Hands-on with the Asus ZenWatch

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The Asus ZenWatch is a well built, premium wearable with a lot going for it (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag.com)

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Asus’ ZenWatch might not be anything drastically different to what we’ve already seen from other square-faced Android Wear devices, but it does offer unique styling and a layer of extra functionality. According to Asus, the watch occupies a halfway point between a traditional timepiece and smart wearable, offering a handcrafted, layered design, and high-quality components. Read on as Gizmag goes hands-on with the Asus ZenWatch.

Android Wear watches are currently split into two categories - the functional and (usually) more affordable square-faced models (such as the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live), and the round-faced wearables like the Moto 360 and upcoming LG G Watch R. Devices that fall into the latter of these two categories put a greater focus on style than the former, looking to traditional timepiece design for inspiration.

Asus sees the ZenWatch as the best of both worlds. With a hand-stitched Italian leather strap and stainless steel construction, the device feels more like a piece of jewelery than most smartwatches. The retro design may be a little more polarizing than either the more traditional look of the circular smartwatches, or the more sports watch-like design square-faced models, but it's certainly not unattractive, and the build quality is rock solid.

The curved back of the device means that less of the rear of the watch is in contact with the wrist. This, combined with the high quality leather strap, makes wearing the ZenWatch a very comfortable experience. The only Asus branding you'll see when wearing the device is located on the clasp, which is solid, and like the rest of the watch, feels premium.

The glass on the ZenWatch is slightly curved – something that Asus calls 2.5D. The slightly raised surface is designed to make the touch experience smoother and more responsive. Though there was no significant difference in ease of use between a standard flat-screened smart watch screen and the ZenWatch’s 2.5D display, flicking through the UI was quick and painless, and performing gestures felt perhaps a little slicker on than on my own LG G Watch.

The company has included a couple of small but well thought out features on the wearable, such as a quick release lever to make changing straps easier, and the inclusion of a heart rate monitor in the device’s bezel. The wearable charges using a cradle, similar to the LG G Watch.

The device's 1.63-inch 320 x 320 AMOLED display is sharp and bright, and while the ZenWatch pairs with a phone via the standard Android Wear app, users can also download Asus’ own ZenWatch app, giving the wearable a number of extra features. These include a cover-to-mute function that will mute calls or snooze alarms, a customizable double tap gesture, and the ability to use the watch as a remote for the paired smartphone’s camera.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test any of these features during our hands-on time, but we’ll have more coverage of the ZenWatch as it heads towards release.

Asus is targeting a Q4 launch for the ZenWatch, and at the reveal event Asus Design Center Vice President Mitch Yang confirmed that the wearable will ship for €199 (US$260) in Europe. The company has yet to announce US pricing information.

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