So, as you've probably realized from the short sentence at the beginning, this watch is extremely similar to the Huawei Watch GT 2. I reviewed the Huawei Watch GT 2 back in December, and used it for a bit after the review. Therefore, I do have a really good point of comparison between the two.
When I say "extremely similar", I mean "almost identical". That does not go only for its hardware, but software as well. Not only do these two watches share excellent hardware, amazing battery life, and os on… but they also share the same software-related issues. Don't get me wrong, the software is pretty good, but there are some annoyances. That's what we're here to talk about, of course. So, if you're interested in the device, read on.
The HONOR MagicWatch 2 is sturdy, great-looking, and perfect in terms of size
The HONOR MagicWatch 2 is made out of stainless steel, just like its sibling. It comes with two physical buttons (which are great, by the way, very clicky) on the right side, and it's not too heavy, but it does have a bit of heft in it. That's a good thing, for me personally, as I like the middle ground when it comes to watches. Do note that I've reviewed the 46mm variant of the watch, while there is a 42mm variant as well. The 42mm model is more suitable for women due to its size, but it's meant to be worn by everyone. If you prefer smaller watches, the 42mm variant is a good call.
The 46mm variant of this watch is not too big, at all, at least for me. My wrists are average in size, and this watch fits perfectly. It comes in two variants, a silver-colored model comes with a brown leather band. The black variant, which I reviewed, includes a black silicone band. This watch can be worn in both sporty, and not so sporty occasions. It really is a great blend in terms of its design. For sporty folk, though, that silicone band would be a far better choice than the leather one.
Speaking of which, it's a 22mm band, and it comes with a quick-release mechanism. You can swap it for any 22mm watch band, basically, without a problem. The design of the connection points is perfect for pretty much any watch strap, as it's far enough from the main portion of the watch body. I did slap a leather band on this watch for the part of my review, and enjoyed using it with both silicone and leather bands. The watch feels really sturdy, and I'm really glad HONOR opted for 316L stainless steel here, instead of aluminum.
It's almost identical to the Huawei Watch GT 2
Now, if you put the HONOR MagicWatch 2 side-by-side with the Huawei Watch GT 2, you'll notice a ton of similarities. In fact, it's easier to find things that are not the same, as there are only a couple of them. The top button does come with a carved in circle, which is red-colored, on the HONOR MagicWatch 2. That is not the case on the Huawei Watch GT 2. The glass on top of the display is also less curved on HONOR's smartwatch. Those are basically all the differences here, other than that, they look the same. You can check them out side-by-side in the gallery below
The display is bright, vivid, and has good viewing angles
The HONOR MagicWatch 2 has the exact same display as its Huawei sibling. We're looking at a 1.39-inch 454 x 454 AMOLED display with 326 PPI. This is one of the best displays on a smartwatch that I've seen. It's quite vibrant, the resolution is more than enough for its size, and it's quite visible outdoors. I literally do not have a single complaint when it comes to the image output on this display.
Even the digitizer is tuned a bit differently on this watch. It seems like it's a little bit more responsive to the touch than the Huawei Watch GT 2 was when I used it. It tracks my finger a bit better, but I still don't like it all that much. When scrolling through notifications, it tends to scroll way too far, and I sometimes accidentally tap on a notification. It needs further tweaking. The slopes on the edges of this display are a bit less pronounced than on the Huawei Watch GT 2, and that's a good thing. Rolling your finger over those edges and interact with the display feels great… it's a really smooth transition.
The display is circular, obviously, and that is my preference when it comes to watches… though it may not be yours. All in all, the display on the HONOR MagicWatch 2 is great in terms of colors, sharpness, and brightness. The interaction with it could be better, but that's something that can easily be fixed with an update.
The performance is not an issue thanks to the Kirin A1
The performance on the HONOR MagicWatch 2 is pretty much the same as on its sibling. That's not a bad thing at all. The watch handled every interaction without a problem, it remained fast throughout the whole usage span for me. The watch did skip a frame here and there, but that's not something that will upset anyone, basically. It did not lag or anything of the sort, and that's thanks to the Kirin A1 that is included on the inside.
That chip is great for wearables. It not only offers great performance, but it's also very power efficient, which is something we'll talk about soon. I didn't really get a game installed on this watch to be quite honest, I don't even think it's possible right out of the box, but for everyone you'd usually do on a smartwatch, the performance is spot on. Software is a bit of a different story, though, and that's something we'll talk about next.
Software is its sore point, and yet a couple of updates could drastically improve things
Let's start with the bad, shall we. Software is kind of a sore point on the HONOR MagicWatch 2, though not all of it. Hear me out, though, it's not as bleak as it sounds. Do not expect an app store from which you can download apps, or anything of the sort. What you see is what you get here. That would be perfectly fine for the vast majority of users, if not for bugs, and lack of functionality in some parts of the HONOR MagicWatch 2's software. Well, to be quite honest, it's the notifications part of the software, the rest of it is pretty good.
Let me give you a couple of examples. When I flip the switch, and activate a podcasting app, the first two notifications on the watch are of that podcast app. It's probably because it's playing in the background, and there is an active notification in the notification shade. Still, that should not be the case, especially not a double notification. If I receive a message while I'm listening to a podcast and walking, raising my wrist won't show me that message, but the podcast notification in the form of a notification. At that point, I have to hit the home key, and swipe up twice to see the newest notification. That is just not something that should be happening, at all.
