Asus ZenWatch 2 review

The first generation Asus ZenWatch was a nice smartwatch, but we thought it needed a little work. Thankfully, the guys at Asus went back to the drawing board and have since released the Asus ZenWatch 2, boasting more powerful specs and more options in terms of design. It also provides unique features such as a ‘flick-to-swipe’ system that allows you to browse your notifications without swiping on the screen, and even an app that lets you design your own watch face. But is it enough to compete with the Samsung Gear S2, Huawei Watch or Apple Watch? Here’s our review, where we discuss its design, features, spec, software and UK pricing and availability. See also: Best smartwatches available in 2016

Also see: Best Black Friday Smartwatch Deals

Asus ZenWatch 2 review: Pricing and availability

So, when can you get your hands on the brand new Asus ZenWatch 2? You’ll be happy to know that the Asus ZenWatch 2 is now available to buy in the UK, although retailers are pretty scarce. The 1.6in variation of Asus’ latest smartwatch is available to buy from Currys PC World, and will set you back a fairly competitive £149, although at the time of writing it was marked as out of stock. There’s also a stainless steel silver and grey combination available on Amazon, though this is £20 more expensive at £172.

Asus ZenWatch 2 review: Design and build

The Asus ZenWatch 2 is a sleek number and, in our opinion, a huge leap forward from the original ZenWatch. The ZenWatch 2 is made from a durable stainless steel case, and, like many other smartwatches, is now available in two sizes - 1.63in and 1.45in. The all-new ZenWatch 2 is also available in more colours than its predecessor, and fans can choose from either Silver, Gunmetal or Rose Gold. We caught a glimpse of the Rose Gold ZenWatch 2 with a rose gold metal strap in a display back at IFA 2015, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. We’re reviewing the Gunmetal grey model with blue leather straps with a rose gold crown button – a nice blend of the colour options, although we’d have liked to have seen more use of the rose gold accent on the body of the watch.

It’s not just good looking either, it’s durable with a rating of IPX68, meaning that it’ll survive a stint in the rain and the sweatiest of workouts. Although with that being said, we’d probably swap out the provided leather strap before any intense workouts to keep the leather in a nice condition.

Asus has gone to town with the personalisation of the ZenWatch 2, and we’re not talking about watch faces. As well as being available in two sizes and three colours, there’s a number Asus watch straps available in a variety of colours and materials – according to the company, there are 18 different strap material and colour combinations available (although we’re not quite sure where to buy these from at the time of writing). If you didn’t want to opt for the official Asus watch straps, you’ll be happy to know that you can use any standard 18/22mm (depending on watch size) watch strap. 

The design is largely the same as the original ZenWatch, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the original ZenWatch was stylish, and the extra customisation available with the second generation smartwatch can only be a good thing. One difference between the first and second generation ZenWatch is the addition of a traditional crown button on the side. We assumed it would be used for navigation (a la the Apple Watch) or a back button (a la the Samsung Gear S2), but, disappointingly, this only controls the display (press it to turn the display on and off) and provides quick access to your apps (press and hold).

In terms of bulk, the ZenWatch 2 is pretty sleek and lightweight, weighing in at only 50g and 60g respectively and measuring in at 10.9x40.7x49.6mm. One of our complaints with the original Asus ZenWatch is that it wouldn’t ‘sit’ properly on the wrist, but we’re happy to say that the issue seems to have been ironed out in the second generation smartwatch.

Asus ZenWatch 2 review: Features and spec

In terms of the display, the 1.45in model packs a 280x280 AMOLED display with a pixel density of 273ppi, whereas the larger 1.63in model boasts a slightly higher 320x320 resolution with a pixel density of 278ppi. In terms of protection, the display is protected by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3, just like the Samsung Gear S2. The company claims that the ZenWatch 2 features 2.5D glass, but with the display set in a stainless steel frame, we can’t see any real benefit. Swiping from the edge of the screen isn’t as pleasant as with the likes of the Apple Watch, whose display isn’t set within a metal frame and allows for a more enjoyable swiping experience.

Thankfully, Asus has brought back the low-res display option for the ZenWatch 2. The low-res display will kick in after a few seconds of inactivity and displays a greyscale version of your watch face that allows you to glance to see the time without having to wake it up. 

