It’s next to impossible to differentiate Android Wear smartwatches from the tech side. As long as a smartwatch is powerful enough to run Android Wear and the battery can last at least a whole day, it’s up there with the best. So, the way we usually pick our favorite Android smartwatches is the same way we pick our favorite watches — by which one looks the best (and if they can make use of Android Wear’s limited iOS compatibility). With a square design, the Asus ZenWatch 2 didn’t really do it for us. Seems like Asus might have gotten that message from a lot of people — their new ZenWatch 3 is round and has gotten a host of design upgrades to make it more jewelry-like.
The ZenWatch 3 uses jewelry-grade, diamond cut stainless steel on the case, both to ensure no unwanted rashes pop up and to ensure that the watch feels comfortable. It helps that the watch is 9.95 mm thick, making it one of the thinner Android Wear watches on the market (our main knock on the otherwise great Huawei Watch was how thick it was). They’ve also put three physical buttons on the side for added control — a great idea, because touchscreen controls on those small watch displays haven’t proven to be the best option. Asus has also paid more attention to the band, adding Italian leather options to the mix. They still use a proprietary band clasp, though, so you’ll have to get all your extra bands from Asus, too.
We don’t usually concern ourselves with smartwatch processors too much, but it’s worth noting that with the ZenWatch 3, Asus has made the jump to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 Wear SoC, a chipset custom-made and optimized for wearables. If you’ve ever been annoyed by lag or choppy performance on Android Wear smartwatches, know that the ZenWatch 3 should be more responsive. Speaking of smartwatch problems, Asus has also addressed battery life. It won’t necessarily last that much longer than before (should get between a day and two), but charging will be far faster. They’ve made a custom charger that will get the watch to 60 percent with 15 minutes of charging. They’ve also made a portable battery pack you can slip in your pocket or purse — if the watch starts running low, you can take it off whenever convenient, attach it to the battery pack for a few minutes, and probably get enough juice to finish out the day.
The ZenWatch 3 has a 1.39″ 400 x 400 resolution AMOLED display. That helps keep the display vibrant, which helps in a couple ways. It makes the screen easier to read, but it also makes the watch look much more like a watch and less like a gadget from afar (dim, low-res displays have long been a dead giveaway).
The ZenWatch 3 will come in silver, gunmetal, or rose gold when it becomes available in October in the United States and Germany. Asus quoted €229 as the price in Germany, so we’d expect the price in the U.S. to be $250. From our limited hands-on time with the watch, we’d say the bands aren’t our favorite, but the watch itself is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of design.