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. 

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

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!
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for December 2018

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.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Outdoors

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.
Outdoors

Conquer the cold season with the best heated clothing and outdoor apparel

If you're thinking about going outside this winter, heated apparel is a must. Luckily, we've rounded up some of the best heated clothing, whether you're looking for battery-powered gloves or heated insoles.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Mobile

Google Fit app finally gets a widget, among other new features

Google Fit hasn't received any new features since its redesign. This week, the company is rolling some new tools; users will be able to add a widget to their Android home screen, adjust the intensity of their workouts, and more.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Mobile

New Apple Watch begins saving lives one week after getting EKG feature

The Apple Watch Series 4 was updated almost a week ago with a new feature that allows users to take electrocardiogram tests -- and already it seems like the new feature is saving lives.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.
Home Theater

Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Mobile

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.