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HUAWEI Watch Ultimate review: Should you buy it?
HUAWEI Watch Ultimate review: At a glance
- What is it? The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is a HarmonyOS-based smartwatch with 10ATM/100m water resistance. It is specifically designed to serve as a dive computer for scuba diving and freediving. It works best when paired with a HUAWEI smartphone but is also compatible with other Android phones and iPhones.
- What is the price? The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate price is £699/€749 for the Expedition Black model or £799/€899 for Voyage Blue. The two versions are identical except for bezel style and watch strap (the Voyage Blue model includes a titanium bracelet). While it wasn't officially released in the US, you can pay a little extra for the international version on Amazon.
- Where can you buy it? The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is available via Amazon, the HUAWEI website, and select retailers. It went on sale on April 3, 2023.
- How did we test it? For this HUAWEI Watch Ultimate review, I wore it as my sole smartwatch for a month. The unit was supplied by HUAWEI.
- Is it worth it? You should buy the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate if you’re specifically looking for an all-in-one dive computer and smartwatch. It’s a good basic-to-intermediate dive computer and a premium smartwatch offering with the usual HUAWEI caveats. For casual divers, it means you won’t need a separate watch and dive computer. Advanced divers, however, will likely want more advanced features like air integration.
Should you buy the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate?
I’ve reviewed dozens of HUAWEI wearables over the years. While I like them, they tend to feel a bit samey. So I was excited to test a smartwatch from HUAWEI that sets an ambitiously high bar. After more than a month with the cheaper Expedition Black HUAWEI Watch Ultimate on my wrist, I’m impressed. This is the most well-rounded smartwatch HUAWEI has made for a while.
The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is essentially billed as an adventurer’s smartwatch. Its two big features are a well-equipped diving mode and a “new” expedition mode. We’ll return to the former momentarily but I wanted to quickly mention expedition mode which I tested on a couple of weekend jaunts in the country.
In short, expedition mode is not so much an all-new feature as a sort of dashboard. It brings together a bunch of functions already present on HUAWEI’s wearables. That’s not to diminish its usefulness because it saves a lot of fiddling through different apps and settings to find relevant information when in the great outdoors.
Expedition mode is a convenient dashboard that brings together a ton of information and functions ideal for backcountry hikers.
The backbone of expedition mode is HUAWEI’s excellent Route Back feature, a way-finding and backtracking hiking feature HUAWEI has had for years. The rest of it is made up of existing features and a few new settings, all conveniently located a single press away using the Watch Ultimate’s third button.
You can set waypoints along your route, monitor altitude and sunrise/sunset times, enable storm warnings based on barometric pressure changes, set automatic positioning intervals to conserve battery, and quickly access the compass, a flashlight, SpO2 app, and barometer. Most of these are already available elsewhere in HUAWEI’s software but the convenience aspect of the dashboard is great. It’s a good idea for a watch like this and it is well laid out and executed.
I especially appreciate the ability to tweak the frequency of GPS pings in a more granular fashion than previous HUAWEI watches. This provides increased control over your hiking experience, offering pings based on step count or time, and simultaneously offers greater control over battery consumption. Other HUAWEI wearables only offer two battery settings: performance or power saving, so it’s a welcome change.
I also like the storm warning feature even if I didn’t encounter any bad weather when I was using it. Previously, I always used the barometer to predict worsening weather manually so it’s great to have automatic alerts baked in. I only wish the dashboard elements served as shortcuts to the full app or setting when tapped because additional information or changes over time are occasionally important to monitor.
With 10ATM/100-meter water resistance, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is clearly targeted at divers.
Now, on to the main attraction: diving mode. With 10ATM/100-meter water resistance, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is clearly targeted at divers in its advertising. As a quick matter of clarification, the ISO 22810:2010 standard by which it has been certified “covers watches intended only for daily use and for swimming, while ISO 6425 covers watches that can be used while scuba diving.” The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate does not have ISO 6425 certification. It does have EN 13319 though, which is the official German standard for “diving gauges and combined depth and time measuring devices.” Make of that what you will.
Despite any potential misgivings about official certification, as long as a watch can withstand 100-meter depths and includes a “time pre-selecting device,” it can still be considered a diving watch. That function in diving watches was, historically, handled by the rotating bezel but the diver’s watch-style bezel on the Watch Ultimate does not rotate. Fortunately, it does have a digital stopwatch and elapsed time counter. HUAWEI states you can dive with the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate at 100 meters. My dive certification tops out at 30 meters so I did not test this claim, nor would I want to.
The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate will be perfectly fine for your average 30 to 40-meter-limit recreational diver (like me). The kind of diver heading to 100-meter depths would no doubt require — and likely already have — a more sophisticated dive computer with air integration and other advanced features. If you’re considering buying the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate as your primary dive computer for deep dives, research first. I’d recommend reading into the certifications and testing processes to ensure you’re well-informed and comfortable before you dive in.
