Sony’s Smartwatch 3 was pretty well received by Chris when he took a look at the original – it went head-to-head with the Moto 360 in the marketplace, and found a permanent place on his wrist. Now, Sony’s released a new SKU of the watch which comes with a stylish stainless steel band, though disappointingly, if you already have a Smartwatch 3 you can’t buy the band separately. The stainless steel variant commands a $100 premium over the original, and with an RRP of $399, is it worth the premium?
This version of the Smartwatch 3 is the same as the original in all aspects but the band. It’s got the same core unit inside as every other Smartwatch 3, with identical specs and functions, and it’s running the same release of Android Wear as everyone else. Unfortunately, it also bears the same limitations as the original, too – despite Sony’s promises that there’d be a heart rate monitor in the original Smartwatch 3, there’s none present. It does however remain the only Android Wear device on the market to ship with GPS hardware.
The inclusion of GPS hardware and exclusion of a heart rate monitor means that the Smartwatch 3 doesn’t really satisfy requirements for tracking a run or a ride, since you’ll be able to plot a location on a map, but have no idea how hard you were working when you were there. It’s a disappointing omission, given that almost every other Android Wear watch has the feature.
The original Smartwatch 3’s strong points remain. The LCD screen is bright and easy to read outdoors (again making the heart rate sensor omission curious), although that comes at the price of it looking a little washed out. The colours don’t pop like an AMOLED screen, so if you’re coming to the Smartwatch 3 from another Android Wear device you’re probably going to be a little disappointed.
The convenience of the Micro USB charging port on the back of the watch can’t be overstated. This watch actually turned up for review just after I moved house, and I broke a pin off the charging dock for my G Watch R during the move. I’ve had to pay for a new charging dock (~$22) to stop my G Watch R becoming an expensive paperweight. Conversely, I forgot to charge the Smartwatch 3 the other night and got a 10% battery warning yesterday, so I just took it off and plugged in a Micro USB cable to let it charge for a little while. It’s worth noting that it does charge very quickly; it can go from almost flat to almost full in half an hour or so.
One oddity to note with the Micro USB port is that it’s technically blocked – a little – by the rigid stainless steel band, which you can’t just shove out of the way to get the cable in. Sony’s got two solutions to this, though. Firstly, they give you an “L”-shape Micro USB cable in the box to get around the problem, and if you don’t have that cable handy you can manoeuvre a small gap in the clip into place to allow you to run a cable directly into the Micro USB port… or, you can just bend the cable a little.
Finally, on design and the charging port, there’s also no give in the band where it attaches to the watch itself, so getting the port open can be a little bit difficult, but you’ll get the hang of it. You can see this in the image above.
The band is an impressive piece of work, with replaceable links and two extra links provided in the box. The links have a rough yet shiny texture to them, while the Sony clasp has a smooth finish to it. All in all I can see about 4 different textures used around the band, and the result is really nice to look at.
The clip fastens securely with a press on both sides required to release it, and presents a flat surface inside the band so it’s comfortable to rest on without it digging into the underside of your wrist. This is quite an improvement over the clasp on the original Smartwatch 3, which easily becomes unclipped when snagged on clothing, a pocket, a door, or while carrying the groceries. The number of times that Chris has almost lost the Smartwatch 3 because the clasp has suddenly been pulled apart is hard to count, and that the stainless steel band has addressed this concern is quite pleasing.
You should definitely spend the time adjusting the watch to get it right on your wrist. I wore the review unit around for a while without getting it adjusted and found the weight of the watch caused it to hang on an angle on my wrist. After adjustment (I had Mister Minit remove a link), the watch was tight but not uncomfortable on my wrist. Even after the adjustments to the band, my watch is huge on a colleague’s wrist, and can go even bigger with those extra links.
The design of the watch puts the screen above everything else, so the face of the watch occasionally comes into contact with railings and door frames as I make my way around. Despite this, there’s no scratches on the screen (though I cringe every time I realise I’ve bumped the watch on something). Surprisingly though, the surface of the watch picked up a few scuff marks during use and there is a bit of a scratch across the Sony logo on the shiny section of the band (whoops).
The greatest thing the stainless steel band brings to the Smartwatch 3 is that it turns it into more of a dress watch. With the rubbery bands, it was difficult to justify wearing the original in anything but casual dress, while this updated model looks perfectly at home on your wrist next to your cufflinks. I was a bit more conscious of the watch while riding around on my bike, though – I felt like I really didn’t want to sweat on it.
I’ve found the stainless steel Smartwatch 3 a pleasure to use, and I’m finding it pretty difficult to let go of the watch now that the review period is over. We’ve heard that an update to Android Wear will allow pairing multiple watches with one device though, so perhaps it’s time I invested in a “dress” watch like this one and keep my G Watch R as an everyday watch.
One for the week, and one for Sunday best? Sounds like a plan.