The Honor Watch Magic smartwatch is essentially a rebrand of the Huawei Watch GT and at a slightly lower price point. That means it includes a somewhat stripped down experience to help increase battery life, but does stripping it back to basics make for a solid experience?

First up, I need to apologize for what was a misinterpretation of what the original Huawei Watch GT really aimed to do and who it was aimed directly at. I sort of wrongly made the assumption that it wasn’t a worthwhile smartwatch due to the choppy performance and lack of real smartwatch features; this is unless sports and fitness were a core proponent of your day-to-day life.

Having used the Watch GT and now the Honor Magic smartwatch a heck of a lot more, I now better understand why Huawei opted for a cut-down experience but didn’t scrimp in certain areas. Even saying that I think the Honor Magic is actually a better option thanks to a combination of other factors.

Without Wear OS this is still a solid smartwatch that manages to actually be genuinely useful.


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Design & Hardware

So firstly, while the Honor Magic shares much of the same internals as the Huawei Watch GT, the outer shell really does differ quite exponentially. I lamented the large size of the Huawei Watch GT and the Honor Magic has shrunk down almost all areas for a much more compact size and shape.

It’s for that reason that the design feels way more refined, meaning it will suit a much wider array of end users. The crown is much smaller at 43mm and therefore so is the display, which is one of the few major alterations that help make this a much better overall looking watch in my opinion.

hardware and design honor watch magic

A large crown just gets in the way, although inversely if you want a lot of information crammed into a tiny 1.2-inch AMOLED display, then a bigger watch face might be your personal preference. I still don’t get the faux chronometer addition. Removing the fake non-turning dial would result in a sleeker looking smartwatch — maybe we’ll get that option on a future model.

I love the silicone-rubber strap, it’s comfortable and easy to fit with plenty of holes to resize to even the smallest of wrists. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the color scheme on my red and black model but it isn’t unattractive by any means. The black matte black casing helps give you the impression that this is a much smaller watch too.

The strap helps but the smaller, slimmer watch face at 9.8mm thick feels exceptional when worn — or at least it has in my wearing period. I have tried a ton of smartwatches and I genuinely think it’s between this and the Ticwatch C2 for the comfort crown.

With a much tighter package, the 5ATM water-resistance means that this pretty lightweight watch is most definitely not a delicate device. Being able to take this watch swimming without fear of it being damaged or destroyed will be a major selling point in my opinion.

Honor Watch Magic watch faces

Let’s talk internal specifications for a moment then, the Honor Watch Magic comes with that 390 by 390 pixel 1.2-inch AMOLED display, 128MB of internal storage and just 16MB of RAM, which is all powered by a 178mAh battery. That on paper sounds absolutely horrid but we’ll delve into performance a little later on.

I’m lead to believe that the watch does include NFC payment capabilities but my model includes an application called AliPay, which I’m lead to believe simply doesn’t work outside of China. That said, I wouldn’t use anything else other than Google Pay for smartwatch payments. Don’t expect it coming in future.

Software & Performance

Lite OS is very slimmed down make no mistake. You can’t download or install any extra applications like you can on Wear OS but for the most part that won’t pose a problem if you simply want an extension of your basic smartphone setup.

The biggest issue that this poses, is that you can get smart bands or fitness bands that offer similar functionality but with a much lower asking price and potentially better battery life. At the upper end, the performance will be similar but there will be certain features lacking — just something to point out.

Just 16MB of RAM does mean that performance can be very sluggish at times, but once those moments fade away, the overall experience isn’t all too bad considering. This is stripped back to the very basics to help extend the battery life and ensure excellent fitness tracking capabilities.

Honor Watch Magic software and features barometer

The fitness features are pretty darn impressive, although I am certain that I will never use the vast majority of them. The heart rate measurement tool gives you regular updates on your heart rate through the day, I have no reason to doubt the readings

I’ll say the same about the step counter — which resembles the Apple Watch rings tracking format — it matches the step counter on my smartphone almost exactly after a day of usage. I still don’t know what ‘one step’ actually means or equates to, as on almost any smartwatch or smartphone I’ve ever used you can easily trick it into registering one stride as two steps.

That leads me to GPS tracking, which I much prefer as a measurement of movement. The GPS logging seems to be exceptional, keeping a nice accurate log of your distance moved alongside the step count and rudimentary calories burned figure. You can delve into further settings by launching the Huawei Health app on your smartphone, where you’ll find graphs, charts and more to really sink your teeth in to.

