Editorials

Review: ASUS ZenWatch 3

Unboxing a new gadget is always going to be exciting, you can’t deny that. So, when you unbox a new gadget that’s also a watch, well, it’s even better. The Asus ZenWatch 3 is a beautiful, sophisticated smart watch that comes in three colours, Gunmetal, Silver and Rose Gold, with an Italian leather strap that exudes class. Asus has combined tech and time together in a timepiece that has people asking all about it, and at $329 CAD the impressions I’ve gotten are worth the price tag.

This is the third iteration of the ZenWatch brand from Asus, the smartwatch runs on Android Wear 1.5 on Android and iOS, with Android Wear 2.0 currently awaiting release after a delay in the final stages of testing. The update in software will put the wearable into a new playing field because as of this review, Android Wear 1.5 lacks for iOS users like myself.

Display

Asus has fit the ZenWatch 3 with a 1.39-inch circular AMOLED that outputs a resolution of 400×400 making it easy to see in any lighting, but the is some issues with responsiveness in my testing, granted it isn’t off-putting but it is noticeable.

Included, is an ambient light sensor that allows for auto brightness allowing for the battery to get the maximum output, and the display looks great from any angle you glance at the watch face.

Design

Like I mentioned above, the ZenWatch 3 comes in three colours, Gunmetal, Silver and Rose Gold. I’ve been using the Gunmetal face for the past week and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this configuration.

Previous versions of the ZenWatch featured a rectangular face – and the third iteration abandoned the design for a circular display that falls in line with a sophisticated design many timepieces share. The body is encased in 316L stainless steel, and a diamond-cut bezel allows for long-lasting durability for everyday life.

The ZenWatch 3 also has three buttons on the right side of the device, the top button links to ZenFit, the middle acts as the on/off and the bottom provides an Eco Mode which enables a low power mode.

Asus offers to sell additional straps for their device in both leather and rubber options but these are proprietary straps that have a release pin that locks onto the watch securely. This eliminates third party straps entirely – something to consider if you plan to have options for the band.

For those curious, included is IP67 certification – the ZenWatch is dust proof and water resistant, this allows you to submerge your watch for up to 30 minutes. I’m not too fond of mixing water with electronics so I don’t recommend submerging it in water.

I did, however, decide to work out at the gym with the device strapped to my wrist. I was concerned about the sweat getting into the device perhaps to only cause problems later but this proved to not be an issue and even preferential as the included ZenFit app came in handy.

Battery

Asus loaded the ZenWatch 3 with a 340mAh battery that in theory should last two days based on usage. My first day was stressful as I paired my iPhone with the watch the night before I let it charge overnight and began my first full day on a full charge.

From 7 AM to 2 PM the battery was dead and I was stuck with a dead watch. The battery eventually settled and I haven’t seen similar drainage since, scouring the internet, this is documented and apparently, the watch spends the first few days adjusting, by the fourth day I was getting almost a full day on a single charge with moderate usage. Checking notifications, stopping and starting music, and changing the watch face were the basic things I did.

The fast charge on the ZenWatch 3 allows for up to 60 percent battery after 15 minutes and comes with a magnetic charging cable that latches to the underbelly of the watch. The length of the included cable and lack of an option to buy an additional cable left me feeling sour, however, and is something to keep in mind.

Performance

Inside the ZenWatch 3 is a Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, which is designed for wearables, it’s smaller than its predecessors and supposedly offers better battery life and better performance all around.

Granted, this is my first experience with a wearable, but considering previous models of the ZenWatch and some light hands on time with the Huawei Watch, the snappiness of swiping between menus is noticeable, granted it still acts up occasionally as the action behind my swipe would sometimes be delayed.

Software

My third day with the ZenWatch 3, I decided to unpair my iPhone and instead sync up an old Android phone I had to see what the difference was between Android and iOS. It was night and day, as Android Wear on iOS is a shell of what both phone and watch can do in tandem. I spent that day synced up to my old phone being able to text and receive calls, there’s an app store, and many more system settings available! I couldn’t find the Wi-Fi setting or Bluetooth on my watch because Android Wear 1.5 on iOS is highly restrictive.

As someone who enjoys watchhing faces, the ones included didn’t cut it and the extra ones that were offered through the Android Wear app weren’t much better. Sideloading watch faces is time-consuming so we’re left with few options to customize on iOS.

iMessage doesn’t work with Android Wear either, so if you’re like me with many friends who use iMessage to communicate, it can get frustrating when you can’t respond from your wrist.

Music controls work with Spotify and music stored on your phone. I did notice that album art was available on my Android device but not when synced with my iPhone.

With Android Wear 2.0, we’re getting Google Play Store on the watch, which is sorely missed as of this writing, and Google Assistant will be on hand(literally) to assist if needed.

Asus has done well and packed exciting features into a beautiful timepiece, as a smartwatch, the ZenWatch 3 has it all, but only on Android. Those like myself who are on iOS are restricted to basic functions until the delayed Android Wear 2.0 software comes out, and it stings that I have this sophisticated wearable available to use and can’t get even half of what it’s capable of because my phone doesn’t play well with the software.

ASUS ZenWatch 3

7.8

DISPLAY

8.0/10

DESIGN

8.5/10

BATTERY

7.9/10

PERFORMANCE

8.0/10

SOFTWARE

6.5/10

Pros

  • Beautiful watch design
  • Display is crisp, clear
  • The Italian leather strap

Cons

  • Length of charging cable
  • Additional charging cable unavailable for purchase
  • Included watch faces are mediocre
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Bobby has been gaming since he was old enough to walk. Since then, the interest has only grown stronger, and here we are today. Follow Bobby on Twitter, and just go with it. @bpashalidis

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