Slashing the price off its latest fitness tracker, Honor has crafted a device that sacrifices very little and is sure to give its competitors a run for their money. At less than half the price of the cheapest Fitbit, the Honor Band 5 is almost too easy to recommend.
What is the Honor Band 5?
With its fitness focused ‘Band’ wearables, Honor has gradually been giving Fitbit a run for its money, and arguably hit a home run with last year’s Honor Band 4. The question then was, with so many things done right, where do you go from there? As the Honor Band 5 hits store shelves, it would seem as though Honor has had a tricky time in answering that exact question.
Yet, at the absurdly low price of £29.99 ($34.99), Honor has undercut Fitbit in a huge way to make the Honor Band 5 one of the most affordable fitness trackers on the market. On sheer value for money alone, it’s hard to imagine how Fitbit could respond, after all, the cheapest device in its lineup, the Fitbit Inspire, retails at £69.99 – and that doesn’t even have heart rate tracking.
Being at such a low price however, any scepticism surrounding its competency is justly warranted, but I’m happy to report that my time spent with the Honor Band 5 was an absolute blast.
Honor Band 5 – Design
Being privy to the knowledge of the Honor Band 5’s RRP, I had a bit of fun with colleagues and friends by asking them to guess its price. On average, £70 came up more than most suggestions, and after taking a good look at the Honor Band 5, it’s easy to see how someone might value it around that mark.
The ever-so slightly curved nature of the device’s main body, coupled with the stylish circular home button placed just below the screen, gives the impression that this is a fitness tracker with purpose, it knows exactly what it’s here to do without being too obtrusive.
While the Honor Band 5’s home button doesn’t have a physical click, or act as an led indicator – contrary to what I had initially expected – it does catch the light in a rather charming way, and is sure to turn a few heads.
Even though I do love a fair few of Fitbit’s products, I’ve never been a fan of how most of those products brandish the company’s logo like a dog tag. It’s always felt tacky to me – and a waste of valuable space – so to see Honor avoid doing the same is always a plus in my book.
With that said, the Honor Band 5 looks identical to its predecessor – which in turn never looked too different from the Honor Band 3 – although it’s hardly an issue if, like me, you were already a fan of that design.
The Honor Band 5’s watch band – with a single prong strap buckle – feels smooth against the skin and even features a textured design on the front-facing side, giving it a bit of additional flare over the average strap. There’s also a whopping 17 adjustment holes, meaning that the fitness tracker can already fit a range of wrist sizes with ease, straight out of the box.
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My only disappointment here is for the somewhat lacklustre free loop, which on occasion fell out of place and did a pretty poor job of keeping the watch strap where I needed it to be.
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Honor Band 5 – Screen
For its bargain price point, it would have been completely acceptable for the Honor Band 5 to pack an OLED display – after all, that’s what the Band 4 came with and that debuted at twice the price. To my surprise however, Honor has managed to stick an AMOLED display on this thing. How it’s managed to get away with it without cranking up the price is beyond me, but the effort deserves two thumbs up.
What we’re left with is a vibrant, slightly curved 0.95″ 2.5D screen, one that’s easy to read in direct sunlight and arguably the punchiest display I’ve ever seen on a wearable. Given the small size of the screen itself, any pixilation goes completely unnoticed by the human eye but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a tough time reading text and information.
Admittedly, some of the watch faces on offer are probably designed for people with more acute vision than myself, but I was able to get all the information I needed clearly by simply swapping to a different style. While we’re on that point, Honor has made leaps and bounds in offering a larger variety of watch faces this time around – although it didn’t seem like that at first.
In our review for the Honor Band 4, we noted the device as having just a meagre three watch faces to choose from. This minor annoyance seemed to repeat itself on the Honor Band 5, that is until an update just a few days after setup delivered dozens of options, and I’ve continued to see new watch faces being added to the selection ever since.
There are no physical buttons to speak of on the Honor Band 5, so the touchscreen is your main mode of interacting with the device. If you’ve had the chance to play around with the likes of the Apple Watch Series 5 or even the recent Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch, don’t expect the Honor Band 5 to match either of these devices when it comes to the fluidity of scrolling through menus.
For a £29.99 fitness tracker however, high-end level speed should not be at the top of your wishlist, particularly as the Honor Band 5 always responded to my touch, giving it a sense of reliability that is often lost on cheaper devices.
Honor Band 5 – Performance and features
It’s a testament to the advancements made by companies like Honor, Xiaomi and Huawei in the affordable smartphone space that an even more budget piece of tech like the Honor Band 5 can operate as smoothly as it does in application.
Everything feels responsive here, whether it’s scrolling through menus or waking the screen from its slumber, any delay between my input and the Honor Band 5 reacting is largely minimal.
Receiving immediate notifications on the wearable is easy enough, but I did encounter a noticeable amount of slowdown when going back to check messages that had previously appeared and since been logged under the ‘Messages’ section. Maybe it’s a subtle hint that I should spend less time listening to my smartphone, but it was irritating to wait a couple of seconds before I could read through any notifications I might have missed.
