The Honor Magic Watch 2 comes with a range of fitness modes, from the expected, like running, to some more niche options, like triathlon. Some of these are more complex than others: some, like running, come with a huge swath of functions and stats monitored, while others, like open-water swimming, just track time, calories, and heart rate.
Yes, the inclusion of open-water swimming does mean the watch is waterproof, up to 50m, so frequent swimmers who don’t want a specialized swimming wearable might find this a decent substitute.
Running is what this smartwatch is built for though, with many different modes to choose from. There are 13 different ‘running courses’ that take you through particular workouts of varying intensities, guiding you through warmup time, running, and cooling down, as well as general indoor and outdoor run-tracking modes.
These courses come with an audio companion,on the 46mm watch but not the smaller model, that walks you through the stages. It’s pretty loud, and we couldn’t find a way to get the companion’s voice to come through our Bluetooth headphones instead of through the Magic Watch 2’s speaker, but you can make it quieter, or turn it off if you want.
When you’re running, you can see a range of stats, from basics like distance, time and heart rate to more interesting figures like your cadence and height climbed; the ‘free’ run mode even has a pace assistance feature, which helps you stick to a pace that you’ve pre-set and which is really helpful for preventing you from burning yourself out by running too fast.
Another feature we found super-useful was post-run feedback. The Magic Watch 2 will tell you how much your fitness improved, as well as how long you should take to recover before your next run. This really helps you to work out your fitness regime, both in terms of scheduling your exercises and understanding how hard you can push yourself.
Combination of these stats and features are available in other exercise modes, but they’re not all as extensive – saying that, they’re all more useful than the equivalent Wear OS modes, which are often extremely bare-bones, although more specialist smartwatches might help you more with particular exercises.
In terms of accuracy for most metrics, we found the stats provided were reasonably reliable. GPS often took a little while to connect, but it seems accurate enough for all your running needs. On-wrist workout records are available, unlike with some other fitness trackers that require you to go to the tie-in app, which is pretty handy.
Now and then we had issues with distance accuracy, though. While testing the Honor Magic Watch 2 we also wore a Fitbit Versa 2, and they often told us we’d run a shorter distance than we knew we had (thanks to running measured distances, and on treadmills), but the Honor watch was often around about 20% off, whereas the Fitbit was closer to 10%.
For indoor runs tracked on the Honor Magic Watch 2, it’s possible to retrospectively tell it the distance you ran so your record is correct. This isn’t possible for outdoor runs, though.
We were impressed to notice that, unlike competition, the Honor device rarely picked up non-walking motions as steps, unlike other devices we’d covered, so its overall day counts weren’t necessarily totally off.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 doesn’t run on Watch OS, or Wear OS, or any of the other major smartwatch operating systems; Huawei has its own software that it uses for both Huawei and Honor wearables. As with all operating systems, which is best for you is ultimately a matter of personal taste, but there are a couple things to take note of here.
Huawei’s smartwatch OS is great for fitness and running features, as we’ve mentioned, but it’s not as good for non-fitness lifestyle features. There’s a limited selection of apps for everyday use, and there’s also no online library of any kind to expand the apps you have.
You’ve got the basics like alarms, timers, notifications, and sleep tracking, but the competition has a bigger selection of apps available. If exercise isn’t a big part of your life, and you need a watch that’s also a useful lifestyle device, there are better options.
Talking of notifications, we found these to be a little buggy. Most of the time phone notifications came through to the device without issue, but now and then they didn’t come through until some time after they should have, and we also found some notifications came through to the watch multiple times, though we never worked out why.
Music handling also isn’t the best. The watch has plenty of memory to hold songs you put onto it from the watch, but we wonder how many people download actual song files, now you can download songs to your phone from almost every streaming service. You can use the watch to control music playing on your phone, but the on-watch music handling only picks up music when you’ve loaded up the Huawei Health app on your phone in the background, which we often found more hassle than it was worth.
Generally, scrolling through the watch menus is pretty easy, although it takes a little while to get used to the interface, since the different options are in a slightly unintuitive order compared to, say, Wear OS. Menus include watch face, heart rate, stress monitoring, weather, music handling, and a general exercise monitor that resembles Apple’s exercise rings.
One of the strongest aspects of the Honor Magic Watch 2, especially compared to some other wearables, is its battery life – you can go without charging the device for a long time, which is great for people who don’t want their watch dying on them at crucial moments, and don’t want to have to wait around for it to charge either.
Honor estimates that the Magic Watch 2 will last two weeks on a full charge – in our testing it easily made it through one week, but didn’t quite stretch to two. However, we were using it pretty intensively to test its various features, with the always-on display and sleep tracking activated, so it seems plausible that if you’re not using it as much it could last you two weeks.
This claimed battery life is for the 46mm version, while the 42mm model is said to have seven-day battery life. That’s still decent compared to lots of other smartwatches, but it might not make the cut for people who don’t want to have to charge their device often.
Using the fitness features did drain the battery quite a bit, but that’s understandable given the huge suite of parameters being tracked, and the fitness assistant.
According to Honor, such strong battery life on a device with an always-on display – a feature that can drain the battery dramatically on other devices – is possible because the Kirin A1 chipset is built with a collection of power-saving algorithms.
Charging the Honor Magic Watch 2 is done via a small dock, which the watch snaps to magnetically. It’s easy to use, and the device powers up pretty quickly too – in the time it takes to have your post-run shower you can easily recuperate the battery life you’ve just used up.
If you like to run a lot, the Honor Magic Watch 2 might be one of the best smartwatches you can buy. It’s affordable, lightweight, and has a genuinely impressive slate of features to assist you on your runs, whether you’re a seasoned sprinter or a junior jogger.
However, it doesn’t have a huge suite of features for someone who wants a well-equipped smartwatch, rather than a fitness companion, despite how good it looks on the wrist. There are a few perks, including the extended battery life and the low price, but not enough for the Magic Watch 2 to trouble Apple Watch and Wear OS rivals.
The Honor Magic Watch 2, then, falls short in the same areas as other Honor and Huawei wearables, and in the future we’d really like to see smartwatches from the two brands with more features that you can use when you’re not working out. As it is this is a watch with plenty of features for fitness fanatics, but not much else.
First reviewed: January 2020
Who's it for?
The Honor Magic Watch 2 is a decent smartwatch for people who like fitness, but we found it particularly useful for those who want to track a range of exercises. So if your trip to the gym involves jumping between the treadmill, rower, bikes and more, you'll find this a decent device for all those.
If you don't want to have to charge up your device daily or every two days, as you do for some smartwatches and fitness trackers, it'll be useful for you too, with its long battery life.
Should you buy it?
If you want a decent fitness smartwatch but don't want to pay loads of money for a top-end device, this is a very decent alternative, especially if you're looking at the 42mm model with its lower price. The 46mm is quite a steal too, with a cost only marginally more for some useful features like longer battery life and the voice workout instructions.
Saying that, this device isn't for the most hardcore runner, so if that's you perhaps look towards some of the other best running watches.