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Honor Band 5 Review – Great fitness tracking, Bad compromises

The budget-friendly fitness tracker Honor Band 5 excels at fitness tracking but has its cons

Reviewing the Honor Band 5 is a special moment for us because we’ve reviewed the Honor Band 3 and Band 4 as well. Using three devices of the same series is quite special, more so as we can also talk about the upgrades and how the Honor Band series has evolved.

Honor boasts of the Honor Band 5 to be its ultimate fitness band – with a better display, new exercise modes and new watch faces as an upgrade over its predecessor, Honor band 4. The band also sports a new SpO2 monitor which tracks oxygen saturation in your blood.

Honor Band 5 Review

At the time writing this post, we’ve used the Honor Band 4 for a couple of months and Mi band 4 for a couple of weeks as our daily drivers. Let’s see where Honor Band 5 stands out.

A little note – we used the Non-NFC variant of Honor Band 5 for the review. Except for the NFC part which is used for payments, the remaining functionality of the Band remains the same.

Specifications

  • Dimensions:  43 × 17.2 × 12 mm (body size)
  • Screen size: 0.95-inch
  • Water-resistance: 50 meters (5 ATM)
  • Weight: 23 grams
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Optical heart rate sensor, Pedometer, 6-axis sensor, IR Sensor, SpO2 sensor [?] , etc.
  • Display: AMOLED
  • Charging: USB + Charging dock
  • Battery Capacity: 100 mAh lithium-ion
  • Battery life: 14 days (claimed to be)
  • Color variants:  Black, Blue, and Pink. a.k.a (Meteorite Black, Midnight Navy and Coral Pink)

In the Box: Honor Band 5, Charging Dock, Charging Cable, Quick Start Guide, Safety Information, and Warranty Card.

Build and Looks

It looks really similar to its predecessor. No, scratch that. It looks exactly like Honor Band 4. Zero changes in the design sans the new Honor logo. It has a 2.5D Glass AMOLED Display and the rubber strap looks thin and delicate but with our experience with the Honor Band 4, we can confirm it lasts long. It has pins for the charging port and sensors to the rear.

It has a circle-shaped button on the screen which acts as a home button. It doesn’t look very premium but is aesthetically decent and fits perfectly. We’ve been using it for a while and we don’t see any scratches on it as of now.

If you are thinking about customizations to the Band, there a variety of straps for Honor bands available in the market now.

Setup and Software

For setup, syncing the Honor Band’s data to your phone or to update the firmware, you need to install the Huawei Health App. It is arguably the best compared to its competitors. The recent updates only help it’s case further.

Talking about the initial setup, here are the steps to follow,

Initial setup for Setup Honor Band

  • Connect the Honor Band to the charging dock and connect it to a power source (charger or a power bank), this will turn on the band.
  • Download the Huawei Health app on your phone. After installation, hit the top right button click on Add> Smartbands > Honor Band 4/5> Pair.
  • Hit the tick mark on your band to accept pairing and that’s it. Your band is paired with your phone. It initially checks for any firmware updates and will install them automatically.

Software

Before we jump into the Honor band 5’s software, let’s talk about the Huawei Health App which is not only necessary for the initial setup, but also to sync fitness data, send notifications from mobile to the band, update band’s firmware, etc. We have 4 sections in the new Health App v10.0.0.

The first section, Health shows you a summary of your fitness which includes Step count, Exercise records, Heart rate, Sleep and Weight. Hitting any option will give more information about that particular fitness data. There is also an option to test your stress, but it doesn’t work with the Honor Band.

From the Exercise tab, you can start Outdoor Workouts such as Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Walk, and Cycle. You can even set a training plan if you are planning to run longer distances.

In the Devices tab. you can check your connection and paired devices, add a new device. Clicking on the paired device will let you access more options for the device. You can turn on and off settings, control notifications and also sync watch faces from the device settings.

In Me tab, you can check your profile settings and other settings. There are also options for Weekly/Monthly reports and Achievements which are always empty. Not sure how they work.

In Band 5, it has the following menu options and if you keep sliding up, the following options show up.

