Honor MagicWatch 2 review

A familiar sporty smartwatch with impressive staying power
Honor MagicWatch 2
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The Honor MagicWatch 2 is a smartwatch that feels very familiar. That’s because it’s a virtual clone of the Huawei Watch GT2, which launched at the back end of 2019.

That’s no big surprise as Huawei owns Honor. Since the offshoot has been in the wearable space, it has essentially modelled its watches on whatever Huawei launches.

There are some subtle differences between the MagicWatch 2 and the GT2, but you are essentially getting another sports-focused smartwatch that’s available in two sizes, runs on Huawei’s Lite OS and is powered by Huawei’s new Kirin A1 chip.

However, here's the sweetener: it's priced at a very reasonable £159.99 (roughly $200 if you can get hold of one amidst the US/Huawei trade dispute), making it cheaper to buy than Huawei’s Watch GT2. It also costs significantly less than buying an Apple Watch Series 5 and the Fitbit Versa 2.

We’ve been putting the MagicWatch 2 to the test to find out if the sporty smartwatch is worth spending your money on. Here's our full verdict.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Design and screen

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

As mentioned, the MagicWatch 2 pretty much mirrors the look of Huawei’s Watch GT2 including offering 42mm and 46mm case size options. You’re getting the same circular frame with a watch casing made from stainless steel and plastic and a look that we’d describe as elegantly sporty.

The sleek tachymeter bezel sits flush with the touchscreen display and measuring in at 9.8mm thick, it’s slimmer than a lot of smartwatches including that Apple one. There’s a slight jump up in size on the first Magic Watch and it’s heavier too, but on the whole the second generation is a nicer watch to look at and to live with.

You’ve got your pick of four different looks, which is one of the key differences between it and the pricier Watch GT2. If you want more variety, that's what you'll get with the Huawei smartwatch. Sticking with the MagicWatch though, and the all black version we tested it surprisingly very attractive. It’s simple, understated, and really does offer something different from the abundance of sporty smartwatches already out there.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Whether you go 42mm or 46mm, there are interchangeable bands with a pin mechanism that lets you pull away the bands away from its watch body. The larger MagicWatch supports 22mm bands while the smaller is compatible with 20mm size straps. There’s leather bands and the silicone we had to try, which is a soft touch silicone band that has a nice flex to it and hasn't been uncomfortable or irritating to wear in any way.

Breaking up that otherwise streamlined and minimal look are two physical buttons on the right side of the watch used to navigate the Lite OS that's running the software show. The bottom button can be assigned to features you use the most and by default is set to start tracking a workout. While those buttons twist like a watch crown, they surprisingly don't work to let you scroll through data screens, which is a tad disappointing.

Then there’s that touchscreen display, and it’s a great one too. On the 46mm version we were testing, there’s a 1.39 inch, 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED display delivering a 326 PPI pixel density. That’s a sizeable jump in screen estate and resolution on the original MagicWatch. The result is a super sharp display, that’s ideal for showing off the time and of course your health and fitness data. It’s easy to view in bright sunlight and even at less than maximum brightness, it’s nice and vibrant for nighttime runs too.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Sports tracking and fitness tracking

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

When talking about what the MagicWatch 2 is capable of in the sports and fitness tracking department, we could simply point you in the direction of our of GT2 review. That's because you’ve got the same 15 goal based fitness modes. There’s swim tracking including heart rate monitoring and there's now the TruRelax app on board you can launch for some guided breathing exercises to help you de-stress.

Hit that top physical button on the watch and you can swipe to see options to take on the spot heart rate and sp02 readings, measure stress levels and view your most recent sleep data. There's even a dedicated Apple Watch-like widget to quickly view daily step counts and active minutes. It pretty much matches most smartwatches as far as what's at your disposal on the health and fitness front.

When it's time to track a workout, each sports profile has a range of settings including those goal-based targets, which cover distance, time and calories. You can also set reminder alerts including ones based on your heart rate. There's some additional features for runners here too with a series of 'Running Courses' offering up structured running sessions like an Easy Run or a HIIT run. This is where the voiceover guidance really comes into play to keep you on track during your session.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Run tracking compared: Honor MagicWatch 2 (left and centre) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

Whether you're running or swimming, there's multiple data screens to show off your real-time data with the heart rate gauge a permanent fixture on all screens. That data is nicely displayed and easy to absorb with text and icons well optimised for that touchscreen display.

