Honor Band 5 review

A seriously budget fitness tracker that delivers the goods
Honor Band 5
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The Honor Band 5 is a budget fitness tracker with its sights set on dethroning the exceptional Xiaomi Mi Band 4, which has, until now been the best budget fitness band around.

At $34.99, the new Honor Band doesn’t just cost less than the Mi Band 4, it also undercuts virtually everything else out there including its predecessor, the Honor Band 4. That also includes the Galaxy Fit e, Samsung's cheapest fitness tracker, and it's significantly less than picking up a Fitbit Inspire.

Buy Honor Band 5 | Amazon

For that budget price, you are getting a whole lot here. There's a heart rate sensor, automatic sleep monitoring, the ability to track a host of different exercises, and even a SpO2 sensor for an extra layer of health data.

Then you can also throw in waterproofing up to 50 meters' depth, 14-day quoted battery life, music control and compatibility with Android and iOS smartphones through the Huawei Health app.

So is it too good to be true? Does the Honor Band 5 deliver the fitness tracking goods? We've been putting it to the test to find out. Here's our full verdict.

Honor Band 5: Design

Honor Band 5 review

If you’re familiar with the Honor Band 4, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Honor Band 5 is just a rehash with a different logo – and it definitely is. The two have virtually identical designs, support the same bands and our Honor Band 5 even shipped with Band 4 firmware when we first unboxed it.

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The design of both Honor Bands consists of a core unit with a 0.95-inch AMOLED touch display front and center. That’s a bit bigger than the Mi Band 4’s 0.78-inch AMOLED screen, though, given the fact both have the same resolution, the Mi Band is a smidgen sharper. Outdoor viewing is surprisingly good, as are viewing angles, and a dive into the settings gives you control over five levels of brightness.

Below the screen is a touch-sensitive circle that’s both a home and an end workout button. All interaction is with the touch display and this circle, or through the smartphone app.

The Honor Band 5’s rounded back peaks with a heart rate monitor in the center, which comes directly into contact with your wrist. Below it are two POGO pin connectors used to hook up the external charging cradle, which in turn connects to a microUSB cable to power the band up.

Honor Band 5 review

The core unit comes in black, black and… well, black, but personalization, as with most fitness trackers and smartwatches, comes in the form of bands, and Honor has three available at launch – black, pink and blue. All are ribbed and look relatively uninspired, but are functional.

Thanks to a buckle on one end, the band fastens securely, so there’s no chance of it coming undone in the pool. There are also plenty of adjustment holes, so it should suit chunky and skinny wrists alike, and the loop keeps any excess strap out of the way.

We didn’t find the material too grippy or uncomfortable in our fortnight with the Honor Band 5, so there was no hair yanking despite our very fuzzy wrists.

Ultimately, while we prefer the less edgy look and feel of the Mi Band 4, the Honor Band 5 is all about utility; it feels hardy with its tempered glass fascia, looks straightforward and is free from bells, whistles or gimmicks, for better or for worse.

Honor Band 5: Fitness tracking

Honor Band 5 review

Just like the Huawei Watch GT 2, the Honor Band 5 has Huawei’s TruSleep loaded up, which monitors breathing as well as sleep, dividing your slumber into light and deep sleep periods, complete with fancy-looking graphs and suggestions to help you improve the quality of your kip. Its accuracy isn’t perfect as it totally missed periods we woke up in the night unless we literally got up out of bed.

As for daytime life tracking, the Honor Band 5’s step-counting was a touch generous when walking, coming in about 300-500 steps higher than the Huawei Watch GT2, which tallied with our Samsung Galaxy Watch. This shouldn’t alarm you as pedometers are very seldom spot-on throughout a day, though it does hit the point home, the Band 5 is suited to casual exercisers – exactly as you’d expect for $30.

While the hardware is pretty much the same across both the Honor Band 4 and Band 5, the fifth-generation supports up to ten exercises and measures blood oxygen levels, while also offering music playback control – but more on that later.

The ten exercises consist of – drumroll: outdoor running, indoor running, outdoor walking, indoor walking, outdoor cycle, indoor cycle, cross trainer, rower, indoor swimming and free training. Most notable for us, free training was missing from the Honor Band 4 when it launched, and its inclusion means anyone who does classes or free-weights can loosely track their calorie expenditure.

