​Asus ZenWatch 2 review

Asus' smartwatch sequel keeps things simple to keep the cost down
Asus ZenWatch 2

Of all the first generation Android Wear smartwatches, in many ways the original Asus ZenWatch was the most universally liked. Its stylish, rounded design didn't attract the overt negative or polarising opinions of its rivals, even though it didn't boast blockbuster specs or an eye-searing screen.

It went about its business quietly and spent its lifetime in the shadows of bigger, bolder rivals. Which begs the question of its successor, the Asus ZenWatch 2: how does Asus follow it up?

Read on to find out...

Asus ZenWatch 2: What's new

In terms of tech, the answer to the difficult second album conundrum is to keep everything the same, more or less. If you were to compare the spec sheets, you'd be challenged to find much difference in the two generations at all.

It's the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz CPU powering the show, backed up with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. So far, so very typical Android Wear.

asus zenwatch 2 review

But it's not about specs. The focus of the ZenWatch 2 is choice, and Asus is approaching the evolving smartwatch market in a mature way. The focus is on price and personalisation, and against the backdrop of the Huawei Watch's silly price tag, and the staggering Tag Heuer Connected, the $149 ZenWatch 2 looks to be a bona fide bargain.

And while the original ZenWatch came in one design – its successor arrives in two sizes and three colours: silver, gun metal and rose gold.

Essential reading: Android Wear super guide

While obviously down to individual choice, you could easily say the 18mm strapped version is aimed at women, while men will (on the whole) prefer the bigger 22mm offering. The gold is particularly eye-catching and dare we say unisex, and on top of that there are 18 different strap choices, ranging from metal link bracelets, to coloured leather and sporty silicon bands. It's super simple to switch between bands too.

Our particular review model was the smaller, gun metal one. And while it's far from the most comfortable Android Wear watch we've slipped on our wrist - in fact, it might just be the most uncomfortable - you won't be dying to rip it off your arm as per the original Microsoft Band or the Runtastic Moment Elite. It's okay - that's what we're trying to get at here.

There's no heart rate monitor underneath, so it sits pretty flush to the skin and a button has been added to the side for illuminating and turning off the display.

Asus ZenWatch 2: Display and bezel

asus zenwatch 2 review

The screen hasn't changed on the larger model: it's still a slightly pixelated 1.63-inch, 320 x 320, AMOLED with a 278ppi density, which lacks a little brightness. On our particular review model you're looking at a 1.45-inch panel with a 280 x 280 resolution and a ppi count of 273ppi.

Those displays, we have to say, look pretty tiny and the faces pretty huge. As a whole package it looks fine but once the screen is fired up, and you can easily differentiate between display and bezel, you notice just how ridiculously comical the thick bezel is.

While the original ZenWatch may have been forgiven for having such a chunky frame, in a second-gen device it's not really acceptable. It looks dated and cheap. It's easily the weak point of what is otherwise a pretty decent offering.

Asus ZenWatch: Hardware & battery life

asus zenwatch 2 review

While overtly little has changed on the ZenWatch 2 on the hardware front, it's unfair to say there hasn't been some progress. The company has installed a Wi-Fi chip to make use of the new features in Android Wear, and fast charging tech means you can juice up 50% of the battery in 36 minutes. In fact, you'll get a full charge in just over 45 minutes (for the smaller model, which packs a 300mAh battery).

The quoted battery life is two days but if you want to get anywhere near this you'll have to opt to use the lower power always-on screen, which keeps the screen dim, and turn Wi-Fi off. Again, the comparisons here are more with Pebble than Android Wear rivals.

We had the display blurring at full brightness and the full suite of connectivity radios fired up and got no more than a day and a half of semi-intense use. That's OK in smartwatch terms but not ground-breaking.

Essential reading: Android Wear tips and tricks

GPS is still an omission, so it's not one for the fitness fanatics out there - but you didn't really expect that at this price point, right?

Asus has also ditched some sensors to keep the cost down. Whereas the original packed in a 9-axis sensor / bio sensor combo, the sequel features just a 6-axis one with gyroscope and accelerometer. But who cares? No one expects their Android Wear smartwatch to accurately track their bpm so why bother ramping up the price with a substandard sensor? No, we reckon Asus has made some sensible cost cutting here.

asus zenwatch 2 review

However, while the engine room powering the show remains the same - as mentioned earlier - we did, for the first time with Android Wear, notice a slight lag with the performance.

We doubt this is down to the chipset; more likely Asus' touch display isn't firing as smoothly to the silicon as it should be. It's not terrible by any stretch, but there are definite, and inconsistent, pauses when certain touch gestures are used.

