LG Watch Urbane Review
The first generation of Android Wear smartwatches were quite impressive, and while things remain quite similar in terms of specifications, features, and the software experience with the current crop of devices, there has been a significant improvement in terms of design and build quality. LG has been at the forefront of this evolution, starting from the reference model-like nature of the LG G Watch, to its first round face smartwatch, the G Watch R, culminating to its latest, and most expensive, offering. Is the newest Android Wear smartwatch from LG deserving of a place on you wrist? We find out, in this comprehensive LG Watch Urbane review!
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LG is no stranger to the smartwatch game at this point and it certainly shows, judging by the design and build quality of its latest offering. The Watch Urbane is classy and elegant, and looks great not just in terms of being a smartwatch, but as a watch in general, with elements like its circular design, power button disguised as a winder, and thick watch lugs making for a device that looks like a regular watch to the untrained eye.
The body is constructed with a polished stainless steel that gives it a luxurious appearance, along with a nice substantial feel to it, without being overly heavy. The stainless steel could be prone to scratches, but this review unit has held up just fine so far, but it is a fingerprint magnet and smudges fairly easily. That is, of course, just a minor gripe, as it is a small device and is very easy to keep clean.
The band is made from genuine leather, and comes with real stitching along its sides. The leather LG likes to use is quite stiff and rigid and may not be to everyone’s liking, but does hold up very well against everyday wear and tear, while being comfortable on the wrist. The good news is that the band can easily be swapped out for any standard 22 mm band, so you always have the option to get one that better suits your tastes.
The Watch Urbane is one of the larger Android Wear smartwatches available, but definitely isn’t a bulky watch by any stretch of the imagination. Granted, it could take some getting used to, but if you are already comfortable with wearing larger watches, the Watch Urbane will feel quite normal.
The Watch Urbane comes with a 1.3-inch P-OLED circular display with a 320 x 320 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 245 ppi. The display is protected by a Gorilla Glass 3 panel that should keep it free from scratches. Further, the glass is slightly recessed into the body of the watch, helping to prevent any damage from accidental bumps.
As expected, the plastic OLED screen provides some very deep blacks, saturated colors, high contrast ratios, and enough brightness for easy outdoor visibility. OLED technology makes a lot of sense with a smartwatch, not only because of its battery saving properties, but also given how this display really makes the elements of Android Wear pop. The deep blacks and high contrast make darker watch faces look fantastic, along with graphics looking good, and text being reasonably sharp and easy to read. Some may find the 1.3-inch size to a little on the smaller side, but it is still very easy to use for the most part, and it definitely is a very good looking screen.
Things remain standard when it comes to the performance and hardware side of things, with the Watch Urbane packing the same processing package as most other Android Wear smartwatches out there, with its quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and backed by 512 MB of RAM.
The processing package is starting to show its age but is still more than enough to power Android Wear. Day to day performance has been very smooth with clean animations, while swiping between cards, notifications, opening apps, and changing watch faces are all done without any instances of stutter. The experience has been at par with any other Android Wear smartwatch out there, and there isn’t much to complain about.
Things are standard on the hardware side of things as well, with the Watch Urbane coming with support for Wi-Fi, which it can now take advantage of with the Android Wear version it runs, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 LE. 4 GB of on-board storage is available, as well as the usual suite of sensors, like the accelerometer and compass, and a heart rate monitor on the back. The watch also comes with an IP67 certification for resistance to dust and water.
As you may have noticed, the Watch Urbane has a lot in common with its predecessor, the G Watch R, and that holds true when it comes to the battery as well. As such, you can expect the identical battery life from this 410 mAh unit, with up to 2 days of usage with “Always screen on” enabled. This battery life is again fairly standard across the board, so shouldn’t be an issue for any previous or current Android Wear smartwatch users.
The LG Watch Urbane is the first Android Wear smartwatch to ship with the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop update. The core software experience remains the same, with actionable notifications and Google Now cards as well as customizable watch faces all available. The update does introduce some key new features to the table though.
Always screen-on mode is now available for applications, so if you’re looking at something like a checklist or a map and the screen happens to time out, you’ll still be able to see it in a black and white format to save battery, similar to how watch faces appear on the screen when in a dimmed state. One of the best features this update brings is Wi-Fi support, which means that the watch doesn’t always have to be connected to your phone via bluetooth anymore. As long as the watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network and the phone has a data connection, notifications will sync with the watch, giving Android Wear a little more independence, and you a little more freedom, away from your smartphone.
Notifications can also be scrolled through now with “wrist gestures,” by simply flicking the wrist. It can really come in handy if your other hand is full, or you just don’t want to touch your watch, but it only works if the watch is upright, so don’t expect to be able to scroll through notifications with your wrist while laying down in bed. To increase the level of security, Google added a new feature called “screen lock,” which is essentially a pattern lock ported over to Android Wear. This can be enabled manually, or set to lock automatically anytime you take your watch off your wrist, to prevent others from snooping in on your notifications. Finally, for a little bit of fun, Google has made it very easy to send emojis just by drawing them on the screen.
Besides the addition of new features, the UI has undergone some cosmetic changes. Tapping on the screen, swiping to the left, or long pressing the power button, now brings up a separate column for apps, starred contacts, and the standard Speak Now screen. This not only makes it easier and quicker to find what you need, but also reduces the amount of vertical scrolling, that made previous builds of Android Wear a little more cumbersome to use. The new features and UI enhancements brings about some very welcome changes to the Android Wear experience, and for the time being, is something that is unique to the Watch Urbane.
|Display||1.3" 320 x 320 P-OLED, 245 ppi|
|SoC||1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400|
|Battery||410 mAh (2+ days)|
|Extras||pedometer, heart rate monitor|
The LG Watch Urbane is available now in stainless steel and rose gold for $349.99, making it one of the most expensive Android Wear watches to date. Whether it’s worth it or not will depend on how much you value the luxury appeal and aesthetics of the Urbane, because everything else this watch offers can be found on pretty much every other Android Wear smartwatch out there.
So there you have it – a closer look at the LG Watch Urbane! With OEMs not given a whole lot of freedom to play around with the software experience, and with the internals largely the same across the board, there isn’t a whole lot that differentiates the Watch Urbane from the competition, save for its beautiful design and build quality, that unfortunately does result in a significant bump in the price point. Judging solely on the design, LG has a clear winner on their hands, both as a standard timepiece and a fashion item.
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