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ASUS ZenWatch 2 review: smartwatch puts you in the here and Google Now


The Asus ZenWatch 2 works on both Android and IOS.

The Asus ZenWatch 2 works on both Android and IOS. Photo: Supplied

The Asus ZenWatch 2 has a lot to love about it. It’s one of the best value smartwatches on the market, and one of the few that works with Android or iOS.

It comes in two sizes, a 41mm 320×320 screen and a 37mm 280×280 screen. The screen doesn’t feel as sharp as the competition, but it doesn’t feel cheap, either. The AMOLED display is plenty bright and easy to read.

It’s big bezeled, but that’s ok. There’s a lot of technology to cram into a smartwatch, so manufacturers must choose either small and fat, or large and flat. The Asus ZenWatch 2 is flatter than most.

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Thanks to its svelte profile, the ZenWatch 2 is one of the more comfortable smartwatches to wear. The body is the thinnest and lightest you can find in its class. The top of the display curves slightly, somewhat masking the size of the bezel. On my tiny little wrists, the 41mm ZenWatch 2 overhangs slightly, nothing too noticeable, but the 37mm feels just right.  All in all, the ZenWatch looks more like a regular sized watch than most smartwatches.

The leather band feels a tad stiff when compared with fine leather watch bands, but I’m sure it will loosen over time. There is a small crown, for lack of a better word, on the side of the unit. It doesn’t actually do much, constrained by Google’s control over Android Wear.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and having not worn an Android Wear-powered smartwatch for a few months, I’d begun to imagine the platform as more polished than it is. Without doubt, Android Wear is still the most useful smartwatch platform – but compared to the clean, elegant interface of the Apple Watch, and the Samsung Gear S2, it feels ready for a design refresh.  

Android Wear allows almost any watch face you can think of, but beneath the watch face, it looks a little cheap and somehow already dated. Notifications from Google Now, Calendar, even the stopwatch timer look cartoonish, very out of place when compared to the competition.

Still, Google voice search remains more powerful and accurate than Apple’s Siri, and Google Now is still the killer smartwatch app — serving information to you based on Google’s intimate knowledge of your favourite locations and daily habits. Catch the same bus every morning? Google knows, so the ZenWatch knows too, and can tell you when you should leave to catch it on time. Those kind of pre-emptive smarts put Android Wear above its competitors.

The neat thing is the Asus ZenWatch 2 is one of the first Android Wear watches to work with iOS, so iPhone users can experience Google Now and Search on their wrists. The iOS compatibility is better than I expected, notifications from all iOS appear as little Now style cards, and if you’re a Gmail user, you can even reply on the watch. And the Asus is a lot cheaper than an Apple Watch, starting at $299 for the leather, $369 for steel.

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