interface and rigid options (the 10,000-step daily goal, for example, can't be changed). 

At first glance, the Huawei Band 3 is a bit easier to get around, but the small touchscreen is still annoyingly imprecise: changing the timer, for instance, was an ordeal of miss-tapping tiny buttons with too-big fingers. Worse, the back button on the display's bottom takes you all the way back, requiring re-navigating from the main menu should you ever click into the wrong feature. 

Early verdict

While the Band 3 Pro certainly improves on its predecessor, it's unclear if those refinements were worth the price bump. When Huawei launched the prior Band 2 display in monochrome, that move surely helped the company keep the price to $69 (£52 today). The Band 3 Pro's shift to a color screen obviously increased the cost, but the $114 (£87) price tag is a bit of a leap.

If the new features work as intended, this could be a multifaceted fitness band for folks looking for personal performance data without paying for the bells and whistles of a smartwatch, like the Huawei Watch GT. The promise of more accurate GPS readings is always appealing.

If not, the Huawei Band 3 Pro could remain a fitness tracker that appeals mostly to Huawei brand diehards. As always, it's hard to peg whether a fitness wearable will perform without taking it for a test drive – stay tuned for our full review to see how Huawei's fitness tracker measures up.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.