Hands on: Honor Watch Magic review

Like a Huawei Watch GT, but also not

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Early Verdict

The Honor Watch looks to be a valiant attempt at making a smartwatch away from the world of Wear OS or Tizen. If you're after fitness and battery, the Watch Magic or Watch Dream may be for you.

For

  • Attractive design
  • Lots of sport features

Against

  • Lesser battery than Watch GT
  • Limited OS

Huawei and Honor share a lot of research and development, so it's not a huge surprise the newly announced Honor Watch Magic is similar to the Huawei Watch GT we reviewed late last year.

A lot of the features are the same. The Honor Watch Magic runs on the same LightOS software and the design is similar to the Watch GT - in fact, at first glance this looks like the same watch.

But when you dig into it, there are a lot of differences that are worth knowing about. Whether it'll be able to make its way outside of the Watch GT's limelight though is a different question...

Although this preview is titled Honor Watch Magic, it also refers to a product called the Honor Watch Dream. This hasn't been made completely clear to us yet, but it seems the company will be selling the designs of the Honor Watch that are aimed at women under the moniker of 'Dream' rather than 'Magic'.

Honor Watch Magic release date and price

If you live in the UK, you can buy the Honor Watch Magic now. Those in the US and Australia will have to wait to find out if they'll be able to buy the smartwatch as so far the company has yet to announce availability there.

The price is set in the UK at £179.99 (about $230, AU$325). You can buy it directly from Honor, but we expect a variety of third-party retailers to pick the watch up in the coming weeks too.

You can also get one free if you buy the Honor View 20 from Carphone Warehouse before February 6 2019. If you buy that phone you'll be given a voucher that you can then redeem directly from the Honor website from February 7.

Honor has often released smartwatch devices within China, but this is the first time we've seen a device of this type from the company launched in the UK.

Design and display

If you've seen the Huawei Watch GT, you'll know most of the design language here. The watch is thinner than a lot of other top-end smartwatches at 9.8mm thick, which means it sits comfortably on your wrist especially if you don't want something heavy and cumbersome sitting on your arm.

You'll see this watch called the Honor Watch Magic and Honor Watch Dream. That seems to just be different colors of the same device with the Watch Magic launching in lava black, dark blue, and moonlight silver.

The dark blue Honor Watch Magic is pictured just below, while the rest of this hands on includes pictures of the Honor Watch Dream that comes in either coral pink or a color the company is calling white apricot.

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Those watches then come with a variety of different straps made of either silicone or leather depending on your taste. There's also a special edition version of the watch with a red strap.

Back onto the design of the actual watch, and the outer rim is made of ceramic that gives it a premium feel. The numbers around the outside remind us of the Tag Heuer Connected Modular smartwatches, but this is nowhere near the same price.

The back of the watch is made of plastic, but that doesn't feel uncomfortable on the wrist. There's also a heart rate sensor on the rear that sits close to the skin when you've got the strap done up right.

On the right hand edge of the watch you'll also find two buttons at the 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock position to navigate around the interface. When you're not using them, you'll be using the 1.2-inch AMOLED display that's in the center.

The watch has a resolution of 390 x 390, which is notably less than the Watch GT. That said, on a display this small that sort of resolution still suits the experience and we found in our limited testing that apps looked good enough on the watch.

Fitness and features

We've already spoken about the heart rate tracker on the watch - we found it to be accurate from a quick test in our hands on time too - but there's also GPS and a swimproof design here that will excite fitness lovers.

It comes with all the same workout modes you'll find on the Huawei Watch GT, so we'd hope for it to offer a similar experience allround.

GPS is particularly meant to be accurate on this device. Honor CEO George Zhao told TechRadar that the company's own testing found the GPS on this watch to be more accurate than the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus.

The operating system is designed by Huawei and it comes with apps onboard that can track your fitness and a variety of other options such as a stopwatch, a torch and a way to find your phone.

The problem here though is you can't download any third-party apps to the Watch Magic. What you've got here is exactly what you'll get for the rest of the time you're using the device.

That's something you don't have to put up with when you buy a Wear OS device or an Apple Watch. Even Garmin devices can now download limited third-party applications.

But that does improve the battery. Honor says it has managed to include a full week of battery life from the Honor Watch Magic because those features are much more limited.

That's around half of what you get from the Huawei Watch GT, but that's because the battery here is only 178mAh compared to the 420mAh inside the GT. 

We'll be sure to dig into the battery life further in our final review as it's unlikely the watch will offer a full week of battery if you're often using the GPS and other fitness features.

Early verdict

Although the Watch Magic doesn't excel on paper, it may well do so on your wrist. 

Its similarities to the Watch GT are inescapable, and the issue may be that it's not as good as it's only a touch cheaper than Huawei's watch.

For a particular user that doesn't want top-end specs and instead wants long battery life in an attractive timepiece with the odd bit of fitness tracking the Honor Watch may be a great idea.

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.