It’s not just limited to exercise too, I’m not the kind of person who will wear a watch while sleeping, but should you do so, then you’ll get solid sleep tracking stats thrown in there for good measure. The Watch Magic is able to get REM sleep, deep sleep and light sleep data for you to ponder over should you wish. I personally wouldn’t find wearing a watch in bed all too comfortable mind you.

Honor Watch Magic software and features barometer

Because Lite OS doesn’t allow for app installation, there is a real lack of watch face options available out of the box. Honor — and by-extension Huawei  —could fix this simply by adding more in future updates but only having nine options to choose from at first is a little stingy in my opinion. That said, I do like a couple of the options you have to choose from right out of the gate. Just something else to note.

I’ve also found the weather application to be really lacking in the kind of information that I want or need from a weather app. Yes, you can get a pretty accurate forecast or reading of the current conditions, but literally nothing else beyond that. That means no five-day forecast or event data for the next 24 hours. It’s disappointing but not a complete dealbreaker for me specifically, as here in the UK, rain almost always proceeds all weather fronts!

For anyone wanting the ability to reply or at least acknowledge incoming notifications, the Watch Magic does not include that ability. It acts simply as an extension of your notification center, allowing you to see what is currently readable on your device.

While that is disappointing, it hasn’t really affected how I use this smartwatch compared to others. I find that replying to a text or email on such a small screen is inherently frustrating, so the option not being there isn’t all to massive a loss.

Battery

Honor Watch Magic battery life

The claim with the Honor Watch Magic is that battery life can reach an impressive seven days. While that is not far off the experience I had with this strapped to my wrist, I would have to say that a more accurate figure would be five to six days — six being the very upper limit in my testing.

By forgoing the constant Always-on Display, the watch will no doubt save a ton of battery compared to other options. I would have liked the option to be able to enable an Always-on mode but maybe that will come in a future software update. The only workaround at the moment is the ability to turn the display on in 5-minute intervals. Not a perfect solution but it might appease some of you out there.

When getting a ton of notifications throughout the day, you’ll notice the battery life creep further towards the four-day mark but whether that is a problem depends on if an extra day of battery life is important in your use-case scenario.

Honor Watch Magic charging

It’s worth noting that while you can turn off notifications and the continuous heart rate monitoring, it’s not possible to turn off Bluetooth on the watch itself. One would assume that this is to constantly feedback your movement and fitness stats but it’s not entirely clear. The watch will ping you when it loses connection to your smartphone, and it will work without a connection to your watch once disconnected.

Charging is catered for via a magnetic charge disc, which plugs into a USB-C cable and then tops up the battery. In practice, I’ve had it go from zero (or very near) to 100% in around 25 to 30 minutes. It’s not a watch you need to have sat atop the charger all evening to get back to full form.

Verdict

The Honor Watch Magic is a superb extension of your fitness tracking. Beyond that, it doesn’t add any extra functionality or take any functionality away from your smartphone. What I mean by that is that it simply vibrates and informs you of when you’ve got a message and adds all kinds of fitness and health functions that aren’t found on your smartphone.

It took me a while to realize that by providing a very cut down OS and experience, Honor (or Huawei to be more accurate) makes a smartwatch that is actually useful without taking away the health features that make them such a popular purchase for fitness enthusiasts.

Honor Watch Magic Always-on Display

Many of the hardware, design and software issues I had with the original Huawei Watch GT fade away with Honor Watch Magic, as the form factor makes it a much more viable everyday wear option — which it has been for the past 3 weeks in my case. Being so lightweight and comfortable means that I am happy with it strapped with it strapped to my wrist for much longer than watches with much bigger crowns.

You’ll have to work out for yourself if a seriously slimmed-down smartwatch experience is enough to warrant a purchase. If exceptional fitness tracking and battery life that exceeds anything on the Wear OS side of the fence can match, then the Honor Watch Magic is a superb accessory. For anyone else, then it might be worth looking elsewhere.

It’s worth noting that limited availability might hinder your search, although the Watch Magic is available from selected online retailers in the United States. you can get a hold of the smartwatch from the numerous Chinese resellers, but my advice would be to always stick with US-only/Europe-only stores for peace of mind with any purchase, and also for any added purchase protection.

Where to buy the Honor Watch Magic

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Damien Wilde's favorite gear