Huawei's budget fitness tracker hybrid is still a great buy
The Huawei Band 7 is one of the strongest budget fitness trackers around – offering a ton of health and fitness tracking features and a sub-$50/£50 price.
The Band series pioneered the tall smartwatch/fitness band hybrid, which has now been aped across the board, most recently by the Xiaomi Mi Band 7 Pro.
But does the Band 7 deliver on its excellent spec sheet? We’ve lived with it to find out.
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Design and screen
The design of the Huawei Band 7 is pretty unique – with a large, rectangular display that’s almost smartwatch like – but boasts a thin, manageable and comfortable build.
It’s nice and slim to wear (the Band 7 is just 9.9mm thick) – although visually it’s not very impressive, at least not in black. There are color options, however, with color-coded straps and case that look a lot more fun.
The screen is an excellent 194 x 368 AMOLED display, and at 1.47-inch is plenty bigger than Fitbit rivals.
It’s easy-to-read and the high resolution leaves a generous amount of space for text and on-screen data.
But it’s hardly subtle on the wrist. The big display makes it extremely noticeable. What’s more, the Band 7 isn’t very smart at not illuminating at night, so you’ll need to go into the settings to determine a manual do not disturb time range, or be blinded by the AMOLED in your sleep.
There are raise-to-wake and always-on options. The wrist raise is nice and sensitive, but we were aware of it flashing on and off while typing at our computer, which is a little annoying. To counter that you could enable the always-on display, but that comes with its own issues.
Always on (which halves battery life) asks you to select a low power watch face – which shows the time permanently. But it turns raise-to-wake off, so the full strength watch face doesn’t appear when you look at your wrist – which differs from how most smartwatches work.
The annoying thing is that that when you press the button to access the menus, the full power watch face is then revealed, which then adds an extra step to whatever interaction you want to make.
Some will like the trade-off of seeing the time permanently displayed, but we found it a bit annoying.
Overall, the Band 7 benefits from a high-quality build, lightweight and comfortable case, and great display. It’s not stylish per se – but stacks up well against its rivals.
Health and activity features
Step tracking is a central element of the Huawei Band 7, so you can check whether you’re hitting your daily goal.
Step data can be tracked with your smartphone as well, so you won’t get any gaps in your data if you forget to wear it. That’s a neat addition.
It makes it difficult to compare to other trackers, but there was nothing in our data that showed any major issues with step tracking accuracy.
Heart rate monitoring comes via the TruSeen 4.0 sensor, which tracks high, low and resting HR, and can be seen by swiping right on the Band 7 itself, as shown below.
Resting heart rate data was generally accurate, showing an average of 49bpm. In comparison, our Whoop 4.0 averaged 46bpm, but over a much longer period. So we’d be inclined to give the Band 7 a clean bill of health in terms of low-intensity heart rate accuracy.
Stress detection is also on board, and this can be turned on continuously if you desire.
Stress is rated out of 100, and you can see both a 24 hour breakdown, and a daily average score going back over weeks, months and the last year. Ours oscillated between 60/100 at worst, which was rated ‘normal’, and ‘low’ scores of around 20/100.
If you’re someone that suffers from stress, or discovers particularly high scores, this might be of interest. But for us, it was a throw-away feature that didn’t really offer any context, or make the idea of stress management meaningful.
Sleep tracking is a major part of the Huawei Band 7 – with plenty of data to assess the quality of your rest.
First up, we did find it over-estimated sleep in general, and compared to the Whoop 4.0, and it was less sensitive.
The sleep duration was very much a reflection of time spent in bed, rather than quality sleep – and you would see far lower durations tracked in Fitbit, Whoop or Oura ecosystems.
It’s clearly less sensitive too. It would usually register less wake-ups in a night than Whoop, and would only really record wake time if we got out of bed. Likewise, if there was a nightly toilet trip, that could register up to 30 minutes of solid awake time.
It generates a sleep score, and we did find this responded well to factors such as alcohol or exercise. You can see below a long sleep, but a low score, thanks to a late night alcoholic drink.
It’s impossible to really judge the accuracy of sleep data beyond this, but there’s plenty of data to consume – if you like that sort of thing.
You get estimates of deep/light/REM sleep (all totally different to Whoop of course) and also low/normal/high ratings for each stage, plus deep sleep continuity, wake times and breathing quality.
We usually recorded ‘low deep sleep continuity’, and tapping this field in the app reveals a sizeable page of education and action points on this specific topic. That’s more than you’ll get in most fitness tracker platforms.
All-in-all the Band 7 is a competent sleep tracker that can help guide healthy sleep trends – but little niggles in the data show there’s still some work to be done.
Sports tracking and analysis
The Huawei Band 7 has a host of sports modes built in, with over 100 profiles for tagging your exercise.
Most of these will just display heart rate data and duration – and neatly categorise the activity.