Honor Band 5 review

Another set of handy features is the stopwatch and timer, perfect for planks and kettlebell swings, and with the Band’s angry vibration firing up once the countdown’s complete, you’ll know when it’s time to stop. That said, as with the Mi Band 4, these cannot be accessed if you’re engaged in a workout, which is a pain.

Onto positives, and the Honor Band 5 can fire up exercises even if you don’t have your smartphone to hand. The Huawei Health app now supports map integration, so the band can pair with your phone for connected GPS functionality.

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Resting heart rate tracking was spot-on in our tests, but just like most wrist-based wearables the more erratic the movement, the more variable the heart rate. Throughout the course of a jog, gym session or walk, results were within 5-7% of the readings we got from a chest strap. That isn’t perfect, but it should be just fine for casual exercisers.

Continuous heart rate monitoring can also be enabled, with two monitoring modes: ‘smart’, which automatically adjusts how often it takes measurements based on how active you are, and ‘real-time’, which monitors your heart rate throughout the day at the expense of battery life.

The new SpO2 tracking feature sounds impressive, and it is, measuring the amount of oxygen that’s in your blood. For asthmatics or anyone suffering from COPD, it could be an ideal addition to their condition monitoring.

Additionally, if you’re embarking on a high-altitude training program, it could give you insights as to how your body is adapting. For most though, given this is the main point of functional differentiation between the Honor Band 5 and the Xiaomi Mi Band 4, we wouldn’t say it was a make or break feature.

Honor Band 5: UI and app support

Honor Band 5 review

The interface experience on the Honor Band 5 comes in the shape of the Band 5’s UI and the Huawei Health app, which is available for Android and iOS.

Starting with the Band and the primary watch face, which can be swapped out, can be tapped to display battery life, Bluetooth connection status and the weather. Swipe through the UI vertically to glide between menu items: workout, step count, heart rate, SpO2, sleep messages, music and a ‘more’ option. Tap ‘more’ for a timer, stopwatch, to swap your watch face, find your phone and access system settings.

The Band 5 is simple to navigate through – swipe left to go back, and tap the capacitive button below the screen to jump to your watch face. That said, for anything more comprehensive, you’ll want to pick up your phone.

Honor Band 5 review

The Huawei Health app is where you can get a breakdown of sleep, exercise and tracked heart rate, or see everything in day, month or year view. This is also where the phone’s connected GPS comes into its own, measuring distance accurately and plotting your walks and runs on a map.

All alarms need to be set in the app too, which is inconvenient – they can’t even be toggled on or off on the Band 5. Additionally, notifications access must be set on an app-by-app basis if you want to get alerts on your wrist.

Given the lack of speakers on the Honor Band 5, everything comes through as a consistently angry vibration alert, and with no Do Not Disturb feature on the band, Honor missed a trick, increasing the Band 5’s dependency on smartphones unnecessarily.

As for OS-specific limitations, if you’re an iOS user, the Health app will integrate with Apple Health Kit, but you won’t be able to download new watch faces for some reason.

Additionally, if you connect the Honor Band 5 to a Huawei phone, you can use it as a remote shutter for the camera – a nice party trick when trying to grab group shots, but this won’t be available on other Android devices.

Honor Band 5: Battery life

Honor claims the Band 5’s 100mAh will get you through 14 days on a single charge, though if you plan on using the exercise tracking features and heart rate monitoring, expect less.

We found we were losing around 15% a day, and the band got us through about a week. As soon as we disabled continuous monitoring though, this dropped to 9-10% a day.

As for charging, the Honor Band 5 powers up via a cradle that hooks up to a micro USB cable and takes about an hour to fully charge.


Honor Band 5
By Honor Band
The Honor Band 5 is a fantastic value fitness tracker. We prefer the design and fit of the Xiaomi Mi Band 4, and found it to have better battery life too. That said, Honor offers up a few features Xiaomi doesn’t, most notably SpO2 monitoring, and costs less. The Honor Band provides a robust tracking experience, connected GPS functionality with a smartphone and basic smarts for not a whole lot of money. It isn’t a perfect tracker, but it’s impossible to argue with the value on offer here. 

Hit
  • Incredible value
  • Responsive, bright display
  • Low-cost SpO2 monitor
Miss
  • Uninspired design
  • iOS limitations
  • Good, not great battery life


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