Smartwatches were supposed to be the next big thing in tech but they seem to have fallen off the radar lately. If you’re also on the fence when it comes to believing in their utility, perhaps an 'affordable' smartwatch might help convince you.

The Zenwatch 2 picks up from where the original left off and while the differences are minor (the hardware remains largely the same) there are enough new features and improvements to make it a sensible, albeit unexciting, successor.

A smart looker

The leather strap, crown button and well-finished stainless steel case, all make the Zenwatch 2 a good looker. In fact, even if you fall in the 'watches oughta be round' camp, this might just win you over. In fact, there’s more than a faint resemblance to the Apple Watch, though it’s distinct enough so die-hard Android fans don’t have to worry about having their loyalties called into question.

Overall, it’s an attractive device and the only fly in the ointment is the massive amount of space around the display. With everyone going in for slim bezels, this seems like a step back.

Mixed bag o’ chips

It’s not just the Snapdragon 400, 512MB RAM and 4GB storage of the Zenwatch 2 that’s along expected lines for an Android Wear device. Even the 1.63in, 320x320p AMOLED screen in the Zenwatch 2 WI501Q is pretty standard for a smartwatch. We just wish the display got brighter, as you'll soon get tired of squinting while checking notifications outdoors. We were also surprised to find just the teeny bit of lag while flicking through screens - it’s minor enough that it won’t disrupt the experience, but it’s there all right. There’s also a low-power ‘reverse’ screen mode which takes advantage of the AMOLED display.

Apart from this, the lack of a heartbeat sensor means the Zenwatch 2 can't replace a high-end fitness band. Okay, this might not be that much a deal-breaker if you’ve already got a fancy activity tracker and are in the habit of swapping watches (call us vain, but that’s how we roll) to match your attire. On the brighter side, IP67 dust- and water- resistance, along with Gorilla Glass 3 protection means you don't have to treat your watch like a rare Ming vase. Another area where the Zenwatch 2 does well is that not only does it have Bluetooth 4.1 to connect to your device, but the in-built Wi-Fi means you don’t have to keep your phone connected all the time to receive notifications.


Android Wear weariness

Google's OS for wearables might not be very customisable but usability trumps everything else when it comes to a dinky little display on your wrist. You can check out your Whatsapp messages, navigate using Maps, see what's around you, track your steps, check out news, play music and much more with Wear-supporting apps.

Asus also has its own apps, including a fitness app, a phone-based watchface designer and a remote camera control (more of a novelty, but cool to play with for a bit.

Plug it in

The biggest drawback of smartwatches is the need to charge them frequently and the Zenwatch 2 is no different - Asus claims a 2-day battery life and that's what you'll get. Still, that's pretty decent compared to other smartwatches. Even better, as it takes just around half an hour to get enough juice to last you a day, it’s possible to top it up during your lunch break. Just don’t lose the proprietary charging cable (no, there’s no charging dock).

Zenwatch 2 initial verdict

The Zenwatch 2's price (14,999), looks and build quality make it worth your consideration, especially if you don’t mind square (or more accurately, rectangular) watchfaces and don’t want to splurge. It's also quite light and super-comfy to boot. We just wish the bezels were narrower and the display didn't wilt under the summer sun.

If the budget’s not a constraint, check out the second-gen Moto 360 (from 19,999) or the Huawei Watch (from 22,999), but given that smartwatches are still in their infancy and you can expect plenty of improvement when the next generation rolls around, it might make sense to save your cash and get this instead!

Where to buy Asus Zenwatch 2: