The ASUS ZenWatch 2 was released in the latter half of 2015, and is the second entry in the realm of smartwatches for ASUS. As of this writing, it costs $229.99, and is only available in Canada from Best Buy.
This review will take a look at the aesthetics and design, the hardware, and the software of the ASUS ZenWatch 2.
Aesthetics and Design
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 review unit I had received rocked the gunmetal casing as well as the gunmetal band, giving it a very smart and modern watch look - I'm a fan of metal bands and outlandishly large watch faces, so I was immediately a fan of the ZenWatch 2's look and feel.
There is some serious heft with the ASUS ZenWatch 2; being all metal, as well as packing in some circuitry under the hood, it is on the heavier end of watches of this size and thickness.
Its long face sat on my wrist quite nicely, but given that I have a relatively wide wrist, this might also be cautionary words for anyone with smaller wrists. In motion, the watch did shift around a bit, causing a few moments of discomfort, especially given how heavy it is.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 has a single physical button on the right side of the watch face, which is used for powering the watch on and off, as well as acting as a home button. This button sits inside of an immovable, rose gold crown. Pressing the button was relatively easy, though I would have preferred if the height of the crown were a little shorter given how much it sticks out of the side without adding any real value.
The gunmetal watch band for the ASUS ZenWatch 2 looks and feels like any other metal band I've had on other watches: it's solid, it feels durable, and the length of each link is small enough to envelop almost any wrist size. The band is held together with a double-sided clasp, which I wasn't a big fan of, given how much room it actually took up on the underside of your wrist, as well as how difficult it can be to fasten the clasps with one hand.
Overall, I really enjoyed the look and feel of the ASUS ZenWatch 2. It suits my style just right, being good enough for casual wear, but not looking out of place when it comes to more formal occasions. The screen and button are subtly blended into the traditional look and feel of the ZenWatch 2, and I appreciate that ASUS took the time to design a watch that fits more than just casual Fridays.
Given that a smartwatch is a very clever fashion accessory, I personally place the least weight behind its hardware. It should connect to my phone, it should run its apps and programs at a decent speed, and it should have a decent battery life.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 uses a 1.63" AMOLED screen as its watch face, with a 278ppi density and a 320x320 resolution, it's large enough to display the information you need, but can sometime look a little dithery or pixelated when showing different watch faces or higher quality images.
Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz processor, along side its 512MB of RAM and 4GB of eMMC Flash storage, allows it to run Android Wear with relative ease. I can't say it was blazing fast, but I also didn't really notice any huge performance issues during day-to-day usage.
There is also an on-board microphone and speaker, so you are able to use "OK Google" straight from the watch. More on that later.
Now, about that battery. It's a 380mAh battery, which appears to be on the higher end of similar (or even more expensive) smartwatches. However, I've noticed that a day of usage will render it pretty much empty. The ASUS ZenWatch 2 can charge pretty quickly, with its Hypercharge feature, so you're never down and out for the count, but having a battery drain so quickly just makes wearing a smartwatch more of a nuisance than anything else.
Overall, the ASUS ZenWatch 2 hardware does what it should: it has no troubles connecting to mobile devices with Bluetooth, it seems to run its apps and programs without any visible issues, and the battery can last long enough for a full day of usage, but I wish it were capable of longer.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 review unit I received was using Android Wear 1.4, which was a recent upgrade. And as full disclosure, was being used with an iPhone 6, which does miss out on quite a few features of Android Wear like being able to take actions on notifications.
I found that most apps on the watch just would not work. Of the many different apps available, I was able to get Google Now to work, which came with email and calendar notifications, and also the schedule of playoff Raptors games, which was great for the time. In addition, OK Google and Google Translate both seemed to work relatively well on the ASUS ZenWatch 2, using the aforementioned on-device speaker and microphone. It didn't seem like Fitness and Wellness was working, nor could I perform any proper maps or navigation with the watch.
I found that OK Google was essentially useless. I would ask for something, where it would think for a little while, and then give me nothing back. In addition, cards showing up through Google Now were neat, but I received very little value from the cards I did receive.
However, my favourite use for the ASUS ZenWatch 2 was Google Translate. Using the microphone, you can speak a sentence or phrase or word into the ZenWatch 2, and allow Google Translate to change it into one of its supported languages. After some rumination, it then displays it upside down so you can quickly flip it towards a person facing you, enabling them to read what you've just translated. That said, I don't think I'd be able to use that feature while travelling, because of two reasons:
- It was slow. Real slow. 30+ seconds slow for a single English to Japanese sentence translation. (And I think it requires an internet connection?)
- It feels... weird to have to flip your wrist out and ask someone you may not know to read the nonsense you've just asked Google to translate
But... still cool, though.
Overall, I had trouble finding any usage for the ASUS ZenWatch 2 paired with my iPhone 6. Most apps don't work with it, notifications are relatively useless on a watch (personal opinion), and just being able to customize the watch face or something trivial felt like it provided no real value to me personally.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 is a decent smartwatch.
Its design matches a traditional look and feel of a regular watch, with some very solid choices if you want it to look slightly different, in terms of casing and wrist band. The ZenWatch 2 works for almost any style you're currently rocking, whether casual or formal, and that is absolutely a positive thing.
Its hardware accomplishes the task at hand: the ZenWatch 2 remains connected to your mobile, it keeps you up to date on your email and calendar items, and it will even translate English to Japanese. That said, its battery life is lacking, and it really needs to last more than a day of full use. However, given its Hypercharge feature, it's not a massive hindrance.
Lastly, its software is lacking if you're using anything other than an Android phone. That's a given and was known before the review, so if you're looking for a solid time piece with adjustable watch faces and something to send notifications to your watch, then by all means, it's not too expensive.
Overall, the ASUS ZenWatch 2 is a good smartwatch.
Its affordability, dependability, and flexibility makes it quite easy to bring additional functionality straight to your wrist. It's personally not my first choice in wearable tech, but I'm glad I got to try it first hand.
Item: ASUS ZenWatch 2
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
NOTE: This review was made possible with a loaner, review unit, from ASUS. All opinions are my own, and I appreciate the opportunity.