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Huawei Watch GT Runner review: The best smartwatch from Huawei yet

Our Rating 

The Huawei Watch GT Runner is the firm’s best sports smartwatch so far, but it still has shortcomings

Pros 
Good optical heart-rate accuracy
Impressive selection of training features
Beautiful hardware, stupendous screen and great battery life
Cons 
GPS accuracy is mediocre
Some feature limitations for iPhone users
Lacks native sync with major fitness platforms
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Huawei has been releasing smartwatches at such a pace recently that it now has a product aimed at just about every type of consumer and at every imaginable price. In the Huawei Watch GT Runner, however, it has managed to find a new group of fitness fanatics to target.

As the name explicitly indicates, this is a watch with runners firmly in mind, and it comes with a host of features designed to help users improve their running fitness and speed. It also happens to be Huawei’s best smartwatch yet, but is it good enough to compete with the likes of the Garmin Venu 2?

READ NEXT: The best running watches

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: What do you get for the money?

The Huawei Watch GT Runner costs around €299 (around £250) and, for that money, you’re getting a handsome-looking wearable. It comes in just one size – a fairly large 46mm – which might disappoint those with slim wrists, but it’s comfortable, very light at 38.5g and its crisp 1.43in OLED display is among the best I’ve encountered on any watch.

The watch’s casing is built mostly from polymer fibre to keep the weight right down, but it certainly doesn’t feel cheap and the rest of the materials used are impressively luxurious. A ceramic bezel surrounds the watch’s glass touchscreen and the crown is made from titanium alloy. It’s also 5ATM water-resistant so you can wear it while swimming without any worries.

The Huawei Watch GT Runner also comes with a few new internal hardware upgrades. There’s a new dual-band GPS chip that supports all five of the major global satellite navigation systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou and QZSS). Plus, the antennas for this are now positioned in the watch lugs. Both improvements are aimed at improving the accuracy of both pace and positional data, although as you’ll see below, I’ve so far had mixed results.

The TruSeen 5.0+ optical heart-rate monitor, which made its debut in the Huawei Watch GT3 is new-ish, too, and it’s also now possible to connect third-party Bluetooth sensors, such as heart-rate chest belts, cycling power meters and cycling speed/cadence sensors.

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As you’d expect of any self-respecting smart sports watch, the GT Runner is able to track your daily activity, including steps, floors, 24/7 heart rate, sleep patterns and blood oxygen saturation levels (SpO2). It can also track over 100 different sporting activities, including the core stuff such as cycling, hiking, pool swimming and running. Unusually for a smartwatch at this price, the GT Runner also has open water swimming and triathlon modes.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the GT Runner, however, is its collection of running-specific tools and training aids. Here, Huawei has added a recovery time advisor and training load guidance; it can estimate your lactate threshold and base your heart-rate training zones around that, instead of your HRR (heart-rate reserve) or a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

It provides projected finishing times for 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon events, and Huawei has also introduced a selection of new “Smart” training plans targeted at popular distances, plus a workout planner for creating your own structured workouts. In short, it’s beginning to look like a serious runner’s tool.

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: What does it do well?

The hardware is frankly excellent. The Huawei Watch GT Runner feels nice and light on the wrist and its OLED display is absolutely fantastic. It’s sharp, vibrant and easy to read both while exercising and at rest.

The watch feels responsive, too, whether you’re swiping and dabbing the touchscreen or scrolling up and down lists of items using the rotating crown on the right edge. And despite that bright display, battery life is superb. Huawei says it will last between eight and 14 days depending on your usage pattern and, so far, I wouldn’t disagree. As I write this, I’m on day five of having it on my wrist, having used it to track four runs totalling three hours, and the gauge still has 42% charge remaining. Apple, take note.

Heart-rate monitor accuracy is top-notch as well. Across those same four runs, the average heart-rate and maximum heart-rate numbers matched those from the MyZone MZ-Switch chest belt I was using as a control to within 1.2%. It even managed to keep up fairly well with interval workouts, although if you do a lot of this kind of running it’s worth investing in a chest belt as that will pick up on heart-rate changes more quickly.

