- Lovely design
- Great battery life
- Strong health smarts
- Heavy and chunky
- Insights need an upgrade
When it comes to discreet smart features and hybrid smartwatches, Withings is certainly the leader – and the Scanwatch Horizon might be its best yet.
A diving watch reinterpretation of the standard Withings Scanwatch, the Horizon is one of the most eye-catching and thoughtfully designed wearables we’ve seen for a long time – and doesn't cost anywhere near the same as a Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4.
All the smarts are housed inside a stylish analogue diving watch, it’s no slouch in terms of tech. It packs all day heart rate tracking, ECG, blood oxygen tracking, some deep sleep insights and 30 day battery life.
Price and competition
The ScanWatch Horizon costs $499/£499 – which is just under double that of the more dress watch styled Withings ScanWatch, which has all the same features.
In terms of hybrid watches, you can pick up a Garmin Vivosport for under $200/£200 – but you wouldn’t get the ECG or the respiratory tracking alerts.
Design and materials
Chunky, weighty and stylish – the Withings ScanWatch Horizon is a statement device.
We love the look, with the green or blue dial and matching bezel. It attracted more inquisitive questions from friends and contacts than any device we can remember.
The 44mm case isn’t overly huge, although it’s quite thick and chunky – purposely so. The heft gives it a strong, masculine feel, and while everything is personal preference, we can’t see too many women opting for this version over the standard ScanWatch.
The stainless steel construction also gives it a reassuring weightiness, that’s pleasant to wear and makes it feels premium and expensive. The thick, diving watch bezel adds to that, and it rotates anti-clockwise.
In the box are stainless steel link and sporty rubber straps – and we were pleasantly surprised to see an excellent resizing kit supplied, so you can take links out at home. They swap using the standard pin mechanism, so you can also fit your own.
OLED screen and usability
A fixture of ScanWatch is the inset OLED screen placed on the dial. It’s a basic monochrome display that can show off basic health stats, navigate menus to features like the ECG, SpO2 and workout features.
Most of the time it’s off and blank, and most casual observers wouldn’t know it’s there.
The interface is solely controlled by the digital crown – which is the only point of control with the Horizon. If the cover the screen, they jump out of the way, which is a nice touch.
There’s no touchscreen and only a singular pusher, and it rotates to scroll through menus. It’s simple, although sometimes we wished for a more obvious way to jump back out of menus.
The Withings ScanWatch Horizon is a fantastic looking smartwatch, with a premium feel and finish that’s a pleasure to wear. But how does it stack up as a health and fitness smartwatch? Read on to find out.
So what can the ScanWatch do in terms of health tracking? Quite a lot – given the simplicity of its outward design.
A headline feature is ECG, and the ScanWatch can scan for signs of atrial fibrillation. Navigate to the app using the criown, and then place your hand over the watch face for 30 seconds, to check whether you have a normal rhythm. In the Withings Health Mate app you can download a PDF to show your doctor.
But actually, there’s more to the ScanWatch than ECG.
The ScanWatch has several opt-in health features that elevate it as one of the most advanced health smartwatches.
It can scan for signs of Afib continuously using the PPG sensor, and prompt you to take an ECG if it detects anything unusual.
There’s also a Respiratory Scan feature too, which will periodically look for night-time breathing disturbances, which can be a sign of sleep apnea. Fitbits (with Premium) will do this automatically every night, but on the ScanWatch you have to turn on the feature manually.
You can choose to run the Respiratory Scan periodically, and it will spot check your sleep once every couple of months. Or you can have it run every night which will obliterate battery life. Likewise, you can opt in for an oxygen saturation reading to be taken nightly as well.
All of these features are off by default, oddly, but make for a powerful suite of health tools.
In terms of more general health features, we can’t help feeling that Withings has started to lag the likes of Fitbit, Oura and Whoop.
As a monitor of wellness, there’s a lack of prominent data about resting heart rate trends, and heart rate variability data.
We’re big fans of how Whoop and Oura meld sleep and HRV data together to make a readiness score, which has now been aped by the likes of Fitbit and Garmin.
Fitbit also expresses this data in its Health Dashboard, which compares current data on HRV, resting HR and other data against established personal baselines. It makes it easy to see if you need to take a rest, or might be getting ill.
Whoop does the same in its Health Monitor, which uses a traffic light system to flag any changes in your bodies established norms you need to be aware of.
