- Battery life
- Sleep tracking
- Glitchy, missing data
- Screen is too sensitive
- Badly-designed clasp
The Huawei Band 3 Pro is the latest instalment in the company's range of feature-packed yet affordable fitness trackers. If you don't want to spend big on a Fitbit Charge 3 or a Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, this is a tracker you might be looking at instead.
Its predecessor the Huawei Band 2 Pro mostly delivered, but it did have some niggling issues. We weren't blown away by the performance of the heart rate sensor, and we had some gripes about the design too.
Huawei says it's addressed some of these issues, improving the heart rate sensor along with a bunch of other fixes to help make it a better fit for tracking your health and fitness goals.
Crucially though, it still packs in the features that most fitness trackers at this price don't. We're talking built-in GPS and a waterproof design with swim tracking that works in the pool and for open water swimming.
I've been putting the budget fitness tracker to the test to find out what it's made of. Here's my full verdict on the Huawei Band 3 Pro.
Huawei Band 3 Pro: Design
The Band 3 Pro, like its predecessor, seems to be going for an off-brand look. It looks like a fitness tracker, but one that people might mistake for another more high profile tracker. I can't tell you how many times someone asked me if I was wearing a Charge 3 or a Gear Fit2 Pro on my wrist.
Essential reading: How your fitness tracker actually works
The Band 3 Pro is a major improvement over the Band 2 Pro, design-wise. Huawei has slimmed down the side bezels considerably. It feels like the display goes all the way to the edge of the casing, and that makes the whole package look and feel pretty wonderful. You still do get bezels above and below the display, but they're not as noticeable. In fact, on the black model I tested you barely notice them. They're pretty elegant.
Navigating the Band 3 Pro is done via the touchscreen. Tap to enter a menu, swipe right to go back a screen and tap the button below the display to go back home. The 0.95-inch AMOLED display looks much better than the PMOLED display on the Band 2 Pro. There's actually colour now, which makes for a much brighter and all round more pleasant experience.
That new touch display does have a problem though – it's way too sensitive for my liking. I'd have my arms crossed and I'd all of a sudden feel a vibration. It turns out the display thought I was holding the watch face, which activates the watch face switcher. This is a small thing, but it quickly became very annoying. I tried to recreate this with an Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic, just to see if it was something I was dong wrong, but the Band 3 Pro was hyper sensitive every time.
The other really annoying thing about the Band 3 Pro is the clasp. This was annoying on the Band 2 Pro, but Huawei went and redesigned the clasp. It's not as bad now, but it's still not great. The Band 3 Pro has a watch-like clasp, complete with a loop that you slot the other end of the band through.
The problem here is that loop isn't effective. You can be running or minding your own business and all of a sudden it'll fall out and start flapping against your wrist. The loop has an indent on the inside that slots through the holes on the strap, but it isn't long enough to actually keep the strap in place.
The good thing about the Band 3 Pro is that it packs an AMOLED display, GPS and a heart rate sensor in a 5 ATM rated waterproof package that only weighs 25g. It's easy to wear, but it doesn't pass the long-sleeve shirt test. It will snag and be a real nuisance.
Huawei Band 3 Pro: Fitness tracking
The heart of any fitness tracker is actually tracking fitness. So it's important that it gets everything right on that front. And, well, the Band 3 Pro doesn't get everything right.
It does get GPS right though. The first time you boot up GPS, it can take a little bit of time to get a signal, but after that it works pretty quickly. It's also accurate, going up well against the Garmin Fenix 5.
After that, things take a turn – but it's not necessarily the fault of the device. Let's take heart rate. While putting it up against a Wahoo Tickr in a run, the Band 3 Pro worked fairly admirably. It looked like it was keeping up with the chest strap with my heart rate – while it lagged a little bit and was a couple of points lower, it was in the same area.
However, it's when things are routed to the app that it gets bad. My heart rate data disappeared for weeks. Huawei says this is because our unit wasn't final and that a software update would fix it. A couple of weeks later, there was a software update that returned my heart rate data, but it wasn't like I remembered it.
