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Huawei Watch Ultimate review: A classy, if flawed, wearable

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £700
(Inc VAT)

The Huawei Watch Ultimate is gorgeous but it’s far from the finished article


  • Gorgeous hardware
  • Stuffed with features


  • Poor heart-rate monitor accuracy
  • Lacks onboard mapping

The Huawei Watch Ultimate is designed, ostensibly, for people who need a long-lasting smartwatch to track multi-day treks and outdoor activities. It’s Huawei’s flagship smartwatch and it’s aimed at affluent tech enthusiasts who want an alternative to the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin’s top-end wearables.

To a certain extent, the Huawei Watch Ultimate nails this brief. It has mega battery life, it’s extremely rugged and provides you with the tools you need, not only for once-in-a-lifetime expeditions but also for other extreme activities such as freediving and scuba diving, plus more “normal” healthy pursuits such as running, swimming and cycling.

It’s expensive, but that’s the way premium smart/fitness watches are going these days.

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

The question is, does it fully justify the high price? In terms of the design and materials used, the answer to that question is emphatically yes. It’s available in two colourways, both of which look fantastic in their own way.

The basic Expedition Black model costs £700 and comes with a dark grey zirconium-based liquid metal watch case, topped with a ceramic black bezel and a nitrile rubber strap. The Voyage Blue model is a little more ostentatious but it costs more at £800 and comes with a silver-coloured case, blue ceramic bezel and titanium link bracelet.

Whichever model you choose, the rest of the watch is exactly the same. You get a large 1.5in LPTO 466 x 466 resolution LPTO screen that tops out at 1,000cd/m². This is protected by 2.5mm of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, and surrounding that watch face are three buttons: one rotating, clickable crown at the top right, which is used for scrolling through menus and lists; one button at the bottom right; and one button at the top left, used for launching directly into the watch’s “Expedition” mode. 

The watch’s party piece, however, is that it’s waterproof to 10ATM. That’s a depth of 100m, and it’s also certified to both the ISO 22810 and EN13319 standards, which means you can use it as a recreational diving computer.

In fact, to bolster its aquatic credentials, the Watch Ultimate comes with a selection of diving modes (including a free dive mode), accessible via the watch’s Workouts menu. This displays a selection of technical data while you’re underwater, so you can keep on top of important stuff like your depth, dive time and ascent rate. It also displays estimates of your blood oxygen toxicity and how long you can spend at various depths before needing to build in decompression stops and so on. 

There’s even a training mode to help you master the techniques required for holding your breath underwater for long periods of time and an apnoea test that monitors your SpO2 levels and heart rate as you hold your breath.

Elsewhere, the watch comes with an Expedition mode, activated using the top-left button, which is intended for use during multi-day treks. In a similar fashion to the Apple Watch, this allows you to set custom waypoints as you explore and helps you navigate back to your starting point via those waypoints if you get lost.

These new features are, of course, backed by all the sensors and health tech you could possibly want in a smartwatch. There’s dual-frequency, multi-system GPS compatibility, Huawei’s latest TruSeen 5.0+ heart-rate sensor for monitoring real-time heart rate and SpO2. You get ECG measurement support, a barometric altimeter, thermometer and digital compass, too.

The Huawei Watch can track your steps, sleep and stress levels with these sensors, and even claims to be able to measure “arterial stiffness”, which is supposedly a general indicator of heart health. This isn’t a feature that’s unique to the Watch Ultimate, though. The Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro also offered this feature.

Naturally, the watch is stuffed with all the sports tracking modes a keen athlete could possibly want. There are modes for tracking indoor, outdoor and track running, indoor pool and open water swimming, cycling, hiking, climbing and triathlon, along with a phalanx of more esoteric activities such as skipping and cross-country skiing.

And there are plenty of tools you can use for fitness analysis and training as well. There’s a recovery adviser to help you gauge how ready you are (or not) for intensive workouts, VO2 max estimation for gauging your general fitness level, a race predictor for common running distances and a selection of training plans for runners, from 3km all the way up to full marathon distance.

Finally, as with most smart or fitness wearables these days, the Huawei Watch Ultimate will also display notifications from your phone (it’s compatible with both Android and iOS mobile operating systems) and will also allow you to answer calls on the watch itself via a Bluetooth connection.

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Huawei Watch Ultimate review: What do we like about it?

The design, look and feel of the watch is truly spectacular and the Huawei Watch’s strongest suit. The dark grey liquid metal body looks as expensive as it sounds and the black ceramic bezel and super-sharp display combine to produce what is, in my view, the most handsome smartwatch around. It is rather bulky but I found it a lot more comfortable to wear than the Apple Watch Ultra, even on my skinny, bony wrists.

