- Good Build and Fine Looks
- Well thought out Health Wearable
- Good Bands and Extra Size Included inside
- Clamp-like Charger is a smarter idea
- Low Power Consuming display leading to better battery life
- The Mobile app requires serious work/overhaul
- Not for users looking for a social-focused wearable
Okay, thing about wearables in general is that – currently there are too many of them and consumers opt in for anything that fits their budget as long as it works as intended. But the thing is, these wearables vary according to different price point and trust me, just because one is cheap, doesn’t necessarily means its better.
To us, there are two types of wearables: a proper smartwatch and a fitness wearable. Usually, these products do one better than the other and never both. Now, if you look at ASUS VivoWatch SP, you can definitely tell its not a proper smartwatch with features like being able to talk from your watch and so on but what it really is that it’s a proper fitness wearable and a good one at that. Truth be told, it lives up to as good as products from fitness centric brands like Garmin. This is the review of the ASUS VivoWatch SP.
Look and Feel
The Vivowatch SP looks like a proper watch and a subtle one at that. It’s becoming harder to come across a wearable that doesn’t look flashy and imitating a Diesel Watch with that big dial, which I do love but not something I’d want to wear every day. That said, ASUS went for a shiny trim around the watch with a matte aluminium casing. As for the strap – the Vivowatch SP uses a medical grade silicone watch strap that’s slightly different from the conventional one. Instead of tucking it into a loop, the remaining part of the strap once worn, goes into the slot to give this somewhat of a clean look and not to forget, it does add a slight secureness, given that the Heart Sensors need to function well – hence the added secure-ness. It’s a very plain looking wearable overall and yes, the display is touch screen.
Wearing it every day for the past two weeks felt quite alright with no discomforts and any allergic reaction whatsoever. It does come with another length included in the box – so say users with smaller wrist could swap for that with no issues. Since the straps are hot swappable, you can always pickup a leather or a choice of your own strap from online to make it look different and nicer depending on the occasions you are wearing.
One thing I was glad about the Vivowatch SP is how simple and smart the wearable is. None of that beating around the bush but rather straightforward. The watch consists of features thats placed smack right on the front and you could go to any by just swiping left or right – with a total of 10 screens including the watchface.
Unlike a lifestyle-focused wearable that has a heart rate and claims to track everything at sub-100-ringgit (which is what general consumers always compare with eventhough its very unfair), the Vivowatch SP has extra sensors to detect more than heart rate and it works in a synergistic manner too.
- 2 x ECG Sensors and 2 x PPG Sensor
- Gravity, GPS and Altimeter Sensors
Okay, you might be wondering what’s this ECG and PPG sensor – I’m going to break it down and keep it as simple as possible.
What is ECG and PPG?
Here goes. Now reading heart rate is no easy feat and to do that you’d need a sensor called the ECG Sensor. Now, this sensor measures the electrical impulses of the heart through the electrodes which is placed in contact to your skin. On the back of the Vivowatch SP, you will notice that it has the heart rate monitor sensor and the metal plate surrounding it, acts as the electrode. Unlike a proper medical grade equipment, where it uses multiple leads to get an accurate reading, this uses one – that doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate but its good enough to give an accurate reading. In this reading the sensor captures, it uses the R peak in an ECG to calculate the beats per minute.
PPG on the other hand is a totally different sensor and it should not be confused with ECG. PPG, short for Photoplethysmography, reads the blood volume change with the help of light transmission. The sensor shines a light and tries to get back a reflection (Kind of like how SONAR works, but this is with light). You can read the Heart Rate through a PPG, but it isn’t accurate. But you know where its used instead?
To check for pulse O2. When you go to the hospital or a clinic, doctors use a clip like apparatus on the finger, known as Pulse Oximeter – which looks for Pulse Oxygen. Now the PPG sensor, placed on the side of the Vivowatch SP, does exactly that. Enough 101, back to the review.
Health Tracking Features
The sensors that I said you can find in the Vivowatch SP as per above, pushes the boundary of tracking health from not just the heart rate but more, such as:
- Exercise heart rate and Pulse Transit Time, where both the ECG and PPG Sensor works synergistically to calculate the Pulse transit time and measure the heart rate, respectively.
