A Bigger & Better Fitness Tracker
I’ll give you some advice for free: don’t fracture your toe while you’re reviewing a fitness tracker.
Fortunately the Honor Band 6 had nothing to do with that particular mishap, but it is a mite harder putting it through its paces when you’re under doctor’s orders not to take too many paces yourself.
Still, a few days of actual exercise and six weeks of limping later, I have a pretty good idea of how the Honor Band 6 holds up between both proper workouts and lighter day-to-day use. Between the big screen, varied tracking options, and two-week battery life this is arguably the budget tracker to beat.
Design and build
The biggest change from 2019’s Honor Band 5 is the jump to a much larger 1.47in AMOLED display, which runs almost to the edges of the device. It’s big, bright – and colourful – without making the tracker itself feel too bulky. Plus, the extra screen space makes the whole experience of moving around menus much more enjoyable.
The bigger screen means a move to a case that’s 43mm tall. It’s a touch chunky at 11mm thick, but weighs a mere 18g.
The body of the tracker is black, with an Honor logo inscribed on one side, and a solitary button on the other. The silicon strap is unfortunately non-removable, with a choice of black, grey, or pink.
I’ve been reviewing the black model, with is sporty and functional, but not exactly stylish. There are definitely better-looking trackers out there, but for the most part you’ll have to pay more to get them – or give up on a few features instead.
With 5 ATM water-resistance, you’re also able to wear this in the pool (with swim-tracking supported) or keep it on when you shower.
At this point it’s worth flagging one thing: this is essentially an identical design to the Huawei Band 6, though that comes in slightly different colours. Honor is a former Huawei subsidiary, but was sold by the beleaguered Chinese tech company in 2020. The Honor Band 6 was in the works before the sale though, so bears remarkable similarities to the Huawei device, and it’s worth considering both.
Overall, the Honor Band 6 is light and comfortable enough that it’s really been no bother to wear this pretty much 24/7 for the last six weeks, taking advantage of the waterproofing and sleep-tracking so that I’ve really only taken it off to charge it up.
Tracking and heart-rate monitoring
Despite the diminutive price, the Honor Band 6 packs in a pretty comprehensive suite of tracking features.
Besides the standard step count, it will recognise ten types of exercise: running, walking, and cycling (all indoor & outdoor), elliptical, rower, and free training. That’s admittedly fewer than some rivals, especially when you consider that the outdoor cycle tracking only works with iPhones or Honor phones – and not other Android devices. The otherwise comparable Huawei Band 6 goes up to 96 types of exercise, which makes Honor’s ten feel rather inadequate.
There’s also the familiar option to enable automatic workout detection. This is often a bit ropey, and the Honor Band 6 is no exception. It’s a good backup option to have, but I’d recommend starting workouts manually if you don’t want to miss the first few minutes of tracking half the time.
While you can track outdoor runs, walks, and bike ride routes using an accompanying phone, there’s no built-in GPS here. There’s also no NFC, so no hope of using this for contactless payments.
Elsewhere the tracking is more impressive though. Continuous heart rate monitoring is available, driven by Huawei’s TruSeen 4.0 sensor, and for the most part is fairly accurate, giving results in line with other trackers.
This heart rate information is also used to drive the Band 6’s stress and sleep tracking. The former gives you a score out of 100 at regular intervals throughout the day. Like most stress trackers it’s hit-and-miss – sometimes it seems to capture the highs and lows of my life, while other times I’m tearing my hair out trying to hit a deadline while my watch screen claims I’m as calm as can be.
Sleep tracking is also automatic, charting your deep, light, and REM sleep windows throughout the night, and giving you an overall score out of 100 every morning. Tracking here impressed me, often agreeing with the Withings Sleep Analyzer on the quality of my sleep while beating that dedicated scanner in recognising the difference between me lying awake in bed and actually sleeping.
In addition to heart rate you can measure your blood oxygen level (SpO2). This is manually activated, rather than continuous, and a reading takes 30 seconds or so. I’m less convinced by the accuracy here though – taking readings immediately one after another I got 99% followed by 86%, which is well outside the bounds of a normal margin of error.