I’ve already mentioned the presence of heart rate tracking on the Honor Band 5, but following an update shortly after receiving the wearable, the band can now also hone in on the oxygen levels in your bloodstream, or, SpO2 for short. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t utilise the SpO2 feature anywhere near as much as I track my heart rate, but it’s still a welcome addition that can really help athletes to understand the importance of proper breathing technique when exercising.
Thanks to a water resistant body, the Honor Band 5 can be taken down to depths of up to 50 metres, plus you won’t have to worry about keeping it on your person during a sprint through the rain or even a quick shower.
Where things get really interesting however is with the ‘Huawei TruSleep’ tracking that’s built into the band. It’s one thing to take a quick glance at your wrist in the morning to know exactly how much sleep you actually had, but it’s a whole other world to open up the Honor Health App and see a detailed analysis of your circadian rhythm and what it means about your current state of mind.
For instance, the sleep tracking noted that I was waking up fairly frequently throughout the night and suggested that I might be drinking too much water before going to bed. Fair enough, I decided to follow the app’s advice and immediately found myself benefitting from a deeper sleep as a result. Receiving helpful advice like this from such an affordable piece of tech just blew my mind.
One feature that’s noticeably missing over the Honor Band 4 is Honor’s answer to Google Pay – AliPay. Given that our review unit of the Honor Band 4 utilised a QR code system in order to make payments (almost barbaric, I know), it seems as though Honor has also questioned its use by removing it completely from the Honor Band 5. Given that we weren’t major fans of AliPay on the Honor Band 4, its absence here is arguably for the best.
Honor Band 5 – Health and fitness tracking
Let’s finally get down to what’s really important, eh? After all, the key question here is, in spite of its cheap price, is the Honor Band 5 able to offer a fitness tracking experience that can compete on the market? I would argue yes, but not if weight lifting is the scene you’re into.
If running/walking is your preferred method of exercise then I can wholeheartedly recommend buying the Honor Band 5 over some of its more expensive counterparts. Outdoor results were pretty much spot on in terms of distance, and being able to check your heart rate during a run is always appreciated as a means of knowing when to slow down your pace.
There’s even a handy voice (available via the Honor Health App) that can let you know when you’ve hit various milestones – even if it did scare the life out of me when trying it out during an evening walk home.
Through the device itself, users can begin tracking one of nine exercises at any time, including rowing, cross training and indoor cycling. Strangely enough, tracking for outdoor cycling can only be activated via the app. It’s a minor grievance that’s more baffling than anything else.
Speaking of the Honor Health App, aside from the pretty detailed graphs and charts it can present post-workout, there’s also a section that offers free training plans. Most noteworthy, there are dedicated plans for runs starting at 5k, going all the way up to a full marathon. Given that these plans are included free of charge with the app, I can’t think of a better fitness tracker to offer runners who are on a budget.
Of course, for such a low price, untethered GPS is not among the Honor Band 5’s features. When connected up to your smartphone, tethered GPS tracking works just fine and I encountered no major issues or randomly listed excursions.
Honor Band 5 – Battery life
It might sound a bit dull, but if there was one aspect of the Honor Band 5 that I was most excited to test out, it’s the 14-day battery life as quoted by Honor. Having long been critical about the usually lacklustre battery life of smartwatches – especially if they’re ever expected to be used as sleep trackers – the idea of only having to the charge the Honor Band 5 once every two weeks was just too good to pass up.
Of course, to get a true sense of the Honor Band 5’s battery life, as it’s meant to be used, I kicked things off by turning on the ‘smart’ heart rate tracking feature – which adjusts on the fly depending on what you’re up to – and trying to get one (if not two) tracked exercises into a single day. The device was also worn throughout the night to get a proper read on my sleep cycle.
On that track, the Honor Band 5 was able to get through just over a week before I needed to dive towards the nearest socket. While that does fall fairly short of Honor’s quoted battery life, it’s still longer lasting than the likes of the Fitbit Charge 3, and a heck of an improvement over most modern smartwatches.
The charging cradle included with the Honor Band 5 does a great job of keeping the device in place, an issue I’ve repeatedly had with some of Fitbit’s wearables to the point where, even though the fitness tracker lay in the appropriate charging cradle, wasn’t connected in the right way and thus did not charge.
As a word of warning however, once the Honor Band 5’s battery hits 5%, all activity tracking is locked off. The watch face will still appear at the flick of a wrist but don’t expect to sneak in a cheeky jog before the juice runs out completely.
Should I buy the Honor Band 5?
With so many features on board including SpO2 tracking, a gorgeous AMOLED display and one of the most detailed sleep tracking programmes I’ve ever encountered on a wearable, the Honor Band 5 isn’t just a great recommendation for someone on a budget, it’s a great fitness tracker in its own right.
Slashing the price of its latest fitness tracker, Honor has crafted a device that sacrifices very little and is sure to give its competitors a run for their money. At less than half the price of the cheapest Fitbit, the Honor Band 5 is almost too easy to recommend.