Beyond that asterisk, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is a feature-packed and accurate dive watch. Its depth gauging is spot on compared to a traditional gauge and it provides all the obvious dive computer features you’d expect, including:
- Decompression stop and ascent speed alerts
- Surface intervals
- No-decompression limit (NDL) calculator
- No fly timer
- Gas mixes
- Salt/fresh/custom water settings
- Gradient factor value
- Oxygen partial pressure (P02) limits
- Apnea training and testing
- Water temperature
- Dive depth average and max depth
- Digital compass and stopwatch
I’ve been diving recreationally for over 15 years and from my seasoned-but-far-from-expert dive experience, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate has everything a recreational diver might want from a basic or even intermediate dive computer. It easily replaces the basic dive computers occasional divers are issued when they go scuba diving while on holiday. This is especially impressive considering the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is first-and-foremost a smartwatch.
The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is otherwise the same capable smartwatch we’ve come to know from HUAWEI in recent years. There’s a whole host of fitness activity tracking and health data, all of which work great and are very accurate against control devices including the Apple Watch and Polar H10 chest strap. The only thing the Watch Ultimate misses in its heart rate tracking is the extreme peaks and valleys encountered during HIIT activities that the Polar still manages to capture. This is true of practically all smartwatches, the Apple Watch included, so is not a particular slight against HUAWEI’s sensors.
GPS was a little more janky than I expected. Despite its dual-band, five-satellite GPS system, the Watch Ultimate occasionally took a long time to fix my location. For whatever reason, it oscillated between a near-instantaneous GPS fix and taking up to fifteen minutes to lock onto my location.
In one instance, I went on a 20-minute run and the Watch Ultimate only locked onto my position for the final three minutes. On another run, it recorded GPS data for the middle third of my run but not the start and end. My recommendation would be not to start an activity until the GPS has locked onto your position. It can unfortunately be hit-and-miss if you head off before it has done so. Exiting the activity and starting it again often results in an immediate lock so don’t give up hope. HUAWEI needs to address this issue as it has been present to a greater or lesser extent on every watch I’ve tested with this system.
Despite its dual-band, five-satellite GPS system, the Watch Ultimate occasionally took a long time to fix my location.
As with most other watches from HUAWEI, I also gave up on auto-detection of activities as it completely missed bouts of exercise more often than it was triggered. As a general rule of thumb, always manually activate activity tracking. And a PSA: always turn the volume down or off for Workout Broadcasts in the sound settings to avoid embarrassingly loud announcements of your exercise progress at the gym.
On the positive side, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate provides a ton of essential health-tracking features including heart rate data, step count, SpO2 monitoring, skin temperature, arterial stiffness detection, ECG, lactate threshold, VO2 max, stress monitoring, sleep tracking, running ability index, and more. You can install additional apps via HUAWEI’s App Gallery using the HUAWEI Health app on your phone but the selection is still pretty limited. The Spotify controller, TickTick, and calculator are about as good as it gets.
Fortunately, exporting fitness data is a lot simpler these days with native Strava integration as well as Komoot and Adidas Running (others also available depending on your region). The old method using Health Sync to export data to any service of your choice is also possible if you want to jump through a few hoops. All told, HUAWEI’s health tracking is top-tier even if GPS continues to be a slight blemish on an otherwise very accurate and reliable fitness tracker.
Finally, I wanted to talk about looks and materials. The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is an unashamedly large watch at 48mm which might be too big for some. My tastes have always leaned towards chunky watches and it doesn’t look at all bulky or comically large on my wrist. In terms of styling it’s also my favorite HUAWEI Watch design yet. In large part, this is thanks to the larger 1.5-inch LTPO display which I love.
The combination of an amorphous zirconium puck, sapphire glass display, and ceramic back and bezel is a good combination for durability. At 76 grams not including the strap, the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is heavy but not unreasonably heavy for a watch this size. For reference, the 46mm Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro I previously reviewed weighs in at 54 grams without the strap. You can see the size difference in the image further below.
Battery life remains a standout feature of any HUAWEI smartwatch.
I was far less impressed with the rubber HNBR strap though, which split near the ejector mechanism after only a month. This is not a great look for a watch you’re supposed to take to the bottom of the ocean with you. There’s a spare strap in the box but it’s only the side with the holes on it, so as luck would have it, mine split on the side with the clasp. I’d recommend swapping it out for a standard 22mm watch strap at your earliest convenience and preferably before you take it in the ocean.
Battery life remains a standout feature of any HUAWEI smartwatch with its 530mAh cell managing 10 days to two weeks for me, in line with all other HUAWEI watches I’ve reviewed. It’ll only hit this range if you’re not frequently tracking activities with GPS enabled or using the always-on display.
Tracking multiple GPS activities each week with sleep mode on for nighttime hours still got me between seven to eight days between charges. You will deplete around half the battery in a single day if you’re logging a full day of diving but it’s still more than enough to get you through. Recharge time with the included wireless charging puck is around one hour.
