Asus, the company more commonly associated with computers and smart watches has released a fitness focused smartwatch. I’m careful with the use of the term smart watch because the Asus Vivowatch initially shipped as an independent heart rate monitor cum activity tracker; it did not have any of the fancy smart phone notifications like the Basis Peak.
Midway through the review, a firmware and font package update later, the ASUS Vivowatch was able to display notifications from compatible mobile devices.
A week later, here’s what I have to say.
LOOK AND FEEL
Asus seem to have made the rectangular curved screen with rounded edges its trademark for wrist worn devices; the Asus Vivowatch shares the same appearance as the Zen Watch and Zen Watch 2.
The smart watch is fitted with Gorilla 3 glass and touch enabled. There’s only a single button which essentially mimics the “Home” button or long press to start activity tracking.
The brand Asus is emblazoned across the watch face and declares to all those who look that you’re wearing a Asus. Enough said.
Display is monochrome but sharp and crisp under bright day light. The screen is illuminated so visibility under dim conditions will not be an issue.
The back of the Asus Vivowatch houses the optical heart rate sensor and charging nodes. The user’s heart rate is measured throughout the day at intervals or when exercise tracking is commenced.
There’s also a UV meter in the form of 2 dots at the bottom of the display that’s supposed to measure UV levels. I reside in tropical Singapore where it can get really hot in the afternoon. The UV meter is read when activated only and the readings will not be synced nor recorded.
At $179, the Asus Vivowatch is not exactly economically priced. The smart watch itself has that slight premium feel but the watch strap is just plastic and rigid.
The wrist worn smart watch is supposed to last 10 days on a single charge but a recent firmware and font package update enabling smart phone notifications has cut battery life to about 4-5 days. Less if you’re constantly using the heart rate monitor functions to track workouts. The charging dock is proprietary and a latch holds the Asus Vivowatch securely.
Data is synced to compatible devices through the Asus HiVivo app that is available on both App store and Google Play store.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION.
Heart rate monitoring
The Asus Vivowatch was compared versus a Mio Link connected to Polar Beat mobile app while I engaged in elliptical cycling and some cross training. The screen captures of the HR graph of both Polar Beat and Asus HiVivo were modified in terms of screen ratio for comparison.
On average the Vivowatch was regularly 10-20 beats off compared to the readings from the Mio Link. There would also be periods when the HR readings of the Asus Vivowatch would drop erratically. At one point I was pushing 170 with the Mio Link but the Asus Vivowatch only showed 140+. It took a while before the Asus Vivowatch caught up before it dropped off again. Asus’ VivoPulse technology is less than impressive when it comes to heart rate monitoring.
During exercise monitoring, the Asus Vivowatch’s dedicated LED lights would flash either green or red depending on whether you’re exercising in the aerobic or anaerobic zone.
Steps, calories, resting heart rate and sleep tracking
The Asus Vivowatch tracks steps, calories burnt, duration and quality of sleep and combines the 3 to award a ‘HI’ score. Imagine you’re very active but don’t clock sufficient sleep, you’re unlikely to clock a “HI” score, pun intended. I doubt anyone would actively try to achieve a good high score, changing habits in one domain of health be it activity, calories or sleep is already very much an achievement, much less 3!
Sleep tracking is automatic and tracked duration is about right. The Asus Vivowatch further splits sleep tracking into total sleep and comfort sleep. It also indicated the number of tosses throughout the night and pulse. I’m surprised to clock a total of 55 turns over a span of 7 hours but I know better than to take the reading with a pinch of salt.
The user can set the target number of steps and calories to clock per day. Strangely, sleep isn’t one of the stats you can set target for.
Smartphone notifications and activity reminders
A firmware update enabled smartphone notifications on the Asus Vivowatch shortly after purchase. While this feature provided convenience (or disruptions) of sorts, the constant bluetooth connection reduced battery life dramatically to a mere 4 days during this review.
The user will receive activity reminders in the form of a vibration, notifications from apps, and even call notification with caller ID. What I didn’t like is that these notifications disappear quickly and there’s no way to access it again. Currently there’s no way to customise which apps the user would like to receive notifications from.
Review tracked stats in watch
Most of the tracked stats can be accessed within the watch with swiped; both left and right plus up and down.
The HI score is novel and presents a convenient way to quickly gauge overall sleep, exercise and daily activity.
Also, the pre-requisite to connect with your friends is that they must also own the Asus Vivowatch. I’m unsure if this will be a heavily used function at all given the limited adoption rate of this fitness tracker. Also there are not platforms to share your achievements or records.
- There’s 24/7 heart rate monitoring in the form of periodical measurements throughout the day. While the original advertised battery life listed 10 days, a firmware update enabling smartphone notifications has reduced the battery to about 4-5 days. Again depending on usage.
- The UV monitoring tool is a on-demand stat. The Asus Vivowatch does not track and record UV levels throughout the day.
- Users can also access the tracked stats on a daily or weekly basis. The app interface is simple but user interface could use improvement.
- While messages can be displayed, the emoticons will appear as strange signs. This is likely a software issue.
- Presently there’s no compatibility with 3rd party apps so the ecosystem is very much confined within Asus.
- Asus also offers a web platform where users can log in to check their tracked stats.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Tracks steps, calories, sleep and combines the 3 stats into a single ‘HI’ score
- IP 67 certified
- Up to 10 days advertised battery life
- Up to 24 hours in fitness mode with exercise tracking
- Heart rate monitoring functions
- Activity reminders
- Smart phone notifications
- Wireless syncing via Bluetooth
- Touch enabled
- Gorilla glass 3 scratch resistant display.
- LED display for aerobic level workout
- Vibration enabled
- UV level measurements
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Not compatible with 3rd party apps for now
- Watch strap difficult to change.
- Heart rate monitoring function lack accuracy
- Can’t customise the apps that will display smartphone notifications
- Mobile app UI could improve
- Heart rate data cannot be transmitted to 3rd party apps
The Asus Vivowatch would not be my top pick if I’m in the market for a wrist worn heart rate monitor. Granted it tracks daily activities, calories and sleep which the Mio Fuse doesn’t, I am disturbed by the lack of accuracy in the unit I had which was purchased brand new.
Having used Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike+ Fuelband, Garmin and nearly every other platform out there, all I can say is the Asus HiVivo app could improve in terms of navigation and analysis of data. While the Asus HiVivo mobile app presents tracked stats cleanly and simply, that perhaps is no longer enough in the crowded market of wearbles where every company is keen to have you use their tracking platform.
The mobile app should not be a 30 minutes Microsoft Powerpoint presentation but something users will come back to on a daily basis when reviewing their data. It has to make sense and go beyond the run of the mill in-your-face data. Asus could take a leaf from Jawbone’s book.
The Asus Vivowatch feels like a product that has a lot of room for improvement at this present moment. With most upcoming smart watches featuring heart rate monitoring functions, it remains to be seen if the fitness-centric Vivowatch from Asus can carve a niche for itself.
The Asus Vivowatch is priced at $149.
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