One of these things is not like the other…
Over the weekend I tried out an ASUS ZenWatch 3. You’ll notice from the photo that the plastic screen protector is still on it; that’s because it’s going back to Best Buy—a decision I made almost immediately after putting it on my wrist.
Keep in mind that these harsh words coming from someone who, over the latter part of 2016, has somehow become a smartwatch snob, if such a thing even exists. I have a growing appreciation and respect for traditional watches but I also want notifications on my wrist.
Through that very specific lens I’m going to bash this ASUS, and bash it hard.
As you can see, neither Casio nor Nixon are afraid of bezels. I’m not talking about the vast, wasted space that you’d find on a Pebble; I mean a substantial, integrated frame for the screen. I think smartphone makers—ASUS, Huawei, Motorola and even Apple—come at watch bezels from the wrong direction. Nobody wants a big bezel on their phone, but on a watch it’s a critical part of the design.
Okay, so the ASUS has that daring (garish) gold band around the screen, but the alleged steampunk look isn’t working for me at all. It doesn’t help that the buttons look like fake copper fixtures from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
And yes, there are traditional watches from Citizen and Seiko that have minimal bezels, but they at least have attractive watch faces.
The ZenWatch 3 has a plentiful array of watch faces that are all terrible. Seriously, their collective design aesthetic is at the level of a software clock on Windows 95 or an Linux distribution of similar vintage.
Let’s look once again at the photo for evidence to support my claim. Though all three watches are in standby mode, the ASUS has that weird blue diagonal line opposite the crown. It’s actually the month/day separator on the watch face. Why does it need to be illuminated in standby mode? I’ve no idea either.
I did actually pair the ASUS to my phone before deciding that I hated it, and the first alert I got on my screen was a notification from an ASUS app called ZenFit. In other words, while the Casio adds value to the Android Wear experience with a built-in altimeter, barometer and compass, and the Nixon lets you track snow and/or surf conditions at your favourite locales, the ASUS duplicates Google Fit, an app already installed on every Android-powered watch. Stupid.
The latest ZenWatch is at least a good value for an Android Wear device, and has made the list for the upgrade to Android Wear 2.0. It might also be a better fit for your wrist. And you likely won’t have to worry about attracting the scorn of smartwatch snobs; I’m probably the only one out there.