The Best Android Wearable: Sony Smartwatch 3 vs. Asus ZenWatch


Once considered a curious toy for geeks and tech heads, smartwatches are becoming mainstream.

There are more and more smartwatches coming on the market, and the once sceptical general public is starting to buy and use them in earnest. Apple’s fankids are going to get an Apple Watch, of course, but Android users have an increasingly larger array of smartwatches from which to choose.

Sony Smartwatch 3 price when reviewed: $165.00


Smartwatch Showdown

Some of the most talked about Android smartwatches on the market are the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Asus ZenWatch. It may initially seem odd to mention these two devices in the same sentence: one is made by a legacy electronics behemoth, and the other is made by a much newer company known primarily for its affordable (yet still very well made) computer components.

Still, both of these smartwatches are selling well and turning heads among techies and non-tech heads alike.

So which one should you buy: the £189 Sony Smartwatch 3 or the £169 Asus ZenWatch? Let’s put them face to face (pardon the pun) and see if we can decide on a best Android wearable.

Asus ZenWatch price when reviewed: $118.47


1. First, How Do They Look?

It’s immediately apparent that these are two very different looking smartwatches.

Sony Smartwatch 3

Sony Smartwatch 3The Sony Smartwatch 3 comes with a rubber watch strap, making it look like a sportswatch. The watch itself can be removed from the band it comes with and popped into a compatible band of your choosing, though most of them still look pretty sportswatch-ish.

There is, however, a stainless steel version that was just released, and it looks a lot more polished. Still, the Sony Smartwatch 3, especially in its rubber watch strap configuration, seems to be aimed at the sporty set rather than the office set.

Asus ZenWatch

zenwatch asusThe Asus ZenWatch, on the other hand, is an elegantly designed timepiece first and a smartwatch second, at least in the looks department. This does not look like a sportswatch at all.

The face is made of stainless steel with rose coloured gold trim, and it attaches to a leather band (available in three different colours) that closes with a metal clasp. It’s easy to swap out watchbands, too.

Unlike the athletic look of the Sony Smartwatch 3, the Asus ZenWatch has a classic aesthetic, and it’s low profile too. In fact, unless you look closely, it doesn’t look like a smartwatch at all.

2. The Power Inside

Under the hood, the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Asus ZenWatch are remarkably similar. They’re each powered by a 1.2 GHz quad processor; Sony’s is an ARM A7, and Asus’s is a Snapdragon 400. They both have 512 MB of RAM, and they both have 4 GB of onboard storage.

These numbers are fairly comparable to other high end smartwatches available today, and you’ll find that both of these watches run the Android Wear operating system smoothly.

Apps work well, everything seems fast and responsive, and there are hardly any hiccoughs when it comes to the functionality of either smartwatch.

Display Details

1_ZenwatchInterestingly, both the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Asus ZenWatch have rectangular displays. And, with the Apple Watch also sporting a squared off face, could round-faced smartwatches be on their way out? It’s probably too soon to tell. Still, this shape seems to work well for Android Wear apps, even if it’s non-conventional in the realm of traditional watches.

Both of these watches have a 320×320 pixel screen, the sizes are nearly identical (1.6 inch on Sony, 1.63 inch on Asus), and the pixel densities are nearly the same (283 ppi on the Sony, 278 ppi on the Asus).

However, that’s where the similarities end. The Asus ZenWatch boasts an AMOLED screen, while the Sony Smartwatch 3 is a mere LCD. As a result, the vibrant colours and deep black on the Asus are washed out on the Sony. Additionally, the better screen means that viewing angles are considerably better on the Asus than on the Sony.

the vibrant colours and deep black on the Asus are washed out on the Sony

Other Notable Features

zenwatchBoth the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Asus ZenWatch buzz when there are messages, calls, or notifications. You can reply to text messages via voice on both, though you can’t make calls on either.

In this regard they’re more like a phone satellite rather than a true extension. Additionally, they are both waterproof, though the Sony has a slightly more protective (and therefore slightly more waterproof) enclosure than the Asus. They also both use BlueTooth for connectivity.