For outdoor running, getting a GPS signal was initially very slow, though Honor has recognised and addressed the sluggish signal pick-up with a software update and things have improved dramatically on that front. From an accuracy point of view, we put it up against a Garmin running watch and found it to be a solid enough running watch companion.

When the GPS signal kicked into gear, the metrics were reliable. When it didn't and we got tired of waiting, it produced data like the screenshots above where metrics and distance covered are more unreliable. It does do a significantly better job than the likes of Samsung in letting you review workout data on the watch.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Swim tracking compared: Honor MagicWatch 2 (left and centre) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

The MagicWatch 2 does cover tracking action in the water including open water swimming, though we focused out attentions in the pool. That display is nicely visible in the water to view your swim metrics underwater and crucially held up well on the accuracy front when we pit it against Garmin's Fenix 6 and the very reliable Form Swim Goggles.

Post-swim, there's an impressive level of data to drill into in the Huawei Health app. You've got stroke recognition, pace, stroke rate and SWOLF. That's broken down into segments and charts along with a snapshot of your swim. It's all easy to understand and crucially, seemed very reliable too.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Step tracking compared: Honor MagicWatch 2 (left) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

As a fitness tracker, it doesn't do anything out of the ordinary in terms of what it's capable of monitoring. Up against a Garmin fitness tracker, we were satisfied that step counts were well in line. It's short on the kind of useful motivational features you get on a Garmin or a Fitbit, but it does have inactivity alerts that are nicely presented with animations to prompt you to get moving again.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Sleep tracking compared: Honor MagicWatch 2 (left), Garmin Fenix 6 (centre) and Withings Sleep (right)

Sleep monitoring is a little more advanced than we anticipated as far as the insights the MagicWatch seeks to provide. It now also uses the sp02 sensor to help detect signs associated with sleep apnea. Honor adopts the same points based system as Huawei uses to score the different aspects of your sleep.

From an accuracy point of view, we put it up against the Fenix 6 and the Withings Sleep bed monitor and it was generally in line as far as recognizing sleep duration, though at times both wrist devices could be as much as an hour off the actual sleep time. The points-based system works well in respect of better understanding the breakdown of your sleep, but it's a little light on useful recommendations to improve sleep quality.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Heart rate accuracy

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

The MagicWatch 2 packs in an optical heart rate monitor with a dedicated screen to display your real-time resting heart rate showing off your lowest and highest heart rate readings of the day. It also powers features like stress tests and Workout status features that estimate your VO2 Max, training load and insights into recovery time between workouts.

All of those features rely on that sensor dishing out reliable information and Honor will always prompt you to get that watch tight enough around your wrist to get that. From our experience, resting heart rate and heart rate based training was on the whole pretty good and in line with some of the better wrist based heart rate monitors we've used. Resting heart rate matched up with the Polar H10 chest strap we compared it to and it held up in most strenuous workouts.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

Heart rate tracking compared: heart rate monitor chest strap (left) and Honor MagicWatch 2 (right)

In the high intensity test, putting it through a series of running interval sessions, it threw up some interesting heart rate graphs as you can see from the screens below. There's a big dip in heart rate recorded in the early part of the session, which doesn't really match up with the chest strap data. While maximum heart rate readings were pretty accurate, the average heart rate data tended to be less than what was reported by a chest strap monitor.

It seems like most optical wrist based monitors, it struggles for those high intensity sessions. The lack of support for external heart rate monitors means you're left to rely on that sensor too. If you care about heart rate-based training, you might feel let down by what you get here.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Huawei Health and LiteOS

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

To continue the Huawei/Honor confusion, the MagicWatch 2 must be paired to the Huawei Health smartphone app from where you can review your data and tinker with watch settings like notification support and adding new watch faces.

It feels a bit like a mash up of Samsung's Health and Withings' Health Mate app. More so the latter and that's definitely a good thing. It's not too cluttered, it's easy to navigate your way around the app and there's more data and settings to dig into if you want.