Withings’ dashboard, by comparison, feels a little simplistic. The 24/7 heart rate and average heart rate doesn’t feel as insightful or useful. We liked the sleeping heart rate averages, which could do the job of spotting changes in your body, but its three levels down in the app – without much explanation for the user.
The ranges for sleep heart rate data are also based on population norms, not personalized baselines, and this just feels a little lacking compared with rivals.
Sleep tracking was a good experience, which does use a traffic light system to examine the depth, regularity and amount of interruptions, before displaying a single sleep score.
Sleep stages are also shown clearly, and there’s a graph of your heart rate through the night. If you opt in for those blood oxygen and respiration features, that will appear here too.
We put the Withings ScanWatch Horizon up against the Whoop Band 4.0 – which we’ve found extremely reliable – and found most nights tracked an extra 30-45 minutes of sleep duration. Without a sleep lab it’s impossible to say which, if any, is closer to reality – but if you’re looking at long term trends, it’s good enough.
Activity and sport
A big part of the Withings experience is good old activity tracking – and step count is still front and center.
As well as being tracked in the app, with trends shown for the day, week and month, percentage progress towards your step goal is shown on the inset dial on the Horizon’s watch face. The default is still 10,000 steps but you can change this in the app.
Step tracking in the app is also joined by active minutes, distance and elevation – and there are averages shown for weekdays and weekends, which is a nice touch.
Workouts are auto-detected, but the bar for this does feel quite low. Withings detected walking workouts every day, which submerged actual tracked runs and yoga sessions in the app.
And for active people, the Dashboard feels a little geared towards those starting their fitness journey.
Short walks and low intensity activities are listed as workouts on the dashboard, there for you to review. And pushing a baby buggy or driving was often mistakenly tagged as cycling. It all just feels a little – simplistic. And that’s not how we recall the Withings experience from a few years back.
There’s no GPS on board, but you can use your smartphone’s GPS if you take it along for the ride. We found lock-ons were quick and simple, and accuracy was decent.
On an 18km run against a Garmin Fenix 7S we saw a minor difference in distance tracked. We always advocate for built-in GPS as it’s (usually) more reliable, but the experience here was fine.
However, you barely get any feedback on the watch itself. You can choose one metric to appear on the OLED screen during the run, and cycle through using the crown, but the legibility was poor – and its fiddly to use. In short, seasoned runners will feel short changed, but casual joggers could make the compromise.
There are plenty of workout modes on the ScanWatch (most conceivable sports and workouts) although you can only have 5 stored on the watch itself. You can tag workouts from the extended list afterwards, however.
Swimming is well-catered for, with 10ATM water resistance and a dedicated swimming profile that will track the basics of time in the pool.
Few of the modes outside of running/cycling and swimming offer any bespoke information. We used it for our yoga class, but of the basic information logged, an absurd 700 calories were tracked as burned – which just isn’t remotely plausible.
It’s nice that the ScanWatch Horizon can track sporting activity – but it’s far from its best feature. Based on the small amount of data tracked by most profiles and the messy app experience, those that are passionate about working out might have to accept this isn’t the right device for them.
With no large digital screen to show off text messages, smart notifications aren’t quite as impactful as you’ll find on an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch 4.
However, it does offer more detail than you might think.
Firstly, notification support is extremely granular – and any app's notification can be enabled or disabled in the Withings app.
Once enabled, calls will be shown on the OLED screen and the watch will vibrate. It’s quite a mechanical, harsh vibration, and you won’t miss it. Caller ID will scroll across the display, so you can choose whether to screen the call or not.
It’s the same with messages. WhatsApps and SMS messages will scroll across the display, so you can get an idea of the message content.
However, we found busy WhatsApp groups made the experience unbearable, with the Horizon constantly vibrating on our wrist. The good news is that we could just turn that app off, and we ended up just having alerts for calendar and calls.
There aren’t apps or third party experiences here – the watch is far too simplistic. However, Withings Health Mate does play nicely with a range of services, such as Strava and Apple Health – so there’s plenty of compatibility on offer.
Withings quotes 30 days battery life with standard use, and as long as you keep those advanced respiratory and Afib scans turned off, that was borne out in our testing.
That will also mean no night time SpO2 readings, and minimal notifications.
Turn everything on, and you could still get 7-10 days – and that’s not too shabby when many of the so-called best smartwatches only last 24 hours.
The Withings ScanWatch Horizon also has a power reserve, that keeps the analogue hands going after the main battery has been exhausted. You can use it for a further 20 days – and keep tabs on basic step counting too.