The safe, affordable and feature-rich entry into the world of smartwatches that you can’t go wrong with.
ASUS ZenWatch 2
The ZenWatch 2 keeps the same elegant design language that made the original ZenWatch a success, and has a square case made from stainless steel. Like last year’s ZenWatch, it’s a stylish unisex design that looks classy and understated. A new addition is a crown on the right side, although unlike the Apple Watch, this one is just a button that turns the screen on and off (or press-and-hold to launch the apps screen).
ASUS also added a smaller 45mm case along with the standard 49mm version. Both take standard straps; the 45mm case uses 18mm straps while the 49mm case uses 22mm straps. You also get a choice of colors this time, with gunmetal grey and rose gold joining the standard silver color.
The smaller model has a 1.45-inch AMOLED display, with a 280 x 280 pixels resolution (273ppi), while the larger ZenWatch 2 has a 1.63-inch AMOLED display with a 320 x 320 pixels resolution (277ppi). One of my biggest complaints about last year’s ZenWatch was a very apparent haziness to its display. Fortunately, this has completely disappeared and now looks sharp, vibrant and crisp. A sheet of gently curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the display and adds a classy appeal.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the bezels around the screen are a tad big. I mentioned this last year too, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten much better. Thanks to the AMOLED display’s great contrast, dark watch faces look best as the sides of the display blend in perfectly with the bezel, but the huge bezels are very noticeable if you prefer white watch faces.
Under the hood, the ZenWatch is basically exactly the same as last year’s model (as well as most other Android Wear watches on the market) with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 512 MB RAM. Performance is smooth and snappy though, with no noticeable stuttering or lag navigating the menus or watch faces.
Along with the standard Android Wear app, ASUS recommends you download a whole host of ASUS apps to use with the ZenWatch 2: ASUS ZenWatch Manager, FaceDesigner, ZenWatch Wellness, ZenWatch Music, ZenWatch Remote Camera, and Remote Link.
ZenWatch Manager basically overtakes Android Wear as your default watch
app, with loads of extra functionality including Remote Call Control, to answer and control phone calls from the watch, and Unlock My Phone, to unlock your phone by touching the watch face (this works with any Android phone, not just ASUS ones). If you’ve misplaced your watch, Find My Watch will help locate it by sending a signal to make it vibrate and flash. Conversely, Find My Phone lets you do the same thing from your watch, making your smartphone vibrate, flash and ring (it works even if your phone is set to silent).
ZenWatch Manager also adds about 50 more exclusive watch faces grouped into five categories: Sport, Simplicity, Urban, Digital and Youth. Each watch face can be individually configured to show more or less information, like additional time zones, weather information, step counts and more (similar to the Apple Watch’s complications). If you’re creative, you can create your own watch face using the FaceDesigner app.
Unfortunately, there’s no iOS version, so iPhone users, you’re stuck with Android Wear’s limited iOS functionality.
While it may seem like a pain to have to download all of these extra apps when you set up your ZenWatch, we have to applaud ASUS for adding more functionality on top of the basic Android Wear. If you can’t be bothered to get them, the ZenWatch 2 is perfectly usable on its own, but the extra features are definitely worth it.
The only place where the two ZenWatch 2 models differ internally is battery capacity. The larger comes with a 400mAh battery, while the smaller version has a 300mAh unit. Battery life was decent but not outstanding, lasting about 15-18 hours on a single charge. If you make a lot of phone calls through the ZenWatch Manager app, expect battery life to go down further.
The ZenWatch 2 is a great evolution of last year’s ZenWatch and cements ASUS as a major player in the wearables market. The inclusion of proprietary apps set the ZenWatch 2 apart. Rather than just another run-of-the-mill Android Wear watch, you get something a bit more exclusive and special. Finally, knocking $70 off the original price is pretty much unheard of, and its new price of $229 is fantastic value, especially when smartwatches seem to be getting more and more expensive.