The introduction of a smart watch aimed at the fitness market from a top-tier hardware manufacturer like Asus, shows further evidence of the ‘coming of age’ of the fitness technology market. Asus have taken there smart watch, the ZenWatch and have utterly transformed it for the fitness market, re-manufaturing the device to target us fitness folks – launching the VivoWatch complete with all of the fitness tracker details that we live and breath; step counting, sleep tracking, activity monitoring and even some funkier tracking that we’re less used to, like UV level. However, make no mistake, this offering is not a re-branded smart watch, and is instead a fully fledged fitness watch.
The so called smart watch is essentially a companion for your smart phone. So when your phone rings, your watch tells you. When you get a message, your watch pings. Got an email? You get the idea. Mercifully, the VivoWatch does not do all of this, so with the exception of a vibration alert with caller ID, you’ll not get pestered mid-workout by all of the usual streams of notifications that your smartphone throws at you. We see this as a huge positive, as at the end of the day, for many of us our workout is our only daily solitude and escape from the harsh realities of 21st century work/life [lack of] balance. So worry not, this is Asus offering is every bit a sports and fitness wearable and much less a glorified companion app for your phone. So far so good.
So what does the VivoWatch look like? design wise, its actually strangely alluring and really quite elegant. Its understated and simple, without the OTT colour mash-up that you so often get form devices targeting this space. Asus have proven that you don’t require a device to be fluorescent yellow to drive sales, and that’s good. Instead, you get a Gorilla Glass (so think super-tough) touch screen with a stainless steel frame. Its perhaps with regard to design that ‘gives away’ the fact that this device is twinned with a non-sports watch – and for some people, the lack of a sporty look will be a turn off. The reality is that design is – and will always be – hugely subjective, and is thus personal and individual.
Finally, the device is fully dust proof and also water proof (one metre of water; <30 minutes) – so its more water resistant than a swimmers companion. Again, think about the watches heritage with its twin device, and this explains some of its limitations.
One of the standout features of this device is its battery life. The longer than average performance here is caused by a mix of hardware and software, all proprietary to Asus. Firstly there’s KoodOS, the operating system developed by Asus for their smart watches. Its low power output, low processor requirement but also real-time OS, delivering the live features required by any sports device allied with a battery life that doesn’t require daily charging. Charing itself takes 2-3 hours, and is achieved by snapping in the charging cable to the back of the watch. The long battery performance allied with short charging cycle are a great selling point for the VivoWatch.
The KoodOS provides good user interfaces and easy navigability – making this watch easy to use. Like your phone, its all swipe gestures, and you navigate through the screens with a Tinder-esque side swipe. Hit the home button, swipe right and off you go, navigating through functions like alarm, fitness mode, pulse reader and the watch face. Upward swipes take you through your old logs (activity tracking – like steps), sleeping patterns and exercise logs. Finally, the device will tell you how happy you are, based on how active you’ve been and how much (good quality) sleep you got.
Naturally, we really care about this devices toolkit in exercise mode. Firstly, we do need to note that its only compatible with running, which is disappointing. Other trackers have emerged with a wider focus, and the lack of, for example cycling let alone weigh raining tracking – which is increasingly common – is a shame. However, for runners, the tracking is pretty good, throwing out some interesting data points.
For a starter, you’re intensity is visually displayed. So if you’re in your target heart rate zone, then you’ll see a green screen, and this will change to red if you go too intense. This is backed up through vibration alerts too, and is all based on the profiles that you create. At the end of your run, you hold the home button for four seconds to sync up with your phone via bluetooth.
I especially like the live chart of your heart rate, along with calorie expenditure and steps. This easily beats the default stop watch view, and acts as a solid motivator to kick on and smash the rest of your session.
Like all smart watches, the VivoWatch is entirely reliant on you having a smartphone to pair it with. So you’ll need either an iOS device (Apple iPhone or iPad), or an Android powered phone/tablet. You need to install the Asus Hivo app and set-up your personal profile. Once done, you have a very solid visual user interface, complete with an abundance of good graphs and charts.
So in conclusion, we feel that this is actually a fairly astute debut from Asus into the sports watch and app space. Its a good looking device, with some nifty features that probably just about beat out those offered in a similar price bucket by Fitbit – the biggest competitor to Asus in the $150 price range. The fact that you can wair this device in polite company, without dazzling friends and family is a big selling point – so the VivoWatch can get by in the boardroom as well as the gym, which is a positive for many of us.
Its not perfect, debut offerings rarely are, but it is good and a few app bugs aside, should be a good choice for any casual runner. Serious runners will note the lack of GPS though, and Burntech recommends that you look elsewhere if you’re serious.