Finally, menstruation and fertility cycle tracking are also both available, though I’m afraid I can’t possibly comment on those.
Battery life has always been one of the areas budget trackers excel, and the Honor Band 6 is actually at the upper end of the cohort.
Honor claims a total battery life of up to 14 days, with a 10-day promise for heavier use. After over a month of testing I’d say those estimates are pretty much bang-on: this thing runs and runs, lasting long enough that when you do get a low-battery alert it comes with a faint sense of surprise. “Oh yeah, this thing does need to charge every now and then…”
Charging is arguably even more impressive. The custom charger will plug into any USB-A port and attaches magnetically to the tracker. A full charge takes a little over an hour, but the included fast charge tech means that just ten minutes on charge should net you another three days or so of use – perfect if you only discover at the last minute that it’s running low.
The Band 6 runs on Honor’s own custom software, which really means it runs on Huawei’s software. Still, thanks to the larger display this OS is at its best here, with plenty of space on the screen to make every screen comfortable to read and navigate.
The single button is used to access a few quick shortcuts and start workouts, and otherwise you swipe up to access settings, or across to move between the default watch face and screens including your heart rate and stress scores, the music player, and activity goals.
I have my pet peeves. The raise-to-wake function isn’t quite as reliable as I’d like and, with no always-on display option, it can be annoyingly difficult to see the time sometimes.
And while there is a Do Not Disturb option that shuts down alerts and the raise-to-wake, as far as I can tell there’s no way to schedule this, so you’ll want to manually turn this on every night and off in the morning if you intend to wear the Band in bed for sleep tracking.
There’s not a whole lot of customisability, but there is a selection of watch faces to choose from in varying styles, though only one of the default faces allows any further customisation. If that’s not enough there are hundreds more available through the accompanying app.
The app in question is in fact the Huawei Health app – the biggest giveaway that this was originally designed along with Huawei. Honor hasn’t yet released its own health app, and even if it does it’s not clear if the Band 6 would support it, or continue to use Huawei’s.
In any case, this is a perfectly functional app, if not the most attractive around. The tiled home screen gives you access to all of your health and fitness data, while the Exercise tab gives you a few handy guided run options.
The app can be linked to Google Fit, Apple Health, and MyFitnessPal for data sharing, but that’s it – no other exercise or health apps are supported.
Price and availability
Really the key selling point of the Honor Band 6 is the price. At just £44.99/$62.99/€49.99 this is one of the most affordable trackers on the market. You can grab it right now from Amazon.
It undercuts the £60/€60 Huawei Band 6 (unavailable in the US), which is almost exactly the same other than an extra band colour and more exercise options, while you’d have to spend at least double for the closest comparable Fitbit.
The main competition will come from Xiaomi’s Mi Band 6, which offers a remarkably similar feature set for £40/$55/€45, though opts for a taller, thinner display. Check out our full ranking of the best fitness trackers for more alternatives.
The Honor Band 6 isn’t perfect, but there’s enough here to make it a decent option for anyone looking for an affordable fitness tracker.
You get a range of tracking options, a big screen, and excellent battery life, along with extras like a 5 ATM waterproof rating.
I’d love to see a bit more customisability and a slightly snazzier design, and the limit to ten official exercise types is definitely a drawback. The Huawei Health app, while solid, is certainly not the best around either.
Still, the Honor Band 6 delivers an awful lot for the price, and makes it hard to justify spending more.
Honor Band 6: Specs
- 43 x 25.4 x 10.99 mm
- Durable polymer materials
- Silicone strap
- Available in black, grey, and pink
- 1.47 inch AMOLED display
- 194 x 368 pixels
- Accelerometer sensor
- Gyroscope sensor
- Optical heart rate sensor
- 2.4 GHz
- Android 6.0 or later
- iOS 9.1 or later
- 14-day battery life
- Magnetic charging thimble
- 5 ATM water-resistant