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Asus ZenWatch

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
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What's Hot: Very attractive, looks like a watch! Nice OLED display, interesting Asus apps. Easy to source 22mm bands.

What's Not: Though not bad among today's smartwatches, battery life still isn't a strong point.
Android Wear is still a work in progress.


Reviewed January 15, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

LG G Watch R

If you can't beat 'em, join them. I'm starting to feel that way with the onslaught of smartwatches, particularly Android Wear watches. I've reviewed quite a few in the past several months, and a strange thing has happened: they're growing on me. It's not just that familiarity breeds conformity or acquiescence, rather Android Wear watches, both software and hardware, are evolving and improving that quickly. The Moto 360 was the first good looking smartwatch after a small onslaught of square plastic geeky looking Android and Tizen timepieces. It has that minimalist Movado look, just on a grander scale (the Moto 360 is one of the larger models). Then the slightly smaller LG G Watch R hit not long before the Android Wear 5.0.1 update and it sported a truly nice looking men's diver watch design. The latest is the Asus ZenWatch, and as we know from their ZenBook line, Asus knows how to make some classy looking devices with attractive metal casings at a reasonable price. The ZenWatch has a stainless steel casing in silver, with a sliver of rose gold sandwiched in the middle. It looks simply lovely, and not unlike the Apple Watch (Asus got there first!). The back has a satin finish for comfort and the strap lugs aren't as big and uncomfortable as the LG G Watch R. It's also the least expensive at $199, a price point where I start to feel a little less uncomfortable paying for a device that's largely a second screen for my Android phone. It's also the first watch that I think a woman might wear and it works equally well for dress and casual attire.

Watches are categorized as jewelry, and that's been a challenge for smartwatch makers. Asus has made something that looks as good as a standard timepiece, though it's still on the larger side, with a 1.63" AMOLED touch screen. Simply put, there's no way to fit the CPU, chips and battery in a small watch, and the screen has to be large enough to see easily and operate with a finger. The brown leather band is also nice looking and it isn't as stiff as the LG G Watch R band. It has a very easy to operate clasp that's secure, but if you prefer black leather, sports-friendly synthetics or a metal band, it's interchangeable with 22mm bands. That works nicely as "jewelry" too--no need to suffer with the manufacturer's options if you find a band that tickles your fashion sense.

Asus ZenWatch

Most Android Wear watches run on the quad core Snapdragon 400 CPU with 512 megs of RAM and 4 gigs of storage, just like the ZenWatch (the Moto 360 runs on a slower, older platform). The watch is responsive in terms of overall speed and it registers both touch and voice commands quite well. Android Wear is designed for touches and swipes and voice, but I still wonder how many of you are comfortable doing a Dick Tracy and talking to your watch in public places (I'm not). Android Wear 5.0.1 brings new functionality and improvements, and it can do things like act as a standalone music player now. You can install apps on the watch, and just in the past month we've seen quite a few new titles appear like Lyft, Evernote and a variety of popular fitness trackers. The games are still lame, hopefully that will change quickly too.

LG G Watch R

Mostly, Google's vision of Android Wear is still as a device that's a second screen for your phone. I bet many folks want more, and those downloadable apps will help. Note that some apps actually use your phone for most of the legwork--particularly news apps like NY Times and News Republic. If your watch is out of Bluetooth's 30 foot range from your phone, those apps won't update on your watch. You can get notifications from your phone piped over to your watch, which will display those notifications at the bottom of the watch face, and the watch can vibrate but not make noise since it has no speaker (that's an Android Wear thing). You can also control which apps create watch notifications, so you don't have to be bombarded with unwanted info. The ZenWatch connects via Bluetooth to any Android 4.3 or newer smartphone. Android Wear isn't compatible with the iPhone, Windows Phone or BlackBerry. It doesn't have WiFi or 3G--for that you'll have to get the Samsung Gear S watch running Samsung's Tizen OS. The Gear S also requires a Samsung branded phone, whereas Android Wear works with any phone brand.

LG G Watch R

Deals and Shopping:

Asus ZenWatch Video Review


LG G Watch R

Bluetooth range and connection reliability on the Asus ZenWatch have been very good in our tests with none of the random disconnects we've seen on other models and a range that actually sometimes surpassed the 30 foot claim for Bluetooth class 2 radios (we managed up to 45 feet a few times). The watch's vibrate motor is weaker than average, though some types of notifications seem more robust than others, making us wonder if it's a firmware setting that could be tweaked. The watch has a pedometer and a heart rate monitor, but the heart rate monitor doesn't use the usual underside wrist optical sensor. Instead you'll place two fingers on the bezel, which we found less reliable.

Since Google doesn't allow manufacturers to customize Android Wear's UI, there are only two differentiators: hardware design and add-on apps. Asus has their own ZenWatch Manager that you can use in addition to Google's Android Wear Manager, and they have a health and fitness tracker that can remind you to get up and move around once per hour (Wellness), a remote camera app for your phone's camera (the watch has no camera of its own). There's an SOS app and feature where you can launch SOS on your watch to notify via SMS the person of your choosing that you're in trouble and the watch face will show their phone number and name along with a request to contact them. While Asus' apps aren't absolute must haves, the SOS feature is actually a great idea and the Wellness app shows promise. Jawbone Up is also pre-loaded and it will needle you into action by telling you how many steps you've takien today compared to other Up users.

Battery life is a sore point for smartwatches, and the ZenWatch does better than average with 1.5 days on a charge with the ambient display on (a low power watch face that always shows rather than having the face go black). We sometimes couldn't make it through the day with the Moto 360 and its power hungry LCD and older chipset, and the LG G Watch R generally lasted a full day. The 320 x 320 AMOLED display lacks an ambient light sensor but we found it bright enough for outdoor use with brightness set to 2 or 3 (5 is max brightness). It has AMOLED's deep blacks, high contrast and saturated colors. The ambient display is easy to see and we like Asus' selection of watch faces (you can download more from Google Play using the Android Wear app on your phone).

The watch comes with a soft touch compact cradle style charger and a micro USB charger.

Smartwatches aren't quite there yet as must have devices. Android Wear is moving along briskly and the watch app selection is growing quickly, but it's hard to find them indispensible just yet. If you already wear a watch, it's easier to jump into smartwatch territory since they certainly do more than a Timex or a Seiko. I've grown accustomed to looking at my wrist to see the temperature, see how many steps I've taken and to find out if that email is really worth looking at RIGHT NOW. At $199 with great looks, a quality casing and a nice leather band, the Asus ZenWatch is the easiest Android Wear watch to like.

Price: $199


Related Reviews:

Moto 360 (2nd gen, 2015)

Huawei Wach Review

Apple Watch Review

Apple Watch Series 2 Review

Garmin Fenix 3 Review

LG G Watch R Review

Moto 360 Review (1st gen)

Samsung Gear S Review

Samsung Gear 2 Review


LG G Watch R

Above: the ZenWatch with the Nexus 6 and Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Android phones.



LG G Watch R

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Display: 1.63" OLED touch screen, 320 x 320.

Battery: 360 mAh Lithium Ion.

CPU, RAM and Storage: 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad core CPU, 512 megs RAM and 4 gigs storage.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0.

OS: Android Wear.

In the box: watch, charging cradle and charger.


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