Honor Magic Watch 2 review: All about the battery life

The smartwatch has been slowly undergoing a transformation in recent years, from smartphone companion and notification station to high-powered fitness tracker. The Honor MagicWatch 2 is a fine example of where this metamorphosis is heading.

It has all the key hardware features of a traditional smartwatch – a full colour screen, stylish stainless steel casing and an operating system that delivers notifications to your wrist from your smartphone – but it combines this with a strong focus on fitness and training.

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Honor MagicWatch 2 review: What you need to know

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu looking at the pictures, there’s a good reason: the Honor MagicWatch 2 is, essentially, the same as the Huawei Watch GT 2, which we’ve already reviewed. It looks similar in design and has the same vivid AMOLED display. Not only that, but it runs the same LiteOS software and even syncs to your smartphone using the same Huawei Health app.

Naturally, it tracks all the same things as the Huawei wearable with a heart-rate sensor for pulse monitoring, plus an accelerometer and gyroscope for tracking your steps and your sleep. There’s also GPS for tracking your location and pace/speed and the watch also has a speaker that it uses to encourage you while you exercise.

Like the Huawei Watch GT2, the big sell with the Honor MagicWatch 2 is battery life. This is quoted at up to 14 days, which is much longer than equivalent Android Wear smartwatches or the Apple Watch. The downside is that you can’t install apps on the watch or connect it to many third-party fitness platforms.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review: Price and competition

The Honor MagicWatch does have limitations, however, you may be prepared to put up with the odd feature limitation when you hear how much it costs. It has a list price of just £160 and, at the time of writing, was available at a discounted price of £140, which is fantastically reasonable.

To put this in some kind of context, iPhone users can pick up an Apple Watch Series 3 for £199. It’s still a great all-rounder and the best choice for iPhone owners on a budget, but battery life isn’t in the same league as the MagicWatch 2.

Alternatively, the Fitbit Versa 2 is now available for around £170 to £190 but it has no GPS of its own. And if Wear OS is your thing you can pick up a Mobvoi TicWatch E2 – our current favourite in that space – for around £145.

If you want to start taking running or other sports more seriously, Garmin’s wearables range is a great place to start. The Garmin Vivoactive 3, although a generation old, is still an excellent option and costs £149. It has great battery life, looks good on the wrist and does a fine job of tracking a multitude of different sports. It doesn’t have the vivid AMOLED display of the MagicWatch, however.

Honor MagicWatch 2 review: Design and features

As far as the way it looks, the Honor MagicWatch 2 has to be the most attractive smartwatch we’ve come across at the price point. It’s made from stainless steel and plastic and it’s available in two sizes.

The 46mm model we had in for testing has a large, circular 1.39in OLED screen with a resolution of 454 x 454 and a pixel density of 326ppi and sits wide and flat against your wrist. The 42mm model, which looks a little more dumpy and has more rounded edges, has a smaller 1.2in display with a resolution of 390 x 390. It’s a simpler design and lacks the tachymeter markings surrounding the screen.

Both models have two buttons protruding along the right edge of the watch casing and utilise standard spring-pin wristband fittings, so they’re compatible with pretty much any strap you might care to mention.

Of the two, I have to say I prefer the look of the 46mm, mainly because of the large 1.39in AMOLED display, but also because of its proportions. It’s a big watch but it sits relatively flat against your wrist in comparison to a lot of smartwatches and it feels very comfortable to wear.

As far as features go, the MagicWatch is pretty comprehensive in what it’s able to track. With GPS, heart rate, gyroscopes and an accelerometer, it’s able to cover most mainstream activities, including indoor and outdoor running, cycling, walking and swimming. There are even modes for triathlon training and “climbing” although the latter may well be a bit of a translation snafu as the icon looks more like it refers to mountaineering than rock climbing.

There are a few other standout capabilities as well. First up is battery life. The MagicWatch 2 uses the Huawei Kirin A1 processor, which helps the watch deliver a claimed battery life of up to 14 days. That’s better than any watch we’ve tested with an OLED display by a long distance. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro lasts longer but it uses a different display tech – memory-in-pixel transflective – and is much more expensive than the Magic Watch 2.

And the watch largely lives up to these claims. I’ve yet to extract the full 14 days out of it because I’ve been using the GPS on and off to track my running, but 10 to 11 days between charges isn’t unusual, even with this workload.

There’s also 50m water resistance and swim tracking with, unusually, heart rate tracking while you swim. Plenty of fitness trackers don’t offer this facility, so to see it in a sub-£200 smartwatch is a bonus. The disappointment here is that, although it will count your laps and provide a SWOLF score (swim golf – a measure of stroke efficiency), the watch doesn’t offer stroke type detection. If that’s what you’re looking for you’re better off with the Apple Watch or a dedicated swimming tracker.

The final unusual feature is that the MagicWatch has a built-in speaker, which allows it to provide audible voice-over information when you go out on a run, a walk or a ride. Instead of simply buzzing at you, it will read out your pace, heart rate or heart rate zone information as you exercise, and will even yell encouragement and advice on running form as you go.

With a speaker this small, you might worry it would be too quiet to hear while you’re gasping for air but there’s enough volume here that the instructions are clearly audible most of the time. Indeed, the only time I struggled to hear the voiceover was in noisier environments such as near busy main roads; if your run is all noisy it’s possible to pair Bluetooth headphones with the watch, too, to make those instructions easier to hear.

Honor Magic Watch 2 review: App and software

The UI is pretty easy to get to grips with, too, if occasionally a little on the laggy side and the accompanying Huawei Health app is also impressively straightforward. If you dig around enough, it has hidden depths, such as the ability to tweak heart rate zones, either manually, or automatically, based on either a percentage of max heart rate or your heart rate reserve. The watch will also let you monitor your stress, although note that this facility is only available on the Android app just now.

Its biggest problem is that direct support for synchronisation with mainstream fitness platforms is limited currently to MyFitnessPal, Apple Health and Google Fit. While it is possible to bridge the gap between the various services using a data-management app such as Run Gap or HealthFit, it’s always better to have the facility to sync to services such as Strava or Runkeeper built right in.

Also worth mentioning is that, like the Huawei Watch GT 2, the Honor Magic Watch 2 is not a fully featured smartwatch. What this means from a practical standpoint is that you can’t install apps to extend functionality, there’s no support for Siri or Google Assistant and, although notifications are delivered to the watch, you can’t do anything with them once they’re there other than read them.

READ NEXT: Huawei Watch GT 2 review

Honor MagicWatch 2 review: Performance and fitness tracking

All in all, though, the MagicWatch 2 isn’t bad for £160 and its fitness features are comprehensive. It can capture not only standard metrics such as your heart rate, pace, sleep and steps but it can also estimate your VO2 max, recovery time and stress levels, all features normally only available on more serious fitness devices.

There’s no automatic activity detection here, more’s the pity, but there are plenty of options when it comes to tracking workouts. Press the top-right button and a number of different options emerge: you can pick from either a simple workout, which can be open or goal-based, or choose from a number of different “running courses”. The latter span a variety of workout types, from simple run/walk/run sessions for novices, to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and tempo runs for more experienced athletes. Slightly disappointingly, however, there’s no way of modifying these or setting up your own workouts from scratch as you can with Garmin’s advanced wearables.

Interestingly, it’s also possible to set up a series of these scheduled running courses based on a specific target and time period. If you want to run a 5km in six weeks, for instance, the app will set up a schedule of courses for you and add it to your workout calendar, setting you three to four sessions per week of increasing intensity,  aimed at getting you to the stipulated level of fitness within the time specified.

This is all well and good but how does the watch perform? In a word: quite good but not brilliantly. I tested the MagicWatch 2 across a number of runs and rides for several weeks against a Garmin chest belt and routes of known length.

In terms of heart rate monitoring, I found the Honor MagicWatch 2’s average and maximum heart rate readings to be consistently off – either higher or lower – than the chest belt readings and by fairly large margins of up to 17 beats per minute. The GPS was much better: although I found it recorded runs slightly longer than expected, examining the GPS traces showed it didn’t cut any corners and followed the route of my runs reasonably accurately.

Either way, tracking accuracy is good enough for general fitness work. What I really loved about the watch was that built-in speaker and voiceover capability. Although the voice translation sounds a little awkward (the accent is distinctly odd), I found it genuinely useful to hear my heart rate, pace and heart rate zone read out while I was exercising, instead of having to squint down at a tiny screen and have to take my eyes off the trail.

Honor Magic Watch 2 review: Verdict

The Honor Magic Watch 2 might not be as extensible as a proper smartwatch, then, but it has a nice blend of features that might be just the thing for casual fitness fans or anyone who likes the idea of owning a smartwatch but doesn’t like the short battery life associated with such devices.

Battery life is stupendously good for a wearable equipped with an AMOLED display and it looks smart and does a decent job of activity tracking and digital coaching. The watch’s main problem is that it isn’t particularly flexible and it isn’t extensible at all. If you can live without the vivid AMOLED display, Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 makes a better all-round smart fitness wearable.


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