Honor is slowly expanding its portfolio beyond smartphones, and recently launched its second generation smartwatch, the Honor Magic Watch 2, in India. Honor's latest wearable device is priced aggressively and boasts of some notable features such as the ability to make and receive calls, 14-day battery life, support for a tonne of workouts, music playback controls, and more. To top it all off, the Honor Magic Watch 2 looks premium without being too heavy on the wallet. But is the Honor Magic Watch 2 all about tall claims, or does it have the substance to become the best smartwatch in its price bracket? We find out in our review:
The Honor Watch Magic 2 looks a lot like the Huawei Watch GT 2 (Review), but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Honor offering is built very well and its design is also quite premium. We have the Honor Watch Magic 2's 46mm model for review in the Charcoal Black finish, which is priced at Rs. 12,999. Honor also offers a Flax Brown variant that comes with a leather strap and will set you back by Rs. 14,999. In case 46mm is too big for your wrist, Honor offers a more compact 42mm version that comes in Agate Black and Sakura Gold (with a metal strap), priced at Rs. 11,999 and Rs. 14,999 respectively.
Starting with the materials, Honor has used 316L aerospace-grade stainless steel for the casing, which is said to be light and corrosion-resistant as well. The base has a contoured design, and despite having a small hump in the middle for the heart rate sensor, the watch is comfortable to wear. There are two contact points on the underside for charging, and the watch attaches to the included charging dock magnetically.
The Charcoal Black variant we had for review comes with a Fluoroelastomer strap that has a rubber-like stretch to it. It is comfortable and doesn't attract dust or smudges. We were also able to try the leather Flax Brown version briefly and had no complaints. You can swap whichever strap you get for any standard 46mm watch strap that suits your taste. The watch has a 5ATM water resistance rating, which means buyers won't have to worry about jumping into a pool or tracking a swim.
Tipping the scales at 41g, we found the 46mm Honor Magic Watch 2 comfortable to wear and not too big either. We quite liked the bevelled edges, especially the outer rim with a tachymeter scale. This design touch gives the Honor smartwatch some identity and distinguishes it from the generic black glass look of a host of its rivals. Just like with the Huawei Watch GT 2, only the larger variant has this design touch, while the smaller one is more understated.
There are two buttons on the right, positioned at angles. These buttons provide good tactile feedback when pressed. However, they could have been a tad smaller. Due to their size and positioning, they registered accidental presses a few times. The upper one acts as the home button and has a red ring for the sake of differentiation. The lower button can be customised to perform a variety of tasks such as opening your contacts, accessing call logs, checking notifications, and a lot more.
Overall, we feel that Honor has not cut any corners when it comes to the build quality of the Honor Magic Watch 2, and the design also feels premium in an understated way. It will be up to buyers to choose between the sporty look of the 46mm variant, or the more compact and sober 42mm option.
The Honor Watch Magic 2 runs Huawei's in-house Lite OS, which covers the basics but is a little limiting. We'll talk more about this later. On the hardware front, the 46mm variant packs a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a 454 x 454 pixel resolution and an adequately high pixel density of 326ppi. The display is crisp and the brightness is surprisingly good. We didn't face any issues with content visibility even while using the device in broad daylight.
Honor has used Huawei's in-house HiSilicon Kirin A1 chip, and the Watch Magic 2 packs 4GB of internal storage, although only around 2.3GB is available for users. However, the company has not revealed the amount of RAM that this device has. The internal storage can be used for music files, and it takes around 30-40 seconds to transfer a low-quality track of about 3MB size. Only the MP3 and LC-AAC formats are supported.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 features a 455mAh battery and is claimed to last up to 14 days on a single charge. It supports Bluetooth 5.1, dual-frequency GPS, and GLONASS for tracking outdoor activities. The 46mm Honor Magic Watch 2 is also capable of receiving calls and playing music through its onboard speaker as well as wireless headsets. It is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and pairs via the Huawei Health app.
As for features, it offers 15 fitness tracking modes (8 outdoor and 7 indoor) for activities such as running, swimming, cycling, and trekking as well as 24/7 heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and stress monitoring. The watch is also capable of measuring VO2 Max levels. Sleep and heart rate tracking are enabled by default, but stress monitoring has to be activated manually after taking a test.
The Honor Magic 2 runs Lite OS, Huawei's own smartwatch operating system which is also found on Huawei-branded smartwatches. It covers all the basics, but lacks the versatility you get with Wear OS or Samsung's Tizen. Lite OS does not support third-party apps, which means you cannot download any new apps.
Notifications from third-party apps like WhatsApp and Gmail are displayed on the watch but you can only tap on them to see messages. You can't view media files, listen to voice messages, or reply to a message using text or audio directly from the watch. We noticed during our test period that the Honor Magic Watch 2 occasionally stopped showing notifications from certain apps such as Gmail, and then displayed a barrage of them all at once.
On the personalisation front, you can choose from the watch faces that come preinstalled and some that can be downloaded. The selection available isn't particularly diverse, but we noticed that more watch faces are slowly being added. You need to install the Huawei Mobile Services app separately to download more watch faces, but it kept crashing on our smartphone. Interestingly, the Honor Magic Watch 2 product page on the Honor Global website says that users can create custom watch faces based on their phone's wallpaper or a photo, but we didn't see that feature in the app.
