From the start, it’s easy to see why the ZenWatch could be appealing, offering a two-tone metal trim, with silver and a “rose gold” that resembles bronze to us, but still looks fashionable. Even the strap is a departure for the typical smartwatch stylings, with a fold-back metal clasp sitting on a relatively thin but vintage styled piece of brown leather.
People here are divided on whether this looks sexy or not, but this writer happens to find it evokes a more classic tone, and is a better leather strap — at least one that feels more quality — than the types both Motorola and LG offered with their respective smartwatches.
Switch it on with the one physical button on the underside of the watch and you’ll see the 320×320 square screen come to life, a bright colourful display that looks great from most angles, even if the curved glass does cause the colour to wash disappear and fade off a little too easily.
Before we get started, we feel we need to address setup in this review, and that’s unusual because Android Wear doesn’t really have a whole issue around setup.
Typically, you just download the “Android Wear” app for Android and start linking the two devices up, smartphone and smartwatch, and Android Wear normally does its thing, but the ZenWatch is different.
You see, Android Wear is one of the first times Google has basically asserted some control over the manufacturer world and said “you’re not messing with this all that much”, providing the operating system and a basic blueprint, allowing the manufacturers to do cool things with that, but not much else.
Because of this, almost every Android Wear watch is the same. Oh sure, it might have a different body, shape, watch materials, different straps, and a choice of different faces, but look under the hood and check out the features and generally you’ll find that the assortment of Android Wear devices out there is very much the same.
One could almost say identical. Almost.
Asus isn’t a huge fan of this, and to shake up the formula just a bit, has built a little piece of software that really has to be installed in order to make the ZenWatch work.
And we’re serious about this. It’s not an optional “you know it would be really nice if you installed me” app, but rather a “your watch will continually report the wrong time and you won’t be able to do anything if you don’t install me” app.
So you install the app “Asus ZenWatch Manager”, which sits alongside Android Wear and is required to make the ZenWatch work, and if you don’t, you find your watch never syncs and never really does anything, turning quickly into an expensive albeit good looking paper weight.
Once it’s done, however, and Android Wear and the Asus ZenWatch app are talking to each other on the same platform, everything starts to work. But only then, so if you’re struggling to work out why your Android Wear app isn’t working and you didn’t take the advice of the watch to install the Asus software, now you know that it’s not advice or a suggestion, but rather a requirement.