The ASUS ZenWatch was one of the best looking Android Wear smartwatches to be released last year, bringing elegance and class to this category, while also being priced very competitively. We have seen quite a few different smartwatches since then, but ASUS is hoping to recapture some of the magic with a follow-up to the original Zenwatch, while managing to decrease its price point even further.
Given the far more intense competition it faces, is ASUS’ latest smartwatch worthy of a place on your wrist? We find out, in this in-depth review of the ASUS ZenWatch 2!
Given the fact that most Android Wear smartwatches tend to perform quite similarly and feature almost identical software experiences, it is mainly in the design that some significant distinction can be seen. As was also the case with its predecessor, design continues to be an area in which the ASUS ZenWatch 2 shines.
Made from a high quality stainless steel, the smartwatch looks and feels beautiful and elegant, with a design language that somewhat resembles a traditional luxury watch, albeit maintaining a nice and simple form. It’s not particularly flashy, which is a good thing in a world that is still adjusting to the idea of smartwatches. There are some options available as far as the color scheme of the stainless steel body is concerned, including silver, gunmetal, and rose gold.
Another choice that is now available to users is with regards to the size, with there now being two variants of the ZenWatch 2, a 49 mm version featuring a 1.63-inch display, as well as a smaller 45 mm model, that comes with a 1.45-inch screen. Featured in this review is the larger of the two iterations, but even with my small wrists, this version does still feel very comfortable. A big contributing factor to this comfort on the wrist is the thickness of the watch, which is thinner than, and therefore not as bulky, as most other smartwatches currently found in the market.
Swapping out the watch bands is also extremely straightforward, and done easily by using the sliding mechanisms found next to the body of the watch. It is one of the better implementations out there, and makes changing the watch strap a very simple task. Speaking of watch straps, a few color and material choices are available here as well, with the default being a black rubbery band, that has a slight texture to it, and feels quite nice. Leather and metal bands are also available as well, with 22 mm and 18 mm band sizes available for the larger and smaller variants respectively.
As mentioned, the ASUS ZenWatch 2 features either a 1.63-inch or a 1.45-inch display, with the AMOLED screens coming with 320 x 320 or 280 x 280 resolutions respectively. The quality of the display is quite nice, with colors having a nice vibrancy to them, and while the resolution may not seem impressive, it’s certainly more than enough to get the job done. A nice curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel protects the display, which should be able to hold up over time.
Unfortunately, the large bezels around the display that were seen with the original do make a return this time around as well, which is quite disappointing. With the display being of an AMOLED construction however, black watch faces do seem to blend into these bezels, but that is still not entirely enough to make up for how the bezels will otherwise end up looking.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the ASUS ZenWatch 2 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, backed by 512 MB RAM, which continues to be the standard processing package for almost every Android Wear smartwatch out there. Given the identical nature of the processor and the software experience, performance on this smartwatch is as expected, with their being no obvious hiccups or struggles with the UI. The watch does a very good job of remaining snappy and smooth while navigating through the various cards and menus, with very few stutters being noticeable.
The ZenWatch 2 can connect to your mobile device using Bluetooth 4.1, and can also connect to a Wi-Fi network. Bluetooth connectivity is very good, and the range is surprisingly impressive as well. In other hardware, also available is a six-axis gyroscope, that helps to pick up subtle wrist gestures. One such gesture that is available across the board is the ability to bring up the device to glance at it, allowing for a quick look at any information. This works pretty well for the most part, and very rarely will it not detect your motion and fail to light up the screen.
A welcome change between iterations is the relocation of the power button, which is now found on the right side, instead of on the back, which allows for the addition of a few more capabilities as well. Pushing the button will turn on or turn off the display, and pressing and holding it will bring up the menu that houses your applications, contacts, and Google Now. Another way to turn off the display, which is also a lot more fun and easier to use, is by just tapping the screen with the palm of your hand. This gesture works perfectly, and you feel a little vibration on your wrist, after which, the display will turn off, or go into a dimmer or non-color mode depending on your setting.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 comes with an IP67 certification for resistance to dust and water, which means that along with complete protection from dust, the device can also be submerged in up to 1 meter of water, for as long as 30 minutes, without a negative impact on performance and usability. Keep in mind is that this water resistance applies to fresh water only, and not salt water.
The larger variant of the ZenWatch 2 comes with a 400 mAh battery, while the smaller version features a 300 mAh unit. As is often the case with an Android Wear smartwatch, the battery life is surprisingly disappointing during the first couple of days and charging cycles, after which it drastically improves. Initially, it was difficult to get through a full day without the watch dying, with it lasting just around 10 hours, with the brightness set to 3, and the screen always on ambient mode. That changed significantly after a few charging cycles, with the watch now lasting comfortably for at least a full day, which should be even more if you don’t use ambient mode.
The charging experience has also been vastly improved, with there being no dock or cradle anymore, but instead a magnetic pogo pin connector, that makes making the connection for charging very easy. The device also charged quite fast, and it was possible to get up to 50% of the charge back in just 30 minutes.
On the software side of things, there is not a lot you are going to find to be different when compared to the other Android Wear smartwatches out there, with Google not allowing for any significant tweaking or skinning of their smartwatch operating system.
One way to offer some distinction here comes in the form of watch faces, and there are a lot of options pre-loaded with this device, with some being more customizable than others, and offering varying degrees of information, including battery life, step count, weather, and a lot more. Of course, there is also a slew of watch faces available for download from the Google Play Store as well.
The software experience is, of course, the same across the board. After syncing the watch with your Android smartphone, and now even iOS device, via Bluetooth, you will start to receive notifications on your wrist, that you can browse through by swiping up or down, with a swipe left bringing up more options to deal with a notification you want to interact with further. While the screen is on, you can initiate voice commands by saying “OK Google,” that features the same functionality as Google Now. Voice recognition is very reliable, and makes it extremely easy to reply to messages, and do a lot more, using your voice.
You will need to download the Android Wear application from the Google Play Store to get started, but ASUS has some great apps of their own on offer, which gives you some extra freedom, and further enhances the smartwatch experience. With the ZenWatch app, you can trigger a “find my watch” alarm, send emergency messages to close contacts, and even launch a flashlight. Another available app is called Remote Camera, which allows you to view what your phone camera can see through the watch. Another ASUS app worth mentioning is the Wellness app, which can be an alternative to the Google Fit application.
Pricing and final thoughts
Quite a lot of Android Wear smartwatches that are currently available do offer the look and feel and of a luxurious traditional time piece, but that luxury usually comes at a price. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the ASUS ZenWatch 2, which is priced extremely competitively, given the quality that it features, with a price point starting at just $129.
So there you have it, for this in-depth look at the ASUS ZenWatch 2! There are a lot of great looking smartwatches out there, but one that offers such quality at such a competitive price point is rare. If you’re looking to get into the smartwatch game, the ZenWatch 2 is a great option, with it sporting a beautiful, luxurious look, while still having very simple aesthetics. It is customizable enough, with different choices for colors, sizes, and watch bands, that makes finding your own style very easy. You might have to end up charging this smartwatch more often than any others, but if that is the only compromise that has to be made to accommodate the inexpensive price, you can’t go wrong with the ASUS ZenWatch 2.