Hands-on with the Asus ZenWatch 2, coming soon to Canada

This past week, Asus held its annual Holiday Preview event in Toronto, and amidst the insane gaming laptops and high-end tablets there rested a single smartwatch, the first to enter Canada (seriously — sometimes we’re way behind the US).

While it was widely rumoured that Canada would eventually get the original ZenWatch, Asus’ first Android Wear smartwatch, the product had turned over, a sequel in the works, by the time a distribution deal had been reached.

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As a result, Asus expects the ZenWatch 2, in just one colour and style, to be available in Canada sometime in November. When the company announced the wearable back in June, it promised two sizes, a 41mm case with a 21mm band and a 37mm case with a 18mm band, along with three metal hues — silver, gunmetal, rose gold — and a variety of bands.

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Unfortunately, it looks like when the ZenWatch does come to Canada, it will only be offered in the larger 41mm gunmetal case with a flexible rubberized strap of a similar colour.

Upon first impression, it’s clear that this is not a pricey product (it retails for $129 in the US, so expect a price of $169 or so CAD), with a washed-out 1.63-inch 320×320 AMOLED display.

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Asus has done a great job keeping the ZenWatch 2 as thin as possible, at 10.9mm at its thickest point, despite nearly identical internal specs to its Motorola and LG peers. It features a quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, a six-axis accelerometer, microphone, and a capacious 400mAh battery.

Where Asus saves money is in the absence of a heart rate monitor, or any GPS functionality. But the company did manage to make it water resistant.

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Of course, the watch runs Android Wear, which is largely identical save for a few unique apps or watch faces between devices, and I found performance to be excellent when compared to my second-generation Moto 360.

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To enable the IP67 water rating, which allows the ZenWatch 2 to be immersed in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes, the company chose to use magnetic POGO charging pins. Asus bundles a slim and light magnetic dock with the wearable (similar to LG’s or Huawei’s) that can be placed next to one’s bed or desk.

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As much as I enjoyed my first impression of the Asus ZenWatch 2, which was both comfortable to wear and look at despite the relatively low-quality display, the bezels bordering the top and bottom were distracting, and added to the impression of compromised quality. That quibble may dissipate once I get one to use for longer than a few minutes, but it was very clear placed next to the Moto 360.

The other element that may add a touch of the premium to the ZenWatch 2 is a new band; the one pre-installed is more sport than fashion. The wearable features, like many other Android Wear devices, a quick release lever for relatively painless strap replacements.

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Asus isn’t saying when the device will be coming to Canada, nor for how much. It’s likely in the next few weeks, and probably for considerably less than any second-generation Android Wear smartwatch, which could prove very popular with people who just want to dabble in the category without committing to a $379 Moto 360.

We do know that Best Buy will be carrying the product, so there’s that. Look for more on the ZenWatch 2 in the coming weeks.

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