  • Time
    • One tap – Bluetooth connection status, Battery Percentage, Messages Icon(Notifications) and Weather.
    • Long Press – Change the watch face.
  • Step Count – with Goal completion
    • One tap – Stepcount, Calories burned, Distance walked in km, Active time and Time spent sitting.
  • Heart rate
    • One tap – takes around 45 seconds, shows your stable heart rate in BPM after displaying your heart rate several times during the process.
  • SpO2
    • One tap – requires you to strap the band to your wrist tightly; takes a minute and displays oxygen percentage in blood and heart rate.
  • Time Slept
  • Workout – Selecting any modes below will start tracking the workout after you set targets and time intervals to notify. (* – newly added)
    • Outdoor Run
    • Indoor Run
    • Outdoor Walk
    • Indoor Walk *
    • Indoor Cycle
    • Elliptical *
    • Rower *
    • Pool
    • Free training
  • Messages
    • One tap – Shows all notifications enabled up to a maximum of 10, stacked up. Notifications get deleted once you open them in the band. Otherwise, the recent 10 notifications will be in the messages tab even if you open them on your phone.
  • More
    • Timer
    • Stopwatch
    • Faces – Has 9 preloaded watch faces
    • Find phone – Rings your phone when connected by Bluetooth
    • Brightness – Up to 6 levels
    • Screen On – Keeps your band’s display on for 5 minutes
    • Battery – Shows battery percentage of the Band
    • System
      • Reset
      • Restart
      • Power Off
      • Regulatory
      • About

Though it has new features, the Honor Band 5 follows the same software flow we’ve been seeing since the Honor Band 3. With increasing features for each variant, the complexity of menu flow increases too. However, it is easy to understand and on a whole, it works fine. You can use the Function Customization option to remove a few sections of the menu, and also sort them in the order you want them.

Performance

For day-to-day usage, you won’t notice any performance hiccups in the band. The transitions during navigation may make you feel the band is slow when compared with its competitors like the Mi Band 4, but it’s not. When your phone and band are connected by Bluetooth, you can check notifications that are enabled from the Health App and also, hang up incoming calls.

Once you enable notifications from messaging apps like WhatsApp, however, it is an entirely different story. If there’s ever an active conversation going on in a Whatsapp group with a rapid inflow of messages, the Honor Band struggles to display notifications. It often gets stuck and takes a second or two to recover.

This notification issue has been persistent since the early Honor Band 3 and is yet to be addressed by Honor. It is slow and just not good. We reckon its not just a software optimization issue but also a hardware one. As far as we know, these fitness trackers have very little internal memory to store data – 20MB, if that. The memory of the Honor Band 5 is not listed anywhere, not even on their official site. It’s obvious competitor, the Mi Band 4 has 16MB of internal memory and handles notifications like a champ. Make of it what you will.

Notifications apart, all the other features work great. It has features like Stopwatch, Timer and the new Screen on – which can be considered the always-on display on a budget. The always-on display means the watch display is always lit, which, in case you are not aware, most budget fitness trackers or smart bands do not offer. They usually only light-up by your wrist movement. Honor, for the first time, makes an attempt to provide an always-on display, though only for five minutes.

Fitness Tracking

The Band 5 tracks your step count, workouts, heart rate, sleep just like its older variants. it does sport the new SpO2 monitor though. This tracking part is where the Honor bands always seemed to be better compared to their competitors. We also reckon Honor Band 5’s tracking part is completely cloned from the older Honor Band 4, perhaps the same code base or the same underlying hardware or maybe both. We used the Honor Band 5 and Band 4 together, the results are pretty close to each other. Which is not to say the tracking is bad. In fact, we suppose both the bands are pretty accurate in calculating metrics.

Step Count

Honor Band 5 tracks your footsteps count and in the HealthApp you can find the number of steps walked in each hour in detail. As I told in the above section, you can find step count on your watch face and can also find distance walked in kilometers in the step count menu. Honor claims the accuracy of step count can be improved if your phone and band are always connected together. It clubs both the readings together for more accuracy. Most of the time, however, it seems to do a good job of excluding hand movements.

Workout Tracking

It has 9 workout modes. 3 more than its older variant. Out of these 9 workouts i.e Outdoor Run, Indoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Indoor Walk, Indoor Cycle, Elliptical, Rower, Pool, and Free training I tried Free training, Outdoor Walk and Outdoor run. You can track workouts such as Outdoor Walk and Outdoor Run with GPS when your Band and phone are connected by Bluetooth. Not only that, but you can also see the route you walked, but it also improves the accuracy of the distance and other metrics.

No matter what workout you track, it displays the basic details such as Duration, Calories burned and Chart which shows a graph of Heart rate during your workout. It uses heart rate readings and based on the type of workout it will calculate the calories burned using some math.

It is obvious that the Outdoor workouts are accurate with GPS. I’m not a fan of carrying mobile during workouts. The difference in metrics with and without is trivial, when compared with its competitors.

We’ll update the screenshots and provide more insights after testing the Band 5 with multiple workouts.

