Asus ZenWatch 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.