Honor Band 6 review: a big screen display and plethora of fitness features
Honor Band 6
- Very nice screen
- Excellent value for money
- Accurate heart rate tracking during exercise
- Detailed sleep statistics
- Good battery life
- The large-screen display may not appeal to everyone
- No built-in GPS
- Few performance-type metrics
Honor Band 6 was originally expected during the summer. The coronavirus situation had, however, delayed things. In the end the wearable was unveiled in November 2020 in its local market of China. This was followed by an international debut in 2021.
Many prefer the Honor Band over Mi Bands because of how they are designed. The variant in 2019 brought an SpO2 sensor, along with the ability to monitor fatigue and listlessness, alert to poor sleep and even detect hypoxemia dizziness. This new version slaps on a big screen experience along with a few other updates.
Essential reading: Honor Watch ES review – a fashion forward smartwatch that works well
Competition in the budget fitness tracker arena is heating up. Lots of companies are fighting for your wrist space. We saw the recent launch of Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 and Huawei has just unveiled Band 6. But the first out of the starting block was the Honor Band 6. Is it the best of the bunch?
I’ve been living with Honor’s latest wearable for the past few weeks. Here’s what I made of it.
Honor Band 6 review: Design
- large 1.47 inch AMOLED touchscreen
- weighs a mere 18 grams
- 5 ATM water-resistance
- two-week battery life
The most striking feature of Honor Band 6 is its display. Take it out of the box and that’s the first thing you’ll notice. It is not an understatement when I say the device comes with a full-screen experience. The display occupies almost the entire surface area of the main module – about 85% to be exact so the bezels around the edges are very narrow.
The previous version has a 0.95-inch AMOLED touchscreen with a 240 x 120 resolution. The new one has a much larger 1.47 inch display area with a resolution of 194 x 368 pixels. Protecting this is 2.5D glass. If you look closely, on the side you can see the Honor logo etched discreetly into the case.
A huge display allows you to view more information which improves convenience of use. A welcome change, many would agree. In fact, you’ll struggle to find a fitness band with a larger display. I don’t think there is one apart from Huawei Band 6 which is practically a rebranded version of Honor Band 6. Which is interesting considering the two brands are separate now.
Previously Honor was a sub-brand of Huawei. But the company was sold last November in response to the sanctions imposed by the US government. The time-period between development and manufacturing is pretty long. Which explains the similarity of these two devices. In the future Honor products will be self-developed and not rely on the Huawei smartphone app as is the case right now.
In a sense, the Honor Band 6 reminds a bit of the Honor Watch ES, but the strap is thinner. Plus that one has a 1.64 inch AMOLED. So while Honor Band 6 is clearly designed as a fitness band, it could still pass off as a smartwatch. The line here is clearly blurred.
If you’re a fan of devices with big-screen displays you will be very pleased. If you’re after something more discreet, look elsewhere.
Honor Band 6
You can interact with the thing via gesture navigation. Additionally, there’s a red-accented physical button which wakes up the tracker as serves as a shortcut and back button.
Swiping down takes you to settings, swiping up to notifications, left and right to your fitness stats and weather info. The screen is very responsive.
There’s no always-on option but there is a setting where you can keep the screen on for the next 5 minutes. Useful if you’re writing a review of the wearable and need to take a few pics!
A long press on the display allows you to change watch-faces. Honor Band 6 can save a bunch of these on the device itself. For others you’ll need to head over to the smartphone app. You can find more than one hundred of them there. On Android phones you can even use your photo to customize the display.
The actual dimensions of the 5 ATM rated (waterproof up to 50-meter depths) device are 43 x 25.4 x 11.45mm. The weight is only 18 grams without the strap. There are no metal parts. It’s mostly a polycarbonate build which makes the band so lightweight.
In terms of colors, the Honor Band 6 comes with three options namely Meteorite Black, Coral Powder and Seagull Grey. I have the all-black version. The main module on all of these variants is black – it is just the strap that is different. No quick release system or anything like that. So make sure you choose carefully as you’ll need to stick to your choice of color.
Under the hood
As far as other features, you get the usual fitness tracking sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, SpO2 and optical heart rate. There’s no built-in GPS. It’s not there – so don’t go searching for it. That’s to be expected considering the low $60 price-tag. But you do get what is often called Connected GPS. The watch taps into your smartphone to get satellite location readings. I’ve tested this on a few runs and it works well – but more on this later.
Battery life is very decent. The 180mAh lithium ion battery can keep everything going for up to two weeks on a single charge. This is particularly impressive when you take into consideration the big color screen.
A 10 minute top-up is all it takes to keep it going for a full three hours thanks to convenient magnetic fast charging. Honor says the wearable can keep going for up to 10 days, even in a “severe” usage scenario.
I found this jives with reality. I rarely needed to reach for the charger during the few weeks of testing. And even then, it was for a short top-up.
Honor Band 6 review
Fitness and health tracking
- good at basic activity tracking
- detailed sleep insights
- SpO2 and stress tracking
- no altimeter for floors climbed
The Honor Band 6 offers what has become the standard gamut of fitness and activity tracking features. There is nothing out of the ordinary there.
