Huawei has launched the Band 2 Pro, the successor to a wearable that saw limited release outside of the US under the name Honor Band Z1.
Compared to that watchs circular design, the Band 2 Pro looks more akin to the competition it aims to take on, the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Alta HR.
This waterproof wearable comes with built-in GPS, a limited touch interface for simple navigation on-the-go and rocks a style that blends in with your running gear and office dress code alike.
At $69 (£79), its an interesting proposition, its not the cheapest fitness tracker on the market, but for its price bracket, it boasts a lot of features, albeit in a slightly less-than-perfect form.
The great thing is youll be able to monitor your heart rate, your Vo2 max (the blood oxygen levels) and use GPS to track your run, but dont expect the readings to be as accurate as they would be on a more expensive run tracker like the Suunto Spartan Trainer HR.
(If this is just too much band for you, Huawei is also releasing the Huawei Band 2, a more stripped-back version of the Pro that wont feature built-in GPS, the ability to monitor oxygen levels in your blood, smart coaching or sleep tracking.)
Price and Release Date
The Huawei Band 2 Pro is now available in the US through Amazon for $69. In the UK? You can do the same with Amazon for £79 with black, blue or red strap varieties available.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro was released at the start of September 2017 in multiple markets, so should be a big winner for subsequent holiday season discounts.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro doesnt attempt to reinvent the wearable with its design, though its quite the departure from its originals more traditional timepiece style.
Instead of a circular face, the design has been streamlined to match the aesthetic of many popular wearables, like the Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Alta HR.
Wrapping around your wrist with soft silicon bands that latch together using two plastic pegs, the brains of Huaweis Band 2 Pro fit rather comfortably, clad in a combo of plastic, brushed stainless steel detailing and what appears to be curved glass on its front.
The latch does mean that theres no metal or sharp clasps that can stick into you or rust over time in contact with sweat.
The only problem we had with it is that if the strap brushes against your top while youre running it can pop open, meaning you either have to stop running to replace it or do the same on the run, neither of which being ideal.
The touch interface on the Band 2 Pro's PMOLED display orients in portrait mode, making it easier to read than weve seen on the horizontally-oriented Microsoft Band 2.
The screen is slender, meaning that when youre fed more complex information on-screen during a run like your current heart rate and which heart rate zone youre in, it can be difficult to see exactly what its saying, especially when on the move.
To cycle between the different activity tracking functions of the wearable, you can either tap on the button (really a touch responsive section of the screen with a faux button) at the bottom of the display or flick your wrist.
This gestural control also allows you to turn on the Band 2 Pro by raising your wrist and turning it towards you.
The interface is rather basic, which is fine, but if you dont like the layout of the display, there isnt a great deal you can do about it. In the app theres the option to change the order that items appear in the menu, meaning if you want to see heart rate before steps you can, but there are no options for the standard watch face.
On the underside of the unit, Huawei has implemented a heart rate sensor, an always-appreciated hardware feature. The sensor protrudes from the unit, meaning you shouldnt have to have the strap too tight in order for reading to be taken.
Specs, Performance and Fitness
The Band 2 Pros menu interfaces are swift in their response which is great on a device of this price. Like the Huawei Fit, the simple operating system lends well to reliability. The menu is smooth in its transitions, and the animations for the different modes (run, swim, bike) are fluid and pleasing.
The touch commands are very reliable, and the Band 2 Pro responds quickly. The gestural controls are a little less dependable, and sometimes it will inaccurately read a movement as a command, meaning you have to scroll through the entire menu to get back to the screen you wanted, which is a little frustrating.
The Huawei Band Pro 2 feels really durable, which – in addition to being totally waterproof – will help it resist the rigors of casual and hardcore use.
The waterproofing is a useful addition, as it means that you can track your swimming, and also stops you stressing about it getting wet if it rains on a run, or if you want to jump straight into the shower after a workout.
For an entry level device (which this is), youll be wanting an accurate step-count, and the Huawei Band 2 Pros pedometer is excellent. We regularly checked its accuracy and found that it only added between one and five steps in every hundred.
As is fairly ubiquitous with fitness trackers, there is a goal of 10,000 steps set as a basic goal for movement during the day, with a firework animation and vibration to congratulate you once you hit your goal.
It would be nice to see the ability to change the step goal within the Huawei Health app, but its 10,000 or nothing, and if we know anything its that one size fits all very rarely works with fitness.
Unfortunately, thats not where the apps shortcomings end, its nice to look at, and well laid out, but when compared to the Google Fit app or Fitbit app, it looks underdone, and the interface is clunky.
When you tap into your heart rate or sleep monitoring, rather than go to the day that you have clicked on, the app always opens the day you are currently on, meaning if you want to look at a day from the start of the week at the weekend, itll take many clicks before you get to the information you want.
Speaking of sleep tracking, the Band 2 Pro features TruSleep, which claims to be able to accurately track your sleep throughout the night, giving you a chart when you wake in the morning showing time spent in light sleep, deep sleep, and any wakeful moments during the night.
Its obviously pretty difficult to ascertain the accuracy of these readings, but it was definitely easier to wake up on the days when it said we were in a light sleep zone when our alarm went off.
