The Asus ZenWatch 2 was pretty great value all things considered, but it wasn’t exactly the most stylish Android Wear watch out there. It felt cheap, and its rectangular design didn’t do it any favours.
Asus is now back with the ZenWatch 3, launched at IFA 2016, and this time the company has opted to go round. Unlike the Moto 360, there’s no sign of any "flat tyre" here, which makes it look far more slick and elegant by comparison. Like Samsung with its Gear S3, Asus has said it has taken inspiration from classic, mechanical watches.
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The company has used jewellery-grade 316L stainless steel against a diamond-cut bezel to give the ZenWatch 3 a better look and feel compared to the ZenWatch 2. Between the high-end construction of the watch and the stitched Italian leather of the strap, it certainly feels luxurious against your wrist. Rubber strap options are also available for those who prefer something a bit more sporty.
It’s still a tad large for my taste, though. At 9.95mm thick, it’s nowhere near as imposing as the Gear S3, but it’s still reasonably sizeable. It’s a fraction thinner than the the Moto 360 2, however.
You have a choice of gunmetal, silver or rose-gold finishes to the bezel. A first for Android Wear are the three crown buttons along the watch's edge. These are used for navigation, and you can also set them as instant shortcuts to apps. By default this is set to open the ZenFit fitness-tracking app.
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Asus is making some bold claims about its activity tracking. It says the ZenWatch 3 can track to 95% accuracy. Quite how it’s come to this figure isn’t known, and it will be interesting to see how accurately it can track distance without GPS.
Asus says it can track activities such as pushups, too. Disappointingly, there's no heart-rate monitor. This would have fleshed out its health and fitness offering and made it a complete smartwatch for work and health. It’s only IP67-rated, too, so fine for the shower but probably not something that should accompany you while you swim.
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The ZenWatch 3 is the first to use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. Its power efficiency means Asus claims the ZenWatch 3 has two-day battery life. Hypercharge technology also means that you can charge to 60% in just 15 minutes, which will be useful. Asus will be selling a battery pack that can add 40% while on the move.
Otherwise, there are some standard Android Wear specifications including 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The 1.39-inch display’s resolution of 400 x 400 pixels has the Samsung Gear 3 beaten in terms of pixels and it’s protected by 2.5D (slightly curved) Corning Gorilla Glass.
All signs are pointing towards a November release date for the Asus ZenWatch 3. It's expected to retail at $229, which equates to around £185. Don't expect that to be the UK price, however, especially post-Brexit where seemingly everything has become more expensive. Even if it launches at £229 it will still be keenly priced, especially compared to the Apple Watch Series 2 and Samsung Gear S3.
Aside from the its chunky build, I’m actually quite fond of the design of the Asus ZenWatch 3. The move to a circular design has been a success and it looks far classier for it. The lack of a flat tyre interrupting the face is also great news. The shortcut buttons are intriguing and will prove to be very convenient.
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