The manufacturer Honor presented a new model, the GS3 smartwatch, at MWC 2022. It was supposed to combine an elegant design with a colorful and high-contrast AMOLED display and an impressive battery life. What the wearable actually has up its sleeve and why the smart watch is not suitable for all users is revealed in our Honor Watch GS3 review.
|Article name||Honor Watch GS3|
|Colors||Midnight Black, Ocean Blue, Classic Gold|
|Operating System Compatibility||Android|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, WLAN|
|Health features / sensors||Compass, gyroscope, heart rate, SpO2, sleep tracking, pedometer|
|Display||AMOLED (1.43 inches, 466 x 466 pixels, 326 PPI)|
|Water resistance level||5 ATM (50 meters)|
|Memory||Memory: unknown, 4 GB system memory|
|Battery life||maximum 7 – 8 days|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||12 mm x 45.9 mm x 45.9 mm|
|Price||€ 219.00 *|
Honor Watch GS3 review: the scope of delivery
The Honor Watch GS3 reaches you in a compact, white cardboard box. For the test, the manufacturer provided us with the sporty model in the color Midnight Black including a fluor elastomer wristband.
When you take off the lid, the smartwatch is revealed in all its beauty. In addition, we find the magnetic charging port, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, as well as the usual instructions and safety information in the box.
Design and workmanship
The simple yet classy appearance is one of the biggest strengths of the Honor Watch GS3. Our test model in the Midnight Black color presents itself rather sporty-chic, while the other variants (Ocean Blue and Classic Gold) achieve a more classic business look. However, they all look classy.
But let’s get to the design of the smartwatch. In our case, it is completely black. The core of the wearable is the 45.9 mm case, which stands out slightly from the matte-black silicone wristbands in a glossy black color. The monochromatic design runs across the entire body of the watch.
The only two buttons, found on the right side, also rely on a black color. This results in a uniformly simple look as if from a single mold. The thickness is also satisfactory with around 12 mm at the thickest point and 10.5 mm at the thinnest.
The Honor model is not a bulky behemoth like the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar (our review). Neither in terms of size, nor in terms of weight, which turns out comparatively low at 44 grams without straps and is on par with the Android smartwatch Fossil Gen 6 (our review).
The speakers for sound reproduction sit on the right underside, and we find a microphone on the left. There is not much more to see, at least not visually. A word about the wristband: it can be adjusted to a wrist size of 140 mm – 210 mm, and the two halves can be removed quickly and easily with the help of a metal pin.
Workmanship of the Honor Watch GS3
The workmanship of the Honor Watch GS3 is also pleasing. The materials feel high-quality and robust. Gaps are just as unnoticeable as sharp edges or imprecisely crafted components. There is nothing to complain about here: Excellent.
Of course, you can no longer match the feel or value of a Garmin Fenix 7. However, it simply costs 3.5 times as much as its Honor counterpart.
Setting up the Honor Watch GS3
The Honor Watch GS3 is only compatible with Android smartphones. Owners of an iPhone or Huawei device are therefore looking down the tube. The first step is to turn on the watch by briefly pressing the lower button.
Shortly after, we are greeted by the language selection menu, while the watch asks us to download the Honor Health app on the smartphone to continue the setup.
This is where things start right away. Registration is mandatory, data access to almost everything. Yes, we know that from smartwatches. Once we have specified the date of birth, height and weight, we can pair the watch in the app, which is immediately displayed in the selection menu. This works excellently and quickly.
In our case, the first thing that popped up was a hint for a firmware update, which we of course immediately triggered and installed. Despite the manageable size of less than 90 MB, this took a comparatively long time and was strangely downloaded and installed twice in a row. After that, however, that was it with the setup and you can start using the smartwatch.
Display and operation
The Honor Watch GS3 relies on a 1.43-inch AMOLED display, which is also touch-enabled across the entire surface and displays rich colors and contrasts. The resolution of 466 x 466 pixels and the associated 326 PPI are also excellent.
The display implements all inputs, from touching and holding to swiping and swiping gestures, very quickly and precisely, which noticeably benefits the handling. However, the automatic brightness sometimes dims too much, which leads to poor readability, especially outdoors. Alternatively, you can adjust the brightness in five steps. At most, the watch is really very bright, which I like.
In general, the operation is kept quite simple and can thus be learned quickly. Without you missing any functions. If you keep your finger pressed on the display, you can switch between installed watchfaces or adjust their widgets and functions.
Swiping down from the top opens a quick selection menu that shows the date, informs you about the battery level, lets you quickly jump to the settings, or transmits a beep to your smartphone in case you misplace it. Swipe from the left edge to the right to see steps, minutes of exercise, and calories burned.
Swipe again to reveal other indicators for music, weather, stress, and more. From the right edge to the left, on the other hand, leads to the heart rate measurement and returns the menu in the opposite direction. So stress, weather, music and activities.
The GS3 also has an always-on display, but it has to be activated first. The corresponding function is a bit hidden and not at all easy to find, as no real instructions are included with the watch:
You activate it in the settings under the subitem Watchfaces and Maps – Always On Display. This is not explained for lack of a real manual. A total of ten simple AoD options are available here. Including the note that the battery life is reduced by a whopping 50 percent when used.
Unfortunately, the wrist detection of the GS3 doesn’t really work well, which means that switching from the AoD to the normal display by moving it doesn’t work in 9 out of 10 cases. Besides the reduced battery life, this is a reason for me not to use the always-on display.
Notifications and buttons
A swipe up from the bottom edge brings the notifications to light. It is a bit of a shame that only the headlines are displayed here, for example of emails or WhatsApp messages. On the other hand, the fact that the Honor Watch GS3 is not capable of displaying emojis is rather acceptable.