Where the Band 2 Pro really comes into its own is GPS tracking. For a device in the price bracket of the Band 2 Pro, we werent expecting a great deal from its GPS capabilities but we were pleasantly surprised.
The first time we tried to use the feature it took about five minutes to find GPS signal which worried us, but every time after it was swift to connect and very accurate.
If you go out for a run with your phone in your pocket it will automatically use your phone to boost its GPS signal, but even without a phone the readings are accurate, meaning if youre training for a long run where distance and pace are important, the Band 2 Pro is a great value training accessory.
As we mentioned, the metrics arent the best on the Band 2 Pro. The heart rate measurements were always always off by at least 25 beats per minute (bpm). The worst we experienced was during the cool down period of a particularly intensive workout it read at 83 when our actual heart rate was 143.
Good heart rate monitoring requires correct fit and placement, which the Huawei Band 2 Pro helpfully guides you through, although even with correct placement and tight fit, the monitoring still remained inaccurate.
There are two different modes for heart rate monitoring, one that checks only when asked to, and one that is constantly monitoring. The above example was from the former mode, and we found that switching to constant monitoring greatly improved the accuracy.
It still wasnt brilliant, as you can see from the charts below. It registered us as working in an anaerobic energy system for 15 minutes, which is physically impossible, but at least it was aware of the differences in energy expenditure, meaning if you do an interval training or Fartlek training session, it will be able to show the differences in effort.
The VO2 max reading is also not perfect, but was able to detect that our fitnessx was higher than average. We tested its accuracy by performing a Cooper run test (an industry standard for measuring VO2 max) and found that our true reading was 50, with the Band 2 Pro giving us a highest reading of 46.
The thing is, we would have been astonished if a product in the Band 2s price bracket was able to get totally accurate readings. If you want accuracy, youre going to want to get one of the much more pricy fitness trackers like the Garmin Forerunner 935.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro is more of an entry level device for if youre wanting to take a step into the world of fitness analytics but arent yet willing to spend a lot, and it serves that function very well.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro is compatible with both Android and iOS devices as long as youre running Android 4.4, iOS 8 or more recent.
On top of sending your fitness information to your phone, the Band 2 Pro can also receive certain information too, meaning that you get call and message notifications, and can even preview the first couple lines of text from your message.
This isnt a fully fleshed out feature like youd find on a true smartwatch like the Apple Watch, but it is a nice touch, easily allowing you to monitor your notifications without having to take your phone out of your pocket, which also stops you becoming that person at the gym.
Something that we were a bit concerned about when we first saw the Huawei Band 2 Pro was the battery life. With built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor built into its tiny chassis, we thought that there would only be so long that its small battery could handle both, or either one for that matter.
The 100mAh battery charges in about an hour and a half and can last up to 21 days of normal use. Normal use means that heart rate monitoring is turned off and you dont use GPS. Turning both on, youll get about four hours out of the Band 2 Pro.
Having actually worn Huaweis offering for over a week, we were very impressed with the battery life. For the first day and a half we left it in normal mode and in keeping with its claim, it was still on 100% battery. Once we started testing it more rigorously, the battery did start dropping a little faster, but at the end of a week of fairly intensive use, it was still at an impressive 30% battery.
Make no mistake, there are devices out there with better battery life, but for its size, its seriously impressive.
The Huawei Band 2 Pro tried to weigh-in at a level above expectation for its size and price and its done well, but unfortunately does feel as though its punching above its weight in some areas. The heart rate monitoring we found to be unreliable, but the battery life and GPS tracking were impressive.
While its design lacks innovation, its still pleasant to look at and well made. It sits comfortably on the wrist and the step counter is accurate.
Should I buy it?
If what youre looking for is a good looking, relatively cheap (but well built) entry-level device with impressive battery life to start monitoring your fitness metrics, the Huawei Band 2 Pro could be just the thing youre looking for.
If, however, youre looking for accurate VO2 max and heart rate readings because youre in serious training for an, best give this one a miss.
Is the Huawei Band 2 Pro not for you? Then check these options out:
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge 2 is more expensive than the Band 2 Pro, which might surprise you given that it isnt waterproof, doesnt have GPS, and the battery isnt as good. But theres good reason.
The Charge 2 is one of the best fitness trackers on the market right now. It has built on all the best bits of the original Charge, added an improved screen, and connects to the brilliant Fitbit app to make it a true leader of the pack.
Read the full review: Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Alta HR
If the slim design of the Band 2 Pro is a draw for you, its definitely worth checking out the Fitbit Alta HR.
To the untrained eye, you could be forgiven for confusing the two. Much like the Charge, the Alta is a more expensive proposition than the Band2 Pro, but with the Fitbit app behind it which is not something to be sniffed at.
Read the full review: Fitbit Alta HR
Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
With a colorful touch screen and offline Spotify integration, it is tempting to be drawn by the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro, but with a hefty price tag and unimpressive battery life, we wondered just how pro the Samsung Gear Fit Pro 2 really was.
That said, it does have greater smart capabilities including downloadable fitness apps, and exercise auto-detection which is a really useful feature.
Read the full review: Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro