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4 top Android Wear watches: A hands-on guide

JR Raphael | Dec. 18, 2014
So many watches, so little time! We compare the Moto 360, LG G Watch R, Sony SmartWatch 3 and Asus ZenWatch.

On the software front, you can customize the 360's various face designs via a special companion phone app -- changing things like colors and number styles and adding or removing the date. The 360 also uses custom Motorola software to collect your heart rate at regular intervals and then compile detailed stats about your daily activity levels.

The Moto 360 does have one irksome quirk: It provides no way to keep its screen on all the time, which is a vexing deviation from the Android Wear norm. If you can deal with that, though, it's a striking smartwatch with premium appeal.

LG G Watch R: The casual watch with a standout display
Price: $299
If you prefer a more casual and traditional-looking timepiece, LG's G Watch R provides a commendable Android Wear experience in an unassuming form. Unlike the 360, the G Watch R isn't likely to garner any attention; in fact, at a glance, you'd just think it was a run-of-the-mill Casio watch made for telling time.

The G Watch R is a bit on the chunky side, with a prominent raised bezel and large lugs surrounding its circular screen. The bezel has minute markings etched along its perimeter, which can look a little strange with certain face designs -- like those that have markings of their own built in or those that emulate a digital watch. It also causes the screen area to be smaller than the 360's, despite the actual face being larger.

Again, though, it's a tradeoff: The bezel holds the screen's circuitry and allows the display to be fully illuminated without any blacked-out bars. You win some, you lose some.

The screen itself is a high point: LG has gone with an unusual type of display technology called Plastic OLED (or P-OLED for short). It's bright, clear and easy to see even in glary outdoor conditions. Its dimmed mode, which is what's shown whenever you aren't actively using the watch, is also exceptionally crisp and easy to read. The only problem is that it can sometimes be a bit too bright, especially in dark rooms, and the G Watch R has no ambient light sensor to dial down the brightness automatically based on the environment.

The G Watch R ships with a somewhat stiff-feeling black leather band that uses plastic buckles -- but it's a standard 22mm setup, so you can always swap it out for a third-party alternative if you want. The watch's back is a hard plastic material, meanwhile, which makes it feel noticeably cheaper than other Wear devices. The back holds a heart rate sensor that can take your pulse on demand.

 

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