As the price of some fitness trackers creeps past the $ 299 mark, keeping your eye out for a bargain makes sense. The Huawei Band 3e is one of the least expensive fitness trackers I’ve seen in years at just $ 29.99, but it’s a case of getting what you pay for. It manages to pack in some fairly advanced features, such as an analysis of your running that identifies heel strikes, and that’s surprising given the low price. Perhaps unsurprising, however, is that some of the tracking features showed truly poor accuracy in testing, and the band doesn’t have any style or visual appeal, making it tough to recommend.
I would be remiss not to mention that Huawei made headlines recently when the company’s CFO was detained by US authorities on charges of fraud, specifically covering violations of sanctions against Iran. This review was written without consideration for any of the company’s practices, but it seems relevant to let consumers know that the company is entangled in a serious international confrontation.
Design, Comfort, and Battery
I tested the Huawei Band 3e with a black band, though it’s also available in gray, orange, pink, and cyan (it’s more of a dark blue-green color, really). In the box you get one band, a shoe clip, and a charging cradle and cord.
The tracker pops into and out of the band, similar to the Fitbit One from a few years ago. I loved that little gadget in its day, but considering what fitness trackers do now, it feels from another era. The Huawei Band 3e is a close replica in some respects, although it doesn’t come with a clip you can attach to your clothes, only your shoelace. The clothing clip was a huge selling point for the Fitbit One, and not having it for the Huawei Band 3e is a missed opportunity. In any event, you pop the sensor out of the wrist strap either to charge it or to snap it into the shoe clip to track your running.
At 0.2 ounces, the tiny sensor has a rectangular passive-matrix OLED display measuring just 0.5 inches long. There are no physical buttons, no heart rate monitor, no color indicator lights—nada. With the weight of the wristband included, the whole thing is a scant 0.6 ounces. The fact that it’s so lightweight makes it comfortable to wear, although the material used for the strap isn’t very luxurious. I’ve worn a few fitness trackers whose silicone strap had a downright velvety exterior (the Withings Steel HR Sport, for instance), but this one feels ordinary.
The Band 3e’s display leaves a lot to be desired. Grainy pixels take on a grayish hue, rather than glowing with precision. Because the display isn’t sharp or bright, battery life is more than sufficient. One full charge lasts approximately 14 days with typical use, and potentially longer. Huawei says you can get about 40 hours out of it in running mode. The band is also water resistant to 164 feet.
Daily Use and Accuracy
While wearing the Huawei Band 3e, I also wore a Fitbit Charge 3. Based on what I know about my habits and from data collected across dozens of fitness trackers since I started wearing them five years ago, I have a good sense of what kind of numbers to expect. Sadly, the Huawei Band 3e consistently counted far fewer steps than I can consider accurate. Sampling across three days, the average difference between the Fitbit’s daily step count and Huawei Band 3e’s was 4,110, which is substantial.
Certainly, fitness trackers record steps differently, and some motion may count as a step when it shouldn’t. As a result, I give a wide berth to what I consider accurate. For a full day of walking, anything with up to a mile variation isn’t bad. The Band 3e just didn’t come close to recording all the steps I took in daily wear. It fared better in a concentrated one-mile treadmill test, clocking 0.89 miles.
If step counts are poor, sleep tracking is even worse. I regularly sleep about seven hours a night, and it’s rare for me to wake up in the middle of it. The first night I wore the Huawei 3e to bed, it said I got fewer than three hours of sleep. The same thing happened night after night. If I were actually getting as little sleep as the Band 3e thinks, I wouldn’t be able to form sentences anymore. One night it said I only slept an hour and 54 minutes. Never once was it even in the right ballpark.
If it weren’t for such poor results in the reporting on my fitness stats, I might pay more attention to some of the features that do work well in the Band 3e. A find-phone function, for example, forces your phone to chime loudly even if it’s on silent, as long as you’re still in Bluetooth range of it.
When you wear the sensor in the shoelace clip, it automatically goes into
Disappointments continue in the app just. For example, you can set up a training plan to help you run faster or build up your stamina to complete a half marathon, but once your plan is set, you never get any reminders of your workouts. You also have to dig into the settings in the app to enable a lot of functionality that’s off by default.
Comparisons and Conclusions
The Huawei Band 3e is addled by tradeoffs. A poor display makes for impressive battery life. It wears weightlessly, but to keep the price low, the materials feel and look cheap. You can set up training plans, but you never get any reminders to do the workouts. The features are plentiful, as long as you don’t mind the fact that they create highly inaccurate information about your health and fitness. So you can drop a meager $ 29.99 on this fitness tracker, or you can put that money toward something better, which is what I recommend.
If you’re dead set on finding a tracker with a bargain basement price, don’t pass up on the Misfit Ray (currently selling for $ 19.99). It’s a few years old now but remains a competent, beautiful, and exceptionally comfortable tracker. The Fitbit Alta HR ($ 99) and the Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($ 129) cost quite a bit more, but also deliver far more for your money.