What you don’t get is an altimeter for counting floors climbed. But you do get the usual steps, distance, heart rate, sleep, stress and SpO2. It’s worth pointing out that SpO2 readings are on-demand. This seems to be the only difference with Huawei Band 6 which tracks blood oxygen around the clock.
I found that all of this works fairly well. The resting heart rate values were on average about 5bpm higher than what I typically got on the Garmin Forerunner 935 on my other wrist, but differences are to be expected. It was nothing that had me worried about accuracy. Each brand has their own algorithms and ways of calculating things.
As mentioned, all of this works via the Huawei Health app which is fairly easy to navigate. It will be interesting to see what Honor’s proprietary software looks like when it comes out. Let’s hope they stick to the simplicity and clean interface of the Huawei software.
The app defaults to a health dashboard. This consists of tiles for various metrics. Click on anything to view more detailed stats.
The most impressive of all is sleep tracking. In addition to quantifying your total kip time and sleep stages (Deep, Light, REM, Awake), you’ll get an overall sleep score. Underneath are a plethora of insights if you care to take the time to read them.
For example, this morning I was told that my sleeping schedule has been irregular recently. And that I should aim to go to bed between 10pm and 6am. Easier said than done… Plus you’ll get a detailed assessment of each sleep stage on a daily basis.
Finally, the tracker also monitors naps. And it is pretty good at this. That’s a nice touch for those that don’t stick to a regular sleep schedule.
SpO2, stress tracking
The Blood oxygen saturation works well. It hardly ever fails to register a reading the first time around. About 20 seconds is all it takes to get a measurement.
And while this is on-demand, stress tracking works automatically around the clock. In addition to charting how stress has changed over time, the app lets you know at a glance if you are relaxed, normal, medium or highly stressed.
During my few weeks of testing I stayed in the normal range 78% of the time, with the remaining 22% spent in the medium category. Once again that jived with reality. My most stressful day was the day following an airplane flight to another country. Makes sense.
The Honor Band 6 also supports a period-tracking calendar that allows you to see your upcoming estimated fertile window. That way you can compare all your stats in one place.
- 10 sports modes
- Connected GPS
- heart rate tracking works well
The Honor Band 6 supports 10 sports modes. This includes outdoor running, indoor running, outdoor walking, outdoor cycling, indoor cycling, free training, pool swimming, rowing machine, elliptical machine, indoor walking. Six of these come with auto-recognition. I didn’t want to leave things to chance so always started via the manual option.
Outdoor running is what I was most interested in testing. The GPS was quick to connect and once connected it stayed connected. It was also accurate although this entirely depends on the quality of your smarphone’s GPS connection. So you do need to have the smartphone app open during exercise or tick the “always” option when prompted by the app for location tracking.
What impressed me even more was the accuracy of heart rate readings. Tracking the run on a Garmin device connected to the Polar OH1 heart rate strap, the measurements were almost spot on.
Take the example of the 4k run pictured below. The Honor Band 6 spit out an average heart rate of 155bpm and a high of 170bpm. That was almost the same as the 156bpm and 170bpm dished out by the Polar strap. The previous run it pinned me at 151bpm for average and 167bpm for maximum. Once again the Polar was almost identical 152bpm and 167bpm respectively. My guess is that because the Honor Band 6 is quite large and contours to your wrist nicely, this helps to capture accurate heart rate readings.
GPS and heart rate are very important when it comes to tracking outdoor exercise. Because most of the other stats tap into one of these two to some extent. Which made the other running stats representative of the real-world situation. This includes pace, cadence, average speed, average stride and more.
What I would have liked to have seen are performance type stats. Things such as Vo2Max, recovery data and more. But there aren’t any.
This review wouldn’t be complete without a word or two on daily smart features. These are limited which is probably to be expected from a budget fitness band.
But you do get notifications, weather, stopwatch, timer, alarm, flashlight and find phone. Music control is advertised as part of the feature-set. However it was not enabled on my device. Reading through the small print I found out this is only available for those with Android smartphone. Hopefully, the feature will come to iPhones in the near future.
Honor Band 6 review: The verdict
Is it a smartwatch, is it a fitness band? I’m not entirely sure. What I am sure of is that it works well.
Honor Band 6 is perfect for those that are tired of devices with tiny displays. And that seems to be a trend these days. More and more wearable manufacturers are gradually increasing display sizes. You need to look no further than the recently launched Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6.
If you’re a fan of fitness trackers with big-screen displays you will be very pleased Honor Band 6. If you’re after something more discreet, look elsewhere.
Honor Band 6
This wearable covers all the basics. It has comprehensive activity and sleep tracking including on-demand blood oxygen and 24/7 stress tracking. And all of this works well.
Mind you, the band doesn’t pack built-in GPS so you’ll need to rely on your smartphone’s satellite signal for that. But this also works well. As does heart rate tracking during exercise. Couple this with two week battery life and you’re sitting on a winner.
If you’re not ready for a smartwatch or sports watch and would like a fitness band with a large screen display, the Honor Band 6 is definitely an option worth considering. Retailing for just over $60 on Honor’s website it offers excellent value for money.
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