The main Health page gives you a snapshot of your health and fitness data, then there's the Exercise tab to track GPS-based activities from the app. Then there's the Devices section where you can go for all of your Watch settings. And there's a lot of watch settings here to discover. You can enable and disable all manner of features, which will no doubt push the already impressive battery life even further.

If you don't want to use the Health app to house your data, well, sadly you're out of luck. There's no third party app support and no app store that would enable you do download something else. That may well change when Huawei and Honor starts to usher in the new HarmonyOS, but for now, you're stuck with a decent enough Health app.

On the watch, you're dealing with Huawei's LiteOS, the in-house operating system that first appeared on Huawei fitness trackers and has now become the replacement for Google's Wear OS it seems. It takes aspects of Garmin, Apple, Samsung and others and manages to do a good job of making things feel very unique and intuitive. You won't be scrambling around looking for things and everything you need is generally no more than a swipe or a button press away.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Smartwatch features

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

The MagicWatch 2 might be a smartwatch in name, but as far as features to back that up, there are definitely more feature-rich options available.

It will display notifications for first and third party apps and phone features for both Android phones and iPhones, but there’s no way to respond to them. You can see an email has come through for instance, but you can’t expand to read them.

There’s watch faces that you can personalise, the ability to control music playing on your phone and a built-in music player letting you take advantage of the onboard storage to pile on your own tunes. You don’t however have the ability to download offline playlists from music streaming services like you can on Garmin, Samsung and Apple’s smartwatches though.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review

A built-in speaker and microphone (46mm only) does open up the ability to answer calls, but only when you’re paired to your smartphone. There’s no 4G/LTE support do that sans smartphone. If you like the idea of a smart assistant living on your wrist, you’re out of luck here. Payments are out of the question too unless you live in China where the MagicWatch 2 does have the NFC to unlock it.

It’s a more limited smartwatch experience than its closest competitors, though if you can live with basic notification support and a music player heavily reliant on your own music collection, then it should do the job. It is disappointing though that contactless payments hasn’t been ticked off for use outside of China.

Honor MagicWatch 2: Battery life

The 46mm version of the MagicWatch 2 packs in the same 455mAh capacity found inside of the same sized Huawei Watch GT 2, which unsurprisingly promises to deliver the same two weeks of battery life. If you opt for the 42mm version, then the battery drops down to a 178mAh capacity one that still delivers promises a decent 7 days.

Whether you go 42mm or 46mm, you’re getting infinitely better battery life than the Apple Watch, WearOS watches and even Fitbit’s smartwatches.

It’s a smartwatch that really lives up to those battery life claims too. If you’re putting sensors like GPS and heart rate monitor to regular use, you may get slightly less than that, but generally we found the MagicWatch 2 had real staying power.

With limited smartwatch features to power though music streaming aside, it’s perhaps not all that surprising. That being said there’s a pretty impressive screen to power and in always-on mode you’d expect to be big drop off, but this wasn’t something we really noticed.

In a typical day, there was minimal drop off on the battery front. An hour of GPS-based running tended to knock about 10 percent off the battery. If your intensively training everyday, it can get through a week comfortably. Bottom line, it really does live up to that big battery life claim.

When it comes to charging, you’ve got a small puck-shaped cradle that sits on the back of the watch that is pretty swift at getting you back from 0-100 percent in just over an hour.


Honor MagicWatch 2
By Honor
The Honor MagicWatch 2 is in many ways a better sports-focused smartwatch than the pricier Huawei Watch GT2. It looks great, sports tracking features are solid and you've got that impressive battery life too. It's a shame it's missing features like payment support and the ability to import data to other apps. Take the same money and you could pick up something like the Garmin Forerunner 45. Though you'd be living with something that's not as feature rich or as good looking. If you can live without plugging your data into Strava, this really is a great budget sports watch with decent enough smartwatch skills.

Hit
  • Sleek, attractive design
  • Great battery life
  • Plenty of health and fitness features
Miss
  • Iffy heart rate accuracy 
  • No payment support
  • Not compatible with third party apps