Honor Watch GS 3 review

A stylish, affordable smartwatch that needs a better software match
Honor Watch GS3
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Honor Watch GS3
By Honor
Like previous Honor smartwatches, the GS 3 offers a well constructed design and gives you a good mix of fitness and sports features. Take the same money though and you can pick up a Huawei Watch GT 3 or an Amazfit GT series smartwatch and a slicker software experience and arguably better looking hardware as well.

Hit
  • Sleek watch look
  • Good fitness and sports tracking
  • Strong battery life
Miss
  • Honor Health app isn't very slick
  • Dual-frequency GNSS not fantastic
  • Some irritating screen lag

The Honor Watch GS 3 is a smartwatch that promises a premium watch look without the premium price tag to match.

The former Huawei-owned company launched the Watch GS 3 in China first before it went further afield , and sees a bit of a shift from the very outdoor-centric Honor Watch GS Pro that launched back in 2020.

While it's no longer part of Huawei, there's clear signs of its stewardship. It's a fitness-focused smartwatch that will track your heart, blood oxygen levels, let you see your notifications and carry around music and offer weeks of battery life.

At £169 (roughly $195), the Honor Watch GS 3 comes in at a very attractive price, but yet again isn't one that's easy to get hold of in the US. That price puts it up against the likes of the Amazfit GTR4, Huawei Watch GT3 and the incoming Fitbit's Versa smartwatch.

Gone are the days that you'd struggle to pick up an attractive smartwatch for under £200/$200 mark, so does the Honor Watch GS 3 deliver on looks and smarts? Here's our comprehensive verdict.

Honor Watch GS 3: Design and screen

As we said, the GS 3 is a bit of a departure from the Watch GS Pro where Honor has swapped ruggedness for curves and a more classic watch look. You're not going to mistake it for a classic watch, but there's definitely something a bit more alluring about it this time.

That is if you go for the pricier ocean blue or gold versions (£179), which feature a Nappa leather band and case combination that help to create that more traditional watch look. The midnight black version we had on our wrist comes in slightly cheaper than those versions and drops a nicer leather band as opposed to a more exercise-friendly fluroelastomer one included with the cheaper GS 3.

All versions do feature a 45.9mm case made from a mix of metal and plastic that measures in at 10.5mm thick and feature two, crown-style physical buttons. It also makes room for a microphone and speaker.

There's a vibrant, 1.43-inch, 466 x 466 pixel resolution AMOLED touchscreen display, which can be used in an always-on mode including in workout tracking mode. The curved construction helps to give the GS 3 a sleeker look and while there's a slither of bezel, it's easily hidden away with one of the many onboard watch faces.

Screen visibility indoors and outdoors was generally good for us. It offers strong brightness and while it's not the ideal type of screen technology to have in really bright outdoor light, it worked well for us in most scenarios.

Alongside that touchscreen you do have those two physical buttons that look like they should twist, but are used to wake up the screen with the bottom one offering quick access to an assigned feature, which is workout tracking out of the box. Around back is Honor's optical sensor setup and it uses a white, circular charging cradle that unsurprisingly, looks a lot like the one Huawei uses with its smartwatches.

The GS 3 is fit for the water as well, with a 5ATM water resistant rating deeming it safe to be used for pool and sea swimming but isn't one you want to take diving with you.

We'd say if you want the best that the Honor Watch GS 3 has to offer in looks, pay the extra for the blue or gold versions. That will match up a that nice, curved glass screen with a more attractive band and case color that achieves what we think Honor was trying to deliver with this smartwatch.

Honor Watch GS 3: Smartwatch features

We'll start by saying that this is a smartwatch for Android users right now. Honor states on its own website that iOS devices are not supported, though an OTA version will be available to change that. It hasn't stuck a date on when it arrives, so for now you'll need a Google-packing smartphone to put it to good use.

You also need the Honor Health app, which is basically a clone of Huawei's Health app and maintains UI elements from that app you previously used to set up and pair Honor's wearables with.

The operating system running the software show is proprietary one , but it's not far offering something that looks a lot like Huawei's HarmonyOS and LiteOS. You can swipe up from the main watch face screen to see your notification stream, swipe left and right to see your widgets and the main menu screen is all very Huawei too.

Swiping through those screens isn't quite as smooth as doing the same on a Huawei smartwatch though. There's definitely some noticeable lag, which might suggest the GS 3 doesn't have the same level of processing power to deliver that slick UI experience.

In terms of the smartwatch features you have at your disposal, you can of course view phone notifications and Honor does allow you to act on notifications through a series of quick replies.

The weather forecasts offer a nice summary of upcoming weather updates for the day and for the rest of the week, while features like find my phone and the ability to set alarms and timers are pretty standard inclusions as well.

You get nicely integrated music controls that spring into action as soon as you're playing something on your phone and if you want to take music around with you, there's that option too. That 4GB music player doesn't work with third party music streaming services, so you need to have your own audio already piled onto our phone, which can then be synced to the Honor Health app and then over to the watch.

If you like watch faces, you've got plenty to choose from here. There's already a good mix of analogue and digital-style faces and then you'll need to venture into the phone app if you want to get your hands on more from Honor's own watch face market.

The GS 3 is a good smartwatch that offers well supported features for things like notifications and music. If you want something that gives you apps, payments a smart assistant or works with an iPhone though, it's not going to be the one for you.

Honor Watch GS 3: Sports tracking

Honor seems to retain a lot of what it absorbed from Huawei, so we had high expectations here for the GS 3's sports tracking skills. It's promising to reliably track heart rate, blood oxygen levels, outdoor exercise time and will offer serve up step counts and sleep data too.

