- GPS performance
- Sleep tracking
- Battery life
- Frustrating clasp
- Some metrics, like for swimming, are basic
- Heart rate monitor a bit iffy
Let's first address what we're all thinking: The Huawei Band 2 Pro has a confusing name. Technically, there was no Huawei Band 1, there was just the Huawei Honor A1. On top of that, the regular - and less feature packed - Huawei Band 2 isn't making the trip to the US and UK. So we have the Huawei Band 2 Pro.
Phew. But regardless of confusing naming, the Huawei Band 2 Pro is delivering a lot in an affordable fitness tracker. In fact, on paper, almost everything you could want in a tracker right now is here for the taking: GPS, VO2 Max, sleep analysis, waterproofing, and mindfulness features.
The question, however, is whether all of this is as good as it seems, and whether you should take the plunge with affordable Band 2 Pro or opt to invest in something that does the same things, but better. Here's our verdict.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Design
The Band 2 Pro is going for the white-label fitness tracker look, so basic in design it's hard to even talk about. People will see it on your wrist and remark, "Yes, that is most definitely a fitness tracker".
To better describe it, the Band 2 Pro closely resembles the Fitbit Alta HR or Fitbit Charge 2 more than the more watch-y look of the Huawei Fit. If you like to double down on wearables with a fashion-forward watch on one wrist and a fitness wearable on the other, this fits the bill.
But it's also packed to the gills with features, impressively so for a device of its proportions. The Band 2 Pro feels incredibly light and feels well made, but it looks higher quality than it feels. You've got a vertical display with a capacitive touch button below it. You tap to change menu options, hold to select. Unless you're swimming, in which case you double-tap with your knuckle to start a swim. When you're in an activity, you hold to end and go back to the main menu.
It feels like the touch targets for the capacitive button have been increased to make it easier to actually hit the button. When we first tried the Band 2 Pro back in July, you had to be a little too specific when tapping to navigate. However, it's still not as responsive as we'd like, often demanding extra taps because it keeps missing them.
That display is PMOLED, though Huawei isn't entirely forthcoming on brightness levels or resolution. It's bright enough for most conditions, but when you're looking at it in direct sunlight it gets a little washed out. If you happen to be wearing sunglasses while walking around, on a run, or cycling, you're also going to have some trouble viewing this screen. It's not a deal breaker, but every moment I saw this display in the sun I was hit by a pang of disappointment. Especially since the Band 2 Pro has some notification support. It's nothing out of this world, but you will get call and email notifications, as well as periodic activity reminders if you're sitting too long.
Another area of disappointment is the strap. Building a strap is harder than we often appreciate; you need it to be secure, but you also need it to be easy to put on. Those two things don't always come together easily, and they definitely don't here. While wearing the Band 2 Pro, I never felt like it would ever unlatch, but boy, did it ever get frustrating putting it on once in a while.
It uses a two-notch clasp, which you just thread through the loop on the other part of the strap and plop it into two holes. It should be simple, but it's surprisingly difficult to pop those in. Sometimes one notch will go in and the other notch will get caught. My kingdom for a buckle.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Fitness tracking
The Band 2 Pro casts a wide net in terms of features. There's swimming, cycling, guided breathing and running. You get your VO2 Max and running plans, while built-in GPS means you can take it out running without your phone. You'll also get the normal cadre of basic fitness statistics - calories, distance and elevation.
Steps are filtered out in their own section, and when you dive into the app - which we'll get to a bit later - you'll see that it breaks down your steps into walking, running and climbing. This is a nice bit of detail, but the amount of detail you get per workout can be hit or miss for the Band 2 Pro.
For example, when you're swimming you get your time and kcals. That's it. There's no detail to the swimming statistics here that'll satisfy even the most novice of swimmers. Even worse, that detail is often woefully underreported. On the Fenix 5X, you get your distance in meters, you get your pace, you get SWOLF, stroke rate, temperature and calories.
Let's take the only metric these two have in common - calories. For a 350m swim, the Fenix 5X recorded 110 calories burned. On the Huawei Band 2 Pro, it said I burned 19 calories. While the Band 2 Pro is swimproof and can be used for swimming, serious pool junkies will want to look elsewhere.
The Band 2 Pro fared better in GPS. The first time I used the Band 2 Pro for some GPS action, it caught on about two minutes after the Fenix 5X caught on. This gradually improved over time, narrowing down to about 30 seconds in subsequent attempts. The GPS could even find a signal while briskly walking between metal towers in San Francisco.
