The ASUS ZenWatch I reviewed last year was pretty cool. The smartwatch was stylish and inexpensive. One year after the original launch, ASUS is back with its 2nd generation Android Wear smartwatch, aptly named the ZenWatch 2. It’s still sleek, and it’s even more affordable than before. What else is new and better with the ZenWatch 2?
Let’s start with the size. While there was only one model of the first generation ZenWatch, the ZenWatch 2 comes in a larger “Sparrow” model with a 1.63-inch display, and a smaller “Wen” model has a 1.45-inch display. You could say the two size options are designed to cater to men and women. I have the larger Sparrow model in this review. It is, as you can see in the photo, slightly large for my wrists.
Apart from watch size, the ZenWatch 2 is available in a significant variety of variations. Both the Sparrow and Wren are available in Silver, Gunmetal, and Rose Gold colours. They each also have several strap choices, plus a new stainless-steel link strap bracelet just announced this week. ASUS gives you some pretty good options to personalise the ZenWatch 2 to your preference, covering all bases from the sporty look to elegant style.
More fascinating, on top of running Android Wear, and offering all the benefits of the apps and features of the Android Wear platform, the ZenWatch 2 works with iPhones running iOS 8.2 and later, with caveats. iPhone users can now consider the ZenWatch 2 if they’re looking for alternatives to the Apple Watch.
At first glance, the ZenWatch 2 is almost similar to its predecessor at least in looks and style. The face has a rounded square shape with stainless steel finish. One noticeable difference is the new metal crown that’s been added to the ZenWatch 2, similar to side-mounted buttons on some other Android Wear watches, as well as with Apple’s Watch. The watch face is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
There’s still plenty of bezel space, and the watch is not particularly thin at 10.9 mm of thickness. Fortunately, the ZenWatch 2 does redeem itself partially with stylish design and quality looks.
The two size variants are mostly identical in specifications, apart from the obvious display size difference. The larger Sparrow has a higher 320×320 resolution display (vs 280×280 in the Wren), comes with a larger 400 mAh battery (vs 300 mAh in the Wren), and uses a larger 22 mm strap (vs 18 mm with the Wren).
Both watches pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi, and 6-axis accelerometer and gyroscope with sensor-hub. Both AMOLED displays support two-finger touch interaction. They are charged via a magnetic charging cable, and are IP67 rated for water resistance.
The official specifications list the battery life at two days, but don’t depend on it. The ZenWatch 2 will comfortably last more than a day, but you probably should remember to charge it overnight. You don’t want to be caught without the charging cable when you’re low on battery.
Charging, fortunately, is quick with fast charging taking you to full charge in about an hour.
Running Android Wear 5.1.1, you can expect the ZenWatch 2 to give convenient, at-a-glance view of incoming calls, messages, notifications and other information without having to check your phone. Notification and information cards pop up from the bottom of the screen. Navigation essentially revolves around swiping around the screen, as well as flicking of wrists to scroll vertically..
ASUS apps such as Do It Later allows wearers to defer events such as incoming phone calls and messages by automatically adding them to a list of reminders. A useful app, FoneHelper, offers a collection of features such as Quick Settings, Cover to Mute, Unlock My Phone, and Forget Phone Warning. The Remote Camera function allows you to view your smartphone’s camera viewfinder on the watch itself, and trigger the shutter remotely.
For the health conscious, the ZenWatch 2 is a full-featured activity tracker with built-in pedometer. There is no heart-rate monitoring though, which is a little disappointing considering that the first generation ZenWatch had featured one.
To add to your personalisation options, ASUS offers over 50 professionally designed software watch faces. On top of those choices, the FaceDesigner app lets you create your own watch face for the ultimate in personalisation.
Both the 1.63-inch Sparrow and 1.45-inch Wern ZenWatch 2 models sell from S$229. Interchangeable straps are available from S$39.
The ASUS ZenWatch 2 is one of the most affordable smartwatches you can get. It doesn’t do everything, but it’s good looking and makes for an excellent choice for those wanting to get their first smartwatch.
- Two sizes, many customisations
- Elegant and stylish
- No heart rate sensor
- Average battery life