During my fitness journey, I started with fitness tracking with the Fitbit Ultra which was a clip in device offering very basic step counting, followed by the Flex and then the original Charge HR, finally migrating to Garmin and recently the £600 Fenix 6. It has been an expensive evolution of tech that is for sure.
Over the years, Fitbit has lost its dominance, while the smartwatch market has grown exponentially eating away at the fitness tracker market, there are still a lot of users wanting something affordable to track their day to day activities and maybe offer a few smart features.
Currently, the cheapest Fitbit is the Inspire at around £65, and the Charge 3 is £129.99. Back in 2017, I reviewed some random names brands such as Letsfit and Letscom both costing approximately £30.
So the new Honor Band 5 which costs £30 represent immense value being one of the cheapest options on the market and from a reputable brand.
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Build and Design
The design is basic, similar to many cheaper fitness trackers; however, the 0.95-inch display is a vibrant and responsive AMOLED that can fit plenty of data on it (for its size).
It uses touchscreen navigation for everything, which is excellent the majority of the time, but mid-exercise can cause some issues.
As you would expect this is fully waterproof and can even track your heart rate while swimming (something Garmin has only just done on some of their watches).
Overall, it is small, discrete and the screen is excellent for its size.
Step counting is accurate, it gets similar numbers to the Huawei Watch GT 2, and normally falls short by about 1k steps compared to my Garmin on my dominant wrist, so probably about right.
One thing worth noting with step counting, there is no social feature with Huawei Health, so there are no leaderboards or challenges, something which helped FitBit be so successful.
Sports tracking is reasonably accurate if you have realistic expectations. It suffers from the same issues as the Watch GT 2 where wrist heart rate has accuracy issues depending on placement, activity and other variables. Overall it is good, you don’t get as much data as the Watch, that’s because this product doesn’t licence FirstBeat data, so there is no VO2 Max or some other features. Again, all to be expected for a device at this price point.
The data you do get is good enough though this includes your average and high heart rate chart, cadence and speed.
There is no GPS, but there is assisted GPS so it will use your phone to provide semi-accurate outdoor tracking.
One annoying aspect of this is the way you start and stop the activity. You have to swipe up four times to get to the exercise option. Not a huge issue, but when stopping you have to hold down the touch button for a few seconds, hit stop then accept. This is not ideal when sweaty or wet, and a hardware button could solve this issue.
With this using the same app as the Huawei Watch GT 2, it has the same issues with data exports and syncing. In the case of the Huawei Watch GT 2 this ruined a superb product. For the Honor though, no other £30 tracker I am aware of supports Strava, so it is not a significant loss. That being said, with the devices sharing the same software, if Huawei did enable it, it would completely transform my opinion of the Watch GT 2, and it would also put the Honor Band 5 way ahead of any competing product by a significant margin. It is just a software update for Android app, so I can’t see any logical reason why they wouldn’t want to do this.
All-day HRM helps give you a good indication of overall cardiovascular health, and the results of the Honor Band 5 appear to match up roughly with the Fenix 6, and identical to the Huawei. Their interpretation of resting heart rate appears to be a bit different to Garmin, but there is not a huge difference in it.
With this using the same app as Huawei, the calories counting is different than many other watches, it does not provide a total daily energy expenditure, but an activity expenditure, it is then up to you to know what your basal metabolic rate is.
Even then, it is hard to know if it is accurate at this, it appears to err on the side of caution giving lower readings than I would have expected. Calories counting, in general, is quite inaccurate. Typically, Garmin shows around 1300 active calories per day whereas Honor says 1000-1100 calories. Depending on your goals this could make the difference in about half a pound of weight gain/loss per week, and because of this, I prefer it when a device gives a lower reading.
Working out your basal metabolic rate or TDP isn’t particularly accurate either, online calculators guestimate the number but everyone will be different. So the conservative approach to calorie counting and no totals could be a sensible approach, compared to potentially misleading users.
I found the sleep tracking of the Huawei Watch to be superb, more accurate than many other devices I have used including the Fenix 6. The same applies here, it does a magnificent job. There is a weird quirk with sleep start time, I am not sure if it is my unusual sleep cycle, or if it just rounds up to the nearest hour, but every night it sets it at 8 pm (which is approximately correct).
It gives an excellent level of detail of sleep tracking, in particular, I have found that the deep sleep continuity score is something no other device offers. Garmin generally says I get no deep sleep, but yet says there is nothing wrong with my sleep. I am curious to how they gather breathing data, Spire Health and the Withings Sleep Mat do this, but they have sensors that can pick up your chest movements.
Pulse Oxygen Tracking
SpO2 reading is a new feature enabled by a firmware update. It is an impressive sounding feature, measuring your oxygen levels in your blood. You should have at least 90%, but most semi-fit people will have at least 95%.
While it is fun to test, there is not much practical application here, unless you climb mountains a lot. Your SpO2 levels will only really drop with respiratory issues, and the one that is most likely to go undiagnosed is sleep apnoea, but that would require 24/7 monitoring, and even then it is not very accurate, especially if you sleep sideways on your arm.
The most important function I need from a smartwatch is notifications, it is so handy to have something come through to my wrist, so I don’t have to get my phone out of my pocket, allowing me to ignore as much as possible when I am busy doing other things.
It is essential to customise what comes through to you though, or you will be bombarded with notifications. Honor/Huawei makes this easy, and I limit the notifications to Ring, Telegram, Whatsapp, calls and messages. It works well, and the little screen can fit a surprising amount of information on there, just as much as my much larger Garmin.
The Band 5’s 100mAh battery sounds comically small, but this is a tiny device with equally small power requirements. Honor claims it will last for up to two weeks on standby or six days, should you enable continuous heart rate monitoring or sleep tracking. From my experience, you should easily get a weeks worth of use out of it which is plenty.
There is only one realistic product that competes against this, and that is the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4, it is about the same price and has mostly the same functions. The Honor is arguably superior thanks to the pulse oxygen functionality, but it is not a huge difference. I have not used the Xiaomi but from what I can tell the Honor offers superior insight into your sleep.
The Chinese Xiaomi Mi Band 4 has NFC so that’s a consideration, but you would need to import it and get no warranty. The Mi Band 5 will launch with NFC internationally, but that’s not until June next year.
For the price, you really can’t fault the Honor Band 5, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is the only comparable product. I have not used that so I can’t say if it is better or worse, but there is no way it is significantly better, so the Honor Band 5 is a superb fitness tracker regardless.
Overall the Honor offers everything you could want from an affordable fitness tracker and is the perfect device for someone wishing to increase and track their overall level of activity. I see so many people get a Fitbit, or even Apple Watch, then barely use it, so at least with this, you don’t lose out on too much money if it is not suited to you. It will also make the perfect stocking filler for Christmas, and no doubt there will be some great buys during Black Friday.
While there is room for improvement, again due to the low price, everything is forgivable due to the fact no other product offers a superior solution.
Honor Band 5 Review Score
Overall - 90%
Incredible value for money offering almost everything you could want from an affordable fitness tracker
Last update on 2020-10-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API