Hands-on review: Honor smartwatch GS 3
Image credit: Honor
Smartwatch with smart looks and health and fitness appeal.
Honor’s GS 3 is a fine-looking watch with plenty of nice functions, but it nearly didn’t get up and running in this review. The problem was the app.
Typical of gadgets these days, there is next to no information in the box, save a quick-start guide with a QR code in it. The QR code points to an app used across multiple Honor devices, but not the Honor GS 3 smartwatch. The watch needs the (Android) phone to set up, so with no app there is effectively no watch. Endless attempts at pairing the device to the phone were in vain. Finally, a search for another app resulted in finding the compatible ‘Honor Health’. A few hours late, but the review had started.
Even when the right app had been identified, sign-up wasn’t swift and the amount of information and access required felt unnecessary. Given Honor’s roots in Huawei and its reputation for enthusiastic data gathering, this felt intrusive.
The watch itself looks good. The brown leather strap has a quality feel and matches nicely with the gold watch casing. From the extensive selection of 70 or so watch face styles, the one called ‘Gentlemen’ [pictured] appealed to E&T, but there are plenty more sporty and contemporary options available through the app. No need to stick to one, of course. It also has a fashionably large face (45.9mm) with glass that curves beautifully into the casing, but as it is only 10.5mm thick it does not appear bulky and weighs in at 44g, which feels light on the wrist.
The version reviewed, the Classic Gold, retails at £209.99, while a Black version comes in at £189.99. The latter watch comes with a silicone strap and thus is a better option if sports activities are going to be water-based. The watch itself is water resistant to 50m, but regular swimming for example would take its toll on the leather strap of Classic Gold.
Display brightness is claimed to be 1,000 nits – about four times that of an average laptop – and is more than adequate for the sunniest days.
Charging the watch takes under 30 minutes using the charging cradle that pleasingly aligns the watch magnetically. With normal usage this fulfils the manufacturers pledge to last for an impressive 14 days, although using the GPS facility (e.g. for workout tracking) brings this down considerably. If you are in a rush, a quick charge of five minutes should see you through the day.
There’s plenty of functions on the watch. A fairly predictable and comprehensive range of exercise options is added, with some set workouts. Accompanied by some nice graphics, these can provide some useful short (and long) workout routines to break up a typically sedentary day or for a more ambitious and active program.
Options for tracking and target setting are plentiful and appeared accurate.
A few well-being apps for such things as heart rate (apparently with edge-cutting eight-channel heart rate AI engine); oxygen blood level; stress, and breathing were unwelcome distractions to E&T, but that is more to do with the reviewer than the watch. Being informed of a high heart rate can, well, increase anxiety and increase heart rate. However, if health monitoring is your thing then there is a solid suite of functions on the GS 3. The sleep monitor, while interesting, was of questionable accuracy. This reviewer was definitely awake while the watch claimed asleep!
Timer, compass and torch apps all proved nice additions and were easy to use instantly.
Music on a watch – why? The Honor GS 3 sounds surprisingly fine, but not as good as a phone, which is not as good as a phone with speakers, or laptop. The speaker on the watch is on the right-hand side at the join of the underside and the side edge. The consequence of this is that every time the wrist is cocked, which is virtually any movement of the hand, it blocks the speaker and so the music is constantly fading on and off. It rapidly becomes irritating rather than enjoyable. However, the real use case here, of course, is when used with the companion earbuds, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro. These were not tested with this watch, but have been reviewed separately. The watch can store 4GB of songs, but only ones stored on the paired phone, not streamed from Spotify et al.
One app that is missing is for contactless payment, which would have made it a more complete package.
It is also possible to take and receive calls on the watch, but only when paired by Bluetooth to your phone, so if you want to remain in contact when out for a run the phone needs to come along, too.
Is this then pitched as sports watch? A wearable health device? Or just a modern timepiece? E&T reckons it ticks all three boxes, but if you are after a fully functioning communications device it doesn’t quite make it. It is still a slave to the phone – and crucially for some that phone cannot be an iOS one, yet. Apparently Apple compatibility is on the way. Also, while the watch itself is an attractive bit of kit, E&T found the app to be less accomplished and occasionally glitchy.
However, if your focus is on health and fitness, you’re an Android user and you want a good-looking smartwatch, the Honor GS 3 is certainly worth considering.
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