Honor Watch GS Pro review: an adventure-ready, outdoorsy timepiece
Following on from my Honor Watch ES review is a look at it’s big brother, the Honor Watch GS Pro. Both were announced ahead of IFA 2020 in September.
However Honor Watch GS Pro is a very different sort of animal. Unlike the Honor Watch ES which is a fashionista fitness watch, this is a rugged timepiece designed for what Honor calls the “urban adventurers”.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
This will not be your typical review considering that I have contracted the coronavirus so was stuck in my home for a couple of weeks while testing. Nevertheless, I did manage to get a few runs in early on so will cover that side of things as well.
Honor Watch GS Pro review: Design
There’s no mistaking it, Honor Watch GS Pro is built to last.
It comes with a stainless-steel bezel ring and dial and a large body that feels quite chunky. A testament to its robustness is the fact that it has passed 14 different MIL-STD-810G tests. This includes the ability to withstand temperatures up to 70 celcius and down to minus 40 celsius, along with humidity-altitude resistance, salt spray, sand resistance, humidity resistance and the ability to cope with a bunch of other extreme conditions.
The rugged build means the watch comes in at 45.5 g without the removable fluoro-rubber strap. This is actually not that much considering its diameter is 48 millimeters. It is also less than the direct competition which comes in the form of the Garmin Fenix 6.
But the thing is quite thick (15mm+) so is a masculine watch. I really can’t see too many females opting to have one of these on their wrist.
Honor Watch GS Pro is as far as you can get from a fashionista timepiece. Such a device would be ideal for those that like trekking, outdoor exploring, mountain climbing, skiing, camping and similar outdoor activities. Or simply for those that like a large bodied smartwatch on their wrist. That’s what it’s built for.
As far as design, you get a choice between Marl White, Camo Blue and the one I have – Charcoal Black. They are identical in terms of everything apart from case and band color.
The display is quite good. Honor Watch GS Pro comes with a high-res AMOLED which has a diameter of 1.39 inches, 454 x 454 pixels (326 PPI). This comes with a choice of some nifty outdoor watch faces, some of which are animated. You get a bunch of them on the watch, while others can be installed via the smartphone app. The raised stainless steel bezel around the rim serves to protect it.
The screen is fully touch enabled and you navigate your way around by swiping up, left, right and down. There are also two stainless-steel, physical buttons on the side. They don’t stick out too much, but are easily accessible. The top one takes you through to a full scroll-down list of various options. The one underneath is a shortcut to starting exercises and choosing sports modes.
By default, the display is off. However you have a few options. One is to to define how long the screen stays on when in a woken up state, the other is the option to have an always on-display. In this case, the screen will toggle between two watch faces, a fully featured one and another one which shows limited info.
Of course, choosing this option will severely affect battery life. I opted to keep the watch-face off by default, but its nice to know the option for an always-on display is there if I want it. I can see that it can be useful in an outdoor environment, perhaps winter conditions, when you want to be able to glance down at any time to get basic info.
Inside is the body is built-in GPS/GLONASS. This allows the timepiece to provide a RouteBack function with breadcrumb navigation. There’s also an altitude barometer and compass for worry-free exploring and mountaineering.
Built-in GPS is the one important omission from Honor Watch ES. That one only has Connected GPS. The extra specs and rugged build mean HONOR Watch GS Pro is quite a bit more expensive than Watch ES. But it still costs less than the direct competition.
Other than that there’s a 6-axis IMU sensor (accelerometer sensor, gyroscope sensor), optical heart rate sensor, capacitive sensor, ambient light sensor, a built-in speaker and microphone. This is a comprehensive set of sensors that will have you covered both indoors and out.
Watch GS Pro also comes with built-in storage for around 500 songs, music playback, weather forecasts and severe weather alerts. You can even pick up calls via the built-in speaker and microphone. This saves you the hassle of whipping out your phone, so you can answer calls even when you’re cycling or climbing.
A high point is battery life. No doubt the large body helps with this. You’ll be able to squeeze up to 25 days with normal use on a single charge, while the “heavy usage scenario” allows for a couple of weeks. If found this jived with reality. During the month of testing I opted to top-up every couple of weeks for about a half hour or so.
With GPS switched on battery life falls to 40 hours. However, there’s an extended GPS mode which can keep the thing going for up to 100 hours. Useful for exploring. You’ll struggle to find another smartwatch that has such good battery life with GPS switched on. Two hours is the time it takes to charge the thing fully but the other option is just to top it up from time to time.
Honor Watch GS Pro review: Features
As far as fitness and health tracking, there’s no big difference between Honor Watch GS Pro and Honor Watch ES. Bother cover the basics well and include info on steps, distance, calories, heart rate, exercise and sleep.
On your smartphone you’ll need to use the Huawei Health app. For those not in the know, Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei. All Huawei watches also use the same app.
The app is nicely laid out and its not too difficult to find what you are looking for. The one thing that is missing is a floor count, which is rather strange as Honor Watch GS Pro has the necessary tech to cover that side of things.
But there are some extras you will not find in your run-of-the-mill fitness watch. One is SpO2. This is done one demand and it quantifies the level of oxygen that is circulating throughout your body.
I found this metric to be particularly useful as a fall in blood oxygen can sometimes occur with COVID-19. During the two weeks when I was hit with the virus, I found myself repeatedly measuring SpO2 and it gave me confort to know I was maintaining healthy levels of above 97%.
The one thing I wished for is the ability to have Watch GS Pro automatically measure SpO2 at regular intervals. Some brands do this while you are sleeping, and it would be nice to have this option. Perhaps a firmware update will fix this.