Asus ZenWatch 2: Evolving Android Wear

asus zenwatch 2 review

While the ZenWatch 2 is very much an Android Wear device, with the same basic OS experience you'd get on any other smartwatch from the Google stable, the Taiwanese company has added its own flavour to proceedings. There are 50 watch faces available to choose from, of which about 5 aren't horrible, and you can make your own in a new app - complete with custom text and an array of live widgets.

Asus apps have also been added to the regular Android Wear experience, with Asus flavoured messaging, media and activity tracking features loaded on top. We couldn't get the new Messenger app working unfortunately and the others, Asus Music, Asus Wellness and so on, are more bloatware than anything else.

Asus ZenWatch 2
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So while we applaud Asus for trying to differentiate its Android Wear offering, it has to do a lot more than duplicating existing apps and features with new colours.

Like the Huawei Watch and the Tag Heuer Connected, the ZenWatch 2 is officially compatible with iOS (all Android Wear watches will actually play nicely with an iPhone but the powers that be are keeping that quiet). However, expect a watered-down experience - check out our guide: Android Wear on iPhone.


Asus ZenWatch 2
By Asus
The Asus ZenWatch 2's big premise is individuality and affordability and, on these points, it's somewhat of a success. It's cheap - especially in the US (UK buyers get a bit of a bum deal) and there's loads of combinations to choose from. However, it feels more like a competitor to the Pebble Time than a genuine Android Wear contender. It's not as smart as Sony's AW devices and it's not as stylish as entrants from the LG and Moto corners. Treat the ZenWatch sequel as a smartwatch gateway device, expect no bells and whistles, and you won't be disappointed.

Hit
  • Cheap price-tag
  • Highly customisable
  • Different sizes available
  • Officially works with iPhone too
Miss
  • Battery is okay but not amazing
  • Big fat bezel
  • Slightly uncomfortable
  • A touch of lag

24 Comments

  • Oakley says:

    I would like to be able to see the pebble time round and the asus zen 2 watches but which shops are likely to stock them in the UK. Buying from just a photo is risky. You do need to see them and try on to see how they look and fit.

  • igsey says:

    I'm not entirely sure what the point in this watch is?  As far as I can see the only major difference between this and the first generation Zenwatch is the WiFi chip, unless I'm missing something.  It has extra bloatware too.

  • TE62 says:

    Looks like a sensible approach.  I can't take anything ASUS makes seriously anymore.   Anybody remember the TF700T tablet?  I have one of those $500 bricks laying around waiting for ASUS to come up with a use for it.  Doesn't work and absolute denial from the company.  Zero support.  Just remember - I warned you.

  • shaniyasen says:

    Smartwatches are now on sale only at BestSmartwatchOffers:com

  • ScottWLovesYou says:

    That's not the smaller one. It's the bigger one. You didn't even get that right. How can anyone trust the rest of this review? You also were childishly snarky about the watch faces. I'm hard pressed to think of another watch you can buy right now with more high quality watch faces right out of the box. My personal favorites are "Voyage" and "Paul J Pereira #1". Honestly you phoned this review in. Did you use it for even a day? I have the LG G Watch, the G Watch R, The first gen Moto 360, The first gen Zenwatch, the Huewei Watch, Apple's horrible laggy abomination, and the 1.45" Zenwatch 2. The Zenwatch 2 is hands down my favorite. 

  • taust says:

    There is no gun metal 1.45 inch model for this watch.  The back of the watch clearly shows the model number which is 501Q A.K.A 1.63inch model.  How can anyone trust a review of a product that you cant even properly identify?  Additionally, the model you have (larger model) is clearly too large for your wrist and would definitely explain why it seems "uncomfortable".  

  • tbran says:

    Since I primarily use an iPhone 6s Plus currently, I was intrigued by the Apple Watch and bought one. It functioned as expected, but it bothered me for $500, I was essentially only using it for text and call notifications. I found the apps pretty useless aside from the health monitor stuff. So I returned it and bought a Pebble Round. Not a bad watch, although I found the LCD "paper" display juvenile looking and just not eye catching at all for $250. The one plus of the display was 3 day battery life which is about 2 days longer than the Apple Then I happened across the Zen Watch 2 at Best Buy for $150. Sure I use an iOS device but the 2 basic things I really needed...notifications and a functioning watch, along with a decent looking display were enough for me to give it a shot. For the price, I am very happy with the Zenwatch 2. It does what I need and the bargain price allows me to be content until something truly earth shattering happens with wearables like battery life beyond a day or two and apps that serve a real purpose. Which truly hasn't happened yet, no matter what Apple and the other makers will try to make you believe. 

