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Asus Zenwatch review - Android Wear for the masses

Tom Morgan
18 Dec 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
200
inc VAT

Asus proves square smartwatches can be sleek - the Zenwatch one of the best Android Wear devices around

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Specifications

Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: Yes, Display size: 1.63in, Resolution: 320x320, OS support: Android 4.1+, Battery life: 1-2days

After Motorola and LG generated a huge amount of buzz with their circular smartwatches, it came as something of a surprise when Asus announced its first wearable would have a square display. However, take one look at the ZenWatch and it’s clear the company knows what it’s doing; it’s a seriously sleek watch that puts the competition to shame with its good looks.

DESIGN

Built from steel, with a slightly curved shape that sits comfortably on your wrist, the ZenWatch is unassuming yet refined. The silver finish around the outer edge is lightyears ahead of the plastics found on Samsung Gear 2 and LG’s original G Watch. The bronze plating around the sides isn’t just for show, either - it doubles as the heart rate sensor. You have to squeeze each side with your thumb and forefinger to produce a reading. The process isn’t quite as streamlined as the Moto 360’s automatic readings, but results were more consistent and you don’t have to wear the watch tight to your wrist either.

Asus Zenwatch - AMOLED display

The ZenWatch is still rather large on the wrist though; while not an issue for the bigger staff, it completely swamped the wrist of our smallest team member. It’s also a shame the black screen bezels are so large, especially at the top and bottom. Thankfully, the textured metal rim around the edge is smarter-looking than on any of the other square smartwatch we’ve seen.

The strap is made from tan leather and uses a standard 22mm fitting, it has a rather chunky clasp mechanism instead of a traditional buckle. It’s easy to adjust though, and we particularly liked the quick release pins which let you remove the strap without any tools. There’s currently only one colour choice, and no word on a version with a stainless steel band, so we expect a lot of users will swap out the strap for an unofficial alternative until Asus releases more.

Asus Zenwatch - clasp

The watch is water resistant, rather than waterproof, so while you’ll be able to wear it in a rain shower you won’t be able to take it swimming.

PERFORMANCE

The 1.63in screen uses an AMOLED panel, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Although the panel is entirely flat, the curved 2.5D glass on top gives the illusion of a curved screen. It’s a subtle effect, but one that instantly gives the impression that the Zenwatch is a premium device. The 320x320 resolution looks crisp from arm’s length, viewing angles were unsurprisingly excellent for an AMOLED display and it was bright enough to read clearly outdoors. Light reflections were a little troublesome, however, particularly when sat directly beneath harsh overhead lights.

The ZenWatch lasted around 24 hours on a full charge with regular notifications, liberal use of Google Now and the Asus remote camera app. To get that figure we set the brightness to the medium level and enabled Ambient mode, so the screen stays on at the lowest brightness until you tap it. That’s pretty much a worst case scenario; you can squeeze more juice from the 360mAh battery if you drop the brightness down to the lowest setting and disable ambient mode. 

Asus Zenwatch - charging

Even so, you’ll want to recharge the watch every night with the included charging cradle. It holds the watch snugly, with proprietary charging pins on the underside of the watch lining up when you dock it, but as with previous smartwatches it’s another thing to remember if you’ll be away from home for more than 24 hours. If you lose it, there’s no other way to recharge the watch.

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