As for the differences, the Sony Smartwatch 3 offers near field communication capabilities and wifi. You can also play music on it and listen using BlueTooth headphones, though the process of doing so with Google Play Music is a bit clunky.

The Asus ZenWatch has some really neat features, like pairing with your smartphone’s camera to see the viewfinder on the watch face; this makes for some great remote shooting possibilities. Asus also allows you to mute incoming calls by placing a hand over the face, providing a discreet way to send a call to voicemail. There’s also really good calendar management, and a “find my phone” feature.

Sony Smartwatch 3 offers near field communication capabilities and wifi

3. The User Experience

Sony Smartwatch 3 versionsEven though these watches are made by two different OEMs (that’s original equipment manufacturers), they use the same Android Wear OS. That makes the user experience of both of these devices very similar, though there are some notable differences.

Both watches allow you to use the “OK Google” voice command to search for information. And, both watches have small screens, which translates to tons of swiping — much more than you do on your smartphone.

However, this isn’t a problem that’s limited to these two particular smartwatches. It’s just the nature of the beast. These watches also need their companion app installed on your smartphone for full control.

One difference that’s worth pointing out is the curve of the screen on the Asus ZenWatch. This allows fingers to glide just a little bit faster over it, which makes the user experience that much better. It’s a small detail, for sure, but it’s a good one; these small details all add up.

4. Can You Ditch Your Tracker?

asus Wellness AppIf you’re a tracker junkie, addicted to knowing your step count and meeting your daily fitness goal, can one of these two watches replace your Fitbit, Jawbone, or other tracking device?

Well, maybe.

Both watches are equipped to track things like steps taken, calories burned, and so on, and they can both let you set a daily goal. However, the Sony SmartWatch has a built-in GPS sensor, which gives it a huge advantage over the Asus ZenWatch. Thanks to this feature, you can accurately track runs and all of your distance travelled.

Unfortunately, Sony’s offering lacks a heart rate monitor, which seems like a glaring omission considering that the watch works and feels more like a sportswatch than a smartwatch.

Asus does have heart rate monitoring thanks to a biosensor located on the edges of the screen, though it’s not continuous, and actually measuring your heart rate is kind of clunky. Asus’s wellness app can also give you your relaxation rate, but clearly, all of the tracking features on the ZenWatch are not the main appeal of the device.

5. Battery Life and Charging

Battery life on smartwatches — all smartwatches — probably isn’t as good as it should be.

With the Sony Smartwatch 3, the 420 mAh battery gets you maybe two days of power, less if you use the GPS a lot. The 360 mAh battery on the Asus ZenWatch gives you even less time: at least a day, maybe more, but definitely not two. Again, it all depends on your usage, and of course, your mileage may vary.

Neither of these two watches uses a magnetic charger a la the Apple Watch. The Sony has a micro USB port on the back, so any USB cord with a micro end will juice it up. The Asus, however, rests in a cradle to charge; if you don’t have the cradle with you, you can’t charge the watch.

It works, though it is one more thing to remember to take along.asus zenwatch cradle

What’s Best?

SmartWatch-3-SWR50-metalThe best Android wearable really depends on what you’re after. If you’re looking for a hybrid smartwatch and sportswatch, it’s really tough to beat the Sony Smartwatch 3. The built-in GPS is a huge benefit in this regard, and the device feels more like a sportswatch that can be worn all the time, rather than a smartwatch that tracks activity.

You would, however, have to be very confident in your appearance to wear the rubber wrist strap with business attire; the stainless steel version remedies this issue somewhat, though it still has that techie gadget look to it. If, however, you want a smartwatch that looks like a high-end timepiece and runs Android Wear, it’s really tough to beat the Asus ZenWatch.

Ultimately, though, if you buy the watch that best suits your lifestyle, then you’re probably going to be satisfied with what you get. As of right now, no smartwatch in this price range offers all of the combined features of the Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Asus ZenWatch — not even the Apple Watch. Both are excellent in their proper niche. The trick is to match that niche to your own.

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The Breakdown


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