Hands on: Asus ZenWatch 3

Asus' flashy ZenWatch 3 is a sexy round smartwatch, if you have the wrists for it

Well folks, the day has come. Asus has officially taken the wraps off of the new and highly-anticipated ZenWatch 3, which features a radically different design than its predecessor, the ZenWatch 2.

The new device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, which is a processor in Qualcomm’s line of chips built specifically for wearable devices. Like Asus’ other smartwatches, it also runs Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch targeted operating system.

We took a look at the device at IFA on Berlin, and here are our initial impressions.

A new, round design

While nearly every other company has moved over to a round smartwatch design, Asus stuck to its curved rectangular design from the first ZenWatch to its second. Finally, with the ZenWatch 3, Asus made its smartwatch round.  Although the ZenWatch 2’s rectangular design wasn’t ugly,  it did look like a tiny smartphone on your wrist. The new ZenWatch 3 looks much more like a classic watch, with its circular design and choice of either chrome, silver, or black metal for the watch case.

It also has relatively large metal lugs on either side of the watch that connect to the band. These lugs are stiff and set at a very specific angle that’s better suited to large wrists than small ones. On my slender wrist, those lugs ensure that the ZenWatch 3 looks comically large. The watch’s casing isn’t terribly slim, either. The ZenWatch 3 looks best on men’s wrists, though the rose gold version is female friendly — assuming you have the wrists for it.

Asus offers a selection of different straps for the ZenWatch 3, including several leather and silicon options. The smartwatch boasts an IP67 rating, meaning it should be fine getting a few splashes, but you won’t want to submerge it in water for extended periods of time.

The new ZenWatch features a 1.39-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 400 x 400 pixels. That display is protected with Corning’s Gorilla Glass, ensuring that even if you drop the watch, the glass won’t shatter. There are also three buttons on the right side of the watch — you can set the top button to go into your favorite applications. The buttons add to the classic watch look, and they make it much easier to access your favorite apps with a single tap.

Android Wear is still a lot of swiping

Since it’s an Android Wear smartwatch, the ZenWatch 3 looks exactly like every other smartwatch that runs Google’s wearable OS. If you’ve seen one Android Wear watch, you’ve seen them all — only design differentiates them. Android Wear 2.0 is still in development, but it brings much-needed improvements in terms of design and ease of use. It’s unknown when the ZenWatch 3 2ill get Android Wear 2.0, but in our opinion, the update can’t come soon enough. The current version of Android Wear looks a bit old fashioned at this point, with its white backgrounds and card-like interface, which is better suited to the square screens of yesteryear.

The main software additions Asus brought to the watch come in the form of a quick-launch app button, and lots of great new watch faces. However, if you really want to personalize your watch, you can check out Asus’ new watch face app on your phone. From there, you can easily search through the many watch faces to find your favorite. Asus also connects you with watch face designing apps, so you can make your own in the event that none of the stock ones appeal to you.

These days, many people buy smartwatches not just to get notifications on their wrist, but also to track their activity. The ZenWatch 3 has some activity-tracking features, which Asus says are 95 percent accurate. You can track all the obvious metrics like steps, mileage, calories burned, and so on.

However, it’s missing some key features that would make it a fitness junkie’s device. For example, while the new ZenWatch can do things like count steps, it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor. It’s an odd omission for a smartwatch in this day and age, especially when you consider that nearly every competitor’s watch offers heart rate tracking.

Battery life expectancy

Asus claims that the ZenWatch 3 boasts advanced power management features, “so it spends more time on the wearers’ wrist and less time charging.” What does that mean in the real world? According to Asus the device will last 1-2 days on a single charge. Asus’ HyperCharge technology also charges the battery up to 60 percent in 15 minutes. That’s a huge win for a smartwatch. After all, nothing is worse than having a dead watch on your wrist that can’t even tell you the time. We’ll have to test Asus’ quick charging claims in our full review.

Asus announced two additional accessories for the watch — a magnetic charger, and a battery pack. You heard that right. The battery pack clips onto the back of the wearable and automatically begins charging — you’ll have to take it off your wrist, though. The company says it gives you up to 40 percent additional battery life.

Pricing and availability

In general, the ZenWatch 3 looks great, but it’s missing a few features that could skyrocket it to fame. It costs 230 euros, which comes out to be around $255. That’s less than many smartwatches, including the Huawei Watch and Apple Watch, both of which start around $350 and go way up from there.

The ZenWatch 3 will arrive in the U.S. and elsewhere in October. Currently, we don’t know the exact date, but we’ll keep you posted here.

Stay tuned for more IFA 2016 news and our full review.

Highs

  • New round design is an improvement
  • App launch button is useful
  • $255 is a reasonable price

Lows

  • Large lugs make it too big for small wrists
  • No heart rate sensor

Article originally published in July 2016 by Andy Boxall. Christian de Looper also contributed to this report. 

Product Review

Galaxy Watch Active is the right size, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Deals

Amazon drops a sweet deal on the Kate Spade Scallop smartwatch for women

Unlike many other smartwatches geared toward women, the Kate Spade Scallop offers a more chic and minimalistic look. With this Amazon sale going on right now, you can get it for $109 off its retail price.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Mobile

North Focals smartglasses discount cuts the price by a massive $400

Canadian startup North is hoping smartglasses will be the next big wearable. After announcing its new Focals smartglasses in late 2018, the company opened product showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto and has made its first shipment.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Deals

This discounted smartwatch is a cheap Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa alternative

The Amazfit Bip isn't an Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa, but at the discounted price of $67, it's a very affordable alternative packed with useful features. With built-in GPS and 30-day battery life, this cheap smartwatch is a great option to…
Deals

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.