There are a few other UI-related issues as well. Swiping up from the bottom of the home screen brings up the notifications list. A downward swipe opens the quick settings panel, which is populated by five controls for the Do Not Disturb mode, the Find My Phone function, alarms, the display sleep time, and settings. Swiping right from the left edge doubles as a back gesture and takes you to the previous page.
Swiping left on the home screen brings up dedicated pages for heart rate tracking, stress monitoring, location and weather information, music playback controls, and the step counter. However, you can't swipe up or down on any of these pages to see more information or controls.
On the bright side, Lite OS includes almost all the essential functions of a smartwatch and fitness tracker. Aside from the wide variety of fitness tracking modes, you can make or receive calls and play music on the watch itself or through a connected phone or wireless headset. You can also adjust the strength of vibration alerts, which is a neat touch.
The flashlight feature is another useful addition. The layout of activity data on the activity records page is quite clean and intuitive. Design-wise, Lite OS is clean and gets a lot of things right, especially if you are a fitness-oriented person.
We tested the Honor Magic Watch 2 for over three weeks, and our experiences were mostly positive. The AMOLED display is sufficiently bright. There is no always-on display mode, but you can keep the display on for a maximum of 20 minutes. While this is disappointing, you can choose between an analog and digital static display that will remain visible on showing only the time. We quite liked the minimalist look of the analog option.
However, Huawei warns that enabling a static watch face will cut the battery life in half, and that increasing the screen-on time with the regular watch face will also take a toll.
The ambient light sensor did a good job of adjusting brightness based on the external lighting conditions. We noticed that the Honor Magic Watch 2 is not particularly zippy and takes some time to respond to touch inputs when it wakes up. The accuracy of swipe gesture recognition needs some work, and UI fluidity could have been better as well.
We took three strolls of 1km each on different paths to test the device's tracking accuracy. The Honor Magic Watch 2 measured 1.02km twice and 1.01km once, which is acceptable. When it comes to step counting, the smartwatch logged 995 steps on average over three trial walks, while we manually counted 1,000 steps. These tracking results are good for a smartwatch in this price bracket.
The always-on heart rate sensor works fine and provides a detailed breakdown of your heart rate at each hour of the day with a graph. The sleep tracking feature employs Huawei's proprietary TruSleep technology and logs REM, deep, and light sleep duration. We found the data to be in line with the quality of sleep we experienced. You'll also get a sleep score on a scale of 0-100, and a very informative chart that reveals patterns such as bedtime regularity, times awake (rated between low, medium, and high), average wakeup time, and breathing quality, among other parameters.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 supports dual satellite positioning systems and quickly latched on to GPS signals. However, we found that the gesture one has to perform for enabling GPS tracking sometimes went unregistered.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 offers a stress monitoring feature that ranks stress on a scale of 0 to 99. It has to be enabled manually after taking a test which asks you to rate how you feel about a series of twelve statements that include I have nothing to look forward to, I don't see any meaning in life, I can do things just as well as other people, and I think that hardships have made me stronger. The smartwatch measures your heart rate before and during the test, and analyses your responses to assign a test score. However, we found it was a hit or miss.
Coming to fitness tracking, the Honor Magic Watch 2 lets you choose from thirteen running courses based on the intensity level, walking, cycling, swimming, climbing, rowing, and more. The list is not as exhaustive as what the Samsung Galaxy Watch 2 offers, but it covers nearly all the essentials that one might want, and costs half as much. Workout records are stored both on the smartwatch and in the Huawei Health app. You can choose to share fitness data with Google Fit and MyFitnessPal, but there is no way to work with other apps such as Strava.
Only the 46mm variant of the Honor Magic 2 lets you receive calls on the device. We found the speaker quality to be decent, and within a range of 10m with the connected phone, we did not notice any voice breaking either. The microphone does an acceptable job, as the person on the other end of the call was not able to discern whether we were talking to them through a smartwatch or a phone.
The speaker is just passable for music. Just don't crank the volume all the way up, or you will start hating your favourite vocal artist as voices sound too synthetic.
Battery life is one of the key selling points of the Honor Magic Watch 2. The company claims the 46mm variant can last up to 14 days on a single charge. During our review, the device lasted for 12 days. With the static display enabled, high brightness, the watch face visibility cranked to the maximum 20-minute duration, and heart tracking and GPS enabled, the Honor Magic Watch 2 lasted around 6 days, which is significantly better than Wear OS smartwatches can manage. As for charging, the Honor Magic Watch went from 0 to 60 percent in 30 minutes, and took over an hour to fully charge.
The Honor Magic Watch 2 gets a lot of things right, and is a well-rounded package considering its price. Its design and build quality are impressive, and Lite OS has all the important features that you would want in your smartwatch. However, the inability to download apps can be limiting, and there are a few software quirks and responsiveness issues that need to be ironed out as well.
Performance is one area in which the Honor Magic Watch 2 does its job well. There is a tonne of fitness-centric features, and it is fairly accurate when it comes to tracking activities and sleep. Connectivity was never an issue, and we liked being able to make a call and control music playback. Notably, the Honor Magic 2 offers a great battery life and you'll avoid the hassle of charging your smartwatch every second day.
If you happen to be a fitness enthusiast and want the smartwatch experience without spending too much, the previous-generation Honor Magic Watch (Review) is a good pick too. As for alternatives, the Huami Amazfit GTS and its Amazfit GTR sibling are worth checking out. If you want to spend as little as possible, the Amazfit Bip and Amazfit Verge Lite (Review) are what you should look at.