Heart-Rate Monitoring

Honor’s TruSeen technology says it uses AI-driven algorithms for high-precision readings and infrared technology, both for continuous heart rate monitoring and workout tracking. You can turn on Continous Heart Rate monitoring feature from Devices > Honor Band 5 > Continous Heart Rate Monitoring > Smart and Realtime. (Anyone of your choice). It displays resting heart rate and the complete graph of heart rate for the time it is enabled. It consumes a lot of battery and we personally didn’t find this feature very useful. It may be relevant for people with cardiac issues, who can even enable notifications for high and low heart rate alert.

Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking! We love this feature of smartbands. The Honor Band 5 tracks your sleep using its TruSleep technology. It displays time slept on your band and when synced with your phone it provides more metrics such as Light Sleep, Deep Sleep, and REM Sleep. Except for some rare cases where it considers sitting idle for some time where it considers your body posture as sleeping (watching a movie on your phone), it is precise most of the time. Though the graph seems a little complex for us, the stats below help us understand our sleep better. The best part of Honor bands is, they even track your mid-day naps.

Battery life

Honor claims 2 weeks of battery life i.e 14 days BUT turning off Sleep monitoring, Heart rate monitoring, and raise to wake screen. What’s the point of buying this by disabling all the features? Honor says that’s the sacrifice you have to make for the battery.

With normal usage, you can get it for 7-8 days and with continuous heart-rate monitoring, you can get up to 5 days of battery.

New features!

With firmware update 1.1.0.96 Honor brought two new features- the SpO2 functionality and Music Control.

Music Control

Talking about music control, when your phone and Band are connected, you can control music playback and volume of your phone from the Band. You check the name of the track, can pause, play, go to previous or next track, control volume from the Band.

The buggy music control – Doesn’t show the name of the track name sometimes.

It’s not perfect, it doesn’t work as it is supposed to sometimes; noticeable lags, issues with track names and becomes numb sometimes. Honor gave an update later to improve the music control, yet it didn’t improve the functionality.

What’s SpO2?

SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, an estimate of the amount of oxygen in the blood. More specifically, it is the percentage of oxygenated haemoglobin (haemoglobin containing oxygen) compared to the total amount of haemoglobin in the blood (oxygenated and non-oxygenated haemoglobin).

– Withings.com.

We’re no experts on this topic, but all you need to know is the SpO2 sensor’s output is blood’s oxygen saturation level and it should be more than 90% all the time for a healthy person. Though Honor says it shouldn’t be considered as a medical instrument, we believe these readings may give an insight into bad health.

You have to fasten your Band tightly and the important thing is that your hand should be still when you try measuring the SpO2 reading. Else the monitoring stops and prompts to fasten your band tightly. And that’s it you’ll get the Oxygen Saturation percentage and Heart rate after 10 seconds and keeps monitoring till a minute.

When the heart rate is being measured, it emits green light to the rear of the Band 5 and for SpO2 it emits green and strong yellow light.

Updates

As of now, Honor has given about 3-4 updates over the last month. They added SpO2 and music control functionality in the updates. We’re really impressed by how Honor enabled SpO2 functionality over the update, instead of a half-baked functionality during release. Even the Huawei Health App was updated to version 10, and it looks more beautiful and organized now.

We guess Honor changed its mindset over the firmware updates. They gave an update to the older Honor Band 4 just after Honor Band 5 was launched, which they ignored to fix the Band 4 bugs for about 6 months. Also, their support forum now has gradually improved over time. We’re still skeptical if Honor provides few updates for bugs in the Honor Band 5 later or is this just their regular game of providing updates during the beginning and completely ignoring later.

In our humble opinion,

Honor Band 5 has the best fitness tracking system in this price range. Yes, it is better even than Mi Band 4. For anyone who wants a fitness tracker to track your workouts, Honor Band 5 is the best for you. Just go for it if you have the budget. Apart from the fitness features, except for a better battery and better music control, the Mi Band 4 doesn’t offer anything more than the Honor Band 5.

But,

How’s this even an upgrade to the Honor band 4? Except for the SpO2 monitor and Music control, new Workouts and Watch faces. Out of which we believe most of them can be pushed by an update to the older Honor Band. Why doesn’t Honor care about improving the battery of the Honor Bands? The 100 mAh of Honor Band 4 is still the same in Band 5. While its competitor boasts a 20-day battery life, this one struggles to make at least a half of it.

We’re just saying that the Honor Band 5 is good but is not a worthy upgrade from its older version. If you don’t have the budget for Band 5, you can still go for the Honor Band 4. You will miss the SpO2 and Music Control features, a few watch faces if you really care. For the new workout features i.e Indoor Walking, Ellipitical and Rower if the calorie count is the one that matters for you, the Free Training mode will still help.

Honor Band 5 Review – Great fitness tracking, Bad compromises
Buy now!

Written by Suryanarayana Murthy

Computer Grad. Web Nerd. Tech Enthusiast. I run this blog 😎

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