BERLIN — A new smartwatch from Asus gets a new look, as the latest version of the ZenWatch will feature a circular design. With the ZenWatch 3, Asus is looking to show it can produce a striking-looking watch that can also charge faster.
Beauty comes at a cost, though. The Android Wear-powered ZenWatch 3 will cost €229, according to Asus, which has yet to announce a U.S price or ship date. An Asus rep at the company's press conference at IFA, though, told me the watch would ship in October.
We knocked the ZenWatch 2 for being a little bulky, and that complaint is unlikely to be resolved with the ZenWatch 3. The new watch is a little bit thicker — 0.39 inches to the ZenWatch's 2 0.37 inches. But the circular design did look more attractive on my wrist when I slipped on the rose gold ZenWatch 3 at an Asus demo area. (The watch will also be available in gunmeatal and silver designs.)
Throw in 316L stainless steel materials and a stylish watch band — Asus offers one in stitched Italian leather, though you can also opt for a rubber option — and Asus has seriously upgraded the elegance factor with the ZenWatch 3.
It's also ratcheting up the speed with which you can charge the new smartwatch. ZenWatch 3 uses HyperCharge technology to power up quickly. Erik Hermanson, head of marketing for mobile products at Asus, says you can go from zero to a 60 percent charge in 15 minutes — enough power to get you through day, according to Hermanson.
Also helping out with battery life is the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor powering the watch. Asus says that chip consumes 25 percent less energy than the Snapdragon CPU in the last ZenWatch. As a result, Asus is promising up to two days of battery life with the ZenWatch 3.
Besides the circular design, the most notable aesthetic change to the ZenWatch 3 is a three-button configuration that Asus thinks will make it easier to access key apps. To that end, you can use the top crown button on the watch to assign customized functionality for quick access to features and apps you frequently use. You can change display modes with one of the other buttons.
The customization doesn't end with buttons. Asus includes more than 50 watchfaces built around 6 different themes. You can further tweak those designs using ZenWatch Manager, a smartphone app that lets you customize your watchface to your liking.
Asus is touting the fitness tracking capabilities of the ZenWatch 3, which is IP67-rated for water resistance, so you needn't fear a splash of water or sweat when you work out. (I'd probably swap out that switched leather band, though.) Along with the watch, Asus offers a new ZenFit app to automatically measure steps along with other activities. The app's step-tracking ability is 95 percent accurate, Hermanson says.
I couldn't really test out the ZenWatch 3's new functionality with the display units Asus was showing off at IFA, but the watch's 1.39-inch AMOLED display looks bright. Credit the 287 ppi pixel density for that.
Watches from Apple and Samsung still set the standard for looks and functionality in the smartwatch market. But the ZenWatch 3's new rounded look shows that Asus is serious about producing a watch whose beauty can keep pace with its brawn. We'll have a full review of the ZenWatch 3 when it arrives in the U.S.