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Circuit Breaker

Asus' ZenWatch 3 looks way better than the first two

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Go round or go home

Today at IFA, Asus has announced the ZenWatch 3, a new Android Wear smartwatch. It jettisons everything that was underwhelming about the ZenWatch 2: it’s round now, seems ergonomically much nicer, and above all should have much better performance. That’s because it’s running the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor, which was announced earlier this year and basically seems custom-designed for devices precisely like the ZenWatch 3. Asus claims that it also allows it to charge up 60 percent in 15 minutes and lasts as many as two days on a single charge.

The ZenWatch 3 looks quite a lot like the most powerful of the last generation of Android Wear watches, the Huawei Watch. That includes a full 360-degree screen that’s about 400 x 400 pixels on a 1.39-inch AMOLED screen, which translates to a PPI that honestly should be the minimum on a smartwatch. There are extra buttons compared to the Huawei, though: the main crown button does what it normally does on Android Wear, while one is customizable and the other launches the Asus ZenFit activity tracking app.

A wave of Android Wear watches is coming

Asus is putting the focus on that tracking, claiming that it has an "industry-leading 95 percent accuracy" for counting steps. Whether using a bespoke Asus app for your fitness tracking is a good idea or not is left as an exercise for the reader, but if nothing else improved step count accuracy should be counted as a win — we’ve seen wildly different step counts from different wearables over the years.

As for the watch hardware, as always, it’s better to leave the aesthetic judgments to you. I personally like it and don’t terribly mind the wings that shoot out for the bands to attach to — and you can use either rubber or leather straps. The Gorilla Glass face is curved, and the metal comes in either gunmetal, silver, or rose gold. The best part is that Asus managed to keep the ZenWatch 3 relatively slim, at 9.95mm thick. That’s a little bit thinner than the Apple Watch and should feel much thinner than the Huawei Watch.

It’s almost a guarantee we’re going to see a wave of new Android Wear watches in the coming months — a new version of the OS and the availability of Qualcomm’s new chipset will do that. So while the ZenWatch 3 looks much better than what came before from Asus, I’d hold off to see what the landscape looks like before spending any money. But if you can't wait, Asus says it will be available in the US and Germany in October, priced at €229 (about $255) for the latter.