  • awundrin says:

    I have the smaller version which fits my wrist nicely as I am a woman. I am pleased with the watch and think it's a good bargain. Love the super fast and easy charging and the overall feel of the watch. Kudos to ASUS for offering a nice smartwatch at an 

    affordable price point!

  • ECDream says:

    is this smart watch??

  • Munk says:

    One thing that should be considered that while the heart rate monitor is missing there is a speaker laying dormant waiting for Android Wear 1.4.  This might open up the ability to answer the phone and chat directly from the watch's speaker.  Not that this sounds like a good situation for a phone call but just saying.

  • Munk says:

    One thing to consider is that there is a speaker laying dormant within the ZenWatch 2 waiting for Android Wear 1.4.  Far as I know there are only two Android Wear devices that have this at this moment.  This could open up having a phone conversation with someone right from your wrist for good or bad.

    • Munk says:

      Whoops, double post somehow.

      Google just announced Android Wear 1.4 being sent out and the ZenWatch 2 is one of two watches listed that will have speaker support since,,, it has a speaker.  I think the value of $129 just got much better.

  • racheldsilva91 says:

    Asus Zenwatch is now available for a discount only at SmartwatchOffers:com

  • Joshinri says:

    I bought this watch and used it for 3 days. Disappointed as it only occasionally connects to my Samsung phone and something as simple as accessing my contact list consistently is a challenge for it. I am unimpressed by its poor spotty functionality.

  • skabt says:

    very very poor review, i suspect you review this smart watch base on magazine or combination of others review, spend some time on it ....

    Proud owner of all smart wear.

  • irfan417 says:

    is this watch

    ☻ support sim

    ☻camera

  • TEWHITE says:

    I read every review posted on this site.  I believe these review are unfair and definitely wrong.

    I first bought the PEBBLE STEELE WATCH to use with my Samsung Note 4.  I used it for 3 DAYS AND WAS SO DISSAPPOINTED I RETURN THE WATCH TO THE STORE SELLING IT.

    I researched what I wanted and came up with the ASUS ZENWATCH 2. It's capabilities are so much more than the Pebble Steele.  The pebble does not allow you  to do manY thing the Asus does. Yes, the battery last a little longer, however it should because it really doesn't do anything. The great watch faces you speak about lonely allow you to use 5 or 6 faces. You then have to delete one of those to upload another. I find my Asus battery to last approx 2 days. It makes calls, Sends messages, and facebook post .I find it much better than any of the watches I've owned, which is 5. I don't care if it doesn't give me my pulse. It has the pedometer,  and other helth apps. 

    If you are considering a smartwatch, don't let these all critical comments defer  you. I say stay away from the Pebble Watch.

  • Stephen says:

    I know it's IP67. I only want to know, is it safe to use this smart watch in hot kitchen? I'm a cook and as you know it's hot temperature in the ktichen. Thanks.

  • jenbajra says:

    I am using but today when I am charging its vibrate only and not turn on what should I do.

  • dylan1119 says:

    Is the one in the pictures a 42mm or 45mm?

  • Terry1 says:

    cant figure how to raise volume for ringer

  • jollydsouza says:

    Smartwatches are now on sale only at SmartwatchOffers .com

  • klevenstein says:

    First and most obvious (sorry), a lot depends on what the individual wants from their wrist device. For me, the ZenWatch 2 suits my needs very well, and I am completely happy with it. Following is a slightly expanded description of my experience.

    I am a very technically-oriented guy (retired from aero computer engineering career), an early adopter of Android smartphones, and I welcome technologies that return opportunities to do more good things with my life, in exchange for meeting the learning curve challenges.

    I made my choice after a fair amount of research, but I haven't actually tried anything else (yet). On the other hand, if I was greatly annoyed by any characteristics either in or lacking in the ZenWatch, I would have tried something else by now. So, I can't say if is another choice would be better for you, but if you have the same preferences that I describe here, then I would strongly recommend this one.

    I could afford a $1500 Tag Heuer without much strain, but I got where I am by not spending needlessly, so price was among the most important considerations. It didn't need to be the cheapest available, and I didn't want to hang something absolutely shabby out in front of people all day, but I like to avoid spending a lot.

