Huawei Watch GT Runner Review: The Best Of Both Worlds

Huawei released quite a few smartwatches in the last couple of years, but not a single one left a mark on me in the same way the GT Runner did. Why? Well, Huawei has been doing a great job thus far, don’t get me wrong, but this is the most refined smartwatch from the company I’ve ever used. The Huawei Watch GT Runner is fitness-oriented, but don’t let the name fool you, this watch is for basically everyone who likes larger watches, and in this review, I’ll do my best to explain why.

Huawei currently has three excellent offerings on the market, when it comes to smartwatches. The Huawei Watch 3, Watch GT 3, and this smartwatch. Each of them are really good in their own right. I’ve reviewed the first two a while back, and they proved their worth. The Huawei Watch GT Runner, though, in my opinion, goes a step forward as an overall package. That being said, let’s start.

It’s a sporty watch, but it looks both premium & classy as well

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The Huawei Watch GT Runner looks excellent. This watch has the ‘Runner’ mention in its name, but it can easily be worn to fancy events, and be transformed into a business-type smartwatch. Its design definitely allows for it, especially if you attach the right band to it. The watch is made out of “Durable Polymer Fiber”, as Huawei says, and it looks quite classy. It actually feels like your regular metal-clad smartwatch. There are two buttons on the right side, and the top one doubles as a rotating crown. That crown provides plenty of haptic feedback while you use it, it really feels right to use. Different than the one on the Watch 3, but still very good. The buttons themselves are very clicky, and feel great to use.

Two different colors are available

The color I reviewed is ‘Black’ (a ‘Gray’ model is also available), and it has a shiny gray accent around the display. Luckily, that gray part is dark enough, and it blends perfectly with the watch itself. The watch comes with a good silicone band, but I quickly replaced it with a brown leather one. Yes, the watch is compatible with regular smartwatch bands, in this case, 22mm ones. There are no fitnessy markings on the face of the watch, as was the case on the Watch GT 3. That is another reason why this watch can pass as being quite classy. Even the hands which attach to the band are carefully designed and look excellent.

It is not heavy, but has some heft to it

The watch does have some heft to it, but it’s not too heavy. It weighs 38.5 grams, which seems just right on the wrist. The included silicone band is quite comfortable, and includes plenty of holes for a perfect adjustment, regardless of your wrist size. There is an extra one included in the box, to expand the included one, if that’s something you need. In regards to the design, I really don’t have a single complaint. This may not be made for women, though, due to its sheer size, but if you don’t mind larger watches, the design is impeccable. This is my favorite smartwatch design to date, especially in this black color.

A gorgeous, sharp & large display

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Huawei has been including excellent displays in its higher-end smartwatches, and the Watch GT Runner is not an exception. This smartwatch comes with a gorgeous 1.43-inch AMOLED display, which offers a resolution of 466 x 466. This OLED display offers punchy colors, great viewing angles, and it’s more than bright enough in all use cases, basically. I didn’t have a problem using it in bright daylight, even on a sunny day (which are scarce here these days). That is not something I can say for many watches I’ve used.

Touch response is great as well

To make things even better, the touch response on this watch is great. This is a massive improvement over some older Huawei models (prior to Harmony OS), which were tweaked differently, and had different panels. Using this display basically feels like using a display on a smartphone, which is what I want out of a smartwatch. That touch responsiveness, in combination with the watch’s internals, including Huawei’s SoC, ensures extremely smooth performance. We’ll talk about that in the next chapter, though.

The bottom line is, this display is excellent. Realistically, I don’t really have a negative side to highlight here. I’m not sure what kind of protection Huawei used on top of it, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how it will age. So far, so good, though.

Top-of-the-line performance & improved software

Huawei has been nailing the performance aspect on its smartwatches for a while now. I’m not sure what chip Huawei is using here, but it may be the Kirin A1. That processor proved its worth so many times before, and it’s possible it’s ticking inside of this watch alongside Harmony OS 2. I didn’t notice lag at all here, and while it can skip a beat every now and then, as any device can, it’s really smooth. It’s a joy to use from the performance standpoint, regardless of whether you’re going through the apps, switching songs, or doing something else entirely.

Harmony OS 2 brings some notable improvements

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Huawei’s software sure helps with the performance here, well, its optimization does. Harmony OS 2 is pre-installed here, and it’s really good. It evolved quite a bit since the first time I used it, though there’s still room for improvement. The menus are nicely organized, and you can choose between light and grid views. The grid view will bring you a similar look at different apps, similar to what Apple’s watches offer. It’s up to you. It’s set to a list view out of the box, though.

Huawei improved a lot of things about Harmony OS in a short period of time. It figured out how to do media controls properly (both watch and phone media controls are shown, phone media pops up in a quick menu after you start playing something), it started grouping notifications from the same apps / app types, you can even respond to messages here with pre-determined responses. Notification cards look great, and they’re very easy to read due to the font and this large display. Those are all major improvements, and steps in the right direction.

The software is not perfect, though

Now, there are still some things that need to be improved here. Notification duplications were an issue before, a considerable one, and it seems like Huawei fixed that. It only happened once during my usage, which is excellent. Still, some polish in that department is still needed. I’ve also noticed that some app icons are not represented properly. For example, when you get a notification from Facebook Messenger, a proper icon will appear, and messages will be grouped accordingly. When you get a message from Viber, on the other hand, such messages will get a generic icon, same as all other notifications that are not marked differently. This needs to be improved, as notifications from different apps get grouped together this way.