We set exercise auto-detection on – but it didn’t pick up an hour of football (soccer), although we admittedly spent a large time in goal. However, the Whoop 4.0 did correctly detect that period of exercise – but as ever, the caveat is this is a $50/£50 activity band.
There’s no GPS built-in here, so runners and cyclists will need to take their paired smartphone along for the ride to piggy-back location data.
We did run into some permissions issues on iOS that prevented us from getting a GPS lock, but once we identified that, it was a seamless process.
We do think many elements of the Huawei Band 7 experience would be better if paired with an Android device.
Heart rate accuracy
We pitted the heart rate monitor against a Garmin with a chest strap – and we saw a mixed bag in terms of performance.
On our first run we saw an average of 165bpm for a 10km session (vs. 168 on Garmin) and a maximum HR of 177 (vs. 178 on Garmin). So there was little to pick between the two devices.
But on the second run we saw a similar average (both devices 164 bpm) but a much-reduced peak of 177bpm vs 184bpm on Garmin.
The difference is that this run encountered a short, sharp, lung-busting hill, and this is where the true peak was missed due to the sensor lagging. We also finished on a short sprint finish, and again, the Band 7 missed elevated HR.
So what we have is decent heart rate accuracy at steady runs, but poor performance with even moderate jumps in intensity. That will produce plenty of dubious data, and means that the Band 7 isn’t really one for those with a keen eye for fitness.
Despite the lack of GPS, the running experience is extremely complete for such a budget fitness tracker – and certainly more than just a logging of heart rate.
You get distance/pace/time data, cadence, stride length, and heart rate data. And the workout summary for running is excellent.
And it goes way further than the basics.
You get aerobic training stress, anaerobic training stress and VO2 Max estimates – which will tell you how hard your workout taxed your body. And in the case of VO2 Max, an estimate of your fitness.
We found the VO2 Max scores to be well off established devices. But Garmin (which we have previously verified against a VO2 max lab test) gave us a VO2 Max of 48, while the Band 7 was just 43.
Due to the heatwave in the UK during testing, it could be that increased heart rate vs lower pace impacted the analysis and skewed the scores. But it’s not a ringing endorsement of the Band 7’s analytics.
Without built in GPS, and some dubious heart rate/VO2 Mac data, we wouldn’t recommend to committed runners – but for those who just want to track their workouts as part of an overall look at their health picture are well served.
The Huawei Band 7 is pretty lightweight on smart features, but does cover the basics.
There’s no snazzy wrist payments, smart assistants or 4G here – but you can see messages and calls from the wrist.
We did have some issues with messages not being delivered to the wrist inexplicably, or multiple messages landing at the same time
Again, we’re supposing his comes down to some issue between iOS and the Band 7 – and Android users could fare better.
It didn’t make a huge difference to us personally, and find the incessant buzz of WhatsApp notifications annoying, but we did miss getting call notifications – and it should work properly.
Battery life of the Huawei Band 7 is seriously impressive, and the company’s estimate of 2 weeks isn’t far shy.
With raise-to-wake and optional continuous stress and SpO2 tracking on, we saw a drain of around 10% per day. You should make the two week estimate if you keep those settings off, as they are by default.
Around 50 minutes of running saw a decline of around 5%.
There’s also rapid charging on-board, so around 5 mins of charging will give you a couple of days of use.
Huawei Health app
A fitness tracker – by any brand – is simply a collection of sensors bundled into a case. The clever stuff is done by the app, which processes the data, analyses it, and makes it interesting.m So how does Huawei Health fare?
Well, software elements of the Huawei experience are still weaker than its hardware – although things are improving.
All the basics of heart rate, resting HR, steps, sleep and active minutes are covered, and easy to read and explore.
There’s no analysis of baselines, averages or personalization of data as we’ve seen from Fitbit, Whoop and Oura. That’s common for budget fitness trackers, but illustrates the difference between the big players and budget options. That’s why a lot of Fitbit, Whoop and Oura features are subject to subscriptions.
We’d have liked to see VO2 Max tracked over time, not just logged after a single workout.
We found the iOS app crashed quite often, and that notifications seemed sporadic.
Another example of the quirks in the app is an option to track arterial health. After many screens of disclaimers, we were told it wasn’t supported on our device.
Huawei Health does sync with Apple/Google Health – but the integrations in the app are quite limited. However, there are third party workaround to link data to apps like Strava.
By The Huawei Band 7 is an excellent budget fitness tracker – and it’s easy to forget that this costs less than $50/£50. The breadth and accuracy of tracking is broadly excellent – but heart rate was suspect when pushed. The design might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it stacks up well against rivals – acting as a smartwatch and fitness tracker hybrid. Software gripes aside, this stacks up well.
- Great screen
- Wide breadth of tracking
- Great price
- Not so stylish
- Some software niggles
- Notification issues