    Reasonable battery power/performance was important, because I already carry a smartphone, which requires a bit of attentiveness on occasion on a typical day, more so if out of signal range for a significant period of time. In the same vein, I wanted something with which I wouldn't need to fuss very much to benefit from the functionality, so: low effort, high reward tradeoff in using it.

    I have always used a wristwatch (never really liked tying up my hands to slip out my phone for a visual check or, more grotesquely, talking to it to check the time), so I wanted something that would function primarily for a quick, easy time check.

    In displays, I like bright, helpful colors and nice contrast (I put the software and systems for nice, big, bright flat glass displays into a lot of aircraft cockpits, and designed the user interfaces into them, so I can be pretty choosy about this kind of thing. Glance into the cockpit as you board your next flight to see an example), and the ability to read it outdoors under the intense radiation of the New Mexico sunshine is very important. I like to use an alarm at least several times daily, appointment reminders several times weekly, a stopwatch rarely. I bicycle, hike mountain trails and walk around a lot, but am no longer a runner. The bike is the only thing I really like to measure a lot while riding, and I like using other devices that no smartwatch will likely ever outperform for my biking purposes.

    I like being able to dismiss or snooze (but I never use snooze) alarms quickly with a swipe of the ZenWatch face (or by covering the face with my palm or against my side), quickly check the beginning lines of an incoming text (and with the Coffee app, for some simple coordination actions, Ido an easy text reply by tapping one of the selections, or I can tap the mike button and speak into the watch). I like the ability to see who is calling me and accept the call (usually using my bluetooth earbuds to converse by voice, if my hands are full, which is when I'm wearing my earbuds), or dismiss it, all with the watch face. I put together a FaceDesigner face arrangement that I love and have stayed with for a long time now, but I can easily change it if the mood strikes, and there are hundreds of free faces in an infinite array of styles that you can use (many of them free). You can customize the background with a photo (use your school or pro team mascot). There are faces that will slide photos of artwork in the background, and many other designs available that I could never dream up myself. The ZenWatch gives a nice little vibration (you can also get a ding sound, but I always have that turned off) when something happens (alarm, text, call phone out of range, etc). I can check the time with a simple gesture or flick of the wrist, then the screen blanks (or you can set the face to dim on timeout) to save battery power.

    I put the ZenWatch into Theater Mode (display remains off until you push the bezel button, unless you get an event like a call or alarm) when I go to bed or at the cinema. I click the charger end onto to it (it's magnetically attached) and let it charge during my daily shave/shower/attire, and it reaches 90-100% within that time, which is more than enough for a 24-hour use. If all you care about is never having to charge it, then you want the Pebble. If you like to fiddle a lot with the watch (I get my fill of this with the smartphone), then again you want the latest Pebble Time, which does a lot. I might have tried the Pebble in the beginning, but I'm too picky about a crisp, bright, unpixelated-looking display. The ZenWatch works well with Android Wear, and after trying that, I have confirmed that I didn't want to miss it. The Android Clock alarms sync up nicely now (back when I got it, I had to look up online why it didn't work, and it required me to go to Play and update the phone's Clock app to a new version, which is done as a separate Clock app from the original one). The ZenWatch wakes me with the smartphone's Android Clock alarms (showing the labels I gave them), and I easily dismiss them without having to reach for the phone (that's why I use 2 separate alarms for waking, but I like it). I get notifications for the phone apps I choose to get on the ZenWatch, and not for the ones I choose not to get there.

    I purchased a metal mesh replacement band in matching (gunmetal) finish on Amazon (for next to nothing), and I like using it very much. I am pleased at the look and feel of the ZenWatch, so wearing it is a pleasure unto itself. I've had it for 9 months, and it has worn well with no problems. If it died next year, I'd probably buy another one without feeling cheated. Being a smartwatch, it's always adjusted to the current time and time zone, with extreme chronological accuracy. My face design shows the time, with color-cued hour/minute/second hands (ticking seconds) and hour/minute tick marks, top edge shows phone battery percent/phone connection state number of missed calls, digital time, bottom edge shows ZenWatch battery percent, pedometer steps, and day/date. Calls and alarms appear full-screen until addressed or timed out. Notifications appear first as minimized, swipe up to see full screen, then swipe again to scroll for more content or to get to response options. It looks and feels like an intelligent and stylish interface design when in use.

    Summarizing, I am very happy with the ZenWatch, and the extra convenience was well worth the money and the (lack of) effort. The ZenWatch meets all of the criteria I listed above, and does so in a way that is pleasing to me.

  • RickBarry3491 says:

    I have the Asus Zen Watch 2. It does not pair with thr iPhone 7+. Anyone else having this problem 

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