Pace and distance weren’t as bang on as the heart-rate monitor, however. Across the same three runs as above, the distance recorded was short of that recorded by my foot-mounted Stryd pod by an average of 3.1%. That isn’t quite as good a result as the Huawei Watch 3 Pro (1.2%) but it’s still well within the boundaries of acceptability. For context, 3.1% across a 10km run represents a distance of 310 metres – a significant length, but hardly disastrous.

I also like the new running features, which seem to deliver results largely in line with what I’d expect to see, given my level of fitness. The marathon prediction time was a little optimistic but hopefully that will improve, given more data, and it’s not alone in over-estimating on this front. On the other hand, the half marathon, 10km and 5km predictions were pretty much in line with my personal bests for those distances, as was the VO2 max estimation.

It’s also now possible to set up a series of training plans for a variety of different distances (3km, 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon) via the Huawei Health app. I haven’t had time yet to fully evaluate these – they’re supposed to adapt to your level of fitness as you go – but they seem largely sensible, are very easy to set up and they sync automatically to your watch, too.

In particular, I liked the way it asks you a series of questions before setting up the plan. You’ll be asked about how much distance you ran last month (it uses your workout history to set this if there are enough activities in your timeline), what your best recent time for a 5km, 10km or half marathon was, when you want the plan to start and end, and what your target finish time is, if you have one.

It even gives you an idea, as you set your target time, how difficult that will be to achieve – a nice touch – and it rounds this off by asking which days you want to run on. The default suggestion of three days a week of training seemed a little light for the target time I set for the half marathon plan (1hr 40mins), so I upped it to five days.

My only other problem with the running plans is that it sets your longest run, by default, to be on the first day of the plan, which in my case was Tuesday. There’s no way I want to be getting up in the morning before work to do an hour and half of running every Tuesday, so I removed the plan and started again, setting the start day to Sunday, and that fixed the issue.

READ NEXT: The best running watches

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: What could be improved?

Synchronisation with the big fitness platforms is the Huawei Watch GT Runner’s major weakness. If you own an Android phone or tablet, you can synchronise workouts to Strava and a number of other fitness platforms via the third-party Health Sync app for $2.99 (after an eight-day trial). This sort of feature should be available within the Huawei app itself, but at least the app works and it works well.

Apple iPhone owners, however, are completely left out in the cold here. There’s no native synchronisation on iOS with anything but the Apple Health app and, even then, it doesn’t synchronise workouts. In the absence of an Apple Watch with longer battery life, iPhone owners who don’t want to charge their watch every day are best off looking elsewhere for their smart running watch fix. The Garmin Venu 2 is a good choice here or, perhaps, the Coros Pace 2.

Likewise, many of the Huawei Watch GT Runner’s smart features are limited to Huawei phone owners. Making and taking calls on the watch, music downloads via Huawei Music and the watch’s (rather poor) turn-by-turn mapping function via Petal Maps all require you to pair the watch with a Huawei Phone, preferably one running HarmonyOS like the P40 Pro.

On the same theme, although Huawei’s App Gallery is improving steadily, it offers nowhere near the same level of choice as is available for Apple Watch and WearOS watch owners.

Last, but by no means least, I’ve had some issues with Bluetooth connectivity with both my iPhone and heart-rate chest belt accessories. These cleared up when I reset the pairings but it’s not a good sign. Hopefully, these bugs will be cleared up in a firmware update soon.

Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Should you buy one?

If you own an Android or a Huawei handset, the Huawei Watch GT Runner is definitely worth putting on your shortlist. It’s light and comfortable with a stupendously good screen and the running and fitness features are excellent.

As a running watch, it’s certainly a big improvement on any Android Wear device I’ve used and it has better battery life than the Apple Watch SE, which costs around the same amount, although many features are limited for iPhone users.

The trouble is that competition is fierce. Our favourite smart sports watch with an OLED screen at this price is the Garmin Venu 2 and it has no limitations which smartphones and fitness platforms it supports. It also has battery life that’s nearly as good and an equally large selection of sports features, although it does miss out on open water swimming and triathlon tracking.

In the final analysis, there are certainly reasons you might want to buy a Huawei Watch GT Runner. However, with just as many, if not more, reasons to choose a Garmin Venu 2 instead, it would have to come down a lot in price for us to recommend it.

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