The Apple Watch might be getting all the fuss lately, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other smartwatches out there. In fact, there are many out there including the relatively new ASUS ZenWatch, which I decided to pick up since we haven’t looked at it yet here on PhoneDog. So let’s go ahead and unbox it to see what it’s all about.
The ASUS ZenWatch is an Android Wear device. What makes it so special is that it is affordable or relatively affordable $200 price tag, which is almost half the price of the base model of the Apple Watch that's going to launch in April. The ZenWatch features a 1.63-inch AMOLED display with a 300x320 resolution. It also has an IP55 water resistant rating. It’s being powered by a Snapdragon 400 processor clocked in at 1.2GHz and it has a 9-axis sensor as well as a biosensor. The ZenWatch doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the Moto 360, like an ambient light sensor or dual microphones, but it does have a heart rate monitor built into the bezels and it's also cheaper.
Upon opening the box, we find the ASUS ZenWatch sitting right on top looking pretty darn fancy with its brown leather strap. There’s a 5-pin charging cradle underneath, which sits directly on the back of the ZenWatch, so it’s not quite wireless charging. That's kind of a disappointment, but it’s probably the next best thing. Then we have a bunch of paperwork for the warranty, instructions, and get started packets, all of which are pretty standard for new devices. And then there’s a little pouch that holds the microUSB charging cable and a U.S. wall wart included here.
After taking the ZenWatch out of its protective plastic, it really doesn’t look too bad, but I did immediately notice the rather thick bezels around the entire device. They're most notable on the top and bottom, but that’s mostly just because these bezels do have a biosensor so you can actually put your two fingers on the bezels and measure your heart rate, which is kind of cool. The display also seems small compared to the Moto 360 that's my daily driver smartwatch, but it’s not really all that smaller.
The ZenWatch's leather band looks pretty nice, and you can also easily swap out the bands, so don't worry if you don’t like this stock look. That said, I do like the clasp because you don’t have to get it shortened at a watch shop; you can do it yourself instead. The metal clasp itself is pretty thick, and the leather strap itself is also pretty darn stiff. It’s definitely going to take some time to loosen up, but it is genuine leather and this is to be expected.
As for the watch body itself, I love that it’s made of metal and that it’s got a minimal design with only one little physical button hiding on the back. It’s also pretty darn thin and sits on my wrist pretty well. Also, if you look up close, it does appear to have a very slight curve to it. I just wish it had an ambient light sensor so I don’t have to manually adjust the display brightness when I’m outside.
The software is Android Wear, which is no real surprise. It’s a very simple OS comprised of cards that Google forces you to take a tour of every time you set up an Android Wear device. I thought this was annoying since I know how it works, but I do understand the decision since wearables are pretty new.
The first thing I checked when I got past the setup was to see what version of Android it was running. It was Android 4.4 out of the box, but I did update it to Android 5.0 Lollipop, which allows you to do a few new things: you can change the priority of notifications, you can enable theater mode and sunlight mode, and you can access settings more easily with the slide down notification panel. There's also a good selection of watch faces pre-installed, and you can use the ZenWatch manager app to customize your watch faces.
The ASUS ZenWatch is $200, making it one of the least expensive new Android Wear watches on the market. Let me know what you’d like me to focus on specifically on my full review, and yes, I do plan on comparing it to the Moto 360.