When we first learned that Motorola had a round face Android Wear smart watch in the works a few months ago, it seemed like a wearable worth waiting for. As of today, the Moto 360 is officially a reality and available in the US, but the competition has started to catch up. Fortunately, Gizmag was among the first outlets to spend some hands on time with the Moto 360 at Motorola headquarters in Chicago on Thursday and I've also been able to put a review unit to good use in the real world. So far, it appears this could be the timepiece we've been waiting for since, well... since the beginning of time.

To understand why, you first need to know that Motorola doesn't like to call the Moto 360 a smart watch.

"We're doing something (with the Moto 360) that looks like a watch and acts like a watch but does much more," said Motorola's design head Jim Wicks during an introductory session to the Moto 360. "We really have reinvented the modern timepiece."

There's some marketing bluster behind that rhetoric, but when pressed during the session about the overall value of wearables, you get the sense that Moto's design team believes it wholeheartedly. Wicks talks about how the Moto 360, when paired with the new Moto X and the Moto Hint (a smart Bluetooth earpiece that works in concert with the watch and phone) can help us all to stop burying our faces in our phones.

"It's about the value of the quick glance and getting our heads up again."

Motorola Mobility President and COO Rick Osterloh shows off a Moto 360

Like the first pair of Android Wear watches to hit the market over the summer – the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch – the Moto 360 is primarily a vehicle for putting your smartphone's notifications on your wrist. Texts, calls, emails, navigation, Google Now cards and an expanding array of Wear-friendly apps can handle direct interactions from the watch via swipes, taps and voice commands.

As with other Wear watches, simply saying "Ok, Google" calls the Moto 360 to attention to answer queries like "who won the Cubs game?" or "when is my flight home from Chicago?" or "what year was Motorola founded?" (For the full run down on everything Android Wear can do, check out our full review.)

The Moto 360 also works as an activity tracker and pedometer with a heart rate monitor. An included heart activity app helps you work towards health and fitness goals.

The Moto 360's obvious leg up on the competition is its more fashionable and stylish aesthetic. It's quite an improvement from the calculator-on-a-plastic-strap look of the LG G Watch, for example, but there are more subtle improvements that seal the deal.

The wireless charging station for the Moto 360

First up, the materials are a cut above the competition, with a steel frame and standard leather straps from Chicago's own Horween Leather Company. While the round face is still bigger than your average non-smart watch, it's surprisingly light. In fact, it's only 1.72 oz (49 g) with a leather strap (nice-looking and heavier steel straps are coming later) as compared to the LG G Watch and Gear Live, which weigh in at 2.2 oz (63 g) and 2.1 oz (59 g), respectively. You get more pixel bang for your buck, too

The Moto 360 also comes with a nifty wireless charging system that you'll need to become accustomed to toting around when you travel, as well as a few custom watch faces and apps designed to take advantage of that round screen. Motorola Connect also helps you keep track of your Moto 360's whereabouts, should you be the kind prone to losing things.

As for specs, the Moto 360's display is 1.56 inches across with a resolution of 320 x 290, creating 205 pixels per inch. A 320 mAh battery should get you a full day of use, but I can't quite confirm that yet. The heart of the Moto 360 is a TI OMAP 3 processor with 4 GB of internal storage and 512 MB of RAM. It also gets a nice-looking physical button on the side, dual microphones for better voice recognition and a water resistance rating of IP67 – that's water resistant, not waterproof.

I'll post a more detailed review next week with more thoughts, but in the meantime, the best news of all is that the Moto 360 is available today in the US starting at noon New York time at Best Buy or online from Motorola and Google Play. The leather version will be available to start for US$249, with a steel band version coming later for $299. The roll out will continue in other countries in the coming months.

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