As a sports watch, you've got your pick of over 100 workout modes, with 10 of those offering more activity-specific metrics than the 90 other ones. On the watch, you've got a workout and workout history menus and a workout status screen where you can see insights like fatigue assessments, training load and VO2 Max readings.

Along with those core modes, you're also getting running and fitness courses with the latter offering 12, short, sharp workouts, using animations to explain each exercise or movement.

Honor has sought to give outdoor running a boost by introducing a dual-frequency positioning technology to improve tracking accuracy in densely populated areas, like cities with tall buildings or highly wooded areas. This is the same sort of feature that's already appeared on Huawei, Amazfit and Coros watches.

Much like its introduction on Huawei's watches, we didn't find it made major improvements on the accuracy front when we compared some running time with the Garmin Epix 2 in multiband mode, with core metrics like average pace also a bit off as well.

Outdoor run tracking compared: Honor Watch GS 3 (left) and Garmin Epix 2 data via Strava (right)

Honor says it's packed the GS 3 with an '8-channel heart rate AI engine' claiming that algorithm along with its PPG optical sensor can deliver an overall heart rate tracking accuracy of over 97%. We put it to the high intensity interval test and found it didn't perform too badly overall and was generally 4-5bpm out from a Garmin HRM-Pro Plus chest strap monitor for average and maximum readings.

Honor doesn't let you pair up external heart rate monitors, so if this is data you care about during exercise, then that's something to keep in mind here.

Interval HR tracking compared: Honor Watch GS 3 (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro Plus chest strap (right)

Outside of running, we spent some time using it for indoor rowing and pool swimming and found that data it dished out in those modes was pretty good from an accuracy point of view. For swims, it recorded the same distance covered as a Polar sports watch and was able to recognise the mix of strokes. Average pace over 100 metres seemed a little slower than what was recorded by the Polar though.

Pool swim tracking compared: Honor Watch GS 3 (left and centre) and Polar Pacer Pro (right)

Post-workout, you do have those workout status insights, which are largely fuelled by heart rate and logged workouts. Training Load insights will let you know if you're training is low, high or optimal and seemed nicely in tune with the amount of workout time we were putting in with the GS 3. It was similar story for fatigue assessments when compared to Garmin's recovery advisor insights.

Overall, you're getting a good sports watch experience with mostly good data, plenty of workout modes and an interface both on and off the watch that makes it nice and straightforward to absorb your stats. The addition of that dual-frequency positioning support and more accurate heart rate data didn't quite deliver though.

Honor Watch GS 3: Fitness, health and sleep tracking

If you couldn't care less about burpees, squats or jumping in the pool with the GS 3, then it does act like a fitness tracker. It'll count steps, track sleep and keep tabs on heart rate and blood oxygen 24/7.

There's a dedicated widget to track daily steps, when you've found time for some moderate to high intensity exercise time and will keep tracking of active hours as well. Honor uses rings to display progress and we found step counts were similar to those captured by the Oura Ring 3 on most days.

Step tracking compared: Honor Watch GS 3 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

When you take the GS 3 to bed you can choose whether to opt for the basic sleep tracking mode, which will work out when you've fallen asleep and how long you spend in deep and light sleep stages. Enable the more scientific sleep tracking and you'll also get REM sleep data along with breathing quality information and some added sleep analysis. Turning that on does have a bigger impact on battery life.

Sleep tracking compared: Honor Watch GS 3 (left) and Oura Ring 3 (right)

We compared sleep tracking to the very reliable Oura Ring 3 and found on most nights there was around a 30 minute difference with the sleep duration data recorded. The GS3 seemed to be taking a little longer to determine when we'd fallen asleep.

The breakdown of sleep stages were similar in terms of duration and felt most reliable for those deep and light sleep stages, but generally recorded longer REM sleep time compared to the Oura.

You'll also get a simple sleep score along with scoring your sleep continuity and breathing quality. This way you can quickly see if you've scored a high number to indicate a good night of sleep.


Honor can also track heart rate, SpO2 and stress with accompanying breathing exercises to help you get back to a calmer state.

For heart rate, it'll capture heart rate ranges for the day along with reading heart rate and whether that heart rate was spent in a warm-up, aerobic or fat burning zones. We found data like lowest heart rate and resting heart rate readings were within 4-5bpm of the Oura Ring's heart rate monitoring and the data on the whole felt good to us.

Blood oxygen data can be captured continuously and on the spot like heart rate. We took on the spot readings alongside a dedicated pulse oximeter and found it delivered similar data on some occasions and other times it was 4% out from the pulse oximeter. That data isn't really put into any actionable use and much like heart rate, isn't designed to offer serious health insights.

You do get a good fitness and sleep tracking experience with the GS 3. It might not be as motivating to keep you moving or offer as many actionable insights as some other smartwatches, but those core tracking stats didn't ever feel wildly off.

Honor Watch GS 3: Battery life

Honor doesn't specify the capacity of battery packed into the GS 3 but does state it's capable of lasting for up to 14 days in what it deems 'typical usage scenarios'. Those are lab based testing conditions and include doing things like using the GPS tracking for 90 minutes, playing music for 30 minutes, enabling notifications and taking 30-minute's worth of calls via Bluetooth over a week.

It also breaks down that you can enjoy a quite impressive-sounding 30 hours of GPS battery life and there's also a quick charge feature that will get you a day's of use from just 5 minutes of charge time.

This is a smartwatch that is capable of going for two weeks, but if you're using GPS regularly, enabling 24/7 heart rate monitoring and firing a lot of notifications its way, then we found it drops to a week. It's still not a bad showing and you do have that quick charge feature as well if you need a quick top-up.

In terms of that 30 hours of GPS battery life, we'd say that estimation falls slightly short of that. An hour's worth of GPS running saw battery drop by around 5%.

TAGGED Smartwatches

Michael Sawh

By

Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011.

Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.


Related stories