- Body Harmony Index: to get the body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic response, calculating based on the Vitality Index and Relax Index under a minute. This shows how your stress levels are.
As for the rest, you get features like Activity data which includes step counter, stand reminders, floor climbing, calorie meter, de-stress level, Sleep Quality and including Female Period tracking which I consider a huge win given there are very few female wellness focused trackers out there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t evaluate this feature out because, I think you know why.
Finally, if you use an Apple iPhone or Android, you can synchronize with the native application for fitness from both platforms: Google Fit and Apple Health.
Sometimes, health centric wearables in general can be overwhelming due to its “complexity” nature – especially halfway through this review, I am sure at least one of you must have felt that with the jargons in the article which I understand, and it heavily relies on the brand to make it as friendly as possible. In that case, ASUS took things well. Unlike other wearables in the past that does not guide you or give you that 101 on what exactly you are doing – ASUS made the entire process kind of a compulsory thing from the get-go as you set it up.
You do not really the app to setup to use the VivoWatch SP but in order to sync and see the progress, it’s a need. Unfortunately, during my time using it – I realized the app was pretty underwhelming as it doesn’t sync well, sometimes just updating the app feels sluggish and goes off sync. When it does sync, it shows the required data. The application needs to be better to be honest, which is my biggest issue with the VivoWatch SP. ASUS did promise that it will be made better with future updates, so I will take that.
As for the wearable’s tracking – where should I start because this is fairly good. Overall, the tracking with the VivoWatch SP is better than I anticipated. The step tracking which is a huge issue with majority of the wearables where it detects extra steps just by shaking your wrist. This one does track with an anomaly of two steps more or less. That’s pretty close to being accurate and a number that you can accept as its very realistic. Seeing the various readings within the watch itself is simple as it only takes a swipe up from the respective page to give the readings. The simple guidance on how to read your Pulse O2 is a nice touch as some users might get confused on how its being used. Coming from a Fitbit Sense and having experience with Garmin’s wearable in the past, the tracking overall is good and accurate with the VivoWatch. Definitely much better than the affordable wearables with huge anomalies in tracking.
The display on the Vivowatch SP isn’t going to please users who has soaked their eyes into the world of LED but that’s not even important to fitness focused users. The display falls in a similar range to the Garmin Fenix 6X which has a similar low-res display that works well enough. That said, the VivoWatch looks okay – it does offer a fair bit of customization with the watch face, to keep you occupied for every day of the week. On a bright day, it’s easy to look and when it gets darker, the backlight can be turned on by pressing the button and worry not, the light isn’t going to burn your eyes.
Battery Life and Charging
Instead of going for a magnetic charger – they went for a clip-based charger that charges via the Pogo pins on the back. This feels like a smarter execution because speaking from experience, the ones that just clip on via magnets, lose the conductivity on the pogo pin over the time whereas the Vivowatch charger is pretty much a mini clap that clips onto the port. The charging time is pretty fast given that it takes about 30 to 35 minutes for it to go from zero to 100. As for the battery life, the brand does claim it to last about 14 days which is 2 weeks but during my time using it, I was able to take it slightly over a week (about 9 days) and the watch would just turn off, so I have to charge it back.
Good thing is that it doesn’t take too long to charge, that’s one and number two, since they went for a rather low power display that takes truly little battery, that 8 days of battery life is still a win in my books, and I’ll give it a B+.
The ASUS Vivowatch SP surprised me with it’s potential and as someone who would much rather get a watch to track my health properly and rely on my phone for all the messaging and calls, this is the kind of wearable I want on my wrist. If you are expecting it to be a very social-focused smartwatch, then this is not for you.
There are some things that require housekeeping, like the app design and overall needs to be improved, perhaps partnering up with other fitness applications like Strava to take it up a notch will make it appealing, but hey, at RM 1499, given the fact that I am getting something that’s almost on par with the Garmin’s and Suunto’s in the fitness world, that’s a money well spent, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to consumers. I am excited what ASUS is about to bring next to the table that’s health focused.
Thanks to ASUS Malaysia for providing the VivoWatch SP for us to make this review happen.