Asus ZenWatch 2 Review: Asus presented us with the ZenWatch 2 at IFA 2015 and we’ve finally had time to toy with it for a full review.
We commended the original ZenWatch for its killer design and now the ZenWatch 2 is here to take the crown for the best looking square-faced Android Wear(able) out there. It boasts thinner bezels, a colour-matched crown on the right side and best of all a ton of customisation options.
You can choose from a silver, gunmetal or rose gold body as well as a heap of band options – 18 in all. Material choices range from leather, to rubber (for active use), to link and meshed steel. Aesthetically there’s a lot of freedom to make a ZenWatch your own, which we’re all for, however the leather band our review sample came with didn’t feel particularly premium and the stitching along its edging started to fray after just a couple of weeks use, suggesting that the rubber or metal offerings might look better for longer.
Comfort-wise Asus has improved the build quality over its predecessor, with a more solid feel on the wrist, despite its plastic backing and should you have small or spindly wrists, it now comes in two sizes, Apple Watch-style.
The only bugbear is that, like most other smartwatches out there, the ZenWatch 2 relies on a proprietary dock, so you’ll still aren’t able to plug in and power up with anyone’s standard USB phone charger without taking it with you.
As we’ve already said, the bezels are a tad thinner this time around, which only helps push the luxury and quality factor up a notch. The larger 1.63-inch display-toting model appears identical to last year’s version, right down to the 320×320 resolution. There’s a chance the components used have improved over the last 12 months, but it’s difficult to gauge improved colour reproduction or visibility without placing them side by side.
The smaller-bodied ZenWatch 2 also packs a smaller 1.45-inch display with a 280×280 resolution, however it too looks fit for purpose, with small details and fonts wholly visible when glancing at the watch when worn.
Natural legibility feels on-par with the majority of the other Android Wear devices already available, with a few exceptions like the Huawei Watch, which can push out imagery with better overall brightness. That said, the addition of a brightness boost mode should help alleviate any issues with visibility in bright environments.
Being one of the latest Android Wear devices to market, the ZenWatch 2 officially plays nice with both Android and iOS, albeit with stifled functionality on the iPhone side of the fence (blame Apple, not Asus or Google for that one).
Asus had already laid the foundation for a robust smartwatch experience with the first ZenWatch and as such you can download the ZenWatch app suite to your Android device to expand the functionality beyond the standard Android Wear software.
Pushing that idea of customisation beyond just the hardware components, the ZenWatch Manager app lets you cycle through 50 different ‘professional watch faces’ designed in-house by Asus. Some look pretty great and should work on whatever combination of body and strap you fall upon, but some are a little harder to love. Thankfully you also have the ability to customise an existing watch face by adding complications like battery meters and weather, or create your own using the FaceDesigner app.
There are more conventional extras too, such as a music manager to load tracks onto the ZenWatch 2’s internal storage or control playback from your phone remotely, the ZenWatch Remote Camera app, which lets you snap shots or record video with a flick of the wrist and naturally use the ZenWatch 2’s display as a viewfinder.
Being an Android Wear device, you can of course tie in the ZenWatch 2 to Google Fit in order to synchronize activity data, but Asus has its own solution in that regard too. The Wellness app tracks steps and sleep with daily and weekly breakdowns. When the app notices changes in location of specific events of activity, they’re marked on the record and you can easily swipe through to see your recent fitness data. It’s easily one of the more feature packed and individual Android Wear devices around because of the extensive list of extras.
As with the displays, the size of ZenWatch 2 you favour has an impact on its internals. Both watches offer performance on par with the majority of their Android Wear siblings, primarily based on the fact that they’re powered by identical chipsets. Inside both you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, but the battery capacity differs with a 300mAh cell in the larger variant and a 200mAh cell in the smaller.
Thankfully battery longevity is relative to the number of pixels that need to be pushed around and although Asus quoted us two days of use with the screen set to ‘always on’ and three days if you manually wake and sleep the device, we managed three days with an always-on display, just by turning it off at night. This places it at the upper end of the leader board in the way of longevity for an Android Wear device.
What’s more users can expect a 50 per cent fast charge from just 36 minutes with a charger – making it one of easier smartwatches to live with.
In order to give the ZenWatch 2 its enticingly low price tag, one omission that most other smartwatches do pack is an optical heart rate sensor, although Asus assures us that motion monitoring by way of its six-axis gyroscope and pedometer are enough to gather accurate fitness data.
At launch we were told that beyond simply measuring steps, sleep and calories burned, the ZenWatch 2 would also be able to monitor specific activities like push-ups and sit-ups too, but such functionality hasn’t yet made it to the device and whether it ever well is unclear.
With the ZenWatch 2 Asus looks to be the company at the forefront of making Android Wear and smartwatches as a whole, more attainable for all. The broad customisation options it’s prepared to offer consumers, premium design and impeccably low price point all seem like excellent reasons to consider the ZenWatch 2 over similarly designed, but ultimately pricier options like the Sony SmartWatch 3.
Both variants of the ZenWatch 2 start at £149.99, which feels like a steal based on what they offer. If you’re looking for a low cost Apple Watch lookalike (without picking up a Chinese knock-off) or a fully featured wearable that doesn’t cost the same as your smartphone, this watch is worth your time.