Honor Band Zero review: a hybrid smartwatch-activity tracker under £50

The Honor Band Zero is a hybrid fitness tracker and smartwatch under £50. At this price it's understandably less fully featured than some rival devices, but it may well be all you need. We review the Honor Band Zero. Also see: Best activity trackers 2016.

Honor Band Zero review: UK price and availability

Our Honor Band Zero was supplied by GearBest, which offers the watch in black, white or Khaki (more like cream) for £45.98. Shipping is free if you're prepared to wait (faster paid options are available), but keep in mind that any tech you have shipped from China to the UK may incur import duty. Before you buy we advise you read our article on the pros and cons of buying grey-market tech.

The Honor Band Zero is also available from Vmall, but at a more expensive £59.99 at the time of writing.

Honor Band Zero review: UK setup

Out of the box our Honor Band Zero was configured to use Chinese language and the time and date were incorrect. Given that the instructions were in Chinese, the menu options on the watch were in Chinese, and the QR code in the quick setup guide took you to the Chinese version of Huawei Wear, we were initially a little stumped as to how to use the Honor Band Zero.

It's actually really easy, though. You just launch Google Play on your phone and search for Huawei Wear. Once installed, let it pair with the Zero and it will automatically update the language, time and date accordingly.

Honor Band Zero

Honor Band Zero review: Design

Honor's Zero is a circular smartwatch that can display a digital or analogue clock face on its PMOLED touchscreen. The plastic design is neither as bulky nor as cheap-looking as some, with a stainless steel brushed-metal-effect surround and a diamond-patterned TPU hypoallergenic band. Our sample is black, although the Zero also comes in white or khaki. See all wearable tech reviews.

The watch face has a diameter of just 1.06in, with a 128-pixel resolution that's ideally suited to its monochrome display. We found the touchscreen reasonably responsive with a twist of the wrist or a double-tap on the screen.

Just 25g in weight, this is a lightweight band you'll barely notice on your arm, which is more than we can say for many fully featured smartwatches.

One of the best things about the Honor Band Zero's design is its IP68-rated dust- and waterproof protection. You don't need to take off the Zero when you jump in the shower or go for a swim; in fact its built-in sleep tracking means you're intended to take off this watch only when it needs a recharge - which falls short of the claimed four days at between two- and 2.5 days in our experience, and the Zero will go from, erm, zero to 100 percent in a touch over an hour.

Our least favourite aspect of the Zero's design is its need to charge over a Pogo pin plug. You're unlikely to have more than the one cable that is supplied in the box and, given that the battery lasts only a couple of days you'll need to either carefully plan when you will recharge it or carry around the cable.

Next to the Pogo pin connection on the device's rear is a small reset button; you can also restart (or reset) the Zero from the onscreen Settings menu, but there are no physical buttons on the device.

Honor Band Zero

Honor Band Zero review: As a smartwatch

We should make it clear that despite its tie-in with the Huawei Wear Android app on your smartphone (the Zero also works with iPhones running iOS 7.0 or later), this is no Android Wear watch. You cannot download new apps or watch faces to it, for example, and it won't bring up any information from your phone other than notifications. Also see: Best smartwatches 2016.

It has to be said, though, we were impressed by the number of apps installed on our phone that the Honor Band Zero could tie into to bring up notifications. As well as notifying you with a gentle vibration when you get a new text, email or phone call (at which point it will display the caller's name and number onscreen), you can also set it up to receive notifications from WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, games and more. But they are just notifications, and once you've read them they disappear from the watch. A Do not disturb mode is supported should these notifications wake you at night.

Plus there's the whole timekeeping functionality, which many basic activity trackers do not provide, and through the Huawei Wear app you can set an alarm, too.

Honor Band Zero review: As an activity tracker

The Honor Band Zero is also a basic activity tracker, able to count how many steps you've taken and estimate how many calories you have burned in doing so, plus track your light- and deep sleep cycles. You'll also get a gentle nudge if it's been a while since you last got up and did some gentle exercise which, working in a office environment, can be a tad annoying. With no heart-rate scanner or modes other than running or walking that's pretty much it in terms of fitness tracking.

We were initially dubious of the sleep tracking, since the Honor Band Zero can judge whether you're awake or asleep and in a light- or deep sleep cycle only by how much you move. On the one occasion we took off the watch at night in an attempt to fool it the Zero was clever enough to know we weren't in a coma, but at other times when we were merely glued to the TV screen late in the evening it thought we were asleep. So while it's not entirely accurate, on most occassions you'll know the rough times at which you fell asleep and woke up, and it's the tracking between these stages that can be useful.

Honor Zero software

You don't need the Huawei Wear app to tell you how many steps you've taken or calories you've burned in a day, nor how long you slept the night before, since this is available from the watch itself. However, the app is useful for comparing data over the month, and for tracking those aforementioned light- and deep sleep cycles.

The Huawei Wear app also lets you input your basic details - your gender, height, weight and birth date - and set a fitness goal. And it will tie into UP by Jawbone, which is more functional with a personal coach and the ability to keep a food diary and compete with friends.

Read next: How to use technology to get in shape.

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Honor Band Zero: Specs

  • Hybrid activity tracker/smartwatch
  • supports Android 4.4 or iOS 7.0 and later
  • 1.06in (128x128-pixel) PMOLED screen
  • 128KB RAM
  • 512KB storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • IP68 waterproof
  • 70mAh battery, charges over POGO Pin
  • 25g
  • 244.4x38x9.5mm (large)
  • Hybrid activity tracker/smartwatch
  • supports Android 4.4 or iOS 7.0 and later
  • 1.06in (128x128-pixel) PMOLED screen
  • 128KB RAM
  • 512KB storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • IP68 waterproof
  • 70mAh battery, charges over POGO Pin
  • 25g
  • 244.4x38x9.5mm (large)

OUR VERDICT

For under £50 you can't really go wrong with the Honor Band Zero if all you need is a basic watch with some smartwatch and activity-tracking functionality. With notifications of calls, texts and more, plus basic activity- and sleep tracking, the Zero offers more than the most basic of activity trackers, but less than fully featured smartwatches. If you are going down the Chinese route, this watch isn't quite as good value as the excellend Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse, which also has a heart-rate tracker, but it does have a screen on which to provide notifications.

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