When I began the Asus ZenWatch 2 review, I knew nothing about the watch except what was printed on the box, not even the price. I relied on the capable advice of Elizabeth Mezias, an expert developer who has worked with Android and Android Wear since before either software systems was released.
Scrolling and app-launching performance of the Asus ZenWatch 2 was equivalent to those of other Android Wear watches, like the Moto 360 or LG G Watch R. Reversing recent trends, the ZenWatch has a square face instead of a round one, like the Motorola and the LG watches. Here's a photo comparing the ZenWatch 2 with other popular Android smartwatches.
Physical appearance: Two sizes and many options
The ZenWatch has two display sizes: 1.45 inches (37mm) and 1.63 inches (42mm), the second of which is curiously close in size to the Apple Watch. Like the Apple Watch, rounded corners soften the ZenWatch's square shape. There are three finish options (silver, gunmetal, and rose gold) and there are nine band options, including stainless steel. Reports on Reddit and G Plus confirm that the bands are standard sizes, leaving the user with many traditional and creative choices. The larger-sized watch might be too big for a smaller wrist.
It's an attractive design that includes an engineered USB cable with a magnetized connector for charging and debugging. As you can see in this video, the magnetic cable is a clean and simple solution that eliminates the addition of charging stands and clips used by some other Android Wear Watches.The Apple Watch uses a similar magnetic charging cable.
The heart rate monitor included in almost every smartwatch won't be found on the back of the ZenWatch 2. Heart rate monitors in smartwatches are notoriously inaccurate during periods of rapid physical exertion, making the value of the heart rate data questionable. The sensors used can read a resting heart rate, but can't precisely pinpoint the actual heart rate. Whether Asus eliminated this feature because of its inaccuracy or cost is unclear.
While the design of the Zenwatch 2 is much different, the specifications are comparable to the Moto 360 2nd generation, which has collected many positive reviews.
The two versions differ in screen and battery size. The large watch has a 320x320-pixel display, while the smaller has a 280x280-pixel display with pixel density almost identical, at 278ppi and 273ppi, respectively. The large watch has a 400 mAh battery, while the smaller watch has a 300 mAh battery. Both batteries last at least a day.
Design tradeoffs to reach an entry-level price
Looking more closely at the ZenWatch 2, one notices the oversized margins around the LED display on both watches. The smaller watch is also a little thicker too. These observations reflect some design tradeoffs that Asus made to reach the starting price point of $129.
A teardown of the device by Mobiflip reveals an Easter egg: the device has a speaker, a feature found in the Apple Watch but not in other Android smartwatches. Perhaps telephone calls will be coming to the ZenWatch 2.
The ZenWatch 2 is accessible to everyone, at half the cost of the most popular round watches. It resembles the Apple Watch in design, especially the smaller version. Wearables aren't done evolving yet. Apps, OSes, and hardware have made much progress since Android Wear was introduced about 18 months ago, but many devices still reach early retirement in a drawer after just a few months, creating buyer resistance. This remarkable price and Asus's solid reputation as a hardware manufacturer make the ZenWatch 2 a good choice.