The display is the highlight, though. At 1.5in, it’s the biggest I’ve seen on a smartwatch to date. It’s also super sharp at a resolution of 466 x 466 and it’s incredibly bright, peaking at up to 1,000cd/m², and this, coupled with the always-on display capability, means it’s the most watch-like smartwatch display I’ve seen. The only gripe I have is that there could be a wider selection of tasteful watch faces to choose from. There are a couple that look good but, as is typical of Huawei wearables, most of the core watch faces are over-designed. Apple still leads the way on this front.

One thing the Huawei Watch does do better than Apple, however, is battery life. Without the always-on screen enabled the Ultimate is rated at up to 14 days in general use, and I see no reason to challenge that. If you use battery-sapping tech such as the GPS frequently and enable 24/7 stress monitoring you can expect this number to fall, but it’s still mighty impressive and a good deal better than the best Apple can muster. The Apple Watch Ultra, for instance, is only rated for up to 36 hours, which is a day and a half; even the Garmin Epix 2 is rated for a mere six days of smartwatch use at best. 

I also like the richness of options available within each workout mode. Tap the settings icon next to the outdoor running mode, for instance, and you’ll be able to tweak all manner of settings. You can set time and distance goals, set up basic intervals, add a metronome buzz and customise your automatic splits.

In that outdoor running mode there’s even the facility to set up a race plan, which initially excited me but turned out to be oddly restrictive and doesn’t allow you to fully customise your goal time.

However, it’s good to see that the GPS accuracy is, by and large, excellent. I saw an average total distance difference of under 2% per run between the Watch Ultimate and my Stryd Wind running pod, which is the device I use as a control in all my fitness watch testing. That’s right up there with the best wearables I’ve tested recently.

Huawei Watch Ultimate review: What could it do better?

Unfortunately, the Huawei Watch Ultimate’s heart-rate monitor accuracy is an absolute disaster. As with GPS accuracy, I tested it while running against a known control device, in this case the MyZone MZ-Switch chest belt, and across nine runs totalling 96km its accuracy varied wildly and unpredictably.

In fact, the average difference between the average heart rate on the Huawei Watch Ultimate and my chest belt across those runs was 9.8%. That’s the worst result I’ve seen for a while and a lot worse than the Apple Watch Ultra. Still, this issue doesn’t seem to afflict the watch’s measurement of resting heart rate, which seems on the money and, if you’re serious about training by heart rate, you’ll probably want to use a third-party Bluetooth chest belt monitor instead. Fortunately, you can pair one of these via Bluetooth in the settings menu.

One more negative point is that, unlike Garmin’s more advanced wearables, there’s no mapping built in. You can use the Expedition Mode to follow your way home, or load in routes via Komoot or GPX to follow during workouts, but it isn’t particularly useful for finding your way around while on the hoof.

My final grumble surrounds the lack of extensibility. Unlike the Apple Watch, which has the Apple App Store to extend its functionality, and the Garmin Epix 2, there’s no way to install extra apps on the Huawei Watch Ultimate. It does an awful lot natively, though, so for most people that won’t be a huge issue.

Huawei Watch Ultimate review: Should you buy one?

The Huawei Watch Ultimate is a very good-looking smartwatch, and that is its biggest attraction. The materials Huawei has chosen to use and the size, sharpness and brightness of its OLED display all contribute to a smartwatch of rare allure. No other technical smartwatch comes close, in my opinion – not the Apple Watch Ultra, nor the Garmin Epix 2.

It’s also packed with other genuinely useful features, including diving and expedition modes, and it has extremely impressive battery life. All in all, it’s very impressive and is available at a price that undercuts the Apple Watch Ultra by £150 and the cheapest Epix 2 by £50.

It’s not without its problems, however, and some of them are major. The poor heart-rate monitor accuracy (during exercise) is its biggest issue, but it also lacks some key features. There’s no on-board mapping, for instance, nor any kind of facility to install third-party apps. I haven’t mentioned this above, but there’s also no NFC payment facility, which may put off those seeking a platform-agnostic alternative to an Apple Watch.

It’s also worth noting that it’s entirely possible to buy a smart/fitness watch that’s at least as capable, more accurate and more extensible for a lot less money. You can pick up a Garmin Forerunner 955, for example, for around £440.

If you’re in the vanishingly small cohort of folk looking for a smartwatch that looks great, can be used as a diving computer, an expedition tracker and general sports-tracking watch, then, the Huawei Watch Ultimate might fit the bill. For everyone else, however, just go and buy a Garmin or an Apple Watch instead.

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