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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.

Curiously, the SmartWatch 3 does not have a heart rate sensor -- which is something you'd expect on a sport-focused watch. Its face design options are also rather limited and pedestrian compared to the other Wear watches, but with downloadable third-party faces now available for the platform, that disadvantage is easy enough to overcome.

If you want a watch that's fashionable or elegant, Sony's SmartWatch 3 isn't the one for you. But if you want a watch that's sporty, comfy and ideal for active use -- provided you can live without a heart rate sensor -- it's an excellent option.

Asus ZenWatch: The distinctive rectangular watch
Price: $200
With its silver- and copper-colored stainless steel body, Asus's ZenWatch brings a dash of class to the rectangular smartwatch form. Like the Moto 360, it looks like an elegant piece of jewelry -- the kind of watch you might wear to work or when dressed up for a night on the town.

The ZenWatch has an especially nice band as well -- a tan leather strap with subtle stitching and a metal deployment clasp. The clasp is a bit on the bulky side, which I find keeps the watch from laying flat on my wrist, but you can always swap it out for any other standard 22mm band if you want.

The real drawback to the ZenWatch is its screen. First, it has enormous bezels that make the watch's face feel especially large despite the actual display area being relatively small. And beyond that, the display just isn't very good. It's practically impossible to see outdoors, and its dimmed mode looks downright awful -- the on-screen elements are far more pared down and limited than on the other Wear watches and look surprisingly jagged and pixelated. It's reminiscent of the subpar screen I saw on Samsung's Gear Live back when Android Wear first launched.

If you're willing to accept that, though, you'll get an attractive watch with some nice elements like companion phone apps for customizing face themes and for keeping track of advanced health stats. (The ZenWatch has a heart rate monitor, though it's positioned unusually on the front of the device -- so you have to press your finger against the bezels whenever you want to take a measurement.)

Me? I can't get past that screen, especially after seeing how superior the other Wear watches look in comparison. But it's good to have options -- and maybe the ZenWatch's stylish form and lower-than-average price will be enough to win you over.

Bottom line
More than any other type of technology, smartwatches are all about personal preference and style. If you're going to wear something on your wrist all day, you have to like the way it looks -- and it has to fit in with your lifestyle and the way you want to use it.

 

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