Put up against the Garmin Fenix 5X in a run, the GPS was impressively accurate. By default the Band will try to latch onto your phone's GPS, which helps it get a signal faster, but on a run separated from the phone it matched the Garmin almost perfectly. That might be the most surprising thing about the Band 2 Pro. For a sub fitness tracker to not only include GPS but GPS that works well, I can't help but be impressed.
Heart rate was another issue. For this it was up against both the Garmin and the Polar H10 chest strap, and it did a fine job of keeping up with both devices - until I tried pushing up the heart rate with some hill climbs, and the Band 2 Pro went AWOL. I checked and saw the chest strap reading 174/175bpm (same as the Fenix), and the Band 2 was measuring 137bpm, which was clearly wrong. It was weird to see such a drop, so I tried wiping the sensor, thinking it could be a sweat problem, but the problem persisted. After a few minutes it seemed to even out again, but still, not great at those high intensities.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Sleep tracking
If there's a big surprise on the Band 2 Pro it's sleep tracking. Using Huawei's TruSleep technology, the Band 2 Pro puts together some useful data that goes beyond the basics of sleep total/wake time. Like Fitbit's sleep tracking, you'll find out how long you spend in deep, light and REM sleep, but Huawei has added a bunch of scores to give you an easy-to-understand sense of how you slept. You can have all the statistics you want, but if you don't know what they mean they can be useless - in this area, Huawei has definitely delivered.
Each morning you'll get a sleep quality rating, which is a measure of how close you got to recommended sleep hours and your sleep goal. You'll also get immediate insights into how you did and what you can do better. For instance, Huawei kept recommending I go to sleep around 10pm rather than my normal midnight. I didn't listen, but I'm glad it made the recommendation.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty, there's a statistic Huawei calls deep sleep continuity, which measures how good your deep sleep was. For instance, your deep sleep isn't doing you any good if it keeps getting interrupted. The band also counts how many times you wake up in the middle of the night, measures your breathing quality, whether you spent any time in a nap and even the regularity rates of when you went to sleep and got up (keeping a consistent sleep schedule is good, don't cha know). Oh, it also tells you your average wake-up time.
It's hard to know how accurate some of this is outside of a lab, but the base measurements of sleep were good compared to Fitbit's, and even better are all the statistics and breakdowns it gives you. It's both thorough and simple at the same time, and it really makes you feel like you could be in power of improving your sleep. It is easily the best thing about the Huawei Band 2 Pro.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: App
To get any of the fitness info you need from the Band 2 Pro, you need to download the Huawei Wear app from the App Store or Google Play. And, well, it's a bit of a mixed bag. At first glance, it feels and looks bare bones - like it could do much more but it's afraid of scaring you off.
There are three panes: Home, Discover and Devices. Home is your hub into your health. Discover gives you shortcuts to fitness data, workouts and training plans, but also third-party platforms you can link to your Band 2 Pro. Currently, this just includes linking your data to Apple Health, Up by Jawbone and MyFitnessPal.
The final pane is where your device connection lives. You can add and re-connect to devices here. Re-connect just in case your device doesn't want to re-connect to the app automatically, which it does every time you open the app (gotta save on that battery by minimizing Bluetooth usage, after all).
Back on the home screen it's all a bit frantic. Up at the top is step counts, below that is workout sessions, then training plans for running, then heart rate, and then sleep at the bottom. It all just feels a bit claustrophic, and it's hard to tell where things are. Steps are by themselves, but running and swimming you have to sort through the workout section. Once in, you can view your history and see all kinds of data (except for swimming).
When Huawei has information to give you, it's laid out in an easy-to-understand way. You'll get your GPS maps with average pace, distance and calories. You'll get heart rate charts and circle charts about your cardio level (how much extreme cardio did you do versus how much fat-burning cardio you did, for instance).
There's also a breakdown of steps per minute, again in chart form. If you want more details, you can click over to 'details' and see things like VO2 Max, training results, impact and recovery time.
Training plans are easy to set up. You choose your distance, put in your best current time and how many times you want to work out per week, and Huawei will build a plan for you. You'll get a little description explaining what you can expect for each workout day, and on rest days you'll get little nuggets of advice.
Huawei Band 2 Pro: Battery life
Huawei claims 21 days of battery life on "working time" and GPS and 3.5 hours of battery life when GPS is active. It's unclear what "working time" is but I assume it's just normal use. That's certainly an eye-popping number, but it's also one that feels true. While I didn't have the Band 2 Pro for 21 days, I did wonder a week in if it would ever die. I still had around three quarters of life left.
Once I started ramping up GPS use is when the battery started to drain quicker. Regular GPS use - every one or two days - will see the Band 2 Pro get you through a week pretty easily. This is about in line with a Fitbit Charge 2, with the added benefit of having GPS in your fitness tracker.
How we test