Huawei Watch GT Runner review TL;DR: Huawei's first dedicated running watch is on the right track to becoming a serious Garmin rival but it needs to iron out some niggles first.
Huawei is after the big dogs of the running watch market with the Watch GT Runner. The company's first foray into the field of specialised performance wearables is built on the Watch GT 3 (read my Huawei Watch GT 3 review) platform that's, at least in my opinion, is a great smartwatch as is.
Compared to the sporty Watch GT 3, the Watch GT Runner lost some of the heft, kept all the sensors and added more running-specific features, creating an affordable running watch that's easy to use and like.
Is the Watch GT Runner worth considering as your next multisport watch purchase? Let's find out.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Price and availability
The watch is also available in the EU and costs €299.
US and AU prices and availability TBC.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Build quality and physical design
The Watch GT Runner uses lightweight materials to keep the weight of the wearable to a minimum. The watch case is made of high-composite fibre, essentially a hard-wearing plastic that's not dissimilar to what Garmin uses in its Forerunner series. The bezel is silicon nitride ceramic - light, tough, kind of looks like plastic - and the watch crown is titanium alloy. All in all, the Huawei Watch GT Runner weighs only 38.5 grams, excluding the silicone strap.
Light it might be, the Watch GT Runner is certainly a large watch. The watch case is 46 mm, and it only comes in one size, unlike many other fitness watches such as the Garmin Venu 2 (Garmin Venu 2 review) or the Garmin Fenix 7 (Garmin Fenix 7 review). This isn't an issue if you're taller or have a large wrist, but people with smaller wrists might struggle to find the right fit with such a wide watch case.
The Huawei Watch GT Runner has a 1.43-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 466 x 466 pixels. It's a touchscreen wearable, and touch interactions work fluidly; there is lag or insensitivity present.
Flip the watch over, and you'll find the same optical heart rate sensor used in the Watch GT 3. The Huawei TruSeen 5.0+ has eight LEDs arranged in a circular pattern. The sensor can be found under what Huawei calls a 2.5D curved glass which protrudes slightly to sit closer to your skin no matter how tight the band is.
Between your skin and the glass, you'll find a "micro-nano optical layer", the Fresnel film, which is said to have improved condensing properties, so the optical heart rate sensor "sees" the skin better even when you're really sweaty.
The Huawei Watch GT Runner has a suspended hidden antenna design. Antennas are usually curved around or hidden under the watch case (the Fitbit Charge 5 infamously has an under-case antenna). Here, it's placed in the watch lugs under the thinner polymer fibre to increase accuracy and reduce interference. The Watch GT Runner uses a dual-band five-system GNSS.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Running performance
The Huawei Watch GT Runner's main feature is the AI Running Coach. Similar to the Garmin Coach, Huawei's AI Running Coach can help beginner runners improve form by offering training programmes and providing live feedback as they run.
The difference between Garmin's and Huawei's offerings is that the Watch GT Runner talks. As a matter of fact, the wearable chats almost constantly, which can be strange to people like me who aren't used to any such levels of audio feedback. Most running watches and fitness trackers would beep once or twice when new information is displayed on the screen; not the Watch GT Runner, though!
This watch will vocalise almost everything going on: your pace, time spent running, heart rate and all other info you can think of. If you're following a running plan, the Huawei Watch GT Runner will tell you to run faster/slower to match the desired pace subscribed by the programme and what your current heart rate is.
And since the watch has a built-in speaker, it'll not only tell you all these stats but to everyone who's around you. I often run without running headphones, but on this occasion, I wore a couple of buds so I could listen to the coach's advice without annoying everyone on the street.
Of course, volume can be turned down, and audio feedback can be turned off entirely, but I actually enjoyed the constant nagging from the coach. Feedback wasn't super helpful – it told me my heart rate wasn't in the zone 10 seconds I started the run – but overall, it was helpful to know my pace and time, so I wouldn't have to look at my wrist every time the watch buzzed.
It's even better, considering the small data fields; I had this issue with the Watch GT 3. Generally speaking, I like white space in design but not in running watches where I want to be able to understand information while moving my wrist and bobbing my head. Can we please have bigger data fields in the future, Huawei? Much appreciated.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Accuracy
I was satisfied with the accuracy of the Huawei Watch GT 3. Since the Watch GT Runner uses the same sensors and algorithm, I expected the running watch to deliver the same level of accuracy as its kind-of predecessor.
Overall, the Huawei Watch GT Runner is an accurate wearable. GPS performance is good, on par with the Garmin Fenix 7 I used as a reference when I tested the watch. Both watches use a dual-band multi-system satellite system for tracking position, and they do the job just fine.
There are some discrepancies when you use a satellite overlay – I ran through a couple of buildings during my sessions, at least according to the Huawei Health app – but nothing that would seriously compromise pace information.
Heart rate measurements were a bit hit and miss. On some occasions, it took a few minutes for the watch to find the correct heart rate level and often started reporting exorbitant heart rate readings, going all the way up to threshold level before normalising. Strangely, it's the same effect I used to experience when using the COROS Pace 2 (COROS Pace 2 review), a watch I really like and use to this day.
And just like in the case of the Pace 2, slowing down and breathing into your run helps reign in the heart rate sensor. I'm sure future algorithm updates will help iron out this issue. It's also true that not all runs were affected by this issue either.
This isn't a new feature, but it's worth mentioning here: in the Huawei Health app, you'll find a button called "Dynamic tracking" on your workout summary page. Using this feature, you can create short videos of your sessions that you can share on social media such as Strava or anywhere else. It's also fun to watch this video as it displays pacing and heart rate information about your sessions, even if you aren't planning on sharing it anywhere.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Verdict
I'm in a bit of a conundrum with rating the Huawei Watch GT Runner. I gave five stars to the Huawei Watch GT 3 in my review and the Watch GT Runner should be the sportier version of that watch so naturally, I should also rate this one five stars, right?
The truth is, I actually enjoyed using the Watch GT 3 more than the Watch GT Runner. The Watch GT 3 has most of the features of the Watch GT Runner (even the AI Running Coach) but packages it in a more premium watch body. Sure, it's a bit heavier but at least it looks cool and can also be worn as an everyday watch if that's what you want.
The Huawei Watch GT Runner isn't a bad watch either, don't get me wrong. And you can also wear it whenever you want it. It's lightweight, has a big, bright screen and offers plenty of useful features for those who are new to running. Not to mention, many runners prefer lightweight running watches and the Watch GT Runner is certainly not heavy.
Even taking into account that it's only the first iteration of what will most likely be a long line of running watches, the Watch GT Runner is worth your attention. It's not quite as hardcore as the Garmin Forerunner 245 (Garmin Forerunner 245 review), nor has it got as robust recovery features as the Polar Vantage M2 (Polar Vantage M2 review). However, for the price, it's hard to stay mad at any of the shortcomings of the Watch GT Runner.
I hope future software updates will make the Huawei Watch GT Runner an even more accurate wearable. Until then, I think I'll stick with the Watch GT 3.
Huawei Watch GT Runner review: Also consider
Most of the obvious alternatives for the Huawei Watch GT Runner have already been mentioned above, but just to recap:
The Huawei Watch GT 3 is a good option for those who want a similar watch to the Watch GT Runner but yearn for something less plasticky.
The COROS Pace 2 is an excellent lightweight running watch with plenty of useful features and robust app support.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 is a solid choice if you want to get an affordable running watch from the most established manufacturer at the moment.