Feature Articles

Hands-on: The ASUS ZenWatch 3 is the company's first round smartwatch

By John Law & Kenny Yeo - 6 Nov 2016

Hands-on: The ASUS ZenWatch 3 is the company's first round smartwatch

Note: This article was first published on October 14, 2016. Now updated with availability details.

If you love round watches, you'll be happy to know that ASUS' new ZenWatch 3 has a round design.

Yesterday, ASUS unveiled their range of computing and mobile devices for the upcoming holiday season. And today, we are turning the spotlight onto the new ZenWatch 3. The ZenWatch 3 is ASUS' third generation smartwatch and it's a radically different watch from its predecessor. There's a greater emphasis on design and luxury, and for the first time, the ZenWatch has a more traditional round design.

The thing about smartwatches is this: Do I make a rectangular watch that can show text more efficiently, or do I make a round-faced watch that is more popular and aesthetically pleasing?

It's a tough call, but ASUS has decided to go for the more traditional and popular round-face design for their third smartwatch - the ZenWatch 3. 

The ZenWatch 3 will come in three colors - silver, gunmetal and rose gold. This is the gun metal variant.

As I mentioned earlier, the ZenWatch 3 has an increased emphasis on design and luxury, but before we go into that, let's talk about its internals.

Inside, the ZenWatch 3 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. As you might have guessed from the name, its a processor designed specially for wearables with a focus on power efficiency. As a result, the ZenWatch 3 will offer up to two days of battery life. But even if you are low on battery, the watch has a special HyperCharge feature that lets users charge it from zero to 60 percent in just 15 minutes. 60% will get you through a day quite easily.

You can change your ZenWatch 3's watch face on the watch itself or with the ZenWatch Manager app.

The ZenWatch 3 features a 45mm large stainless steel case, and a 1.49-inch AMOLED display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass that outputs a resolution of 400 x 400 pixels for a pixel density count of 287 ppi. The display is therefore suitably sharp, and the colors are really nice. However, the display itself is prone to glare and reflection, and the display isn't quite bright enough to be seen properly in harsh sunlight. 

There's lots of watch faces to choose from, but some are quite tacky. Fortunately, some are also quite funky and cute.

If you like to change watch faces, you will be happy to learn that the ZenWatch 3 comes with over 50 exclusive watch face designs. Users can even customize them or make their own using with the ZenWatch Manager app. 

The stainless steel case is constructed using 316L grade stainless steel, the same as the Apple Watch and many other luxury watches. It also comes in three different colors, silver, gun metal and rose gold. And one interesting design flourish is the rose gold diamond cut bezel that frames the display. It's also has an IP67 water resistant rating, which means it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. In other words, you can shower with your ZenWatch 3, just don't take it swimming.

The sides of the case are polished. And at 9.95mm thick, the ZenWatch 3 doesn't feel top heavy on my wrist.

And as you might have noticed, the ZenWatch 3 features two pushers on the side of the crown, just like a typical chronograph watch. These pushers are not just for looks, they can be customized to provide shortcuts to favorite apps and more. 

The ZenWatch 3's integrated lug design makes the watch stand out because it is seldom seen in watches.

The lugs curve downwards quite sharply, which can make the watch uncomfortable for readers with smaller wrists.

The case is also interesting in that it has an unconventional integrated lug design. It's distinctive because you don't usually see such lugs on watches, but the problem with this design is that the lugs on the ZenWatch 3 curve downwards quite steeply, which can make it hard for people with excessively small or large wrists to get a comfortable fit. In terms of thickness, the ZenWatch 3 comes in at just under 10mm thick, which is quite commendable for a smartwatch.

The ZenWatch 3 fits well on my wrist, and I love the soft calf leather strap.

It's not a problem on my wrist, because even though it's thin (just 6.3-inches), it's also flat and it fits the curves of the lugs well.  However, some ladies who tried the watch out at the event commented that it doesn't fit so well on their small wrists and that there's an uncomfortable gap between the lugs and their wrists. I suspect users with really large wrists might have a problem with getting a good fit too since the lugs might not be wide enough to accommodate them.

That said, I do love the genuine Italian calf leather straps that are provided with the watch. It's soft and really supple. ASUS also provides an additional rubber strap for users who want to get athletic with their ZenWatch 3.

A small pin makes it easy to remove the spring bars and change straps.

Speaking of straps, the ZenWatch 3 features a rather clever strap change system. It uses spring bars that have a small pin that enables users to remove them without the need of a spring bar tool. This makes strap changes easier. Unfortunately, because of the unique lug structure, owners won't be able to use off the shelve straps with the ZenWatch 3. They will have to get straps from ASUS or have them customized. 

Based on my first impressions, the ZenWatch 3, much like its predecessor, is a smart-looking smartwatch that seeks to offer lots of bang for your buck. At S$369 (approx. RM1,123), it's significantly more affordable than other comparable Android Wear alternatives, and also Apple's new Apple Watch Series 2. Obviously, you do miss out on some features such as a built-in a heart rate sensor and GPS, but the ZenWatch 3 is round-faced smartwatch with an interesting design and Android Wear functionality. And that could be just what some users are looking out for in a smartwatch.