Asus has introduced the successor to the ZenWatch, a smartwatch that was originally praised for its Apple Watch-esque design as well as its status as one of the better Android Wear watches out there. This came as a surprise since Asus is a popular computer-focused company that has largely failed to make a real dent in the mobile industry. Because of the praise of the original device, the new ZenWatch 2 has a lot to live up to. But is it able to stand up against the original? We put the two devices head-to-head to find out.
One of the main selling points of the original ZenWatch was its design, so it makes sense that Asus would want to keep the form similar when creating its successor. Still, the design of the ZenWatch 2 is slightly more refined than the original ZenWatch. One of the big visual differences is the addition of a small metal crown that can be used to interact with the device. Much more customization is also available: the ZenWatch 2 comes in three different color options, including rose gold, gunmetal and standard silver.
There are also more band options available now. Asus has introduced two different sizes of the ZenWatch 2. The smaller version of the device has a model number of WI502Q and has dimensions of 45.2mm (1.78 inches) x 37.2mm (1.46 inches) and a thickness of 10.4mm (0.41 inches). The larger device is the WI501Q, and is 49.6mm (1.95 inches) x 40.7mm (1.6 inches). The thickness, however, is smaller, at 9.4mm (0.37 inches). This is likely because there is more room under the hood for internal components.
The original ZenWatch had dimensions of 51mm (2.0 inches) x 39.9mm (1.57 inches), however the thickness was slimmer than both of the newer devices, sitting at 7.9mm (0.31 inches). Apart from body dimensions, Asus also changed the size of the watch band. Both versions of the ZenWatch 2 feature a band width of 22mm (0.87 inches), while the older ZenWatch’s band was 39.8mm (1.57 inches) across.
Both the larger ZenWatch 2 and the original ZenWatch feature a 1.63-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels and a pixel density of 278ppi.
The smaller ZenWatch 2, however, has an appropriately smaller display at 1.45-inches, a resolution of 280 x 280 pixels and a density of 273ppi. The pixel density of the smaller display is minimally smaller, however the physical size of the display is noticeable.
Processor, RAM and Storage
Interestingly enough, Asus hasn’t really made many changes under the hood the second time around. Every ZenWatch model comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2Ghz processor and all feature 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage. This is somewhat surprising, especially considering the devices were released around a year apart. Clearly Asus’ mentality for the device is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The only fear that one could have is that the new device might go out of date quicker than the previous generation, however only time will tell whether that plays out or not.
One of the things that’s changed between the two generations of devices are the sensors on offer for fitness tracking. The original ZenWatch featured a nine-axis sensor/bio-sensor, which can track metrics like steps taken, calories burned and heart rate. Both ZenWatch 2 models feature a six-axis sensor, including an accelerometer and gyroscope, along with a sensor-hub, which basically helps process the information captured from the sensor. While comparing six to nine might make the new device seem a little less impressive, the new ZenWatch 2 can still track the same metrics. Not only that, but the Wellness app has been redesigned for the new watch, and, at least according to Asus, helps make the new watch a “fully-featured activity tracker.”
The new device is also able to handle water and dust a lot better than its predecessor. While the original device had an IP55 rating, meaning it can handle a few splashes, the new watch has an IP67 rating, indicating it can be fully submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. You still shouldn’t go swimming or shower with it on as the rating refers to accidental submersion.
Asus has upped the battery life on the ZenWatch for the new larger model, which offers a 400mAh battery, compared to the 369mAh battery of its predecessor. The smaller ZenWatch 2, however, features a lower capacity 300mAh battery. Asus claims the the larger ZenWatch 2 will last for two days on a single charge and the smaller version a day and a half. The older device only lasts one day on a single charge. Basically, Asus has managed to bring its ZenWatch in line with other wearables on the market, which is great news for those who don’t want to have to charge their device every day.
Software and compatibility
The new ZenWatch 2 runs the latest version of Android Wear out of the box, which has a number of big updates. Of course, the older ZenWatch has received this latest version of Android Wear as an update as well, so really there aren’t many differences as far as software goes between the two devices.
Asus did add a number of tweaks to the software on the ZenWatch 2. For example, a feature called Remote Camera enables users to see through the camera lens on their smartphone. This feature did exist on the original ZenWatch, however it has been upgraded in the new device to offer further reach and faster performance. Another improvement is in the wellness smartphone app, as discussed earlier. There should be no difference in compatibility between the two devices, especially with recent updates to Android Wear. The two devices will work with Android smartphones running 4.3 and later, and iPhones running iOS 8.2 and later.
Here’s where things get a little confusing with price, at least if you choose to buy from the Asus website. The original ZenWatch costs $149 (£149/about AU$207). The new, larger ZenWatch 2 actually costs less than the original, starting at $129 (about £84.2/AU$179) for the model with a brown leather band. For a metal band, users will be paying $199 (about £130/AU$277), however it’s not on sale just yet.
The smaller ZenWatch 2 costs more than the larger device, matching the price of the previous version and starts at $149 (about £97/AU$207). Like the larger ZenWatch 2, prices range up to $199 (about £130/AU$277).
This really is a no-brainer, especially considering the price. The ZenWatch 2 is a better device, even though it’s only marginally so. There’s no reason to buy the original ZenWatch. Add in the fact that it has a slightly more refined design, better battery life, better fitness tracking and more features overall, and the Asus ZenWatch 2 is a steal.