You cannot use this watch to respond to notifications, in any way
Also, there's no way to respond to a notification. If you receive any sort of message, from anyone, you won't be able to respond to it. This software does not support that just yet. Notification icons for some apps are miss-represented. For example, if you receive a message from Viber, a Viber icon will not appear on the watch, but a default message icon. That happened for several apps, actually.
You cannot swipe away a notification before you tap on it. So if you enter a list of your notification by swiping up, you won't be able to swipe away a message before you directly tap on it. Also, it would be nice to see those message cards to be separated, this way they just blend in with the background. That's not a direct issue, though, just a preference on my part. Another annoyance when it comes to notifications is the fact that you need to scroll all the way to the down of the list to dismiss them all. Granted, that is the way WearOS works as well, but it shouldn't.
If you dismiss a notification on your phone it won't disappear on your watch & vice versa
The last notification-related annoyance that I've experienced has to do with syncing. If you dismiss a notification from your watch, it will not be dismissed from your phone, and the other way around. That is not ideal, at all. I would really prefer for that to be possible, or at least for Huawei / HONOR to give us an option in the settings. On top of everything, you have to make sure the Huawei Health app is not bogged down by your phone, otherwise your watch won't recognize if you're playing music on your phone. That way, you won't be able to control your music via the watch. Make sure that your phone is not optimizing (battery) the Huawei Health app in any way.
Now, I've talked about the bad parts quite a bit, but there's a lot of good things here as well. The raise your wrist feature is tweaked perfectly on the watch. It works in an instant. Yes, it will activate when you don't want it to from time to time, but that's the case on every watch. It is extremely reliable, though, and it will power on the display every time you want it to.
Notifications arrive immediately to your watch, no issues with Bluetooth
Notifications are delivered in an orderly fashion. You will not have any issues in that regard, everything will arrive to your watch as it does to your phone. There are also some really nice watchfaces included on the watch, and you do have an option to customize one of the phone's physical buttons. The menus on the watch are also well thought-out. Unfortunately, you do not have a lot of options when it comes to customization. You cannot tweak the UI that much, and that's a shame.
All in all, the software is kind of a mixed bag on the HONOR MagicWatch 2. If only some of those bugs got squashed, and Huawei / HONOR got some more functionality into the thing, it would be great. Honestly, I can see this software become truly great with only a couple of corrections for the things mentioned on this list. I do hope such fixes / features will come in future updates.
2-week battery life is possible with the HONOR MagicWatch 2
Battery life is the high point of the HONOR MagicWatch 2, as it was for the Huawei Watch GT 2. The company claims this watch can offer you 2-week battery life, and that is most definitely doable. If you don't use the heart rate sensor at all times, and sleep tracking, you can get two weeks out of this watch, for sure. Using those two features all the time will shorten that a bit, but the battery life is great no matter what way you spin things.
WearOS watches can provide you 1-2 days of battery life, maximum. The vast majority of them are good for a day, or a day and a half, so if you're annoyed by that, the HONOR MagicWatch 2 will surprise you. I'm actually so spoiled by this battery life, that I have a hard time switching to other smartwatches.
The watch comes with the same charging dock the Huawei Watch GT 2 does. In fact, it even has the Huawei logo on it. That dock will magnetize with your watch when it's close, and it will recharge it via the included pogo pins. The watch will not take long to recharge at all, though that's not exactly an issue considering you'll have to charge it every 10-14 days.
Fitness, sensors, speaker, microphone & more
The HONOR MagicWatch 2 comes with 15 goal-based fitness modes. Those modes include various things, from indoor and outdoor cycling, to indoor and outdoor swimming. There's plenty to choose from. I only got a chance to try a couple of them, but the outdoor cycling and running work really well. The interface is nice as well, and the watch will let you know of your progress from time to time (it has an included speaker).
When it comes to step tracking, it seems like it needs further tweaking. The sensor seems to be a bit too sensitive when it comes to this aspect. It tracked a bit more steps than it was supposed to, as it registered regular hand movements as steps sometimes. This is not perfect on any regular smartwatch, though, so… I didn't expect miracles here. For casual step tracking, though, it's more than adequate.
The SpO2 monitor is also included, by the way. It measures oxygen saturation levels in the bloodstream, if that is something you need. The Dual Satellite Positioning Systems are also included in the package, as is a heart-rate sensor. The heart rate sensor works really well, by the way. And yes, you can take this watch swimming, as it has a 5ATM water resistance rating. The female cycle tracker is also included, which is essentially a period-tracking calendar.
You can even play music directly from the watch. It comes with 4GB of included storage, and you can connect your wireless headphones directly to it. This may be a neat solution if you're working out without your phone. A microphone comes built into the watch as well, and the speaker is a bit tiny, but plenty loud. We don't think you'll have issues with it at all, just keep in mind it's a smartwatch speaker.
It is a great watch, with an acceptable price tag
So, is the HONOR MagicWatch 2 worth the asking price? Well, yes, in my personal opinion. This smartwatch has been priced at €159 at the time of writing this review, and it offers a lot for the asking price. If only HONOR would fix some of the software-related annoyances, the watch would have been even more compelling. We do hope that will happen in the near future. Some watches cost almost twice this much, and are no better than the HONOR MagicWatch 2. All in all, the HONOR MagicWatch 2 is a really compelling watch, and considering its similarity to the Huawei Watch GT 2, it's an even better choice than Huawei's option.