Honor Watch GS Pro review: Light on outdoor substance

An affordable outdoor watch with some software obstacles to overcome
Honor Watch GS Pro
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The Honor Watch GS Pro sees Huawei's spin-off brand venture into the world of outdoor watches for the first time.

Since Honor followed Huawei into the wearable space, its watches have generally veered towards the sleek and stylish with a big emphasis on fitness tracking. And now it's back with a hiking and outdoors watch.

The GS Pro offers a design that's built to brave the elements and packs in features like navigation, a barometric altimeter and big battery life to last you a long few days of hiking.

At £249.99 (it's not out in the US but is available on eBay for around $279.99), the GS Pro is in the same pricing realm as outdoor watches like the Garmin Instinct Solar and older Suunto options like the Traverse.

While it might not be a fully fledged adventure companion like the Garmin Fenix 6 or the Polar Grit X, the Watch GS Pro could be a good option for anyone that doesn't want to spend big on something suitable for the great outdoors.

So has Honor struck gold with the Watch GS Pro? We've been putting it to the test to find out. Here's our verdict.

Honor Watch GS Pro: Design and screen

Honor Watch GS Pro on wrist with heart rate screen showing

The GS Pro is designed to survive in harsh environments and conditions and Honor has sought out a host of military certifications to firm up its durability credentials. That includes being suitable to function in humidity for 240 hours or salt fog for 96 hours.

Now we can't vouch for its ability to battle the salt fog for any period of time, but what we can say it has the look and feel of an outdoor watch that's built for some rough and tumble. It carries a similar case bulk to a Fenix 6 but at 45.5g, weighs less than Garmin's outdoor watch. Though it doesn't quite carry that bulk as well and can feel large and cumbersome to wear at times.

It comes in either black or white with a textured plastic case and there's an attractive stainless steel bezel ring that surrounds the touchscreen display. It looks like an outdoor watch that's for sure, and if you like that rugged watch look, you'll be well catered for here.

Honor Watch GS Pro profile and thickness

That case and bezel are matched up with a rubber watch band that has that same textured feel as the casing and can be removed via a pin mechanism on each end of the band. It's been comfortable to exercise with and wear in between those sweaty times and the traditional watch-style buckle means it's going to stay put as well.

Along with the two physical buttons on the side of the case you do have a touchscreen display and it's a great quality one. It measures in at 1.39-inches, promising a 454 x 454 pixel resolution, which means you can expect something that's super sharp and offers nice punchy colors.

It thankfully passes the visibility test outside in bright outdoor light even when it's not at the maximum brightness setting. You do also have the option to stick it into an always-on display mode if you want that data and time on view all day and night long.

For water resistance, you're getting something with a 5ATM waterproof rating, making it suitable for swimming up to 50 meters in depth. That also means it's suitable for showering and surviving a downpour too.

Honor Watch GS Pro: Outdoor features

Honor Watch GS Pro outdoor workout modes

So what actually makes the GS Pro more suited for the outdoors, aside from its rugged build? Honor includes a series of features and sensors to make it more useful when you're out exploring.

First up is the addition of a compass, which you'll need to calibrate on first use. There's also the ability to view air pressure thanks to the addition of the barometric altimeter. That enables you to receive severe weather warnings if the atmospheric pressure drops faster than a set rate. For certain activities, you can also switch to a power saving mode to preserve battery life.

The key feature really though is navigation. Though you can't upload routes or view big color maps on the watch, you can follow a breadcrumb trail that begins as you get moving. When you're ready to turn back, you can select the Route Back function to safely get you home.

Honor Watch GS Pro showing breadcrumb mode

To access that breadcrumb trail, you simply need to start tracking an outdoor workout where it's supported (like running or hiking) and swipe through the data screens where you'll find a screen that will draw out the route using a blue line. You can't view terrain or get a sense of route elevation though. This is all about showing you where you started and getting you back the same way.

When you reach your chosen destination, you can tap the Route Back button and it will give you directions to navigate you back to the starting point. It will tell you if you stray off course and offer simple information like turning right or left or staying straight. You can also enable the voice feedback to hear directions, but it's quite a loud and irritating voice that we opted to turn off during our testing.

The navigation is very basic, but it did work well for us at least. The lack of ability to upload routes, more than the lack of being able to view rich maps, is disappointing though. It certainly would've made the feature far more useful and made the GS Pro a more desirable watch for anyone that spends times exploring trails or hikes. It's a start at least, but we'd like to see the feature evolve and hopefully that's something Honor will and can do.

Honor Watch GS Pro: Sports and fitness tracking

Honor Watch GS Pro outdoor modes including skiing

As this is essentially a Huawei watch at its core, you're getting most of what has been present in its most recent watches in the sports and fitness tracking departments.

You've got 24/7 activity tracking including sleep monitoring. There's over 100 sports modes which now includes skiing, with ski-centric real-time metrics now on offer. It retains the running courses that were recently introduced to Honor and Huawei watches.

Buried inside the app is the ability to follow training plans for a range of running distances including 5km and marathon. You also have automatic workout tracking if you don't want to go to the effort of manually setting it up.

Huawei's TruSeen 3.5 optical heart rate sensor can be leaned on for training in heart rate zones, enabling stress tracking and continuously monitoring heart rate. You also have an SpO2 sensor, with readings stored inside the app. Basically, you're getting a lot here and generally most of those features work reliably.

With fitness tracking, you're getting a dedicated watch widget to show off daily progress and an option to view data from your most recent night's sleep. You'll need to venture into the Huawei Health phone app to delve deeper into that data.

