In 2015, about every smartwatch maker on the bazaar is emphasizing appearance over smarts. Both Huawei and Motorola afresh told us their new watches were advised as timepieces aboriginal and geeky accessories second, and Samsung’s adorned new Gear S2 bears about no affinity to its cuff-like predecessor. Further, all these refinements accept been round: a quick attending at the Android Wear area of the Google Store and alike the latest out of Pebble confirms that it’s no best hip to be square.
ASUS doesn’t assume to affliction about any of that. The aggregation fabricated account beforehand in the year by offering a spec-packed smartphone at a actual aggressive price, and now it’s afterward up with a analogously acute action for the wrist. The ZenWatch 2 may not be as visually arresting as the competition, but like its 2014 predecessor, it offers best of the comforts of Android Wear for about bisected the amount – and it brings some acute software touches to boot.
As you may anamnesis from our hands-on at IFA 2015, the ZenWatch 2 comes in two sizes: the standard 1.63″ WI501Q and the abate 1.45″ WI502Q. If your wrists are added slender, you’ll absolutely appetite to go for the petite option, admitting its added ambit and wider bezels. We advised the beyond model, which is attenuate but additionally absolutely tall; it spreads out beyond the top of the wrist like a collapsed metal pancake, authoritative for an awkward attending on all but the meatiest of arms. The watch’s automated architecture is attractive if conventional, its silver brushed metal faceplate abutting to a matte atramentous backplate by a simple cylindrical crown featuring a attenuate rose gold accent. (ASUS says it will additionally action rose gold and gunmetal case colors, but our analysis sample is the argent edition.)
The ZenWatch 2’s accouterments shows off some of the compromises ASUS fabricated to hit its amount point. The entry-level 22mm watchband is neither fluoroelastomer nor silicone, but rather the boxy textured rubber accustomed to Timex owners of decades past. The acme button doesn’t action abundant in the way of biking or automated feedback. And while the backplate is pockmarked by affluence of case penetrations for screws, utility ports and an credible apostle grill, it doesn’t affection the heart-rate sensor that’s become almost standard on Android Wear watches.
It’s on the flip ancillary area the ZenWatch 2 gets a adventitious to shine. Under the hardly arced Gorilla Glass 3 awning sits a 320×320 affectation with a pixel body of 277ppi. That puts it slightly beneath the Huawei Watch (286ppi) but aloft the beyond Moto 360 2nd Generation (233ppi) – a affluence close pixel absolute because its size. Additionally absorbing are the accuracy and adverse brought by the AMOLED panel, which is absolutely clear in absolute sunlight and alluringly showcased by a assembly of preinstalled watchfaces alignment from the alluringly simple to the garishly complex. There’s no ambient ablaze sensor actuality –meaning you allegation to acclimatize accuracy manually– but that’s par for the advance with best Android Wear watches today.
In that aforementioned vein, the software acquaintance actuality is absolutely familiar. The ZenWatch 2 runs Android Wear 1.3 on a Snapdragon 400 processor backed up by 512MB of RAM and 4GB of bounded accumulator (in case you appetite to accompany your music to the watch for a smartphone-free jog). This hardware/software cocktail is appealing standard, and it after-effects in appealing boilerplate admiration too. There’s the casual minor hiccup, and alteration animations generally bead a few frames. Keep in apperception we’re seeing the aforementioned affair on the new Moto 360, so this is beneath an adumbration of accouterments agitation than quirks of the Android Wear belvedere itself. Those quirks appearance themselves in added areas as well, like the wrist-flick scrolling gestures that alone assignment intermittently, and accidental Bluetooth disconnections that absolutely should have been fixed by now.
