Meet the Zenwatch 2 from Asus:
This is a well-built, sleek-looking wearable with a refined version of Android Wear on your wrist. It also sports compatibility with both Android and iOS which is a big plus. And it does all of that at a very competitive price.
Let me start with the design. The ZenWatch 2 is mostly stainless steel and comes in three different finishes: silver, gun metal, and a striking rose gold. The curved Gorilla Glass 3 looks great and the whole thing manages to feel elegant and sturdy at the same time. Asus has provided all you’ll ever really need from a smartwatch display. The 1.63-inch, 320 x 320, AMOLED screen features a 278ppi density. It looks great. It also doesn’t feel heavy on your wrist. Though that might be a your mileage may vary thing. You can customize the face with over 50 watch faces or you can get software to design your own.
In terms of capabilities, The ability to connect via Wi-Fi is new with the ZenWatch 2, allowing for updates and notifications even when the watch isn’t paired with your phone. And while the heart rate monitor is missing, the ZenWatch 2 will still track your steps and includes both Google Fit and Asus’ own Wellness app to keep you updated on steps taken, calories burned (though without a heart rate monitor, I am not sure how accurate that is) and distance travelled. Apps can now be accessed by holding down the crown button or swiping left from the home screen giving users the choice of how they want to interact with the wearable. If you do sports, you’ll be happy to know that the ZenWatch 2 is IP67 rated for water and dust resistance. That’s better than the Apple Watch. The most interesting new feature of the ZenWatch 2 is gesture control. If you’ve got a handful of notifications on your ZenWatch 2, you can flick your wrist in a certain direction to scroll between them all. 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. It feels zippy when you’re interacting with it so you’ll have no complaints on that front.
So, how does it perform on both Android or iOS?
On iOS, The Android Wear for iOS app provides you with your latest notifications, along with limited fitness tracking capabilities (that do not share with Apple Health by the way) and access to Google Now cards, but that’s about it. In short, it’s useful but it’s no Apple Watch by any means. It’s far more useful on Android where you can interact with your favorite apps at a glance. It features ‘OK Google’ support too, which will activate Google’s on-screen assistant whenever it recognises the phrase. With the ZenWatch Manager on your Android smartphone you can toggle a setting to have your watch vibrate if you get out of range of your phone, manage calls after you answer on your phone, and customize your smartwatch experience.
The Asus ZenWatch 2 has pretty good battery life as the company claims that it’ll last around two days on a single charge. I can see users actually getting that in the real world, although with the more-than-average usage in my case I saw just over a day on a single charge. It charges quickly though the charging cable only goes in one way which makes it a bit finicky.
So what’s the bottom line? At $229 CDN, it undercuts the Apple Watch and many other wearables by a substantial degree. The functionality of the ZenWatch 2 is about the same or approaching the levels of the much more expensive wearables which is a win for Asus. It comes in a number of designs so you can find something that fits your style. While I wished for better iOS compatibility and I believe that it could use a heart rate monitor to really put the nail in the coffins of other wearables, it’s a solid offering from Asus. It is very much worth looking at if you are looking for a wearable at a low price.