Wearables

Affordable, good-looking smartwatch

The smartwatch also comes with 50 Asus watch faces, which you can manage and customise via the Asus ZenWatch Manager app.
The smartwatch also comes with 50 Asus watch faces, which you can manage and customise via the Asus ZenWatch Manager app.PHOTO: ASUS

The hefty price jump for the Asus ZenWatch 3 is justified by its vastly improved appearance

The Asus ZenWatch 3 Android Wear smartwatch costs $140 more than its predecessor - a substantial price jump considering the latter sold for $229. But it justifies this by looking so much better.

It starts with the display. The rectangular displays of the previous two generations have given way to a classic round display.

And this round display does not have a black space or "flat tyre" and is completely round. Perfect for traditionalists.

The ZenWatch 3 has a jewellery-grade 316L stainless steel case that is only 9.95mm thick.

Its 1.39-inch round Amoled screen, which has a resolution of 400 x 400 pixels, is surrounded by a diamond-cut rose-gold bezel for an elegant and timeless look. The screen is protected by a curved 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass.

There are three buttons on the right of the watch. The middle one is the Home button. By default, the top button activates the Asus ZenFit app, while the bottom one is a shortcut for Eco mode. You can customise the top button for other functions, but not the bottom one.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $369

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    COMPATIBILITY: Android 4.3 and above; iOS 8 and above

    WEIGHT: 58g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The ZenWatch 3 comes in two colour options in Singapore. One has a gunmetal (version reviewed) finish with black leather strap. The other has a silver finish with beige leather strap. I think the gunmetal finish (which looks like a shade of dark brown) looks better with the watch's rose-gold bezel.

The smartwatch also comes with 50 Asus watch faces, which you can manage and customise via the Asus ZenWatch Manager app (available for Android only). And some of these watch faces feature gold and black accents that fitted perfectly with the look of the review unit.

On the downside, it has a pair of special lugs that the standard straps cannot attach to. This means you can't use off-the-shelf, third-party straps.

The ZenWatch 3 is lightweight and comfortable to wear. The display is sharp, vivid and easy to read, even under bright sunlight. The touchscreen is also responsive, allowing for easy swipes through notifications and e-mails.

Asus claims that the ZenWatch 3 is a full-featured fitness tracker.

But it seems to be designed more for NSmen who need to take the IPPT physical fitness test.

The ZenFit app tracks runs, push-ups and sit-ups - the three components of the IPPT.

However, without a built-in GPS feature, I found it over-estimated the distance of my runs by as much as 20 per cent on my usual jogging route. Yet, it tracked fewer steps - around 7 per cent less - compared with my calibrated Fitbit Charge 2. And it counted only half the number of sit-ups I did.

Even worse, you have to do your push-ups really quickly in order for them to be registered. It registered no count when I did my push-ups slowly. Great training, I guess.

Also, without a built-in heart-rate monitor, you do not know how hard you are working out.

The ZenWatch 3 is rated at IP67, which means you can wash your hands with it but not swim. Battery life is average at around two days when paired with a smartphone.

•Verdict: If fitness is not your top priority and all you want is a good- looking and affordable smartwatch, the Asus ZenWatch 3 is perfect for you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Affordable, good-looking smartwatch'. Print Edition | Subscribe