Heart rate tracking compared: Wahoo (left) and Huawei Band 3 Pro (right)
While the Tickr said my max heart rate was 183, the Band 3 Pro clocked in at 164. The average heart rate on the Band 3 Pro was 132, but on the Tickr it was 147. Huawei said the big thing about the Band 3 Pro is that it would have improved heart tracking, but that isn't the case based on my experience.
However, it doesn't quite feel like it's the fault of the hardware. It all seems down to the software, which has lost my GPS and swim data at times as well. It's a real shame because when you're using the Band 3 Pro, things all seem fine. You have a good deal of confidence that the Band 3 Pro will track your fitness.
Let's go back to swim data for a second. The Band 3 Pro is supposed to offer metrics like SWOLF and number of turns, with Huawei saying it can help you improve your stroke in both pool and open water. However, the data issue has crippled what I can see in the app. I can only see the duration of the swim and how many calories I burned, nothing else. I put it up against the Apple Watch, which doesn't have the most in-depth metrics but at least gave me my average heart rate, strokes and pace in 100, 50 and 25 yard increments.
Afterward, that confidence is shattered by whatever is going on with the software, which is up to date on both the Band 3 Pro and the Huawei Health app. Fitness trackers need to give you confidence that they'll actually track fitness, and right now the Band 3 Pro can't be relied upon.
Huawei Band 3 Pro: Sleep tracking and other smart features
Sleep tracking was one of the best things about the Band 2 Pro, and Huawei says it's worked with sleep experts to make the Band 3 Pro even better than before. Testing it against the Fitbit Ionic, the results are extremely close.
Seriously, this is the closest anyone has ever come to taking the wrist-based sleep tracking crown away from Fitbit. One particular night, for instance, the Huawei said I got about 6 hours and 7 minutes of sleep. The Ionic clocked me at 6 hours and 27 minutes.
The Band 3 Pro was the more accurate, as the Fitbit took me waking up randomly and laying in bed as me sleeping, while the Band 3 Pro didn't. The Band 3 Pro also broke down sleep into deep, light and REM sleep. In one sample of data, the Band 3 Pro had me at 1 hour and 42 minutes of deep sleep, 2 hours and 55 minutes of light sleep and 1 hour and 30 minutes of REM sleep.
The Ionic had me at 1 hour and 20 minutes of REM, 3 hours and 37 minutes of light sleep, and 1 hour of 30 minutes of deep sleep. Plus, it had me awake for an hour and 11 minutes. While it's hard to truly gauge how you're sleeping unless you're in a sleep lab, the Huawei felt more accurate in this instance.
Sleep tracking compared: Fitbit (left) and Huawei Band 3 Pro (right)
There were other times when the Ionic felt more accurate. Suffice it to say, though, Huawei's sleep tracking is getting very good. On top of that, Huawei is throwing in a whole bunch of other sleep metrics that the Fitbit doesn't offer – yet. Huawei has a sleep quality rating system that gives you a look at how good your sleep was. It then gives you tips and tricks on how to get better sleep.
The most useful metric is still deep sleep continuity, which tells you how good your deep sleep was. This is important because deep sleep is essential to feeling rested and ready to go for your long, hard-working days.
Elsewhere, you have the basic fitness tracker features you can expect. Your app and call notifications will buzz your wrist, you'll get reminders to get up and move and there are features like alarms and such. Basic stuff, but essential to a well-rounded wearable.
Huawei Band 3 Pro: Battery life
Huawei promises 12 days of battery life with continuous heart rate tracking and sleep tracking on the Band 3 Pro, but there's every chance you could get more than that. It lasted 14 days before I needed to charge it and it doesn't take very long to get that battery fully restored either.
This is a week less than the 21-day battery life of the Band 2 Pro though, and is no doubt the result of the inclusion of that AMOLED display that along with the onboard sensors drains the battery a little quicker. But still, it's a decent showing and it's more battery life than you'll get from a Fitbit or another rival tracker.
How we test