Recombu

Diesel On Full Guard Review: Big, bold and characterful

Diesel On Full Guard review: Diesel’s first smartwatch looks like it emulates the brand’s more conventional big and bold watch line well, but does replacing traditional timepiece components with transistors water down the experience for those who live the Diesel lifestyle?

It seems fair to say that Apple’s desire to entrench the Apple Watch within the world of fashion ultimately failed and whilst it’s still an incredibly, if not the most popular smartwatch out there, it’s still perceived by most as a tech accessory over a style one. Without even trying, it would appear that Android Wear devices have moved in the opposite direction.

Read next: What is Android Wear?

From humble beginnings with the squared and simple LG G Watch, evoking geeky nostalgia for the classic calculator watches of Casio’s heyday, now the platform’s tech angle has given way to fashion brands offering an array of different designs to suit all manner of tastes and trends without changing up or upgrading the internal formula all that much.

Established Italian fashion brand Diesel is no stranger to the horological scene, having licensed its name to Fossil since the early 2000s, who’ve gone on to produce a wealth of predominantly big, statement timepieces with aggressively chamfered metal and great swathes of leather for the brand. That now extends beyond physical ticking hands to the company’s first smartwatch, the Full Guard. Here’s how it handles.

Diesel On Full Guard Review: Design

The Full Guard’s display is set within a sizeable 12mm thick stainless steel casing weighing in at a notable 249 grams, meaning it’s in-keeping with Diesel’s more conventional watch styles and is unquestionably better suited to larger-wristed folk. Despite its heft, it’s a perfectly comfortable smartwatch to sport on a daily basis, though.

 

The watch embraces its chunky proportions, with chamfers and angles strewn about its brushed metal body, accented by black elements around the display’s bezel and physical controls.

Meanwhile, the 28mm black leather bands feature a deep grain, bold stitching and metal screw heads that complement the body’s aggressive, industrial look. They also feature quick-release pins so you can swap them out with any conventional watch band of your choice.

The black-on-silver model we reviewed is actually one of four variants Diesel offers, with one other leather-banded option that sports black anodised metal in place of silver and a brown strap instead of black, alongside two (slightly pricier) all-metal versions that each feature a single link band and come in either black or gold.

As one of the more recent Android Wear devices, the watch boasts a rotating crown that actually translates rotational input into on-screen navigation, which makes perusing apps a far nicer experience than simply relying on touchscreen swipe gestures alone as before, however, its apparent plastic knurling feels a little cheap under-finger; disappointing on a wearable at this price.

Thankfully there’s a little more substance to the Full Guard’s body beyond its distinctive aesthetics, with IP67 certification so that it can be worn in all sorts of conditions (including rain) without issue.

Diesel On Full Guard Review: Screen

There’s a fully circular 1.4-inch screen front and centre, boasting a resolution of 454×454. As such, it’s one of the sharper smartwatch displays of its size and that’s essential in order to render the detailed Diesel-designed watch faces that the Full Guard packs out-the-box with any level of finesse.

Opting for AMOLED also means more vibrant colours, better contrast and lower power consumption than an LCD would have been able to muster; particularly important if you plan on using the watch’s always-on functionality.

Diesel On Full Guard Review: OS and Features

As one of the Fossil Group’s more recent creations, the Diesel On Full Guard leverages most of the benefits of Android Wear 2.0 well. It packs in rotational input, as mentioned earlier, features easy setup by way of the Android Wear app, which is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and you get a step count and basic fitness tracking courtesy of Google Fit.

In fact, there are a whole gamut of native Google experiences that you’ll recognise from your average Android smartphone; like the Google Assistant, notifications support and the Play Store, but Diesel’s gone a step further and added some of its own inclusions that bring a little more character to the Full Guard’s software experience.

The Diesel-specific watch faces emulate element’s from their physical counterparts with an impressive amount of fidelity. You also have the option to create and save your own variations of these faces and it has to be said that the wealth of customisation options is more extensive than anything we’ve seen before.

Read next: Best Android Wear 2.0 apps (2017)

Along with being able to swap out the complications on certain faces to display different data from your various apps, you can change the style and colour or finish of essentially any element on a face. Some physical Diesel watches also feature coloured optical treatments on the crystal covering their faces and the effect this creates has been transposed into a digital experience with the watch’s gyroscope information being used to change the colour of the display depending on the Full Guard’s position.

Then there’s T-ON-I (short for Time, Organising, Notifications, Intelligence), Diesel’s own AI-like overlay. Found within its own app, once set up T-ON-I serves as an alternative experience that collates standard information like appointments, weather, step count and so on but also supplements these utilitarian notifications with some that go beyond function and offer humour, sarcasm and general colour and emotion; more than you’d expect from what is typically a relatively cold user experience otherwise.

Tapping the button on the top right of the Full Guard’s body also affords you access to another unique feature in something called interactive effects. Rather than simply showing a little sun or cloud icon within a complication, Weather Mode will overlay elements like lightning across the entirety of the Full Guard’s display when rain is inbound. Activity Mode fills your watch face with dust if you remain sedentary for too long, whilst Do Not Disturb Mode ‘shatters’ the screen every time a notification comes in.

How useful these modes are depends on the sort of smartwatch user you are, and we’re doubtful that anyone will appreciate having a watch that fills with virtual dust regularly, but this is again an example of Diesel surprising us by going beyond the bare minimum to create an experience that’s unique.

Diesel On Full Guard Review: Performance and Battery Life

Despite the watch’s distinct look, the internals powering the Full Guard are essentially the same as those found within almost every other current-generation Android Wearable.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor has been purpose-built for smartwatches and seems to offer fluid-enough performance in day to day use, even if swiping around the Full Guard doesn’t feel anywhere near as smooth as an Apple Watch, for example. That might be down to the 512MB of RAM on offer, though.

There’s also 4GB of internal storage for apps and media, so you don’t need to carry your phone with you at all times to listen to your tunes. What’s more, the Full Guard can connect over Bluetooth or WiFi, so the issue of range from watch to phone is also reduced.

The Full Guard packs in a microphone and speaker too, so that you can ask questions and receive answers from the Google Assistant or make and take calls, directly on your wrist. As ever, although useful, understand that you do run the risk of looking like Dick Tracy or Michael Knight and that’s not necessarily as cool as you might think from the perspective of those around you.

Fitness fans might find the Full Guard’s tracking capabilities a little lacking as well, with no LTE connectivity, no GPS and no optical heart rate sensor. There’s also no NFC so Android Pay on your wrist is also out of the question; a real disappointment considering the watch’s price tag and the equivalent experience offered up by the likes of the more affordable LG Watch Sport and Huawei Watch 2.

As for battery life, the 370mAh cell promises all-day use and we’d agree that it’ll get you through from one end of your commute to the other and back, but only just. Considering the size of the watch there’s undoubtedly plenty of room for a larger cell, so it’s a shame that the Full Guard consistently struggles to reach a day’s end.

Diesel On Full Guard Review: Verdict

Choose this watch for its design and the name above anything else. That’s not to say the Diesel On Full Guard is without substance, on the contrary, the software experience is impressively rich for an Android Wear device and what it lacks in hardware features, it makes up for in character.

As is often the case with fashion-first technology, just know that over half of your £329 (or £349 for the metal-banded versions) is primarily going towards the brand, rather than the hardware and software on your wrist.

Read next: Best Android Wear Smartwatches and Ticwatch E Review