Huawei has been making big headway with its smartwatch range, despite being effectively banned from the US – and the GT2e follows the Huawei Watch GT2 launched in October 2019.
The Huawei Watch GT range is the company’s fitness-focussed smartwatch range, and another member of the sub-$200 smartwatch club.
Brands are getting better at offering an alternative to the Apple Watch for iOS users, and the stagnant Wear OS for Team Android – and with advanced sport features and 14 days of battery life, the GT2e is a key contender.
Other members include the Amazfit GTS and GTR, Fitbit Versa 2 and a bunch of upcoming smartwatches such as the Xiaomi Mi Watch, Mi Watch Round, Oppo Watch and Amazfit Bip S. It’s getting pretty crowded in the budget watch market.
Usually, when you just tack an “E” or “SE” onto the end of a smartwatch you’ve only recently released, it means you’re only adding marginal improvements. And yes, that follows here that the GT2e only debuts minor changes. However, it’s a full physical redesign from the original GT2, with a more overt sporty look.
We’ve been using the Huawei Watch GT2e for a few weeks now – here’s the skinny.
Huawei Watch GT2e: Design
This is the area with the most change, although it’s mostly cosmetic.
The GT2e comes with a stainless steel case and a slightly tweaked design points at a sporty target market. The buttons are still laid out the same at 2 and 4 o’clock and the lugs have been smoothed out.
It’s not too chunky, and sneaks in under 10mm – keeping a nice profile to the wrist. That said, it’s slightly oversized, with a 47mm case size that’s probably too large to be described as truly unisex.
However, despite the redesign, in terms of specs the GT 2e seems very similar to the GT 2.
Like its predecessor it has a 1.39-inch screen with a 454×454 AMOLED display. It’s not super bright, but nicely detailed, with text and stats clearly readable – even mid-run.
RAM has been increased to 16GB (up from just 2GB) so we’re looking at a big boost in performance. The battery stays the same size at 455mAh – and that offers up 14 days of battery life, which stood up to our testing. It’s quite impressive, given the specs of the screen and sensors on offer – and we doubt Huawei will be rueing its move away from Wear OS.
All-in-all the build of the Huawei Watch GT2e gets our thumbs up – although many people, particularly women, will find the case too large. Generally, it’s lightweight, comfortable and doesn’t feel plasticky or cheap given its price.
Huawei Watch GT2e: Fitness tracking
The Huawei Watch GT2e is a pretty feature packed watch, so we’ll go through those here and drill into how effective they are.
The watch has GPS on board, which feeds into a pretty complete sports tracking package. We’ll look at its effectiveness as a sports watch next, but GPS was perfectly accurate, and GLONASS satellite support meant it locked on quickly.
All-day fitness tracking is a big part of the offering here, and you can swipe across on the watch face to see your steps, active minutes and standing progress – in a screen that’s pretty reminiscent of the Apple Watch stats. It’s not really front-and-centre on the watch, although you do get stand reminders flash up when you’ve been sedentary too long.
The app is a little bare for this kind of data, however – and it logs step, distance, calorie and climbing data over time – but not things like active minutes, which feels like an omission.
However, there are more advanced features to track health.
There’s an optical heart rate monitor on board, and that is also backed up with an SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen reading. That was present on the Huawei Watch GT2, but it’s only just been turned on via an over-the-air update.
SpO2 tracking and heart rate
However, the SpO2 feature is an on-watch app, that requires you to sit still for a couple of minutes and take a manual reading from the smartwatch itself. That reading is not logged in the app, and it doesn’t make an appearance as part of your sleep stats, where it would be most effective for detecting possible sleep conditions.
This was a theme of budget Chinese smartwatches for a long while, where advanced features would be added to wearables to look good on marketing and spec sheets – but not properly implemented. This certainly feels that way.
Heart rate is tracked within the app, and there’s a dedicated section that shows the latest, minimum and maximum heart rate for the day. You can dive in here and see that over day, week, month and year increments.
This is fine as a way of keeping tabs on resting heart rate but, and this is a minor point, all bpms are listed as “times/minute.” That’s just a really weird translation, and underlines that you’re not getting true expertise when you buy into a brand like Huawei for health and fitness.
However, sleep monitoring did impress us, and we tested up against the Fitbit Charge 4 as the review periods crossed over. Both devices did have slightly different readings on deep/light and REM sleep stages – although similar in board strokes. Reassuringly the sleep scores were generally the same, or incredibly close, so there’s certainly some good analysis being done.
What’s more, we did like the way Huawei analysed and reported detailed aspects of the night’s sleep, such as breathing or deep sleep continuity – and there was plenty to read and learn about sleep and how to improve things.
There’s also stress tracking with a feature called TruRelax.
