TAIPEI: ASUS QUIETLY ANNOUNCED the ZenWatch 2 at Computex, an update to its existing Android Wear device but with a few new features, including different sizes and materials.
We say ‘quietly' because Asus held a large press conference to announce all its latest devices at the show on Monday but did not even mention the ZenWatch 2.
It wasn't until we saw the device in the demo area next to the stage that we realised it had been unveiled alongside the Zen Selfie phone and the 8in ZenPad tablets.
Nevertheless, Asus has its sights set firmly on the Apple Watch with availability options that will seem familiar, including a choice of sizes and a variety of metal and leather strap designs.
Like its predecessor, the ZenWatch 2 is still fairly distinctive but features a sleeker, pebble-shaped metal chassis.
It feels well built and of premium quality owing to the stainless steel case, which will be made available in silver, gunmetal and rose gold. The ZenWatch 2 also comes with a metal watch crown, which Asus claims "enhances the user experience by providing a new way to interact with the watch".
We were impressed when wearing the ZenWatch at how well made it felt. The stylish metal chassis seemed scratch proof and resilient and, despite being larger than a regular watch, the ZenWatch is comfortable to wear and didn't feel unwieldy.
One of the biggest improvements in the ZenWatch 2 is that, like the Apple Watch, it will be made available in 37mm and 41mm models which have 18mm and 22mm bands respectively. There will also be 18 strap choices to pick from at launch.
Improving on the previous device, the Asus ZenWatch 2 does get one up on the Apple Watch with IP67 certification.
The ZenWatch 2 display is fairly small by smartwatch standards and seems to have the same screen as found on the original: an AMOLED display with a piece of 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3 on top of a 1.6in screen that makes its front face curve slightly. We are yet to find out the screen resolution.
We didn't notice any serious performance problems with the ZenWatch screen during our brief hands-on. Text was legible and icons were suitably crisp, and colours on the display were wonderfully vibrant thanks to the AMOLED technology.
Performance and operating system
Unfortunately, Asus wouldn't allow us to turn the watch on to play around with the UI, as the devices it had on display at the show were mock-up versions.
However, we were told that the smartwatch will be powered by the latest version of Android Wear when it is launched, so we already have an idea of how it will work, and we did get a good feel for the watch and how well it sits on the wrist.
The ZenWatch 2 will come with a yet to be specified Qualcomm processor. Again, we were unable to see how these fared in the real world but we imagine it will feel very similar to other Android wearables, taking advantage of native WiFi support and gesture controls.
It was Asus' custom UI software that we were most looking forward to trying to see how well it worked on top of Android Wear.
We know that the ZenWatch 2 will be equipped with "exclusive" features, including Zen UI integration, FoneHelper and Remote Camera, which lets users display their smartphone's camera viewfinder remotely on their wrist. But we will have to wait to see how well it performs when we get the device in for full review.
The Asus ZenWatch 2 features a number of sensors for tracking activities such as running and cycling.
Asus said it displays progress towards goals as well as activity summaries with attractive graphs that are easy to interpret and analyse and can be used to set future fitness goals.
There's also a "dramatically improved" magnetic charger onboard, but Asus has yet to say how long the ZenWatch 2's battery will last.
Price and availability
No price or availability has been shared yet, but we were told that the device will be officially launched at IFA in September this year, so we can expect more details on software, prices and release dates then. µ