Asus ZenWatch 2

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS - Lewis Painter

The first-gen­er­a­tion Asus ZenWatch was a nice smart­watch, but we thought it needed a lit­tle work. Thank­fully, the de­sign­ers at Asus went back to the draw­ing board and have re­leased a new model, with more pow­er­ful spec­i­fi­ca­tions and unique fea­tures such as a ‘flick-to-swipe’ sys­tem that al­lows you to browse your no­ti­fi­ca­tions with­out swip­ing on the screen, and even an app that lets you de­sign your own watch face.

De­sign

The ZenWatch 2 is a sleek de­vice and, in our opin­ion, a huge leap for­ward from the first-gen­er­a­tion model. It’s made from a durable stain­less steel case, and, like many other smart­watches, is now avail­able in two sizes: 1.45- and 1.63in. There are also more colour op­tions than be­fore: sil­ver, gun­metal or rose gold. We’re re­view­ing the gun­metal model, with blue leather straps and a rose gold crown but­ton. It’s a nice blend of the colour op­tions, although we would have liked to have seen more use of the rose gold ac­cent on the body of the watch.

It’s not just good-look­ing ei­ther. The IPX68 rat­ing means it’ll sur­vive a stint in the rain and the sweati­est of work­outs, although we’d swap out the pro­vided leather strap be­fore any intense work­outs to keep it in a nice con­di­tion.

Asus has gone to town with the per­son­al­i­sa­tion of the ZenWatch 2, and we’re not talk­ing about watch faces. As well as be­ing avail­able in two sizes and three colours, there’s a range of Asus watch straps to choose from in a va­ri­ety of colours and ma­te­ri­als. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, there are 18 ma­te­rial and colour com­bi­na­tions. If you didn’t want to opt for the of­fi­cial Asus watch straps, you can use any stan­dard strap.

The de­sign is largely the same as that of the orig­i­nal ZenWatch, though this isn’t a bad thing in our opin­ion, and the ex­tra cus­tomi­sa­tion avail­able with the new smart­watch is a good thing. One dif­fer­ence be­tween the two is the ad­di­tion of a tra­di­tional crown but­ton on the side. We as­sumed that this would be used ei­ther for nav­i­ga­tion, like the Ap­ple Watch, or as a back but­ton, as on the Sam­sung Gear S2. Dis­ap­point­ingly, it only con­trols the dis­play (press it to turn the dis­play on and off) and pro­vides quick ac­cess to your apps (press and hold).

In terms of size, the ZenWatch 2 is sleek and light­weight, weigh­ing only 50g and 60g, depend­ing upon which size you opt for, and mea­sur­ing 10.9x40.7x49.6mm. One of our main com­plaints with the orig­i­nal ZenWatch was that it wouldn’t ‘sit’ prop­erly on the wrist, but we’re happy to say that this prob­lem has been rec­ti­fied.

Fea­tures

In terms of the dis­play, the 1.45in watch has a 280x280 AMOLED screen with a pixel den­sity of 273ppi, while the larger 1.63in model of­fers a slightly higher 320x320 res­o­lu­tion with a pixel den­sity of 278ppi. The dis­play is pro­tected by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3. Swip­ing from the edge of the screen isn’t as pleas­ant as it is on the Ap­ple Watch, whose dis­play isn’t set within a metal frame and al­lows for a more en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence.

Thank­fully, Asus has brought back the low-res­o­lu­tion dis­play

Asus al­lows users to de­sign their own from scratch via the ZenWatch FaceDe­signer app. It’s a great idea that we’d love to see on other smart­watches

op­tion for the ZenWatch 2. This will kick in af­ter a few sec­onds of in­ac­tiv­ity and shows a greyscale ver­sion of your watch face that al­lows you to glance to see the time with­out hav­ing to wake it up.

Asus has im­proved the ZenWatch’s bat­tery life, with the com­pany claim­ing that it will last around two days on a sin­gle charge. Dur­ing test­ing, we found this to be true, although with the more-thanaver­age us­age you’ll be look­ing at just over a day on a sin­gle charge. That doesn’t re­ally mat­ter though, as the ZenWatch 2 of­fers fast charg­ing tech­nol­ogy that can charge your bat­tery 50 per­cent in only 36 min­utes – enough to get you through the day (at least), mak­ing it ideal for those con­stantly on the go. In terms of specifics, the watch packs ei­ther a 300- or 400mAh bat­tery, depend­ing on which model you buy.

