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Asus ZenWatch 2 review

Katharine Byrne
4 Feb 2016
Asus ZenWatch 2
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

The Asus ZenWatch 2 is a great-looking smartwatch with good battery life, but its feature set is outranked by several fitness trackers

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Specifications

Pedometer: Yes, Heart-rate monitor: No, Display size: 1.63in, Resolution: 320x320, OS support: Android 4.3+, iOS 8.2+, Battery life: 2 days

When it first launched in 2014, the Asus Zenwatch was one of the most desirable smartwatches of its day thanks to its elegant design and useful suite of additional apps. Its latest incarnation, the ZenWatch 2, looks set to continue that trend, the stainless steel case and lightly curved display are back, alongside a new metal crown, giving it a more traditional look for those after something a little more discrete and unassuming than Motorola's circular Moto 360 devices.

It's still not a good fit for those with smaller wrists, though, as its large, over-sized bezels and fixed, rigid lugs practically dwarfed my wrist as soon as I put it on. As such, it's probably not the best choice for most women, but there's no denying it's still a very handsome device. It's easily as attractive and comfortable to wear as Motorola's 2nd Gen Moto 360, and I'd certainly choose this over LG's chunky G Watch R.

Not sure which smartwatch is for you? Check out our Best smartwatch and fitness trackers for 2016

However, when you've also got the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S2 competing for your wrist, it's going to take a lot more than good looks to help the ZenWatch 2 stand out from the crowd, especially when its specifications are nigh on identical to those found in its predecessor. In fact, it's only really the size of the battery that's changed, as the ZenWatch 2 has the same 1.63in 320x320 AMOLED display, quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage as its predecessor.

Asus ZenWatch 2 crown

Battery Life

Instead, Asus has focused on making it easier and more convenient to use, increasing the battery capacity to 400mAh instead of 360mAh, and improving its water resistance rating to IP67 so it’s better-able to withstand things like rain showers and washing your hands under a tap. Fast-charging has also been speeded up, as you can now get around 50% charge in just over 30 minutes, and 70% in around an hour, making it quick to top up if you run out of juice during the day. They're all useful extras, and it helps bring the ZenWatch 2 up to date with its other Android Wear competitors.

I managed about two days of use with the Wi-Fi and Always-on screen turned on, but disabling these will stretch it to three. However, unlike Motorola's Moto 360 smartwatches, the ZenWatch 2 doesn’t have an ambient light sensor built into its watch face, so you'll have to adjust the brightness manually in the main Settings menu if you find it a bit too dim for your tastes. This will obviously drain the battery faster if you always have it on high. I found that 2 (out of 5) was more than enough for indoor use, but occasionally I needed to go up to 3 or 4 outside. Honestly, you're unlikely to fiddle with this, instead leaving it on a higher setting, still it easily gets through a day's use and up to two with light use.

Asus ZenWatch 2 rear

The superior battery life is partly thanks to Asus' brand-new sensor hub. It's a shame the ZenWatch 2 hasn't reprised the original's built-in heart rate sensor, but if all you're after is a basic step and sleep tracker, then the ZenWatch 2 does it in a very clever way. Rather than use its Snapdragon 400 chip to calculate and save data gathered from its accelerometer and gyroscope, it uses the sensor hub to do this instead, making it much more power-efficient over the course of a day - this is much the same as modern iPhone's with their motion co-processors.

Performance & Display

It's a shame, then, that its day-to-day performance isn't particularly slick, as I found the display was often a bit sluggish to respond after coming out of standby mode. Its quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip was fine once it got going, but it can be a bit frustrating to use when you're in a hurry or only want to glance quickly at a notification that's come through.

Luckily, the crown is much faster in this case, as you can press it and immediately start swiping through your Android Wear cards without having to wait. It doesn't scroll like the crown on the Apple Watch sadly, but it's still handy for turning the screen on and off and activating cinema mode without having to use the menu settings.

It's also a useful way of minimising the number of dirty fingerprints the ZenWatch 2 picks up, as I found its reflective 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel often got quite smeary after only a few minutes use. That aside its 1.63in 320x320 display provided plenty of detail whether you opt for a traditional analogue-style watch face or one of its many digital faces.

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