The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 is the Swiss watchmaker's second Android Wear smartwatch after the Connected, which according to Tag's CEO Jean-Claude Biver actually sold pretty well.
So it's keeping the Wear love affair going, this time introducing a new modular design that lets you customise pretty much every element of the watch. It's crammed with more features as well, including GPS to track your outdoor workouts and NFC to make payments from the wrist.
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The Intel-powered modular smartwatch is also part of a small group that's already running on Android Wear 2.0, Google's major smartwatch OS update.
One thing that hasn't changed is the price. You buy a Tag watch, you expect to pay big for it. Prices start at ‚ā¨1,600 and can go all the way up to ¬£15,000 if you really want to splash out.
We were big fans of the original, so does the second Tag smartwatch raise the bar for Android Wear? Here's our comprehensive verdict on the Connected Modular 45.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Design and build
There's no getting away from the fact the first Connected was a gorgeous looking smartwatch, something that at the time you couldn't say about a lot of smartwatches, let alone Android Wear ones. Thankfully Tag delivers on this front once again.
You'll find all the same luxury design hallmarks, from the logo emblazoned on the crown to the bold matte black ceramic bezel. It's every bit a Tag watch and we've had more compliments and inquisitive glances at this smartwatch than any other we've strapped on recently. It really is a beauty and you'll only know it's a smartwatch when you get a little closer and spy the touchscreen display.
The 45mm body still makes it one of the biggest Wear watches around, and at 13.75mm thick it's still one of the chunkiest as well, no doubt to accommodate the extra sensors on board. But it carries that extra heft well. We tried out the titanium strap model and was surprised by just how light and comfortable a watch it is to wear during the day and even in bed. It's undeniably still a watch designed for men, but the good news is that a Tag Heuer Connected Modular for women smartwatch will be launched before the end of the year.
While the 2015 edition initially came in just a few styles, before a rose gold model was introduced, things now get a lot more customisable. The new modular design approach is not just about swapping watch straps. You can pull out the lugs, the buckle and even swap the digital screen for an analogue one. (Which, yes, turns it into a wristwatch.) There are small buttons well concealed within the design that unlock various parts, so they don't break up the slick watch aesthetics.
Tag says there are 56 different looks you can create, leaving plenty of room for customisation. While changing lugs or buckles might sound quite cosmetic, the idea that you can swap digital screens for an analogue one is one way of solving that smartwatch battery conundrum, that's for sure.
The good news for swimmers is that the new Tag, unlike the original, is waterproof. You can take it for a dip in the water up to 50 metres and after a pool session and some shower time it survived to tell the time without issue. Tag does offer a sporty black rubber strap option so you might want to opt for one of those rather than a calfskin or a titanium one if you're planning to work out with it a lot.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Display
The screen on the first Tag smartwatch was by no means the best in the business and was one of the few areas we were critical of. Well, things have improved on the display front for the Modular. There's now a 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 resolution AMOLED display wrapped in scratch-resistant sapphire cover glass.
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If you've got the first watch then you'll know that's in fact a smaller display but the resolution has been bumped up, which does offer more vibrant, brighter surroundings. It's still not the best you can get in smartwatch display terms, but it's a noticeable step up from the original. It's not quite as impressive as the LG Watch Sport's 1.38-inch P-OLED display and 480 x 480 resolution, but we're not expecting anyone to kick up a fuss here.
Screen visibility is still strong in bright sunlight and it's certainly bright enough for night-time viewing. As is standard with Wear watches, you can crank up the brightness from a swipe down on the main screen if the default setting is not to your liking.
If we're nitpicking ‚Äď and it's our job to do so ‚Äď there's some screen warping around the edges of the screen where the display doesn't entirely meet with the bezel. Most will probably not notice it, but if you're obsessive about these kind of things it's a minor gripe for an otherwise solid, all-round display.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Android Wear 2.0
Currently the Connected Modular 45, along with the LG Watch Sport and Style, are the only three Android Wear smartwatches rocking the new Wear 2.0 update out of the box.
That means once you're all set up, you can reap the benefits of Google's most important smartwatch OS update yet. It's now better optimised for Android phones and iPhones for starters, and that's a big thing. We tried the Tag out with both platforms and have no issues to report.
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All of the core Wear 2.0 features are there, including the new Material design, access to Google Assistant thanks to a well concealed microphone, the ability to download apps from the Google Play Store directly from the watch, improved messaging skills and standalone apps. The onboard NFC means it works with Android Pay too.
There's also a much bigger push on being able to customise watch faces ‚Äď one of the few areas where hardware makers like Tag can make their presence felt on Google's operating system. Browsing through watch faces works as it does on other Wear watches, but Tag has also added in the Tag Heuer Studio. Here you can access exclusive watch faces, which you can customise. First you pick the watch face base and can then tinker with the dials and the overall look.
There's a small selection to choose from right now, but more will be added in the future. You can create some pretty slick faces if that's your kind of thing, but we'd say the default ones already do a pretty good job of making this look and feel like a luxury smartwatch.
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Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Hardware and GPS tracking
Tag has partnered up with Intel once again, packing in the chipset maker's Atom processor Z34XX, which is a processor they actually use in smartphones. That's backed up by a pretty standard 512MB of RAM and there's 4GB of storage on board as well. As a result the Wear OS runs pretty slick. Some loading can still feel a little sluggish, particularly when launching the Google Play store or games, but generally it's a pretty zippy experience.
The headline hardware feature here though is the addition of built-in GPS. We've already seen it included on new Wear watches like the LG Watch Sport and the Huawei Watch 2, and it will be included in Casio's next gen outdoor smartwatch as well among others. That means you can track runs, although the Tag doesn't include its own dedicated fitness application. You can make use of Google Fit or compatible third-party apps like Runkeeper, which is not optimised for Android Wear 2.0.
Runkeeper Android Wear app (left and centre) and TomTom Spark 3 (right)
We put it to the running test using the standalone Runkeeper app against the TomTom Spark 3 GPS watch and generally results were pretty good. Although as the data above shows, the measurements can still be a little off.
We don't think Tag really sees this as a fully fledged sports watch replacement, but more giving owners the option to track if they want to. It works well, the GPS pick up is quick and bar one run, data accuracy was strong too.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Battery life
Despite the addition of GPS and a more impressive display, Tag has stuck with the same 410mAh battery that should deliver all day battery life and that's pretty much what we found using it. If you're not using it intensively all day, then you could push to a day and a half making use of the battery saver mode. Most of the time it's going to be a good for a day's play.
When you factor in GPS, that battery however takes a major hit. After a 45 minute run in the morning, it was down to 45% just two hours later. To get it powered back up, there's a nice charging disc that you can clip the watch onto and it'll take a couple of hours to get from 0‚Äď100%.