Honor MagicWatch 2 review: Better than the Apple Watch?

Huawei MagicWatch 2 review
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IA- Shopee 6.6

The smartwatch market continues to grow year after year, with shipment volume totalling USD47.34 million in 2019. This number is expected to reach USD117.51 million by 2025. Increase in health awareness has spurred demand for wearables, with fitness trackers and smartwatches doing everything from tracking your heart rate, sleep quality, nervous system, activity; even notifying users in an emergency. Since its debut in 2017, the Apple Watch has emerged as a clear winner and continues to lead the market with a dominating market share (~45 percent). That’s not to say that there is a lack of choice out there. One such alternative to consider is the Honor MagicWatch 2.

The Honor MagicWatch 2 is the successor to the original Honor Watch Magic (I know, bear with the semantic change) and as you may now, it’s a shared platform with the Huawei Watch GT 2. Launched at the tail end of 2019 in Malaysia, the Honor MagicWatch 2 comes in two case sizes—46mm and 42mm, both made from aerospace-grade 361L stainless steel.

Honor MagicWatch 2
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Thanks to Honor Malaysia, I had a chance to strap it to my wrist for two weeks. Has Honor brought the magic?

Design and build

First, aesthetics. The Honor MagicWatch 2 adopts a classic circular design that makes it look more like a traditional mechanical watch. The bigger 46mm comes in Charcoal Black and Flax Brown cases, while the 42mm variant gets Agate Black and Sakura Gold. The review unit was a 46mm unit in Charcoal Black, which I thought isn’t bad looking at all. It feels solidly-built plus there is a certain understated elegance to its entire demeanour. The watch feels light when strapped to the wrist without it coming off as cheap. Mind you, it weighs just 41g. Just strap it on and forget that it’s there.

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That said, I found the fluoroelastomer strap slightly cheapish in feel. Perhaps go for the brown leather strap if it bothers you (not good for exercise activities though). Overall, the watch is comfortable to wear over long periods, and even to bed, as I had done to test out its sleep tracking features. More about this later.

Moving on, located on the right side of the watch are two crowns—one brings up lifestyle features when pressed, while the other summons an extensive menu of workouts. At the bottom of the device are the heart rate sensor and charging pins.

Did I mention it offers 5ATM water-resistance? Yes, it’s swim-proof.

Hardware

The bigger variant of the Honor MagicWatch 2 has its advantages and not just in the aesthetics department. The bigger body houses a larger battery, display as well as a speaker and microphone. The touchscreen display spans 1.39 inches–a bright and crisp 800-nit AMOLED panel (454×454 @ 326ppi).

Under the hood, the MagicWatch 2 is powered by the new HiSilicon Kirin A1 chip which is the same chip that powers the Huawei Watch GT 2 and FreeBuds 3. The chip boasts Bluetooth LE 5.1, dual-frequency GPS and comes with 4GB of storage onboard. The built-in storage lets you store up to 500 songs and play music directly from the watch (up to 2GB).

Honor MagicWatch 2
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The chip works in tandem with a plethora of sensors including a heart rate sensor, atrial fibrillation reader, accelerometer, gyroscope, and barometer.

Finally, the battery on the MagicWatch 2 is rated at 455mAh, double that of the original Watch Magic. Honor claims its smartwatch can last up to 14 days with sleep monitor, heart rate monitoring and message notification activated daily; 90-minute workout with GPS every week; 30-minute music playing; and 30-minute of Bluetooth calls per week. 

Charging is via a small dock that snaps to the underbelly of the watch magnetically.

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Software

The proprietary chip works in tandem with LiteOS, Huawei’s operating system built for wearables. No, it doesn’t run Wear OS, but perhaps that’s a good thing seeing that a Google-based OS may also be affected by the US trade ban. The OS itself is snappy and intuitive but unlike the Apple Watch or Wear OS-based smartwatches does not have an app ecosystem. So, no, you can’t install Spotify, Instagram, Twitter and all that jazz to extend functionality, unfortunately. That said, the watch has pretty much all you need to get started.

It has the basics covered—alarm, timer, notifications, sleep tracking and a whole host of fitness modes. It supports an exhaustive list of goal-based fitness modes including eight outdoor and seven indoor sports ranging from running, hiking, cycling, triathlon to swimming, free training and rowing (machine). The watch also offers 13 professional indoor and outdoor running courses–from beginner to advanced levels. This is complemented by a virtual pacesetter with real-time actionable advice to ensure you meet your running goals.

Huawei MagicWatch 2 review
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With Huawei’s TrueSleep 2.0 technology, the Honor MagicWatch 2 can precisely track and diagnose six types of sleep disorders and provide over 200 corresponding suggestions tailored to your sleeping habits, to improve your sleep quality. This might even put the Fitbit to shame.

