RE­VIEW: Asus ZenWatch

It's not a bad first at­tempt at a smart­watch by Asus, but there's room to im­prove

Android Advisor - - Adroid Advisor -

The ZenWatch is Asus’s first ven­ture into the other smart­watches such as the Moto 360, it does

ma­jor­ity of the watch, with a slight hint of rose gold on the sides, a colour that’s com­ple­mented by the ac­com­pa­ny­ing brown leather strap.

The ZenWatch has fewer but­tons than its com­peti­tors, and while this may be more aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing, it throws up is­sues when nav­i­gat­ing the UI. Its one and only but­ton can be used to turn on and off the watch, but it’s un­der­neath the watch, well out of reach when be­ing worn.

The OLED (320x320) dis­play is pretty stan­dard for An­droid Wear watches. While the res­o­lu­tion is fine for day-to-day use, the pix­els are vis­i­ble on­screen.

The Asus ZenWatch has an ‘al­ways-on’ mode that keeps the dis­play turned on, even when not be­ing used. In an at­tempt to sal­vage bat­tery life, af­ter a few sec­onds of in­ac­tiv­ity your watch face will be re­placed with a slightly pixel­lated ver­sion that looks like it’s dis­played on an e-Pa­per dis­play.

When you raise your wrist, the dis­play switches back to its full colour dis­play and is ready to use

au­to­mat­i­cally. The re­spon­sive­ness of the smart­watch was some­thing that we were pretty sur­prised with, as many aren’t great at de­tect­ing the move­ment of rais­ing your wrist. There is a down side to it be­ing so sen­si­tive though, as we found that the dis­play can be ac­ti­vated when mov­ing nat­u­rally.

In­side, you’ll find a 1.2GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 400 pro­ces­sor, com­plete with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of stor­age. There’s also a mi­cro­phone for au­dio prompts – a life­saver for a de­vice with a lack of nav­i­ga­tional but­tons.

It also comes with a host of sen­sors in­clud­ing a 9-axis ac­celerom­e­ter, compass and gy­ro­scope, along with a barom­e­ter, all of which come in handy with re­gards to fit­ness track­ing and nav­i­ga­tion apps.

There’s even a sen­sor that can track your heart rate at var­i­ous stages of ex­er­cise. The is­sue is that it re­quires two fin­gers, gen­tly push­ing both sides of the dis­play, which can be tricky. The Asus ZenWatch is wa­ter- and dust re­sis­tance with an IP55 rat­ing.

An­droid Wear is Google’s OS for wear­ables. The main is­sue is that it is still in its early days, which in turn hin­ders the en­joy­ment of us­ing a smart­watch.

It adds a whole host of fea­tures such as no­ti­fi­ca­tions, nav­i­ga­tion, Google Now, mu­sic con­trol, step track­ing and mes­sag­ing. Third-party apps are also avail­able, as well as no­ti­fi­ca­tions that have cus­tom ac­tions, such as be­ing able to dic­tate a re­ply to a What­sApp mes­sage for ex­am­ple – some­thing that’s strangely not pos­si­ble when view­ing a text mes­sage on the ZenWatch.

Asus has made some tweaks to the stock An­droid Wear OS in a bid to make the de­vice stand out from the crowd. It of­fers smart fea­tures such as un­lock­ing your smart­phone when in prox­im­ity, tog­gling a flash­light on the de­vice (a brightly coloured screen) and the abil­ity to send a pre­set SOS mes­sage to a per­son in an emer­gency. It also has its own Asus

ZenWatch app for watch man­age­ment, though this doesn’t do much that you can’t do on the watch.

As we men­tioned ear­lier, the ZenWatch has only one but­ton. This means that you’ll have to rely on au­dio prompts and a dis­ap­point­ing touch­screen to nav­i­gate the smart­watch. We found scrolling be­tween menus a frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as, on many oc­ca­sions, the Asus thought that we had se­lected some­thing that we wanted to scroll past, and would open it. The left- to right swipe is meant to take you back to the clock face, and while it does, there were many oc­ca­sions where the ges­ture wasn’t recog­nised.

The sav­ing grace is voice recog­ni­tion, which we found to be sur­pris­ingly ac­cu­rate. We’ve been dis­ap­pointed in the past by other voice-recog­ni­tion tech­nolo­gies we’ve tested, which have felt awk­ward to use. That def­i­nitely wasn’t the case this time, although it should be noted that peo­ple do tend to feel a bit silly talk­ing to a watch in public.

There’s also a great se­lec­tion of watch faces to choose from, rang­ing from tra­di­tional-look­ing de­signs to more un­usual op­tions that find unique ways of dis­play­ing the time, date and other cru­cial in­for­ma­tion. You also have the op­tion to tweak many watch faces from the ZenWatch app, as well as hav­ing the op­tion to down­load third-party watch faces from Google Play.

The Asus also has a unique fea­ture – you’re able to dis­play your phone’s cam­era viewfinder on your watch. This lets you take your time when com­pos­ing shots, be­come more cre­ative and make sure your selfie is per­fect be­fore you take it.

The ZenWatch has a 22-hour bat­tery life, though this shrinks dramatically if the dis­play is in ‘al­wayson’ mode and you’re re­ceiv­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions all day. To charge the watch, you sim­ply place it in the sup­plied cra­dle.

Ver­dict

The Asus ZenWatch is a good-look­ing smart­watch. The lack of but­tons is an is­sue, es­pe­cially with the touch­screen in­put be­ing as frus­trat­ing as it is. It does, how­ever, have im­pres­sive voice recog­ni­tion.

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