Asus ZenWatch 3 smartwatch review: cheaper but no more (no less) useful

PROS:

  • Successful design.
  • Complete companion application.
  • Customizable button system.
  • Quality of the bracelet.
  • Perfectly rounded screen.
  • Compatible with iOS / Android.
  • Fast charging.

CONS:

  • Stiffness of the whole.
  • Poor microphone and loudspeaker.
  • Autonomy always too short.
  • Screen that deserves to be brighter.
  • Bracelet owner.
  • Very masculine design.

CONCLUSION

In the small world of smartwatches, the Zenwatch 3 does not offer something revolutionary, but is content to do almost as well as its competitors, for a lower price. An argument that may convince some, but is still not enough to create a real interest for this category of products.


While the smartwatches market is not really in the forefront and Android Wear 2.0 has just pointed the tip of its nose, Asus is still trying to impose its new smartwatch, the Zenwatch 3.

Since the Zenwatch 2, Asus tries more to stand out in the world of smartwatches through a low price rather than with a plethora of exotic features. It is this philosophy that always animates the new version, the Zenwatch 3.
Whereas most smartwatches are between 300 and 400 $, Asus tries to win with a price of 212$. To reach this price, the manufacturer has made some concessions, since the accessory is not equipped with chip GPS or heart rate monitor.
Otherwise, the usual components are a 1.37 inch Amoled screen with a resolution of 400 x 400 px, a Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of memory, a 340 mAh battery, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, a microphone and a speaker and, of course, WiFi and Bluetooth (4.1).

It is obviously Android Wear that takes orders, and if the watch is sold as eligible for the upgrade to version 2.0, it is for the moment still under the first incarnation of the Google system (but it should be updated “in the next few weeks” according to Google). This makes it compatible with all Android 4.4 and higher mobile phones and iPhone from iOS 8.2.

The whole is contained in a stainless steel case. Finally, the Zenwatch is IP67 certified, which means it is water resistant (up to one meter).

ERGONOMICS

Difficult to require a smartwatch to be both autonomous and compact; this is the lesson we learned in recent years, and the rule does not escape the Zenwatch 3. The accessory of Asus is adorned indeed with a dial of 45 mm diameter, a size close to versions “male” from other tocante brands such as Samsung or Motorola. The accessory is therefore reserved for those who have massive wrists or those who love the watches that impose. Not to mention that the weight of the object also does not pass unnoticed, since this smartwatch points to a little more than one centimeter at its thickest point.

Besides the measurements of the dial, the other aspect that one notices quickly is the rigidity of the bracelet. The latter is made of genuine leather, an always appreciable choice, but two pieces of plastic located at the level of the fasteners make a part of the bracelet relatively not flexible and therefore add to the impression of rigidity of the assembly.

In addition, because of a specific shape, only the bracelets sold by Asus can fit on the watch, despite the standard attachment mechanism.

From a design point of view, the Zenwatch 3 is rather successful. Its entirely round screen surrounded by a gold ring is quite elegant and the choice of steel for the hull, the hooks and the buttons reinforces a pleasant impression of seriousness. The 3 buttons on the right side are also programmable and can launch any applications, appreciable flexibility; the Moto 360 and Samsung Gear S3 Frontier have only two.

Moreover, the Zenwatch takes again the qualities of the Gear S side display, since it manages to marry a perfectly circular screen with an ambient light sensor, unlike Motorola watches. The screen does not display as bright a white as the Apple Watch or Gear, since the brightness is limited to 334 cd/m², even in Auto mode under bright light. It is a bit short compared to the 1000 cd/m² measured on the watch of Samsung and, under rare circumstances, it will play a little against the reflections to see something.

INTERFACE AND USES

The Google platform for watches has not changed fundamentally since its inception and before the transformation that the next version 2.0 will bring. So we find ourselves on the same interface as all other Android tocantes. Navigation is mainly done by slips. On the dial, it is possible to access the various notifications received on its mobile with a gesture from bottom to top, while we find the panels listing the apps, favorite contacts and voice commands by a slide from right to left.

Natively, the watch offers nothing more than other Android Wear models. It simply lets you take a look at multiple alerts, push, wake up or others that arrive on the smartphone and access reduced versions of compatible apps installed on the smartphone. Nothing new therefore, and it is normal as Google limits the customization of its OS for watches.

Whereas Asus tried to play a slightly differentiating card, it is with its application Zenwatch Manager to install on the smartphone. Even more than the Android Wear app, it allows you to customize the watch dial with widgets, but also access more advanced features such as “forgotten phone alert” that warns you if you get too far from your mobile , “find my watch” which makes it possible to vibrate the accessory remotely or the SOS function which allows to send a predefined message to a contact chosen from the watch. This last feature can additionally send the GPS coordinates of the alert or even trigger during a fall; practical for “fragile” people.

Note that it is possible to receive and make calls from the watch but that the microphone of the latter is of mediocre quality and that on both sides of the line one has the impression of talking with a robot of the 80s that with a true human as the flow is compressed.

AUTONOMY

Question endurance, the Zenwatch 3 does not really subdue. As it became almost a habit, the watch revolves around a day and a half of use before claiming its charger. This is more than the Moto 360 Sport, but less than the Gear S3 Frontier. In short, it remains in a soft average which still requires that the watch be recharged every night if one does not want to walk with a black screen on the wrist for half a day. Being careful to put it in energy saving at night, one can hope to reach the two days of use, but painfully. Fortunately, the watch did not have a heart rate monitor and a GPS chip.

And if Asus boasts the fast charging capabilities of the watch, which actually allows to full recharge in 50 minutes (and up to 60% in 20 minutes), it is regrettable that the charging cradle is attached to the cable, obliging so the user have to carry the whole rather than simply plug the base to the charger of his mobile, for example. Even if you want to draw a line on the load by induction, try to make it as easy as possible.

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