Many users will be glad to know that the Asus ZenWatch 2 has an improved battery life from its predecessor, and the company claims that it’ll last around two days on a single charge. We’ve found that estimate to be pretty accurate, although with the more-than-average usage you’ll be looking at just over a day on a single charge. That doesn’t really matter, though, as the ZenWatch 2 features fast charging technology that can charge your battery 50 percent in only 36 minutes – enough to get you through the day (at least), making it ideal for those constantly on the go. In terms of specifics, the ZenWatch packs either a 300mAh or 400mAh battery depending on the model you go for. 

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. Although we had to ‘train’ ourselves to flick our wrists instead of tap the screen for a couple of days, once it became muscle memory it became very handy indeed.

Inside the ZenWatch 2, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor that’s usually associated with high-end smartwatches like the LG Watch Urbane or Huawei Watch, coupled with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you take into consideration the £149 price tag. It’s a notable improvement over the first generation ZenWatch and the difference is immediately noticeable when using the watch - the scrolling is a lot smoother and the watch generally feels more responsive. The ZenWatch 2 also comes with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, allowing you to use your ZenWatch at home/work without being connected directly to your phone. 

Interestingly, there is one feature of the original ZenWatch that didn’t make it to the ZenWatch 2 - the heart rate monitor. After talking with an Asus rep at the launch back at IFA in 2015, we found out that the heart rate sensor included with the first generation ZenWatch ‘wasn’t very accurate’, so the company decided not to include it with the ZenWatch 2. Hey, at least they’re being honest!

Asus ZenWatch 2 hands on review: Software

The Asus ZenWatch 2 runs the latest version of Android Wear, providing Android users with their favourite apps at a glance. It features ‘OK Google’ support too, which will activate Google’s on-screen assistant whenever it recognises the phrase. It’s not just for Android smartphones anyway - iPhone users will be happy to know that the ZenWatch 2 is also iOS compatible, although functionality will be somewhat limited. The Android Wear for iOS app provides you with your latest notifications, along with limited fitness tracking capabilities and access to Google Now cards, but that’s about it.

Using Asus’ ZenWatch Manager app, you’re able to choose from over 50 different watch faces, and the choice doesn’t stop there either. You can also choose from a variety of different complications including calories burned, the weather, humidity levels and even any missed calls that you may have and add these to your watch face. The best part is that it’s really simple to do via the ZenWatch Manager app, and the updates are immediately applied to your watch. 

If none of the existing watch faces take your fancy, Asus provides users with the ability to design one from scratch via the ZenWatch FaceDesigner app. It’s a great app that we’d love to find on other smartwatches - you can change everything about the watch face, from the position of the hands to the text displayed, and even the positioning of your chosen widgets.

The Asus ZenWatch 2 also comes with a completely redesigned fitness app that is simple to use and uses an on-board pedometer to measure your progress. We’re not quite sure how accurate the ‘calories burned’ information is without a heart rate monitor, but we’re assured by Asus that it’s quite accurate. It’s quite limited in terms of what activities it can track, though, as we only found options for running, sit ups and push ups during our time with the smartwatch. It can track sleep too, for those interested. 

See also: The best activity trackers 2016

Asus ZenWatch 2: Specs

  • 1.45in or 1.63in AMOLED display
  • 50/60g
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible
  • iPhone and Android compatible
  • IPX68 rating
  • Two day battery life with quick charging
  • Variety of watch straps
  • available in three colours
  • 40.7x49.6x10.9mm
  • Offers advanced customisation
  • 1.45in or 1.63in AMOLED display
  • 50/60g
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible
  • iPhone and Android compatible
  • IPX68 rating
  • Two day battery life with quick charging
  • Variety of watch straps
  • available in three colours
  • 40.7x49.6x10.9mm
  • Offers advanced customisation

OUR VERDICT

The Asus ZenWatch 2 is a great smartwatch, and is definitely a worthy upgrade from its predecessor. Under the hood, the spec boost definitely makes the difference when interacting with the watch, providing a snappy experience and should compete with watches £100-200 more expensive. Visually, its a huge improvement over its predecessor, with more ‘flavours’ of the smartwatch available with a number of specifically designed accessories. The Asus-branded software brings something different to the smartwatch, especially the FaceDesigner app that lets you create your own custom watch face from scratch.