Fitness bands, over the past few years, have had a hard time nailing down what they’re actually about. Initially, they were just bands that sent fitness data to your phone and nothing else. However, modern day fitness bands are much more similar to a fully-fledged smartwatch. So, buying an expensive Fitbit fitness band might not make sense for most people. This is where companies like Xiaomi and Huawei have really made their mark with their budget-friendly fitness bands. Honor, a sub-brand of Huawei, has continued the tradition with the release of its next budget fitness band, the Honor Band 5.
Last year’s Honor Band 4 was a phenomenal product that really set the bar high for everyone else. However, soon after, Xiaomi came out with its own Mi Band 4 (check out our full review) which totally blew the Honor Band out of the water. Honor has now come out with a new update though and they’re promising big things. So, is the new updated Honor Band 5 finally able to compete with the budget fitness king from Xiaomi? Let’s find out.
Design and Build Quality
The Honor Band 5, from the outside, looks extremely similar to the previous model. In fact, most people would probably think that it is indeed the Honor Band 4 on first look. However, that is fine since there wasn’t much wrong with the Honor Band 4’s design in the first place. We have the same flat device in the middle that sits flush with the textured strap.
When you first put on the Honor Band 5, you barely notice it on your wrist thanks to its incredibly low 22.7g weight. Additionally, the band itself is not very big either and does a very good job of staying unnoticed, which is a big plus for any fitness band. However, one area where it does suffer is the build quality. I mean, it is a pretty solid device but it just doesn’t feel robust enough to survive harsher conditions. The plastic body does not feel like it is built from a very premium material and the strap itself just has that peculiar vibe that you get from knock-off third-party straps.
In comparison, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 flaunts a much cleaner and premium finish with an extremely comfortable strap supporting it. Despite that, I still prefer Honor’s design over Xiaomi’s as the Mi Band 4 just protrudes too much defeating the whole point of having a low-key fitness tracker on your wrist. At the end of the day, the design still comes down to personal preference but if you want a fitness band that’s resilient, the Honor Band 5 might not be the one for you. The Honor Band 5 comes in 3 different colors which are black, blue and pink.
Display is one area where most budget-friendly fitness bands have always suffered the most. However, we’ve started to see a change here as well with companies coming out with bright coloured AMOLED touchscreens. The Honor Band 5, similarly, builds upon the previous version with a very vibrant AMOLED touchscreen display. With a resolution of 120 x 240, the 0.95 inch touchscreen is very much like the previous model and sits above the capacitive menu button.
In terms of brightness, the Honor Band 5’s display is fine for most scenarios. While it does get fairly bright and is somewhat readable under direct sunlight, i feel like there should have been some form of improvement from Honor. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the display but its just that you have to focus harder on the display to actually read the contents under direct sunlight. In comparison, the Mi Band 4 display is definitely much brighter and offers a wider range of brightness settings suited for all conditions. There aren’t many watch face customization options here either as Honor does not really have a good track record of supporting much tweaking with its devices.
Nevertheless, everything else looks top-notch on the Honor Band 5 including all the notifications and messages. Browsing through the menus was a breeze as well. However, the capacitive button below takes you back to the home screen directly rather than the previous menu (like on Mi Band 4). This is a matter of personal preference though as a lot of people do prefer a single tap to go back to the main screen.
Being a fitness band, you’d expect a ton of features from the Honor Band 5 and it delivers. The Honor Band 5 is extremely flexible when it comes to matching different fitness tracking needs. For example, you could track your heart rate continuously, or add specified intervals in between each reading. While the heart rate reading can be hit or miss sometimes, it mostly presents a fairly accurate idea of what your heart rate is over a period of time.
Furthermore, the Honor Band 5 is just jam-packed with fitness modes beating the Mi Band 4 with 10 different workout modes. These include indoor and outdoor running, cycling, swimming, and rowing etc. However, some of these modes like interval training cannot be activated via the fitness band and need to be turned on through the app which is rather strange. In addition to that, your usual fitness band features are all present here including step tracking, target setting and sleep tracking. Most of these features seemed to work well-enough to not result in any abnormally high or low stats.
The water resistant rating on the Honor Band 5 is 5 ATM, much like the Mi Band 4, meaning it is perfectly fine to take it to the pool for a swim. You can also check your blood oxygen levels which is a nice addition to have. So, in terms of raw fitness features, nothing beats the Honor Band 5 at this price range. It doesn’t have GPS on it though so you’ll need to keep your phone on you if you’re looking for location based tracking.
Where the fitness band does fail though is the app. In order to use Honor Band 5, you have to download the Huawei Health app. While the app does what it is supposed to do, the overall UI just feels a bit clunky and unintuitive. Navigating through the menus on the app to find the setting you’re looking for can be a bit of a slog and I’d recommend just pairing the app to Google Fit and ignoring it.
Battery life on any fitness band is extremely important as it is supposed to stay on your wrist at all times, even during sleep. So, you’re not really supposed to take if off every night to charge it up. The Honor Band 5 is powered by a 100 mAh battery, which is fairly big but not the best out there. During my use, I was able to go for more or less a week without charging the fitness band. This meant that I didn’t need to worry about charging my Honor Band 5 throughout the week. For most people, that would be good enough.
However, one thing that needs to be noted is that the Honor Band 5 still uses the older Bluetooth 4.2. In comparison, the Mi Band 4 completely destroys the Honor Band 5 in the battery department thanks to its bigger battery and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, making it last for almost 20 days in a single charge. In addition to that, the micro-USB charging dock for the Honor Band 5 is just not very well-designed, making you carefully align the band with the dock each time.
The Honor Band 5 is a very subtle improvement over the last year’s Honor Band 4. It offers some of the best fitness tracking features in a budget friendly package. Furthermore, it looks very sleek and manages to go unnoticed on the wrist. However, this might not be enough of an improvement for Honor as companies like Xiaomi have been making strides with their own fitness bands.
The Honor Band 5 loses against the likes of Mi Band 4 in most departments including battery, display and customization. There are just too many sacrifices being made here for me to recommend the Honor Band 5. Yes, it does undercut the Mi Band 4’s price tag coming in at around $30, but you’d be better off spending an extra 5 bucks to get the Mi Band 4.
The Honor Band 5 can be bought for around $30 from most major retailers including Amazon and Ali Express.