Huawei TruRelax technology tracks your stress level and suggests breathing exercises to calm you down. Additionally, Huawei TruSeen keeps an eye on your heart rate 24/7 and send you an alert if it goes above or below normal levels.

With water resistance up to 50m, the watch monitors your heart rate underwater as well as record your SWOLF score, distance, speed and burned calories.

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Navigating through the watch menu is pretty easy—swipe down for a control panel, swipe up for notifications, swipe right for Activity, Weather, Music Player and AliPay (which doesn’t work here). Hold down on the watch face for a couple of seconds to change your watch face. Press on the top crown to bring up lifestyle features or the bottom for workouts.

Making sense of the entire swath of health and fitness features (and also to manage the watch) is the Huawei Health app. The great thing about the app I discovered was that it comes with Android and iOS versions. I found the iOS app better looking and more intuitive, but some fitness features such as V02 Max readings are only available on the Android version. Interestingly, the iOS app plugs into Apple’s HealthKit which means more extensive health data at a glance. This is a huge plus, I felt, as I didn’t need to re-enter data such as weight.

Performance

Honor takes pride in the MagicWatch 2’s battery life and while I failed to hit the published 14-day claim, the 10-day use I got from a single charge is impressive. This was achieved with pretty much everything turned on—notifications, GPS, fitness tracking, always-on display. Definitely puts the Apple Watch to shame, this one.

The MagicWatch 2 is clearly targeted at the fitness crowd, built-in with an impressive range of fitness modes that offer a buffet of functions and tracked stats. Press on the bottom crown, select your poison and off you go.

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The running courses are pretty cool—they guide you through warm-up time, running, and then cooling down. I swear I was wearing a Garmin at one point. These guided courses come with audio, too, so you can have it play through the watch’s speaker or via Bluetooth headphones.

What I really like is how everything comes together in the Huawei Health app. The intuitive dashboard gives you all your stats at a glance—resting heart rate, steps, V02Max (on Android), weight, sleep, fitness data. In my opinion, the iOS app looks more elegant with cards vertically laid out. On Android everything looks a little squished. The upside of Huawei Health on Android though, you’ll have access to a couple of other health features like Sp02 tracking.

I put the watch’s sleep tracking to the test for a couple of nights and I come out mighty impressed with its capabilities. Huawei’s TruSleep technology delivers extensive data and the insight helps me understand how well-rested I am on a daily basis. I like that there’s plenty of additional information about the different stages of sleep available within the app. Not since the Fitbit have I been this chuffed by sleep tracking features.

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I didn’t get to test the GPS with an open run, but just so you know, workout records are available within the watch itself so you don’t have to depend on a tethered phone.

The heart rate monitor I felt, was a little inconsistent. Comparing it with my Apple Watch and Fitbit Inspire, readings seemed to be 10-20 percent off.

While the watch excels in the fitness and health department, it certainly falls short as a proper smartwatch. Firstly, it lacks an app ecosystem, so you can’t install third-party apps on it. Also, customisation options are limited e.g. watch faces.

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Another limitation I found was with notifications. Notifications themselves work flawlessly on the watch. However, you can’t click on them to view more details or even get a truncated version. It’s the most basic at best and I hope Honor/Huawei improves this moving forward.

The speaker on the watch is surprisingly loud and while I’d recommend against listening to music over it, it’s great for calls. The mic is decent by the way.

Pros

  • Elegant design and good build
  • Snappy and intuitive
  • Good integration with Android and iOS smartphones
  • Apple Healthkit support is a plus
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Great, bright display
  • Excellent Bluetooth range
  • Impressive suite of health and fitness tracking features
  • Swimproof
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Limited smartwatch experience
  • No third-party app support
  • Notifications
  • Lacks customisability
  • Strap feels slightly cheap
  • Some health tracking features are Android-only
  • Suspect heart rate monitoring accuracy

Pricing and availability

Honor MagicWatch 2 (46mm) in Charcoal Black is priced at MYR699 and is available on hihonor.com.my, Honor Experience Stores nationwide and the Honor Official Store on Shopee. The Honor MagicWatch 46mm in Flax Brown with Black/Brown strap retails for MYR749. There’s also the new Rose Gold variant going for MYR799.

Verdict

To its credit, the Honor MagicWatch 2 does bring some magic to your wrist. Clearly targeted at the fitness crowd, it offers an impressive array of health and fitness features. It helps that it’s good-looking and well-built, too. However, it falls short as a smartwatch and lacks some fundamental smartphone features you’d expect. That said, excellent connectivity, great integration with Android and iOS devices as well as incredible battery life puts it in good stead. An Apple Watch it isn’t but it’s packaged and priced perfectly as an alternative.


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  • Vernon

    Founder + Chief Editor

    Vernon is the founder and chief editor of Vernonchan.com. A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.

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