Notifications do come promptly, and when everything is set up properly on your phone (so that it doesn’t kill the Huawei Health app in the background), you’ll never have an issue with undelivered notifications. I also love the way Harmony OS handles Do Not Disturb (DND) mode, and yes, you can schedule it.

Things are going in the right direction software-wise

All in all, this is a major step in the right direction software-wise, and I can’t wait to get further updates to see what’s the next step. Harmony OS on smartwatch does feel like it’s going in the right direction.

I had no issues when it comes to connectivity

The Huawei Watch GT Runner connects to your phone by utilizing Bluetooth 5.2. During my testing, I didn’t have any issues with connectivity. I used the watch while being connected to the Huawei P50 Pro for a while, and then switched to the OPPO Find N. It worked great with both phones, without an issue. You’ll need to make sure that your phone doesn’t kill the Huawei Health app in the background, but once you do that, you’re good to go. I didn’t have a single disconnect during my usage, well, unless I went out of range, but that’s a different story. The point is, the connection was very strong, and I had no issues when it comes to connectivity.

It has a bevy of fitness & health features to offer

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So, as mentioned earlier, this is a fitness-focused watch. To be more accurate, it’s a watch focused on runners specifically. AI Running Coach is the feature that is front-and-center here. This feature is available in the Huawei Health app, well, it will be once you connect the watch. This feature can customize your training plans based on gender, height, and weight. Best of all, this feature does have a heart rate in mind, so it will tune everything to you specifically.

AI Running Coach feature is the main addition

What exactly can you get here? Well, the app can calculate the distance and frequency of runs for you. It doesn’t offer only one plan, though, but more of them. If you’re a beginner, there’s a plan for that. If you’re a truly experienced runner, no problem, there’s a plan for that as well. You’ll also get feedback from this ‘AI coach’ on a weekly basis. This essentially functions as having a real coach, but in an AI form. I’ve had a good experience with this feature, to be quite honest.

It offers a lot of different workout modes

This watch may be focused on runners, but it caters to those of you who are not in that specter. If you’re looking to do some other type of exercise, chances are this watch can track it. There are tons of different workouts on offer, ranging from indoor and outdoor runs, to swimming, hiking, skiing, cycling, and so on. If you’ve used any of Huawei’s recent smartwatches, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

Widgets are also a part of the package

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Some useful widgets are included on the watch itself, for both exercise and general health widgets as well. This watch can monitor your heart rate (24/7, if you want), while the Sp02 tracking is also a part of the package. A dual-band five-system GNSS positioning system is also a part of the package. Heart rate tracking worked really well during my testing, while the GPS did its job really well too. There were a couple of times when it skipped a beat in the location tracking department, but it quickly came to its senses. Do note that my testing was limited to running (indoor and outdoor) and cycling.

The battery life is excellent, and one of the Watch GT Runner’s strongest selling points

One thing that is very important to me when it comes to smartwatches is… battery life. Not many smartwatches deliver in this regard. Apple’s watches, and Wear OS watches really lack in the battery life department. I do believe that smartwatches should be able to last at least a week on a single charge. If you’re with me on that, then you’ll be happy to hear that the Huawei Watch GT Runner delivers.

It can keep you going up to two weeks on a single charge

Huawei says that this smartwatch can keep you going for two weeks, though that will realistically be closer to a week or a week and a half, depending on what features you use, and how strongly you push the watch. I averaged a week and a half on it, which are great results. If you’re a light user, that two-week battery life is promised, which is astounding. Not only is it a full-fledged smartwatch with all the features you can expect, but it also has a big, beautiful display. It makes you wonder why can’t Apple and a bunch of other OEMs come close to this battery life.

Wireless charging is supported

The Huawei Watch GT Runner also supports wireless charging. This is not the company’s first smartwatch to deliver that, however. The Huawei Watch 3 and Watch GT 3 both offered wireless charging. Watches that came before them did not, however. It’s nice to see that wireless charging is here, though, and the watch does ship with a charger. A charging cradle is included in the box, and it’s really simple to use. It also charges the watch quite fast, as we’re not looking at a huge smartphone-like battery here. The Watch GT Runner more than delivers in the battery life department.

Both a speaker and a microphone are included

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The Huawei Watch GT Runner does feature both a microphone, and a speaker. In other words, this watch doesn’t rely solely on haptic feedback. If you want, you can get it to notify you of new messages via sound as well. On top of that, you can communicate with someone by using the watch. If you’re one of those people who like taking voice calls on your smartwatch, you can easily do that. Needless to say, this speaker is not as good as the ones on smartphones, as it’s considerably smaller. Still, you can easily hear what’s being said, unless your environment is really loud. Truth be said, this speaker sounded really similar to the speaker its predecessors offered.

The microphone is okay, but don’t expect miracles

In regards to the microphone, well, it’s okay. People I talked to noticed that I sound different than when I talk via the phone, but that’s only normal. They did say the quality is not as good, but that they don’t have a problem hearing me. I tried talking through it both in a quiet environment, and in a noisy environment (walking down the street). Needless to say, the second scenario was a bit more problematic. Still, it’s doable, and better than on most smartwatches I’ve used.

The Huawei Watch GT Runner is an excellent watch, and one of my favorites thus far

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So, the bottom line is, is this smartwatch worth the money? I’d say so. This may not be one of the cheaper watches in the market, but it is one that will likely serve you well for years to come. Not only does it both feel and look premium, but it can pass as a business watch as well, despite its fitnessy nature. This is one of my favorite smartwatch designs thus far. The Huawei Watch GT Runner offers great battery life, has a big, beautiful display, a bevy of fitness and health features, and it also charges wirelessly. Huawei did a great job here.