The other metric I found particularly useful during my coronavirus infection is stress tracking. Unlike SpO2, this can be set to work on-demand as well as automatically. I chose the latter and from day one it was evident I had a huge spike in readings. It took about three days before stress levels fell back to relatively normal levels but a few days later they spiked back up. The stress chart was in fact one of the ways I identified I had, indeed, contracted the virus.
These types of readings, combined with heart rate info, allowed me to know at any time how my body was fighting the virus. My strength would return when stress levels and heart rate fell and vice versa. It was an excellent way to gauge where I was in recovery, and to make sure I got some much needed rest to allow my body to heal.
Other than that its lots of standard stuff. The app has a dashboard but clicking on any metric takes you through to much more detailed screens. These allow you to group data into daily, weekly, monthly and yearly charts for most metrics.
I found the sleep statistics in particular to be very detailed. You are assigned a overall sleep quality score which gives you at-a-glance information on how rested you are. This is accompanied by an explanaton of the score. You can read it if you wish or just ignore it.
The data shows your bed time, rise time, time spent awake, REM sleep, Light sleep and Deep Sleep. There are also some more advanced metrics such as deep sleep continuity, breathing quality, regularity of time to bed, regularity of time up and more. One could almost say there was too much info. But I liked that you could ignore most of it if you want, and just focus on the basics.
As far as accuracy I found the watch did a pretty good job. No two watches will dish out the same info, but steps, distance, sleep and others all seemed in the right ball park.
My view is that you shouldn’t really focus on the differences between brands. The tech has advanced enough that you can trust pretty much any leading brand. You should instead use one brand and stick to it. That way you are using devices which employ consistant algorithms, so you can focus on the day to day differences.
Sports tracking is where we get the bigger differences between Honor Watch ES and Honor Watch GS Pro. This is due to extra sensors you will find on the latter, including built-in GPS. This allows you to leave your phone behind or keep it tucked away in your bag, and still get detailed stats and metrics, as well as orientation info.
I did a couple of runs before the coronavirus shock and found that GPS works well. I would not really characterize this as a runners watch due to its size, but it does the job well. Data captured includes duration of run, calories, average pace, average speed, average steps (cadence), average stride, steps, average heart rate, elevation gain and total descent. You also get a bunch of charts illustrating all of this in addition to a map of your run.
There are a few more advanced performance type statistics such as Vo2Max, aerobic training effect and recovery time. But it pretty much ends there.
However, the strength of Honor Watch GS Pro is in the additional sports modes. The timepiece has a total of over 100 workouts modes including 18 professional workout modes and 85 customized workout modes. The wide range of sports covered include lots of options for adventures such as climbing, hiking, skiing and free training.
I didn’t get to try out most of these but some seem like they could be very useful. For example, there are skiing modes which track a lot of data. This includes number of runs distance, trail time, maximum speed, maximum steepness, vertical ascent and descent, altitude, heart rate, and calories burned. With all that info, one could even say that you get a skiing coach.
Useful outdoor information includes sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times, tidal phases (only available in certain countries) and bad weather alerts. You will certainly be interested in most of that if you are into outdoor exploring.
Weather information is quite detailed with info on current conditions as well as an extended forecast. There also an air pressure screen and a compass (which you’ll need to calibrate on first use) to help find your way around.
The highlight for outdoor adventurers is the Route Back function. It is not too sophisticated, i.e. you don’t get color maps and you can’t upload routes – but it does keep a breadcrumb trail. The feature automatically kicks in when you start tracking an outdoor activity. When you’re ready to head back tap the Route Back button. It will help you find your way back to your starting point by giving you pointers and directions.
What is also good is the automatic activity tracking. The AI is quite sensitive and will even pick up on walks. You’ll get a prompt asking whether you want to start tracking the activity. If you accept than the built-in GPS will kick in.
Rounding off the review is a quick overview of smart features. The watch runs on runs Huawei’s LiteOS, hence the excellent battery life.
There’s a built-in speaker and microphone which allow you to conduct conversations from your wrist. This saves you the hassle of whipping out your phone. But the phone does need to be in close vicinity as the timepiece needs to stay connected with your smartphone via bluetooth to receive and answer calls.
The other important smart functionality is built-in storage for music. There’s enough space for about 500 songs on the watch. Unfortunately this is only an Android experience. Users of the iOS app will need to be patient for the functionality to arrive.
The rest is pretty standard stuff and includes notifications, a call log, contacts which can be added via Huawei Health, stopwatch, timer, alarm, flashlight, Find Phone and more. The caveat is that while you can view notifications, you can’t send messages. Also there is no smart assistant or the ability to install third-party apps.
Honor Watch GS Pro review: The verdict
As the good rating at the top of this review suggests, I found the Honor Watch GS Pro to be an excellent all-round decent device. The highlights are the plethora of sensors and features, along with excellent battery life.
You can track everything, in addition to SpO2 on demand and stress around the clock. There are also lots of sports modes. For outdoor adventures the watch comes equipped with GPS, a Route Back feature, a compass and air pressure sensor. Battery life is an awesome 25 days with normal use allowing for worry free exploring.
Honor Watch GS Pro
The watch is by no means perfect. It caters to a specific audience and is quite big so probably not a good fit for those with small wrists and women. Honor Watch ES might be a better fit for them.
If you are after an adventure-ready outdoorsy timepiece, Honor Watch GS Pro presents itself as an attractive choice. It is also more affordable than the direct competition which comes in the form of Garmin Fenix 6 and Polar Grit X.
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