After introducing stress monitoring on the GT 2, it’s no surprise to find that makes an appearance on the GT 2e as well. Though once again, this is a feature that only Android phone owners can make use of.
Once you’ve enabled stress monitoring from the Health app, you’ll need to calibrate stress levels by answering a series of questions about your current frame of mind. Your stress level will then be scored. On the watch, you’ll then be able to can see how those stress levels (based on heart rate variability) elevate or drop over a day. Then you can delve back into the app to see longer term trends and average stress level scores.
Those scores and readings generally matched up to similar stress monitoring features on a Garmin watch. Huawei also says the stress level evaluations have been certified by the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences to give it some validity.
The usefulness of the feature though ultimately relies on an accurate heart rate data, which Huawei manages to deliver at least when taking on the spot readings and continuously monitoring heart rate.
Overall, the Huawei Watch GT2e covers most bases as a fitness tracker – but the app does leave a lot to be desired. It’s way off the likes of Fitbit or Apple Activity in terms of the analysis of health, and long term trends. However, it’s more than adept at tracking heart rate, sleep and daily activity.
Huawei Watch GT2e: Running and sports tracking
The Huawei Watch GTe’s sports tracking credentials are bolstered by profiles for over 100 activities – although as you’d imagine, most of these are just open tracking of calories, heart rate and duration. However, pool swimming includes customising pool size, heart rate underwater and HR zones.
Running is clearly a major focus and Huawei has put extra effort in here.
Aside from running tracking, there’s a guided running feature, where you can follow along with a number of structured workouts. There are couch to 5K and even hardcore interval sessions, and each is clearly labelled with a difficultly rating. We tried a few structured sessions, and found them to be easy to follow, with the Watch GT2e guiding you through intervals, and prompting you when your heart rate showed you weren’t working hard enough.
Run tracking itself was really good, with plenty of clear screens of data to work through. Accuracy was top notch, and we didn’t have any major issues with the heart rate sensor, except when pushing hill repeats, where surges in HR just felt the sensor for dead. That’s pretty standard across optical HR devices.
You get plenty of data in the post workout analysis too.
We enjoyed the colourful map of the workout, with coded pace, just like Nike+ Running of old.
And beyond split/lap times and breakdowns of heart rate zones, it also reported cadence, aerobic training effect, which it scores and tells you whether your fitness was maintained/improved).
The algorithms here are Firstbeat’s, which is used by Garmin and a host of other sports brands, so you get almost the exact on-watch experience you’ll find on the Fenix 6 and Forerunner 945.
In the main menu choose Workout Stats to see really useful graphs on your current Training Status, recovery time, your seven day Training Load, and current VO2 max. It’s great stuff for runners, and is a major reason to choose the GT2e.
Our only criticism is that we felt that the Huawei Watch GT2e reported VO2 Max a little high.
On the Garmin Fenix 6 our VO2 Max was listed at 49/50, while the GT2e was 53. We’re included to trust Garmin’s metrics after we validated previous Fenix devices against a lab VO2 Max test. What’s more, checking against online calculators, 53 seems over the top.
The Huawei also boasts automatic workout detection – and that picked up some HIIT sessions we did in lockdown too, so full marks there.
Overall, the Huawei Watch GT2e is a good sports watch, and offers some of our favourite Garmin features at a fraction of the cost. However, lack of Strava integration and support for third party apps will make it problematic for some people.
Huawei Watch GT2e: Smartwatch features
As a smartwatch the Huawei Watch GT2e does a pretty good job, and notifications were easy to read, easy silenced by swiping down from the top, and retrieved by swiping up from the bottom. However, notifications are basic, and there’s no answering, quick replying or two-way voice calling from the watch itself.
There’s also no contactless payments feature here, which does put Huawei at a disadvantage compared to the likes of Apple and Google.
There’s plenty of watch faces to choose from, and some really nice designs, which was a pleasant surprise. However, there’s not really any third party apps and services, beyond sharing with Healthkit and MyFitnessPal.
Android users get control of music from the wrist, and the ability to store and play music from a pair of connected headphones. The music is managed via the Huawei Health app.
Huawei Watch GT2e
There’s a lot to like about the Huawei Watch GT2e, especially for runners who get a good, solid watch with plenty of metrics and insights. The Firstbeat advanced analytics will be a firm favourite – and it excels at workout tracking, although we’d like more options to hand off data to existing platforms. However, we found the iOS app quite under-baked, it’s not challenging the likes of Fitbit for wellness and health tracking – although sleep was a highlight. Android users will fare better, and for the price the GT2e offers good value for money.
- Strong fitness insights
- 100 tracked sports
- Great sleep tracking
- App is a little undercooked
- iOS experience inferior to Android
- Little buggy in places