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Hands on: Honor Watch ES review

A smartwatch, or a premium fitness tracker?

What is a hands on review?
Honor Watch ES
Honor Watch ES
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

With the Honor Watch ES, the company seems to have learned from its previous devices. This new smartwatch offers more, partly in lifestyle features, but mainly in exercise modes - there are now over 100 workouts you can choose from, and 12 guided exercise courses. Plus, you're getting all those for a rather low price. While we need to conduct a full review and test all these exercise modes to say this for certain, the Honor Watch ES seems like quite a bargain.

For

  • Huge array of fitness modes
  • Music handling is here

Against

  • Design a bit uninspiring
  • No way to reply to messages

At IFA 2020 Honor announced two smartwatches, the Honor Watch ES and the Honor Watch GS Pro. The latter is a rugged outdoors fitness watch, while the former is presented by the company as a 'fashion fitness' smartwatch.

While the first of those adjectives is rather subjective, the second one is clearly demonstrated in the watch, so this could be pretty great for those looking for a handy fitness wearable.

Honor has a good track record of wearables, and we ranked its Magic Watch 2 as one of the best smartwatches. This isn't a successor to that smartwatch - the Watch GS Pro is - but it's still got many of the features that we appreciated in that device.

The Honor Watch ES has far more in common with the Huawei Watch Fit (Huawei is Honor's parent company). It has the same design, many similar fitness modes and other shared features. We don't believe it is exactly the same device, but the differences are hard to spot.

Honor Watch ES

Honor Watch ES (Image credit: Future)

Honor Watch ES price and release date

The Honor Watch ES is available to pre-order right now from Honor's website in the UK, Italy, Germany, France and Spain. It's not clear if the watch will be available anywhere else upon full release, but given Honor doesn't have much of a presence in the US or Australia, we wouldn't expect it to land there.

We know the Honor Watch ES price is €99.99 in Europe (roughly $120 / £89 / AU$160), which is pretty cheap for a smartwatch, and about average for a premium fitness tracker if you'd rather consider it that.

Design and display

Honor Watch ES

Honor Watch ES (Image credit: Future)

The Honor Watch ES consists of a rectangular screen, attached to long thin silicone-feeling straps. We don't know if it's silicone or another material, but we've asked Honor to clarify that.

We found the strap fitted pretty comfortably, though due to its long length an extra loop would have been useful for keeping it all tucked in. There are plenty of holes in the band, which likely increases breathability when you're exercising.

The body of the actual smartwatch feels rather long, making the whole device feel as much like a premium fitness band as it does a smartwatch. It's got a weight of 21g and thickness of 10.7mm so it feels pretty dainty on the wrist.

For a smartwatch posited as a 'fashion' device, we felt the rectangular build was a little uninspired. Others may disagree, and you should use the photos in this review to decide whether you like the look.

The body has one button on the right side - it doesn't stick out much, but we did find it a little hard to press at times as it isn't as pronounced as a button on some other watches.

Honor Watch ES

Honor Watch ES (Image credit: Future)

In terms of the Honor Watch ES screen, it's a 1.64-inch AMOLED panel with 456 x 280 resolution. There are loads of watch faces to choose from, and always-on displays are also supported, though these can cut battery life signifcantly.

Features and fitness

The Honor Watch ES has over 90 fitness modes, enough to rival even Google Fit, ranging from 'standard' ones like outdoor running, cycling and indoor running to more interesting and niche ones like Latin dancing, tai chi, cricket, dragon boating and parachuting. 

We'd imagine most these modes only track time, heart rate and distance, but if the returning modes from the Magic Watch 2 are the same, some of the more conventional modes could have loads of metrics tracked like your cardiac performance and fat burning.

We haven't managed to test the Honor Watch ES' fitness modes thoroughly yet; you'll have to read our upcoming full review for that. A major selling point of the Honor Watch ES is its fitness courses, which are twelve guided exercises that show you diagrams of exercises and give you a timer too.

Honor Watch ES

Honor Watch ES (Image credit: Future)

We tested 'Neck & shoulder relaxation' for the purposes of this short review, which was easy to follow and only took three minutes. The diagrams made a lot of sense, and the watch buzzes to tell you when to start and stop, so you don't need to be watching it when you're meant to be doing the exercise.

Some of the other fitness modes include 'Exercise at work', 'Burn fat fast', 'Strengthen heart and lungs' and 'Ab ripper' and you can be sure we'll test these, especially the latter, for our full review.

The Honor Watch ES also has loads of other general health and wellness tools. There's stress charting, which Honor and Huawei watches have had for a while now, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, breathing exercises and overall step and activity trackers. 

There's also female cycle tracking but you need to enable it on the app, not the watch, so it's a little fiddly to get sorted.

With the Honor Magic Watch 2 we took issue with its lack of lifestyle tools and, to some extent, that has been fixed here. There's automatic and accurate weather reports - it's not clear where this information comes from, but it seemed accurate when compared to BBC Weather. 

There's also music controls here, and the watch automatically picked up and let us control Spotify running on our smartphone, which was a pleasant surprise given few watches let you do so.

Honor Watch ES

Honor Watch ES (Image credit: Future)

Notifications from your smartphone get pulled to the Watch ES, although there didn't seem to be any way to reply to messages. 

Honor suggests the Watch ES will have a 10-day battery life, and will take 100 minutes to power up to full, and we'll be sure to test both figures for our full review.

Early verdict

The huge range of workout modes, and the fitness courses, promise to be really beneficial to those looking to get fit which, after a global lockdown, is certainly an enticing prospect. We're surprised, and also glad, to see Honor has expanded its already-great workout modes in its watch.

The new lifestyle tools also show Honor is building on its older smartwatch, and while the device still feels thin on the round for lifestyle features compared to watches from some other companies, the music handling is a truly useful feature.

If the Honor Watch ES's low price translates to other markets and it performs as well over time as it did in our brief testing period, it could be one for our best fitness trackers list.

IFA 2020 is Europe's biggest tech show (although much smaller this year due to global restrictions), and TechRadar will bring you all the breaking news and first impressions of new TVs, wearables and other devices as they're announced.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.