I really like this watch. I can nitpick certain aspects of it but the overall package is exceptional. It’s right up there with the Apple Watch in terms of the accuracy of its health metrics. It has class-leading battery life, all the fitness tracking essentials you would need, and a couple of killer new features.
The biggest competition for the Huawei Watch Ultimate is arguably the Apple Watch Ultra. Beyond that, dedicated dive computers like the Garmin Descent Mk2i.
You should buy the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate if you’re a casual or novice diver but still want an all-in-one smartwatch and dive computer of your own. If you’re already within HUAWEI’s wearable ecosystem this will be an even easier sell. Especially so because you’d already be acquainted with the asterisks that come with any HUAWEI wearable. I wouldn’t recommend the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate for more advanced or professional divers, due to a few higher-end features it lacks that may be essential for more technical dives.
What are the best HUAWEI Watch Ultimate alternatives?
The best HUAWEI Watch Ultimate alternatives essentially fall into two categories: those that are smartwatches first and those that are diving computers first. Both categories have alternative options at the high and low end of the price spectrum.
- HUAWEI Watch GT 3 Pro ($332 at Amazon): Within HUAWEI’s lineup, the best alternative is the far cheaper and slightly smaller HUAWEI Watch GT 3 Pro (pictured above). The GT 3 Pro features a more basic diving mode and lower water-resistance rating of 5ATM or 50 meters. The HUAWEI Watch GT 3 Pro is not recommended for dives deeper than 30 meters. It also does not include a dedicated scuba diving mode (only a free-diving mode in Workouts).
- Apple Watch Ultra ($799 at Amazon): The biggest competition for the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is arguably the Apple Watch Ultra. Apple’s smartwatch also offers a comparable diving mode although you do need a paid subscription to take advantage of it. Which watch is better for you will likely come down to the ecosystem you’re already in.
- Cressi Leonardo ($229 at Amazon)/Aqua Lung i450T ($600 at Amazon): If a more affordable diving-specific watch is what you’re looking for, check out the Cressi Leonardo which comes in at a third of the cost of the HUAWEI Watch Ultimate or Apple Watch Ultra. You could pick one of these up along with the GT 3 Pro and save a couple of hundred dollars. The Leonardo doesn’t have air integration or a compass, though. It is a pretty basic dive computer and is clumsy to navigate with its single button. The Aqua Lung i470TC, by contrast, offers air integration and will only set you back around $400. It lacks all the obvious smartwatch features, however.
- Garmin Descent Mk2i ($1,899 at Amazon)/Shearwater Teric ($1,565 at Amazon): At the other end of the spectrum, Garmin’s Descent line does it all, but to get one with integrated air and a transmitter, you’re going to have to spend $1,900. The base model Garmin Descent Mk2i is a great alternative to the Watch Ultimate. Even it is considerably more expensive at $1,499. It is, of course, a dive computer first and a smartwatch second. The slightly cheaper Shearwater Teric can also be paired with a transmitter for around $1,550. Again, however, it lacks a lot of regular smartwatch features you may want. The alternatives really come down to your specific diving computer or smartwatch needs and how much you’re willing to spend.
HUAWEI Watch Ultimate specs
|HUAWEI Watch Ultimate|
1.5-inch LTPO AMOLED, 311ppi,
466 x 466 resolution
1,000 nits brightness
Dimensions and weight
48.5 x 48.5 x 13mm
76g w/o strap
Fits wrists 140-210mm
Colors and materials
Amorphous zirconium alloy (silver color for Voyage Blue model, black color for Expedition Black model), ceramic bezel and rear plate, and sapphire glass screen
Watch straps (22mm): Voyage Blue model: Titanium bracelet and 2 x blue HNBR straps (one extra long for diving); Expedition Black model: 2 x black HNBR straps (one extra long for diving)
Up to 14 days of "regular" use, 8 days of "intensive" use
Wireless charging (5-9V/2A) with included charging cradle
~60-minute charge time
(GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, and QZSS)
Bluetooth 5.2 (BLE, BR, EDR)
Optical heart rate sensor
10ATM/100-meter water resistance (ISO 22810:2010 and EN 13319 diving standard)
IP68 (IEC standard 60529)
Harmony OS 2 or later
Android 6.0 or later
iOS 9.0 or later
HUAWEI Watch Ultimate review: FAQ
The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate isn’t waterproof but it is rated to 10ATM/100 meters for water-resistance. It is certified according to the ISO 22810:2010 and EN 13319 standards.
Yes. The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate will work with any iPhone running iOS 9.0 or later. Not all features are available on iPhones, however.
Yes and no. The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is a smartwatch first but also features everything a basic dive computer does. It is rated to 100 meters for water resistance and has a fully featured diving mode. It just lacks some advanced diving features like air integration.
The HUAWEI Watch Ultimate is an admittedly expensive smartwatch. But when compared to the cost of buying a regular smartwatch and a dive computer it’s competitively priced.