Honor Magic Watch hands-on review

Honor puts the Magic back into smartwatches by going small, not big

Honor’s stab at a fitness-focused smartwatch impresses with its compact size and striking colors.
Honor’s stab at a fitness-focused smartwatch impresses with its compact size and striking colors.
Honor’s stab at a fitness-focused smartwatch impresses with its compact size and striking colors.

Highs

  • Colorful, balanced design suitable for all wrists
  • Strong battery life
  • Built-in GPS
  • Varied strap and color options

Lows

  • No U.S. release
  • Shorter battery life than Watch GT

Watch making is not an exact science. Just because a timepiece has a round face and a strap, does not automatically mean it’s a watch everyone will want to wear. Additionally, while we’re used to touchscreens on smartwatches mostly measuring 1.4-inches, this is not the “ideal” watch size. It’s a technological constraint, and one we’re forced to live with.

The Honor Watch Magic is a perfect example of just how fine the line is between what makes a smartwatch attractive and wearable, and what doesn’t. It’s essentially the same as the Huawei Watch GT in that it has twin buttons on the right-hand side, a heart rate sensor on the back, and is made from a combination of plastic and metal. However, the Watch GT has a larger screen than the Magic Watch, and this makes a big difference in who will want to wear it, and how good it looks when they do.

Smaller screen, better looks

Honor has used a 1.2-inch, 390 x 390 pixel AMOLED screen on the Watch Magic, rather than the 1.4-inch on the Huawei Watch GT. This is a neat, sleek, smartwatch that fits naturally on the wrist, whatever its size. Because of the reduced body size, the side mounted buttons are also closer together, which helps with the watch’s proportions. Unlike the Apple Watch, the smaller watch face doesn’t look too mini on larger wrists either, showing Honor has got the balance just right. It has also chosen its colors well, with the dark blue model’s wonderful blue bezel a real standout.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The bezel is a nod to chronograph timepieces, and with the numbers around the edge and “Tachymeter” written in the top corner, the Watch Magic takes its design inspiration from the Tag Heuer Formula One. This is a strictly sporty look, which is great for the blue, black, and silver versions, but not so for Watch Dream, the name given to the pink, apricot white, and special red Vivienne Tam edition. These are clearly designed for women, as the straps are smaller than the blue and red models, yet the chronograph style looks a little out of place matched to these colors.

This is a neat, sleek, smartwatch that fits naturally on the wrist, whatever its size.

Elsewhere there are some great design touches. The color-coordinated band around the top button gives it more character, as does the textured edge of the body. We wore the leather and the silicone rubber straps, which were comfortable and attractive, and the 9mm slim profile of the Watch Magic saw it easily slip under our shirt cuff. It’s really light too, at around 32 grams.

The Vivienne Tam model’s leather strap has the brand logo embossed on it, but otherwise the watch appears the same. A double-tour wrap around version of the strap was shown during the presentation, but wasn’t on display for us to see.

Software and battery

Honor has also used Huawei’s Lite OS, the company’s new wearable device operating system introduced on the Watch GT. It seemed to operate slightly more smoothly on the Watch Magic than the GT, sliding between the main screens with ease, although we didn’t use it for long enough to say it’s consistently better than the Watch GT. It operates through swipes to the left and right, and up and down. It’s fast to access the main features, such as the heart rate screen and notifications, but it isn’t a feature-packed piece of software.

Like the Watch GT, the Honor Watch Magic is neither a full smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS, or a hybrid — it’s more closely related to a fitness tracker. That it puts these features inside a more traditional watch design than a fitness band makes it tempting, and there’s no doubt the Watch Magic’s style and comfort makes it wearable everyday. It’s also swim-proof and comes with specific stroke tracking functionality, plus it has built-in GPS, making it versatile for fitness fans too.

Honor says the battery will last seven days with 24-hour heart rate monitoring active, but the Watch Magic and Dream seem to be missing the long 30-day battery life of the Watch GT, presumably as a consequence of the smaller body and screen. This is a shame and while seven days is still better than most touchscreen smartwatches, it’s still not as desirable as 30 days.

Honor has worked its magic

Watches are personal items, and varied styles are essential as one size and shape does not fit all. Shrinking down the Watch GT to Watch Magic size makes it visually more appealing — something we’ve observed before with the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 compared to the larger Connected Modular 45 — and the slimmer, lighter body makes it more wearable for more people.

The Watch Magic’s style and comfort makes it wearable everyday.

The decision to just change the strap and accent color for the Watch Dream is an odd one. We’d rather have seen the Dream become its own watch, with its own design, rather than this basic alteration. We’re not sure who will buy the Dream, but applaud Honor for at least making an attempt to vary the Watch Magic’s appeal.

How much will you pay, and where can you buy one? Honor will release the Watch Magic and the Watch Dream in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, and Italy first, where it will cost 180 euros (around $200). The U.K. price has not been confirmed, but is likely to be around 180 British pounds. This is the same price as the Watch GT. It’s available to buy from January 22. A U.S. release has not been announced.

Deals

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Mobile

The best Honor View 20 cases to keep your midrange beauty intact

With power to rival flagships, great looks, and a stunning camera, the Honor View 20 is an excellent phone -- but it still needs protection from hazards. Here are some of the best Honor View 20 cases.
Wearables

Sony’s weird Wena isn’t a smartwatch, it’s a smart watch strap

Sony's Wena smart watch straps have been around since 2015; but the company has now decided to launch them outside of Japan, starting with the U.K.. The straps convert traditional watch straps into smart watches.
Social Media

Instagram to make giving easier with a Stories donation sticker for fundraisers

Instagram is preparing to launch a donation feature within Stories that would allow users to raise cash for a range of nonprofit charities. The company confirmed it's aiming to launch the donation sticker later this year.
Mobile

The Huawei P30 will zoom into view on March 26 in Paris

The Huawei P30 Pro will be announced on March 26, 2019. It has already started to leak ahead of this date, and expectations are high that the company will improve even further on the P20 Pro's camera.
Mobile

First phone specs reveal premium is the path for Vivo spinoff Iqoo

A new smartphone brand has launched. It's called Iqoo, and it's a sub-brand of Vivo, the Chinese device manufacturer owned by BBK Electronics. Excitingly, details about its first phone are slowly being released.
Mobile

Need speed? Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon X55, the world’s fastest 5G modem

Qualcomm is preparing for an even faster future: The silicon giant just unveiled a second generation 5G modem for smartphones, promising blistering download speeds as high as 7Gbps.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Home Theater

Accidentally aired Samsung ad shows Galaxy S10, Galaxy Buds a day before launch

One day before the launch event that is widely expected to contain both the new Galaxy S10 smartphone and the Galaxy Buds fully wireless earbuds, an accidentally aired Samsung TV ad from Norway confirms both products.
Mobile

The name of Samsung's folding phone may have been revealed a day early

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

The Razer Phone 2 is getting Android 9.0 Pie starting this month

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Deals

Apple brings back the iPhone SE with a $100 clearance discount included

Apple is offering the iPhone SE on their online clearance store once again. With discounts of $100, you can get a brand new unlocked iPhone SE for as little as $249. This offer is only available while supplies last.
Product Review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone is to cryptocurrency what the iPhone is to Apple Pay. It facilitates the payment, processing, and exchanging of cryptocurrencies on a smartphone, and surprisingly does it in a user-friendly way.