The most in­ter­est­ing new fea­ture is ges­ture con­trol. If you’ve got a hand­ful of no­ti­fi­ca­tions, you can flick your wrist in a cer­tain di­rec­tion to scroll be­tween them. This may sound a bit gim­micky, but as a reg­u­lar smart­watch user, the idea of not hav­ing to in­ter­act with the watch at all to see your no­ti­fi­ca­tions is great, es­pe­cially when your hands are full. Although we had to ‘train’ our­selves to flick our wrists in­stead of tap­ping the screen for a cou­ple of days, it soon be­came very handy.

In­side, you’ll find a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 400 pro­ces­sor, which is usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with high­end smart­watches such as the LG Watch Ur­bane or Huawei Watch, cou­pled with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on­board stor­age. That’s pretty im­pres­sive, es­pe­cially when you price tag is £149. It’s a no­table im­prove­ment over the first-gen­er­a­tion watch and the dif­fer­ence is im­me­di­ately no­tice­able when us­ing the watch. Scrolling is a lot smoother and the watch gen­er­ally feels more re­spon­sive. The ZenWatch 2 also comes with both Blue­tooth and Wi-Fi, al­low­ing you to use it with­out be­ing con­nected di­rectly to your phone.

In­ter­est­ingly, there is one fea­ture of the orig­i­nal ZenWatch that didn’t make it on to this watch – the heart-rate mon­i­tor. Af­ter talk­ing with an Asus spokesper­son at the launch back at IFA in 2015, we found out that the heart-rate sen­sor in­cluded with the first-gen­er­a­tion ZenWatch “wasn’t very ac­cu­rate,” so the com­pany de­cided to drop it.

Soft­ware

The watch runs the lat­est ver­sion of An­droid Wear, pro­vid­ing An­droid users with their favourite apps at a glance. It fea­tures ‘OK Google’ sup­port too, which will ac­ti­vate Google’s on-screen as­sis­tant when­ever it recog­nises the phrase. It’s not just for An­droid smart­phones any­way – iPhone users are also catered for, although func­tion­al­ity will be some­what lim­ited. The An­droid Wear for iOS app pro­vides you with your lat­est no­ti­fi­ca­tions, along with lim­ited fit­ness track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ac­cess to Google Now cards, but that’s about it.

Us­ing Asus’ ZenWatch Man­ager app, you’re able to choose from over 50 dif­fer­ent watch faces, and the choice doesn’t stop there ei­ther. You can also se­lect from a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent wid­gets, in­clud­ing calo­ries burned, the weather, hu­mid­ity lev­els and even any missed calls that you may have, and add th­ese to your watch face. The best part is that it’s sim­ple to do via the ZenWatch Man­ager app, and the up­dates are ap­plied im­me­di­ately to your watch.

If none of the ex­ist­ing watch faces take your fancy, Asus al­lows users to de­sign their own from scratch via the ZenWatch FaceDe­signer app. It’s a great idea that we’d love to see on other smart­watches. You can change ev­ery­thing about the watch face, from the po­si­tion of the hands to the text dis­played, and even the po­si­tion­ing of your cho­sen wid­gets.

The ZenWatch 2 also comes with a com­pletely re­designed fit­ness app that is sim­ple to op­er­ate and uses an on-board pe­dome­ter to mea­sure your progress. We’re not quite sure how ex­act the ‘calo­ries burned’ in­for­ma­tion is with­out a heartrate mon­i­tor, but we’re as­sured by Asus that it’s ac­cu­rate. It’s lim­ited in terms of what ac­tiv­i­ties it can track though, as we only found op­tions for run­ning, sit-ups and push-ups dur­ing our time with the smart­watch. It can track sleep, too.

Ver­dict

The Asus ZenWatch 2 is a great smart­watch, and is a wor­thy up­grade from its pre­de­ces­sor. Un­der the hood, the spec­i­fi­ca­tion boost makes the dif­fer­ence when in­ter­act­ing with the watch, pro­vid­ing a snappy ex­pe­ri­ence and should com­pete with watches £100 to £200 more ex­pen­sive. Vis­ually, its a huge im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor, with more ‘flavours’ of the smart­watch avail­able with a num­ber of specif­i­cally de­signed ac­ces­sories. The Asus-branded soft­ware brings some­thing dif­fer­ent to the smart­watch, es­pe­cially the FaceDe­signer app that lets you cre­ate your own cus­tom watch face from scratch.

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