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Honor Band 5 Review – A superb affordable entry into fitness tracking

During my fitness journey, I started with fitness tracking with the Fitbit Ultra which was a clip in device offering very basic step counting, followed by the Flex and then the original Charge HR, finally migrating to Garmin and recently the £600 Fenix 6. It has been an expensive evolution of tech that is for sure.

Over the years, Fitbit has lost its dominance, while the
smartwatch market has grown exponentially eating away at the fitness tracker
market, there are still a lot of users wanting something affordable to track their
day to day activities and maybe offer a few smart features.

Currently, the cheapest Fitbit is the Inspire at around £65, and the Charge 3 is £129.99. Back in 2017, I reviewed some random names brands such as Letsfit and Letscom both costing approximately £30.

So the new Honor Band 5 which costs £30 represent immense value being one of the cheapest options on the market and from a reputable brand.

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Build and Design

The design is basic, similar to many cheaper fitness
trackers; however, the 0.95-inch display is a vibrant and responsive AMOLED
that can fit plenty of data on it (for its size).

It uses touchscreen navigation for everything, which is
excellent the majority of the time, but mid-exercise can cause some issues.

As you would expect this is fully waterproof and can even
track your heart rate while swimming (something Garmin has only just done on
some of their watches).

Overall, it is small, discrete and the screen is excellent
for its size.

Features

Step Counting

Step counting is accurate, it gets similar numbers to the
Huawei Watch GT 2, and normally falls short by about 1k steps compared to my
Garmin on my dominant wrist, so probably about right.

One thing worth noting with step counting, there is no
social feature with Huawei Health, so there are no leaderboards or challenges,
something which helped FitBit be so successful.

Sports tracking

Sports tracking is reasonably accurate if you have realistic
expectations. It suffers from the same issues as the Watch GT 2 where wrist
heart rate has accuracy issues depending on placement, activity and other
variables. Overall it is good, you don’t get as much data as the Watch, that’s
because this product doesn’t licence FirstBeat data, so there is no VO2 Max or
some other features. Again, all to be expected for a device at this price
point.

The data you do get is good enough though this includes your
average and high heart rate chart, cadence and speed.

There is no GPS, but there is assisted GPS so it will use
your phone to provide semi-accurate outdoor tracking.

One annoying aspect of this is the way you start and stop the
activity. You have to swipe up four times to get to the exercise option. Not a
huge issue, but when stopping you have to hold down the touch button for a few
seconds, hit stop then accept. This is not ideal when sweaty or wet, and a
hardware button could solve this issue.

With this using the same app as the Huawei Watch GT 2, it
has the same issues with data exports and syncing. In the case of the Huawei
Watch GT 2 this ruined a superb product. For the Honor though, no other £30
tracker I am aware of supports Strava, so it is not a significant loss. That
being said, with the devices sharing the same software, if Huawei did enable
it, it would completely transform my opinion of the Watch GT 2, and it would
also put the Honor Band 5 way ahead of any competing product by a significant
margin. It is just a software update for Android app, so I can’t see any
logical reason why they wouldn’t want to do this.

All-Day HRM

All-day HRM helps give you a good indication of overall
cardiovascular health, and the results of the Honor Band 5 appear to match up
roughly with the Fenix 6, and identical to the Huawei. Their interpretation of
resting heart rate appears to be a bit different to Garmin, but there is not a
huge difference in it.

Calories

With this using the same app as Huawei, the calories
counting is different than many other watches, it does not provide a total
daily energy expenditure, but an activity expenditure, it is then up to you to
know what your basal metabolic rate is. 

Even then, it is hard to know if it is accurate at this, it
appears to err on the side of caution giving lower readings than I would have
expected. Calories counting, in general, is quite inaccurate. Typically, Garmin
shows around 1300 active calories per day whereas Honor says 1000-1100
calories. Depending on your goals this could make the difference in about half
a pound of weight gain/loss per week, and because of this, I prefer it when a
device gives a lower reading.

Working out your basal metabolic rate or TDP isn’t particularly
accurate either, online calculators guestimate the number but everyone will be
different. So the conservative approach to calorie counting and no totals could
be a sensible approach, compared to potentially misleading users.

Sleep

I found the sleep tracking of the Huawei Watch to be superb,
more accurate than many other devices I have used including the Fenix 6. The
same applies here, it does a magnificent job. There is a weird quirk with sleep
start time, I am not sure if it is my unusual sleep cycle, or if it just rounds
up to the nearest hour, but every night it sets it at 8 pm (which is
approximately correct).

It gives an excellent level of detail of sleep tracking, in
particular, I have found that the deep sleep continuity score is something no
other device offers. Garmin generally says I get no deep sleep, but yet says
there is nothing wrong with my sleep. I am curious to how they gather breathing
data, Spire Health and the Withings Sleep Mat do this, but they have sensors
that can pick up your chest movements.

Pulse Oxygen Tracking

SpO2 reading is a new feature enabled by a firmware update.
It is an impressive sounding feature, measuring your oxygen levels in your
blood. You should have at least 90%, but most semi-fit people will have at
least 95%.

While it is fun to test, there is not much practical
application here, unless you climb mountains a lot. Your SpO2 levels will only
really drop with respiratory issues, and the one that is most likely to go
undiagnosed is sleep apnoea, but that would require 24/7 monitoring, and even
then it is not very accurate, especially if you sleep sideways on your arm.

Notifications

The most important function I need from a smartwatch is
notifications, it is so handy to have something come through to my wrist, so I
don’t have to get my phone out of my pocket, allowing me to ignore as much as
possible when I am busy doing other things.

It is essential to customise what comes through to you
though, or you will be bombarded with notifications. Honor/Huawei makes this
easy, and I limit the notifications to Ring, Telegram, Whatsapp, calls and
messages. It works well, and the little screen can fit a surprising amount of
information on there, just as much as my much larger Garmin.

Battery Life

The Band 5’s 100mAh battery sounds comically small, but this
is a tiny device with equally small power requirements. Honor claims it will
last for up to two weeks on standby or six days, should you enable continuous
heart rate monitoring or sleep tracking. From my experience, you should easily
get a weeks worth of use out of it which is plenty.

Competing Products

There is only one realistic product that competes against
this, and that is the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4, it is about the same price and
has mostly the same functions. The Honor is arguably superior thanks to the
pulse oxygen functionality, but it is not a huge difference. I have not used
the Xiaomi but from what I can tell the Honor offers superior insight into your
sleep.

The Chinese Xiaomi Mi Band 4 has NFC so that’s a
consideration, but you would need to import it and get no warranty. The Mi Band
5 will launch with NFC internationally, but that’s not until June next year.

Conclusion

For the price, you really can’t fault the Honor Band 5, the Xiaomi
Mi Band 4 is the only comparable product. I have not used that so I can’t say
if it is better or worse, but there is no way it is significantly better, so
the Honor Band 5 is a superb fitness tracker regardless.

Overall the Honor offers everything you could want from an
affordable fitness tracker and is the perfect device for someone wishing to
increase and track their overall level of activity. I see so many people get a Fitbit,
or even Apple Watch, then barely use it, so at least with this, you don’t lose
out on too much money if it is not suited to you. It will also make the perfect
stocking filler for Christmas, and no doubt there will be some great buys during
Black Friday.

While there is room for improvement, again due to the low price, everything is forgivable due to the fact no other product offers a superior solution.

Honor Band 5 Review Score

90%

Summary

Incredible value for money offering almost everything you could want from an affordable fitness tracker

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Maikel Du

I worked in many technical fields, but I always resort to blogging which has become an addiction to me
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