Where ASUS has been accustomed allowance to differentiate, it’s done some absorbing stuff. Download the ZenWatch Manager and you’re prompted to aces up four or five companion apps alignment from the fitness-tracking Wellness Suite to the committed ZenWatch Music alteration utility to the Remote Camera app we saw approved at IFA. The closing is decidedly fully-featured: it lets you toggle aback and alternating amid still and video cameras, toggle the beam on and off, and take shots application either a tap or a wrist-flick. And you get a alive viewfinder account whenever the app is open, authoritative for a fun spy-cam.
There are a few nice surprises added bottomward the account too. There’s a decidedly fully-featured watchface architect actuality that lets you body a alarm face from scratch, appropriate bottomward to the area and position of the analog hands. The FoneHelper hub brings some of your smartphone’s utility toggles over to the watch so you can, say, about-face your phone’s WiFi or Adaptable HotSpot on or off appropriate from your wrist (though alone the above seems to assignment with our Samsung Galaxy S6; it’s apparent we’d accept better luck with an ASUS handset). The SOS app is acute too: it allows you to dispatch a custom SMS bulletin forth with your GPS coordinates to an emergency acquaintance with a single tap. It’d be nice if this affection could be active in to the acme button instead of actuality lumped in with the blow of the Android Wear app list, but this –again– is a belvedere shortfall.
We’ve acclimated our ASUS ZenWatch 2 analysis accessory for over two weeks, commutual with a Samsung Galaxy S6 on T-Mobile US.
In accustomed use, the ZenWatch 2 performs its basal functions well. Notifications appear in with a able but abrupt haptic fizz that never fails to bolt our attention, and the watch can handle aggregate from dishwashing to a active autumn bathe acknowledgment to its IP67 baptize and dust attrition (for the record, we’ve alone activated the above claim). The device’s alone absolute declining is the aforementioned Bluetooth connection, which seems added aerial than on added Android Wear devices.
Our larger-edition ZenWatch 2 packs a 400 mAh array (compared to the 300 mAh backpack in its abate sibling). The watch usually lasts us about 1.5 canicule on a allegation – a archetypal 15-hour day sees us bung the accessory in at about the 40% mark as we’re activity to bed. Topping up is easy application the included alluring connector and the charging acceleration is relatively fast, with ASUS claiming a 50% allegation in aloof over bisected an hour.
ASUS initially told us the ZenWatch 2 would retail for a starting amount of $129, with a buy-up to $149 appropriate for the abate adaptation or the adorned leather-bound copy actuality awash through Best Buy. As of presstime, we can alone acquisition the cheaper advantage at Newegg; the official Google Store lists the watch at a starting amount of $149.
ASUS’s action with the ZenWatch 2 –deliver analytic acceptable looks and solid appearance for bisected the amount of the competition– resonates aloof as acerb today as it did aftermost year. In a apple where many Android Wear watches alpha at $300 and some alike ability into the $800s, the ZenWatch 2 seems an island of adherence in a sea of absurdity, its maker the abandoned aggregation to recognize the smartwatch balloon for what it is. Even if you bounce for the added $20 and get the leather/gunmetal trim offered by Best Buy, the ZenWatch 2 is a ridiculously acceptable value. There are absolutely bigger wearables out there, but for a first-time smartwatch client or accession attractive to accomplish the jump to Android Wear after spending a lot of money, this smartwatch does a actual nice job for the price.
Wondering what abroad is activity on in the beginning apple of wearables? See what we anticipate of the ZenWatch 2’s antagonism in our abounding reviews of the Huawei Watch, Pebble Time and Apple Watch – again try on a altered affectionate of wearable with our HTC Re Vive hands-on!
Michael Fisher has followed the apple of adaptable technology for over ten years as hobbyist, retailer, and reviewer. A diffuse assignment as a Sprint Nextel agent and a adept adherence to webOS accept anchored his adulation for the underdog platforms of the world. In accession to confined as Pocketnow’s Reviews Editor, Michael is a stage, screen, and articulation actor, as able-bodied as co-founder of a assisting YouTube-based business. He lives in Boston, MA.
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