Hands-on review: Honor GS 3 smartwatch

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Smartwatch with a smart look and appeal to health and fitness.

Honor’s GS 3 is a nice watch with lots of great features, but it barely got to work in this review. The problem was the app.

Typical of gadgets these days, there’s hardly any information in the box, save a quick start guide with a QR code. The QR code points to an app used on several Honor devices, but not on the Honor GS 3 smartwatch. The watch needs the phone (Android) to be configured, so without an app there is effectively no watch. Relentless attempts to pair the device to the phone have been unsuccessful. Finally, a search for another app found the “Honor Health” compatible. A few hours late, but the exam had started.

Even when the correct application was identified, registration was not quick and the amount of information and access required seemed unnecessary. Given Honor’s roots at Huawei and reputation for enthusiastic data collection, this seemed intrusive.

The watch itself looks good. The brown leather strap has a premium feel and matches perfectly with the gold watch case. Among the wide selection of about 70 styles of watch faces, the one called “Gentlemen” [pictured] uses AND, but there are plenty of more sporty and contemporary options available through the app. No need to stick to one, of course. It also has a fashionable large face (45.9mm) with glass that curves beautifully into the case, but since it’s only 10.5mm thick it doesn’t feel bulky and weighs 44g, which is light on the wrist.

The version reviewed, the Classic Gold, retails for £209.99, while a black version costs £189.99. This latest watch comes with a silicone strap and hence is a better option if sporting activities need to be water-based. The watch itself is water resistant to 50m, but regular swimming, for example, would take its toll on Classic Gold’s leather strap.

Screen brightness is claimed to be 1,000 nits, which is around four times that of the average laptop, and is more than enough for the sunniest of days.

Charging the watch takes less than 30 minutes using the charging cradle which nicely aligns the watch magnetically. With normal use, this fulfills the manufacturers commitment of lasting 14 days, although using the GPS function (e.g. for training tracking) will reduce this duration considerably. If you’re in a hurry, a quick five-minute charge should get you through the day.

There are many functions on the watch. A fairly predictable and comprehensive range of exercise options are added, along with a few preset workouts. Accompanied by nice graphics, these can provide useful short (and long) workout routines to break up a typically sedentary day or for a more ambitious and active schedule.

The tracking and target setting options are plentiful and seemed accurate.

A few wellness apps for things like heart rate (reportedly with a state-of-the-art eight-channel heart rate AI engine); blood oxygen level; stress and breathing were unwanted distractions for AND, but that has more to do with the reviewer than the watch. Being told about an elevated heart rate can, well, increase anxiety and increase heart rate. However, if health monitoring is your thing, there’s a solid suite of features on the GS 3. The sleep monitor, while interesting, was questionably accurate. This reviewer was definitely awake as the watch claimed to be asleep!

The timer, compass, and torch apps all proved to be good additions and were easy to use instantly.

Music on a watch – why? The Honor GS 3 sounds surprisingly good, but not as good as a phone, which isn’t as good as a phone with speakers or a laptop. The watch’s speaker is on the right side where the bottom meets the side edge. The consequence of this is that whenever the wrist is cocked, which is virtually any hand movement, it blocks the speaker and so the music constantly cycles on and off. It quickly becomes irritating rather than pleasant. However, the real use case here, of course, is when used with the companion headphones, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro. These have not been tested with this watch, but have been reviewed separately. The watch can store 4GB of songs, but only those stored on the paired phone, not streaming from Spotify et al.

A missing application concerns contactless payment, which would have made a more complete package.

It’s also possible to take and receive calls on the watch, but only when it’s Bluetooth-paired to your phone, so if you want to stay in touch while running, the phone has to come too.

Is it then presented as a sports watch? A wearable health device? Or just a modern watch? AND reckons it ticks all three boxes, but if you’re looking for a fully functional communication device, it doesn’t quite do it. It’s still a phone slave – and especially for some, that phone can’t be an iOS just yet. Apparently, Apple compatibility is on the way. Additionally, while the watch itself is an attractive piece of kit, AND found the app less polished and sometimes glitchy.

However, if you are health and fitness focused, an Android user, and want a nice looking smartwatch, the Honor GS 3 is definitely worth considering.

Honor GS 3

From £189.99

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