Withings ScanWatch Horizon review

Withings ScanWatch Horizon review

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Epblogs verdict

While most of today’s modern smartwatches are focused on fitness with health a close second, Withings ScanWatch Horizon flips the script, putting health alongside design with fitness a few steps behind. The beefy, classic looks just don’t lend themselves to an aggressive workout, long run, or big swim. It can handle all that, but more delicate writsts might complain.

Price and availability

The 43mm Withings Scanwatch Horizon is available for $499.95 (£ 499.95 ). That’s roughly $200 more than Scanwatch’s original, 38mm analog hybrid. 

After being onsale in UK, France, and Germany since September, the watch is finally coming to the US on May 17, along with the rest of Europe also on May 17.

Design and display

  • Bulky and bold
  • Hybrid analog/digital design
  • Controlled entirely via digital crown

Let’s just say that everything else about the ScanWatch Horizon is bigger than the original SacnWatch, which came in 38mm and 42 mm varieties. The ScanWatch Horizon is a 43mm wearable and is 13.28-ins. thick (that’s slightly over a half an inch).

While the ScanWatch weighed 58g (the smaller model and without the strap), the ScanWatch Horizon weighs in at 72g. It’s a substantial device, even moreso if you wear it with the default metal band. The product ships with a band sizing kit that includes a pin pusher and a small hammer to drive that pusher into the pins holding the metal links together. There’s even a plastic holder that keeps the watch and band in place while you work out the adjustment. It’s an effective system, but no matter how I configured the segments, I couldn’t find a combination that felt just right.

Also, since I knew I’d be sleeping with the watch on, I decided the flexible fluoroelastomer band would be lighter and a lot more comfortable (I was right).

The watch itself is beautiful. With its stainless-steel body, it really does look like a classic divers watch in the mold of, say, a Rolex. Under the clear, saphire glass is a green enamel face. That color scheme carries through to the thick rotatable bezel (which has no discernable purpose). There are the wide yet refined hour and minute hands (there’s no second hand) and dial markings, all of which glow in the dark. There is also a smaller complicaiton activity dial that keeps track of your total progress toward your activity goal.

Sitting at 12 o’clock is the watch’s sole digital display. It’s a half-inch, monochrome LCD with enough resolution to offer a surprising amount of detail in that tiny space, but more on that later. Since the analog watch hands sometimes move over that screen, they will automatically shift out of the way (to 10 and 2) as soon as you press the digital crown.

The back looks nothing like an analog watch. There are three sets of sensors for heart rate, SpO2 levels, and electrodes for the electrocardiogram (there’s also a hidden ECG sensor on the face of the watch). 

The fit of the watch is important because the sensors need skin contact to work. As I noted, even with the fluoroelastomer band, I’m not sure I ever found the perfect fit. Fortunately, the watch never failed to deliver my health readings.

Switching bands, by the way, is quite easy. Both the metal band and the flexible one have quick-release pin bars (basically tiny handles attached to the spring-loaded pins that hold the bands in place). I simply pulled those back, slipped out the metal band, and then pulled the quick-release pins bars back on the fluoroelastomer band to slip it into place

The crown and the tiny digital screen are really a complementary pair. You wake up the screen by pressing the crown and then scroll through on-display menus and features by spinning the crown. When you find a feature or activity you want to use, you press in the crown again. 

In the case of workout options, I scrolled to the main workout menu, pressed the crown to see the workout options (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Walking, Other), pressed to select what I want, and then press the crown again to start, pause or stop the workout.

It can feel rudimentary compared to the full-color and rich menu system on the Apple Watch and, yes, those workout options are on the scant side, too. The ScanWatch Horizon isn’t even capable of auto-detecting a workout as I can trust my Apple Watch to do.

Still, there is something to be said for simplicity, The lack of a ton of options and an a highly-designed and watch-face-eating display might be too much for some, especially those coming from the Fitbit world where they can buy a device like the Fitbit Inspire, which similarly keeps the display info to a minimum.

Getting started and keeping track

  • Easy setup
  • Accurately tracks activity
  • Lots of health-tracking features
  • Connects to phone and apps for notifications

Getting started with the Withing Scanwatch Horizon is easy. I started by fully charging the wearable on the included charging base. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of pin-based dock-charging systems. You must make sure to position the watch properly on the pins or it won’t charge. It’s not even held in place by strong magnets.

