Asus ZenWatch 3 Review
Pros: Good battery life, solid set of Smart Functions, good display
Cons: Subpar fitness tracking, average battery life
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Asus ZenWatch 3 is a reasonably priced, slim and stylish smartwatch that will only get better with the advent of Android Wear 2.0. This watch is much less bulky than other models, and is still a great all-around watch, even though it earned a slightly subpar score in terms of being easy to use and fitness tracking.
For this review, we bought the top 8 smartwatches available and put them through a rigorous side-by-side testing process to crown the overall winners and see which model earned the title of the best smartwatch, spending close to 160 hours researching and testing these wearable devices. We scored each product from 0-100, with the Asus ZenWatch 3 earning a 51 out of 100. This was based on its performance in each of the tests in our five rating metrics — Ease of Use, Fitness Impact, Display, Battery Life, and Smart Functions — the results of which are detailed in the following sections.
Ease of Use
The Asus ZenWatch 3 earned a slightly below average score in this important metric — which made up 30% of the final score — earning a 4 out of 10 for its slightly lackluster performance. We compared the interface method, screen responsiveness, ease at swapping out wristbands, its charging setup, and water resistance, as well as the relative ease of capturing screenshots of the content displayed on the watch screen. You can see how the ZenWatch 3's performance compared to the rest of the competition in the chart below.
This model relies on the Android Wear app to capture a screenshot — an unreliable method at best. The ZenWatch 3 did about average in terms of water resistance, complying with the IP67 standard. This means that is acceptable to be submerged for up to one meter of water for 30 minutes and remain functioning. In practice, this means that you should be able to wear this watch all day — including in the shower — but potentially want to think twice about swimming with it or using it for longer periods when totally submerged.
Continuing its trend of mediocrity, the ZenWatch 3 had an average charging connection that wasn't too prone to accidental disconnects. It was easy enough to connect, with magnets aiding in the alignment of the connector pins, but didn't align it as easily as the Apple Watch Series 2. This model relies only on the touch screen and side buttons as an interface, lacking a rotating bezel or crown scroll.
The touchscreen on the Asus wasn't our favorite out of the group, feeling a little twitchy and unresponsive compared to other models in the group. It did wake quickly, illuminating the display with less than a second of delay when you raised your wrist to view the screen.
This model was a little more difficult to swap bands on, only being compatible with bands designed specifically for the ZenWatch 3. It also took a decent amount of fiddling to pull back the tab and latch it back in when swapping bands.
Next in our testing process was our smart functions metric, comprising 20% of the total smartwatch score. The Asus once again gave a somewhat unremarkable performance, earning it a 5 out of 10. You can see how this compared with the rest of the pack in the chart below.
We compared and scored each timepiece on its compatibility with a sample set of popular apps, whether or not the watch could make phone calls if it could be used a payment method, whether or not it had a built-in GPS module, as well as rating its ability to control your music.
The Asus ZenWatch 3 didn't have the widest range of app compatibility, but this should improve with Android Wear 2.0, like all of the other Android Wear watches. Out of our sample group, the Asus worked with Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, and Shazam — failing to work with Uber, Evernote, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. This watch would still receive notifications pushed from your phone from these apps, but had no functionality besides that.
This model does have a speaker and allows you to make phone calls from the watch, but the sound quality was wanting.
It had similar music control abilities as it other Android Wear peers, allowing you to play/pause or skip tracks, with the appropriate controls appearing automatically when needed.
Unfortunately, this model lacks a built-in GPS or NFC technology, losing some navigation abilities and the ability to use Android Pay.
Ranking equally to Smart Functions, the Display metric also merited 20% of the entire score. We ranked each model by having a panel of viewers rate the quality of each screen, its visibility, and the different adjustment modes available for the display. The Asus ZenWatch 3 did relatively well, earning a 6 out of 10. The following chart shows how this compares to the rest of the watches in the review.
The 1.39" full-circle AMOLED screen has 287 ppi and was received well by our panel. While it scored lower than the Retina display of the Apple Watch Series 2 and the display of the Gear S3, it wasn't surpassed by any other models and scored on par with the Huawei Watch, the LG Watch Sport, and the Nixon Mission.
It was a little difficult to see the Asus in bright lighting conditions but does have the ability to set the display to automatically adjust and to be always on.
Fitness Impact made up 15% of the final score as well. To evaluate this metric, we tested the ability of the watch to track flights of stairs climbed, record different workouts, as well as checking the accuracy of the heart rate monitor and the step counter. The Asus ZenWatch 3 did an uninspiring performance, earning a 4 out of 10. The following graphic shows how this compares with the rest of the watches in this review.
The Asus gives you two options when it comes to fitness tracking: Google Fit and Asus ZenFit. Google Fit allows you to choose between running, cycling, and walking, or push-up, squats, or sit-up challenge. The Fit app will measure distance, steps, duration, active calories, and pace, and can tether to your phone's GPS to get more accurate distance and pace data. The ZenFit app runs in the background, tracking your basic fitness stats all day.
This model was reasonably accurate at tracking steps, only coming in at 3.2% off of the manual count over a mile-long walk, amounting to a count of 68 steps over the true count. This model lacks a heart rate sensor — not a huge deal, as wrist-mounted heart rate sensors are fairly inaccurate at elevated heart rates, not really suitable for heart rate zone training. This model also lacks any tracking ability for flights of stairs climbed throughout the day.
The final set of tests in our process made up the Battery Life metric, accounting for the residual 15% of the final score. We compared each watch's lifespan while undergoing normal use, as well as the time to charge — both fast charging to 50% and completely filling the battery. The ZenWatch 3 did exceptionally well in this category, earning a 7 out of 10. You can see how this stacks up against the remaining smart timepieces in the following graphic.
For simulating normal use and keeping conditions the same between models, we sent a set schedule of calls, text, and notifications to each model, as well as waking each model up at regular intervals. The Asus held up for about 30 hours of this treatment - on par with the bulk of the models. However, what truly set the ZenWatch 3 apart was its rapid charging time. It took only 10 minutes to hit 50% charge and 55 minutes to completely top off, by far the fastest of the group.
The Asus ZenWatch 3 might not be the most feature-rich smartwatch out there, but it does offer an exceptional blend of performance at an economical price, making it one of the best value options out there.
While this might not be the watch to choose if you want the best, it definitely should be on your radar if you aren't sure about these products in general and are hesitant to make a large investment, or if you are shopping on a smaller budget. The stylish and sleek smartwatch gets the job done and won't kill your wallet.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer