(Pocket-lint) - With its Watch 3 range, Huawei opted to go with the regular and Pro model split that we've seen work so well across multiple product categories. The Watch 3 is the cheaper model, whereas the Pro costs more but comes with a few additional features.
The Pro is bigger, features a different design, longer battery life, better location tracking technology, and is more durable. But is any of that enough to warrant the pretty steep asking price?
Design and dimensions
- Dimensions: 48 x 49.6 x 14mm / Weight (excl. strap): 63g
- 22mm leather or metal quick-release strap options
- Waterproof to 50m (5ATM rated)
- Titanium and ceramic case
The regular Watch 3 featured an elegant design with rounded glass curving seamlessly into a polished steel case on the front. The Watch 3 Pro is an entirely different animal. Yes, it's completely round, but apart from that primary case shape, everything else is flat lines and angles.
From the screen's glass lens, to the bezel around it, even the strap lugs, everything features the same style chamfered edges. It's attractive, in a brutally minimalist way. The metal case has no shine to it either. It's made from titanium, so has that dull grey and brushed look. Arguably the perfect material for this shape.
Titanium also has the benefit of being lightweight and durable. It's a sensible choice for a watch that's on the large side. With its 48mm case, it's definitely not one for smaller wrists. However, once on the wrist it doesn't feel big and bulky, nor heavy. It's comfortable to wear all day.
To complement that classic, uniform grey case, there's a simple round black bezel around the screen with classic 24-hour index markings on it. Similar in approach to the Tag Connected series of smartwatches.
Like the standard model, there are two buttons on the watch. The top one is a round, rotating digital crown that can be turned to scroll through elements on the screen, or clicked to either launch the app grid or to go home. The bottom button is neat, set out of the way, and clicks to go back.
The Classic model on review ships with a brown leather strap. It's a classic option, just as the name says, but we're left questioning the styling. It starts off being 22mm at the case end, but tapers down and becomes narrower. We think it looks too narrow, therefore a bit mismatched with the case being so big. Like a rhino balancing on a unicycle. We think Huawei should have gone with quite a wide strap - more similar to the flexible fluoroelastomer options it also has, which retain their width all the way along.
Thankfully, you're not lumped with this skinny leather strap forever. It features a quick-release mechanism that makes it really easy to remove and swap out for any other 22mm strap that might take your fancy.
We swapped the leather out for the wider flexible strap to use during running session, and ended up using that as the primary strap nearly the entire time because we prefer the look. As mentioned, it's really comfortable to wear all day and holds the watch securely too, which is ideal when you're on a long run and don't like the feel of your smartwatch shifting up and down as you pound the pavement.
It didn't matter what weather we took it out in either, thanks to the 5ATM waterproof rating. Its water-resistance to 50 metre depths ensures that it's not going to be put off by the sweatiest workouts or being caught in a rain storm while you're attempting to best your 10K time. You could even go for a swim.
Display and software
- Round-shape 1.43-inch AMOLED display
- 466 x 466 resolution (326ppi)
- HarmonyOS 2.0.0
Huawei's watch displays are superb, especially the AMOLED panel on the Watch 3 Pro. It's vibrant and bright, with high contrast levels, which means it's easy to see in most lighting conditions - even when outside. It even has smooth refresh rates to ensure on-screen animations don't stutter like they used to on the older Huawei models.
You get plenty of colourful watch faces to display on this gorgeous vibrant screen too. Huawei has created dozens of options, while also offering a marketplace where you can pay to install those created by others, which features what seems like hundreds of other options - most costing less than £1.
Our only disappointment with the pre-installed watch faces is that - unlike Apple, Samsung and even Garmin - you can't do much in the way of customisation. Some will let you choose different data to display in complications, but there's no tweaking accent colours or watch face styles here.
Like Huawei's own smartphone platform minus Google, there's clearly a lot of ambition and time going into the development of HarmonyOS for its smartwatches. Thankfully the lack of Google Services here doesn't necessarily detract from the key features of having a smartwatch.
For instance, it'll tell the time, show you your notifications, give you weather reports, wrist-based navigation on Petal Maps, plus track fitness and health. But it's still missing a few things that would put it on par with Apple and the new combined Samsung/Google platforms.
As an example, in the UK and Europe, there's currently no contactless payments available on the watch. You also can't install any popular music apps like Spotify or Deezer to it. Instead, you're limited to Huawei's own music service, which isn't all that great. And while it does have a wrist based version of Huawei's App Gallery for installing apps to the watch, the number of useful apps is small. The only useful app we found was Petal Maps which - when connected to a Huawei phone with Petal Maps installed - will guide you step-by-step as you navigate.