While the watch charged, I installed the Health Mate app, which is the same app used by all of Withing’s health-related devices. It guided me through the Bluetooth pairing process and once the watch was fully charged (roughly 2 hours), it guided me through an extensive series of steps to enable all the active and passive health features. 

You do have to authorize the sharing of information between Health Mate and the Apple Health App, giving the Health Mate the ability to update any metrics for which it collects data. It reminds you how to wear the watch and where to place it on the wrist for the best readings. There’s guidance on the ECG and also a note that the device, which is FDA-cleared, cannot detect heart attacks and other medical conditions.

With all this done, the watch is ready to use and track your health and activity. I scrolled to the heart rate monitor and found I was beating at 68 beats per minute.

I ran an SPo2 test, which required me to sit still and place my hand over the face of the watch. When I felt a vibration,  some 30 seconds later, the test was done. At 94% I was “below average.” A subsequent reading put me at 96% – I think I’ll be OK.

ECGs work almost exactly the same, except the first time I did it, the app let me know that Withings partner Heartbeat Health, had to review my personal information to “provide medical approval for you watch’s ECG activitation.” Fortunately, this only happens once.

In case you care, my sinus rhythm is normal.

Obviously, the ScanWatch Horizon doesn’t just connect to my iPhone for health-and fitness related activities. Provided you give it permission, it can deliver all sorts of notifications that, yes, appear on that tiny, tiny screen. I read text messages (a single scrolling line), calendar alerts, got word of incoming calls. They were all accompanied by a noticeble device vibration. 

It was all fairly low-key and I kind of liked it, 

At night, I rolled into bed and even without changing a setting or touching the crown, the watch knew it and automatically tracked the lengthy of my sleep and its quality. Later I enabled the breathing monitoring and found that I was not having any significant breathing disruptions. I did wake up in the middle of most nights and became aware of the big watch on my wrist.

I honestly felt like this information in the Health Mate app was clearer and more useful than what I found in the Apple Watch’s sleep tracking (yes, for a few nights I slept with both watches on – my wife thought I was insane). 

Fitness tracking

  • Relatively few workout options
  • No automatic fitness activity detection
  • No on-board GPS
  • Activity tracking works well

This is a decent fitness wearable, but, owing to its size and weight, it’s not the least conspicuous. It’s heavy and where the Apple watch is light and nothing but curves, this is a bulky watch with edges and a prominent crown.

I walked with it and did my weight work, crunches, curls, pushups, and pullups. All but the walking falls under the watch’s “other” workout category.

There’s no indoor and outdoor walk, just walk. 

If you’re a swimmer, this is a watch that’s ready for you. Where the Scanwatch could handle depths of 5ATM (a measure of underwater atmospheric pressure), the ScanWatch Horizon is a “diver’s” watch and can handle twice that depth (10ATM). I’m no diver, but I checked its virtually waterproof bonafides by dunking the watch in a sink full of water. It was fine. To be clear, 10ATM is definitely good for swimming and snorkeling, but might not be best for a deep dive.

Overall, the fitness features are useful if secondary to the health capabilities.

As I noted, the watch does handle cycling, running, and walking, but it won’t know where you’re going or where you’ve been without your phone’s GPS – the watch has none of its own.

Seems like the $500 range should get you built-in GPS. There’s certainly room in that case, but ScanWatch just didn’t deem it necessary.

Battery life is, as you would expect, stellar. More than a week into testing and I have yet to recharge it. As I write this, I still have 39% battery life left. If I hadn’t taken so many ECG and SPo2 tests, it might even last longer. My guess is, that with varied use, 15-20 days a charge is a reasonable expectation. Longer if you don’t use the health-related tests very often.

That long battery life also helped the ScanWatch Horizon feel more like the traditional battery (even self-winding) watch your grandfather favored.

Overall, the Withings ScanWatch Horizon is an elegant addition to the smartwatch market. It takes the classic look and feel of a divers watch and blends in significant digital capabilities across the health, fitness, and notifications spectrums.

It’s not as comprehensive as the Apple Watch, lacking microphones and connections to a voice assistant like Siri, but there’s no way Withings intends that tiny digital screen to compete with Apple’s high-resolution, full-color wearable display. The ScanWatch Horizon isn’t as proactive, either, never realizing on its own when I’ve started a workout.

It’s more than able to handle most any kind of workout, including an ocean dive, though the watch design isn’t for someone who, say, when they’re running, wants to forget they’re wearing a watch.

This is the smartwatch for someone focused on health, the past, and unbeatable battery life.

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