Hands on: Honor Band 5 review

Not the biggest upgrade ever

What is a hands on review?

Early Verdict

The Honor Band 5 is a very modest step up from the Honor Band 4, but it does improve on some of the problems we had with its predecessor, and adds a few more fitness-centric tools.

For

  • Lightweight design
  • Vibrant display

Against

  • Very minor upgrade
  • Waking the device was a little fiddly

When you think of fitness trackers it's highly unlikely your mind leaps straight to Honor's products, as the company is known more for its smartphones than its wearables. But the Honor Band series continues to offer affordable products, and the Honor Band 5 is the company's latest attempt to create a big fitness following.

Launched in the downtime between the Honor 20 Pro and the inevitable Honor View 30, and available alongside Honor's other recent wearable, the Honor Watch Magic, the Honor Band 5 is a fitness tracker that's perhaps a little bit more stylish than Fitbit's equivalents like the Fitbit Alta HR, although perhaps not as functional.

The wearable does seem, on the surface, rather similar to the Honor Band 4 though, so you might be curious about how – or if – the Honor Band 5 is any different.

To try and puzzle this out, we strapped it to our wrist and took it for a spin. These are our initial impressions of the Honor Band 5, but we're going to need to log quite a few more steps for our final review, so stay tuned for that in the near future.

Honor Band 5 price and availability

(Image credit: Future)

There's no word on the price or release date of the Honor Band 5 just yet.

The wearable is already in sale in China, where it was announced a week prior, but so far we've no word on when the tracker will be available to strap to your wrist anywhere else. New members of the Honor Band range aren't released on a regular schedule like Honor's phones, so we're not sure when we'll see it yet.

In terms of price we're also left guessing, but at least we can make an educated guess based on the price of previous Honor Bands. Based on the price of the Honor Band 4, we'd expect the Honor Band 5 to cost roughly $59.99 / £59.99 / AU$85.

Of course this is an estimate, but since little has changed from the Honor Band 4, we wouldn't expect this newer model to cost much different.

When we hear from Honor regarding the price and availability, we'll update this review to let you know.

Honor Band 5 design and display

Did you like the Honor Band 4? We hope so, because you're basically getting exactly the same thing again here.

The Honor Band 5 has a 0.95-inch AMOLED full color display. This means that while you're getting the same screen size as the previous Honor wearable, you're getting a higher-quality screen, as the Band 4 only had standard OLED.

(Image credit: Future)

This means colors displayed on the Band 5 should be more vivid, which is good news for people who are really fond of their watch faces.

You're also getting 282 pixels-per-inch, which is nothing to turn your nose up at. The high quality screen and high max brightness should also make it easy to view the display even when you're out and about in bright sunlight.

However it's unlikely that many people will find the jump from OLED to AMOLED a huge selling point, and you're still getting the color display and high level of brightness with the Honor Band 4.

Moving on to the design of the fitness tracker itself, you're going to find even fewer upgrades – in fact, in our brief time with the Honor Band 5, we couldn't spot any at all.

The body of the watch is fairly thin, so it fits snugly onto your wrist, and that small size means you're definitely not at much risk of knocking it into anything by accident. On top of that the whole device is rather narrow. All in all it's a dainty device.

(Image credit: Future)

If you have trouble fitting your smartwatch or fitness tracker to your wrist you're in luck, as the Honor Band 5's strap has many perforations, more so than you'd see on your average watch, so we found it easy to get the wearable nice and cosy on our wrist.

It's a pretty light device too, and it would be easy to forget you're wearing it during day-to-day activities or while you're exercising. Our only gripe with the design and display would be that it's also easy to forget that you're wearing the Honor Band 5 specifically, rather than the very similar Band 4.

Honor Band 5 fitness

One of the biggest upgrades in the Honor Band 5 is the addition of a few new fitness features, which should make the tracker useful for a wider variety of users.

New modes include Rowing Machine and Elliptical Machine (which is more commonly known as a Cross Trainer). These modes seem designed for use in the gym, as they are popular activities for gym-goers, so it seems like Honor is targeting exercise buffs who might want the tracker for a variety of functions when they're working out.

(Image credit: Future)

On top of that, the Honor Band 5 has many of the modes you know and love from other fitness trackers, including running, cycling and swim tracking.

It's hard to test out fitness features like these during a brief hands-on review, as we don't exactly have time to go for a 10k run, but we've found previous Honor Bands to have pretty accurate tracking skills, and we wouldn't expect that to change.

Step tracking is here too, of course, and it's fairly easy to check how many steps you're on, as most watch faces display your total by default. Once again GPS is absent though.

Heart rate tracking is another feature that's present, and it's something Honor has improved with the Honor Band 5. It's supposed to be more accurate now, and Honor told us it's almost as good as a traditional chest-mounted heart rate monitor. We'll make sure to check the validity of this during our full review.

(Image credit: Future)

One other feature that fitness buffs (and people who want to be healthy) might love? There's a mode that measured our hydration level, which is great for people who like to stay topped up on water during the day.

Honor Band 5 other features

Honor has added a few new watch faces for the Honor Band 5, and while not all of them are as classy as the traditional faces (and some are just straight-up weird), this is still useful for people who like to be able to fully customize what goes on their wrist.

When we tested the Honor Band 4, we found that sleep tracking was a little patchy. This is another area Honor has been working on, and it should be more accurate now. 

As well as improved accuracy, there's now personalized sleep advice, as the Honor Band 5 now identifies your sleep structure and monitors your changing patterns. This is aided by the way the heart rate monitor uses non-visible light, so it won't wake you as it tries to test you – this means that while many heart rate monitors flash light when in use, the Honor Band 5's won't.

(Image credit: Future)

We thought it would be rude to take a nap with the Honor Band 5 as we were testing it during the working day, but you can be sure we'll sleep as much as possible during our full review.

One other improvement we found in the Honor Band 5 is that its user interface (UI) feels quite snappy to use, both compared to the Honor Band 4 and other budget wearables, which made it feel easy to use, and switching between exercise modes was relatively seamless.

When we were testing the device, we found it a little fiddly to wake – you're meant to be able to shake your wrist twice, or tap the screen in a certain area, but neither method was totally reliable in turning the screen on, and sometimes it took a fair few taps or twists before we could see the time.

Early verdict

The Honor Band 5 brings with it some useful improvements, but it perhaps doesn't bring enough improvements to make upgrading from the Honor Band 4 very necessary.

Sure, if you've got the Honor Band 3 or below then it's worth upgrading to a color model, but depending on the asking price for this new device, you may find the improvements to sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring, and the higher-quality display, aren't really that worthwhile.

Of course, the main value of a fitness tracker comes from the way it... well, tracks fitness, and we definitely didn't do enough of that during our brief time with the Honor Band 5 to truly gauge its value, so check back soon for a full review.

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.