On the plus side, the watch software has most of the core features that you'd need to access most days. You can view your calendar agenda, record voice notes, or check on your health vitals. Whether it be heart rate, stress levels, temperature, or even launch into a breathing exercise. It's all there.
Fitness and health tracking
- 100+ workout modes
- 19 ‘pro' tracking options
- HR, SpO2 and temperature sensing
- Ultra-precise GNSS location sensor
- Barometric pressure, compass, gyroscope and accelerometer
When it comes to fitness tracking, particularly for running, it's likely the first company you think of is Garmin. But over the past few years Huawei has shown itself to be very good at monitoring health vitals and tracking activities. That's never been more true than with the Watch 3 Pro - which has all the sensors you could wish for and knows how to use them.
On the underside of the watch you'll see the heart of what makes a lot of it tick, the TruSeen 4.5+ sensor system. It features six LEDs and four photodiodes for capturing light information, all of which enable accurate all-day heart rate monitoring.
In our all-day measurements and during workouts the system certainly seemed accurate and consistent. It was a reliable metric to use for determining how hard a particular workout was, and measured within a beat or two per minute of what our trusty Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire was showing at the same time.
It'll also measure your SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation), and can be set to do so around the clock if you want. It will drain the battery more, but it's pretty efficient and won't completely ruin it. Especially apt for 2021, the watch can also be used to measure your skin temperature. Again, that's something you can enable all day if you want.
As with any good fitness tracker, you get all the basics too. It'll measure your movement and steps during the day to give you an overview of how active you've been. Plus, if you wear it at night time it even does a good job of tracking sleep. When you wake up in the morning you can dive into the health app and see how well you've slept.
Huawei Health will give you an overall sleep quality score and also show you periods of the night where you entered different stages of sleep. There are detailed breakdowns of elements like deep sleep, the number of times you were restless, awake, or up out of bed.
As for dedicated exercise tracking, it's accomplished here too. We used it to track running sessions over a few weeks alongside the Garmin Fenix 6 and found - in most instances - it tracked similar figures. Even on our longest 15.5km session, there was only 100m difference between the two.
The improved GPS performance the Pro offers over the regular model also means it's quicker to lock on to location. Sometimes even giving us the green light ahead of the Garmin. It was similar when it came to heart rate, cadence and pace, tracking within two or three beats, steps per minute or minutes per kilometre.
We like the way the Huawei Health app displays the data afterwards too. There's a big map, which you can use to generate a fun animation of your running route, with other tabs that let you dive deeper into some of the usual metrics.
If you're stuck for ideas on how to exercise, or lacking the motivation to decide on a route, Huawei Health can help you out here too. You can sign up to start a coaching plan for a set distance, such as 5km. And then, at the end of every month, it gives you a breakdown of how you've done over the past couple of months, showing you any personal achievements, how far you've run, and how active you've been. All in all, it's a well-rounded offering.
Performance and battery
- 5 day battery life (typical use)
- Wireless magnetic charger
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC
- 16GB storage
- 2GB RAM
There's no denying that battery life is likely the biggest draw for the Watch 3 Pro. Despite having that full-colour screen, plenty of features, and all-day health tracking, it will still make it through a workweek without needing to be recharged.
Given our experience with it, we'd say that's pretty accurate. We'd regularly go almost a full week between charges with the always-on display switched off. In fact, it's easy to forget that it does need charging - which is a world away from typical smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch Series 7, that often needs charging. And when it's empty the Huawei snaps easily and securely onto its magnetic wireless charging disc.
The Huawei Watch 3 Pro is an interesting proposition. On the one hand, it's crafted well from premium materials, is a great fitness companion, and can last nearly a week on a full charge. On the other, when you compare the platform to that of Samsung/Google and Apple, it comes up a little short on features - which might make the price tag a little hard to swallow.
With that said, there aren't many smartwatches out there which can outlast the Huawei Watch 3 Pro on a full charge, and few that give you the same depth and consistency of information when you use them to track running or other exercise sessions. In a way, it straddles the world between Garmin and Samsung, offering something in-between, a fusion of fitness and style, which is not a bad place to be at all.
With third-party music support and better third-party app offerings, the Watch 3 Pro would be practically perfect.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
If you're an Android user, the 2021 Galaxy Watch offers a much more compelling smartwatch-like experience, with rich graphics, customisation, contactless payments, and interactive notifications.
Huawei Watch 3
Huawei's 'standard' model arguably makes more sense given the price difference. It's an elegant watch with most of the same important fitness and health tracking features too.
Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 20 October 2021.