Honor Watch GS Pro step tracking comparison

Step tracking compared: Honor Watch GS Pro (left) and Garmin fitness tracker (right)

Daily steps tended to be within 500 to 600 steps of a Garmin fitness tracker and you can see a breakdown of what activities those steps were generated from. You'll get inactivity alerts to make sure you stay moving during the day and you can adjust goals in the app.

We'd like to tell you about how well sleep tracking worked, but we simply did not get it to work despite enabling it. This appears to be one of a few software issues we encountered with the GS Pro.

Continuous heart rate data can be viewed from the watch, showing daily high and low readings and resting heart rate. Though those readings tended to be higher on all fronts compared to a Garmin sports watch and a MyZone chest strap monitor.

Running

Honor Watch GS Pro running tracking comparison

Run tracking compared: Honor Watch GS Pro (left and centre) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

For running, it was on the whole a good experience. It doesn't take too long to pick up a GPS signal and you can see metrics like average pace, distance, time and heart rate. You can also see access your music controls and access to the navigation features.

There's a handful of settings on offer like setting a time or distance based goal for your session or turning on the smart companion to keep to a certain pace. Again, we'd also recommend turning down or switching off the voice feedback simply because it's too loud and the voice grates.

From an accuracy point of view, we found it was 0.3 miles out from a Garmin Fenix 6 for distance tracking, though metrics like average pace were near identical.

Explore the run further in the Health app and you'll find additional metrics like average stride, elevation gain and performance stats that show you the aerobic training effect of the run along with VO2 Max and recovery time. Though we found this largely heart-rate performance data didn't generate the same results as a running watch paired up to an external heart rate monitor.

Honor Watch GS Pro heart rate comparison

Heart rate compared: Honor Watch GS Pro (left) and chest strap (right)

On the heart rate front, running is where we focused our testing and suitability for exercise and measuring effort levels. For steady runs, it tended to show an average heart rate within 1bpm of a chest strap. For maximum heart rate, it was 1-2bpm out. This was a similar story with daily low and high heart rate readings.

The bigger issues unsurprisingly crept in during the high intensity tests where the differences in those average and maximum readings were noticeably off from a chest strap. There's no support for additional sensors like a heart rate chest strap to remedy this either.

Swimming

Honor Watch GS Pro swimming data

Swim tracking compared: Honor Watch GS Pro (left and centre) and Form Swim Goggles (right)

The GS Pro can live in both pool and open water, tracking a host of metrics in real-time and to review when you're out of the water.

We tested it in the pool against Form's Swim Goggles and it measured up pretty well. It recorded the same core metrics like distance, lengths and average pace. Screen visibility in the water is okay, though it would be good to increase the size of the data fields displayed to improve the experience.

When you're done, it's a case of holding down the top button and the water is ejected Apple and Samsung style before saving your workout. One issue we did encounter is that we didn't see any heart rate data during or post swim. Clearly it's another software issue Honor needs to deal with.

Honor Watch GS Pro: Smartwatch features

Honor Watch GS Pro showing notifications

When you're not focusing your attention on scaling a mountain or jumping on a treadmill, the GS Pro does its bit performing as a smartwatch.

It plays nice with Android phones and iPhones letting you view notifications, change watch faces, take calls when you're connected to your phone plus see weather forecasts, and you have a built-in music player along with the ability to control music playing on your phone. You don't get payment features, a smart assistant or the ability to download apps.

Notifications appear in a stream when you swipe up from the watch face, but you can't act on them. Adding music to the watch can only be done from the Health app and you're wise to plug the watch into the charger when you're doing it. It doesn't work with music streaming services if you're hoping to pile on Spotify or Deezer playlists.

Honor Watch GS Pro music controls

If you get bored of having the same watch face, you'll be glad to find that there's plenty of options to pick from here. A bunch are preloaded and there's a collection of more faces in the app that you can sync over too.

As a smartwatch, it does a good enough job. You can clearly find a more comprehensive smartwatch experience for less money, but if you're happy with basic notification support and have enough of your own music to put on it, then it should be fine.

Honor Watch GS Pro: Battery life

Honor Watch GS Pro performance

The last Honor smartwatch we tested, the Honor MagicWatch 2, suitably impressed us with its battery performance. When you might be spending more hours on a hike or a trail run, having more battery to play with is a must.

Once again, Honor is promising big numbers. The Watch GS Pro is equipped to last for 25 days on a single charge. It also offers 48 hours of GPS and 100 hours in outdoor workout mode through a low power mode. In this mode, it will sample interval GPS data less frequently and take heart rate readings less frequently to extend battery life.

Outside of that low power mode, the GS Pro does impress. An hour's running tended to dent the battery by around 3%. That's with GPS and heart rate monitoring both in use. A 45 minute swim though seemed to knock it down by 10%. This is a watch designed to last a long time between charges and based on our experience it does seem to do that.

When you do hit 0%, it takes less than two hours to get back up to full battery. As we've found though, we haven't had to regularly reach for that charger and that's testament to the work Honor and Huawei has done to helping that charge go the distance.


Honor Watch GS Pro
By Honor
The Honor Watch GS Pro does a relatively good impression of an outdoor watch. It's got that big, durable build and offers impressive battery as well. The navigation support however is quite limited and there are definitely some software gremlins that need addressing away from its outdoor-centric features. If you've got this money to spend on an outdoor watch, you'd be wiser casting your attention at something like the Garmin Instinct. While it lacks the screen you get on the GS Pro, you'll get more in the way of the features that will come in handy when you're out exploring.

Hit
  • Good battery performance
  • Great display
  • Plenty of tracking modes
Miss
  • Quite a bulky watch
  • Basic navigation support
  • Some activity tracking issues