There is also no option to react to notifications in any way or to quickly delete individual messages by swiping. Either you delete all notifications immediately or none at all. In addition, you cannot reply to messages or mails at all, unfortunately. Honor unfortunately does not offer an on-screen keyboard, such as the one in the Fossil Gen 6.
Let’s move on to the buttons on the right side. The upper one opens the smartwatch’s menu, from which you can, for example, start workouts, activate apps, use the compass and flashlight, or display the weather. It has a pleasant pressure point and serves as the “back” button in the menus, which immediately takes you back to the watch face.
The bottom button, on the other hand, allows you to start a workout right away. It has no use within the submenus, but you can customize its function in the settings and, for example, place a measurement, the music function or call list on it. I, for example, simply put the options menu on it for quick access.
Another drawback: Both buttons are not a real digital crown that can be turned, but simply buttons. Oh well.
Health and fitness: the sensors
As is typical for smartwatches, the sensors are also located on the bottom of the Honor Watch GS3. In order to record precisely, you should place the wearable relatively firmly on the wrist. The sensors themselves leave hardly anything to be desired.
The features include an 8-channel heart rate monitor with an AI engine, whose measurement accuracy is supposed to be over 97%. There is also a SpO2 sensor (blood oxygen saturation), dual-frequency GNSS (route tracking during outdoor training) and over 100 different training modes.
Including 12 animated fitness courses, as well as 44 animated demonstrations of fitness exercises. In addition, there is the obligatory pedometer, and there is also sleep tracking (called: “hibernation”). In short: everything the fitness heart desires.
I can also confirm the high accuracy of the sensors, especially in the area of heart rate measurement, in the test. It matches those of a classic measuring device. That fits. It is similar with the SpO2 measurement, which delivers a similarly convincing result. Very precise, although not medically accurate.
The health data or analyses on the smartwatch itself are kept very rudimentary. However, the recordings of workouts provide much more details. You get information about the distance covered, duration, calories burned, steps or the development of the heart rate.
The Honor Health app also provides a more detailed overview. This is not as in-depth as the real sports smartwatches like the Garmin model, but it offers more than enough information. In any case, the details are enough for me to get an overview.
The pedometer starts working after 20-25 steps, but then records the movements already made after the fact. So works accurately as well. Just like the sleep tracking, which detects the time of going to bed and waking up quite accurately.
Smartwatch features and technology
The fact that the Honor Watch GS3 can only be compared with a real smartwatch to a limited extent also becomes apparent quite quickly. To get straight to the point: You cannot install any apps. In other words: absolutely none.
Since a specially developed operating system is used here, there is no Google Store or other alternatives. NFC and thus the option for contactless payment is also not offered. The fact that you cannot react to notifications at all is also annoying.
However, the Bluetooth telephony function is solved well. When the wearable is connected to the smartphone, you can comfortably make calls from a distance of about 10 meters. And that with a really good intelligibility. Both for you, thanks to good-sounding (for a smartwatch) speakers, and for the other person, thanks to really good microphones.
Internally, you also have around 2 GB of storage space, where you can store music and play it directly through the GS3. This is also okay in terms of sound. Honor does not mention details about the installed chip and working memory, probably for a good reason. Basically, the operating system runs quite reliably, even if not always completely smoothly and with some delays now and then. But that is still within reason.
Is the Honor Watch GS3 a smartwatch at all? That depends on how you personally define the term. Technically, it is a watch with smart additional features. Practically, however, it lacks extreme extras that “real” smartwatches simply offer.
That means no calculator, no remote camera shutter release, no Google Keep, no Alexa, and certainly no games or entertainment apps.
Whether that’s enough for you, you have to decide for yourself. Personally, however, that is simply too little for a smartwatch worth over 200 euros. Especially in combination with isolated OS bugs or the unusable notifications.
Battery life of the Honor Watch GS3
Where the Honor Watch GS3 really shines, however, perhaps due to its low feature set, is in the battery life department. Although the 14 days of battery life issued by Honor are not even close to being feasible in normal use.
However, the battery still lasts for a good 7-8 days in the default settings with constant heart rate and irregular SpO2 measurement. With the always-on display disabled, mind you. And without real sports tracking. A good four days are possible with active AoD, and even less with constant GPS navigation.
Nevertheless, the battery life is absolutely impressive. But also the battery charging time, because thanks to Quick Charge, the battery is completely recharged from 0 to 100 percent in just one hour. 5 minutes on power is also enough for a whole day of use. Very commendable.
Honor Watch GS3 review: Conclusion
The Honor Watch GS3 reminds us in many places of the Huawei Watch GT 2 in terms of its range of functions, which has already been around for about three years. The proximity to the former parent company is clearly noticeable in the first Honor smartwatch.
However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. What I really like about the GS3 is the simple yet high-quality design. The watch simply looks good on the wrist and is not too bulky despite its 46 mm diameter.
The sensors also do a good job, all of them. The heart rate measurement is precise, sleep is recorded very accurately and the pedometer works reliably. I also like the display with its rich colors and high contrasts. The wearable also earns bonus points for its really strong battery life, thanks to which I do not have to put the device on the magnetic connector every day, but only once or twice a week.
On the other hand, the Honor Watch GS3 does not live up to the expectations of a smartwatch, at least for me personally. Neither can I download apps, nor make mobile payments or use any smart features.
In addition, there are a few problems. Why can’t I react to notifications? In addition, the operating system is quite sluggish and the rudimentary handling simply does not look smooth or particularly sophisticated.
These points of criticism are also particularly annoying in view of the price. Especially when you consider that Xiaomi offers a Watch S1 Active with significantly more features, including NFC, wireless charging and much more, at an MSRP significantly below that of Honor. If the price for the Honor Watch GS3 drops below 150 Euros, you can grab it. At the moment, rather less.