Motorola Moto 360 review


WhistleOut
18 December 2014

85/100

The Moto 360 has essentially been the face of wearable tech since it was announced in March this year. It and the LG G Watch R are still the only two smartwatches on the market with round faces. Although, the 360 does cheat a little with one tiny flat bezel at the bottom of the screen.

You might think that this alone would put the G Watch R ahead of the Moto 360. After all, a fully-round watch is better than an almost-round one, right? As it turns out, that little imperfection is what makes everything that is special about the Moto 360 work. In other words: sex appeal.

Design

When it comes down to it, your choice over which smartwatch to buy is going to come primarily down to how it looks. Thanks to Android Wear, most smartwatches on the market now have identical user experiences, so physical style is one of the only discriminating factors.

There’s also fashion to be taken in to consideration. Whether or not a watch suits your tastes and personal style is important. You wear it on your wrist, after all. It's not hidden away in your pocket for half the day, so you're going to want to be comfortable with it.

The Moto 360 is the minimalist’s smartwatch. While the screen panel may not be perfectly round, the watch housing is. At a glance the whole thing is just a circle, a watch band and a crown.

Thanks to this simplicity, it’s less bulky than the G Watch R. Not by a huge amount, by but enough that wearers of long-sleeve shirts will notice and be thankful on a daily basis (office-workers pay attention).

Being of mostly metal construction, it also feels like a more premium device than the G Watch R. This impression is helped by the real-leather watch straps that come standard. There’s no plastic texture or creaking when you bend them. Of course, both watches let you buy your own straps and swap them out, but the Moto 360 is already cheaper than the G Watch R. Not having to shell out for your own band is an extra $20 or so in its favor.

Like on the G Watch R, the crown is a sleep/settings button. Aesthetically it looks great. It completes the illusion that this is a real watch, and the brass-colored rim around its base is all class. However, it still suffers from the same problem as its partner in crime.

Being a button and not a winder, you have to wear the watch a fair way down your wrist to keep from activating it every time you lean on your hand or push down on a table to stand up or sit down.

Then there is the glass screen covering. It sticks out beyond the watch housing, making it prone to scratches and damage. It’s also chamfered sharply around its edges, causing the light from within to refract and magnify as it passes through. This produces some distortion and makes it look like a cheaper device than it otherwise would.

Display

The display itself is a bit of a let down. It’s not the flat edge that’s the problem – you tend to forget it’s there after a few days. It’s also where a lot of the internals for the screen and phone are housed, which is why it can be a round device and not a chunkier one like the G Watch R. In short, the flat edge is an acceptable sacrifice.

Where the problems come in are with the underlying technology. Where LG opted for an P-OLED screen, Moto went for LCD. You can argue for days about which is the better choice for other devices, but on a smartwatch the P-OLED seemed superior in every category.

Despite having essentially the same resolutions, the 360 appeared more pixelated. Screen brightness was also a much lower. You could still use it in direct sunlight, but going back to the G Watch R made it obvious just how much easier it is to make out what's going on.

P-OLED is also better for battery usage. A big percentage of the available watch faces on Android Wear are based on a black background. P-OLED pixels use basically no energy when displaying black, but on an LCD they’re still burning through charge no matter how inky you go.

Colors are less vibrant on an LCD and viewing angles are shorter. Basically, the display is just worse on a Moto 360.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad screen. It’s still visible in direct sunlight (most of the time) and looks pretty sharp. It’s in no way less functional, but it’s far from optimal.

Battery life

Battery life is the other major consideration when choosing a smartwatch. It may look like the classiest timepiece in town, but if it drops the mic around midday then what's the point?

Despite our fears of its mere 320mAh battery, compared the 410mAh one in the G Watch R, the 360 comfortably made a day with the screen switched to always-on. You won’t get two days out of it, even when you set the screen to turn off when idle, but right now there’s no smartwatch that goes that whole extra day reliably.

Charging it is easier than the G Watch R. Both require docks, but the Moto 360 charges wirelessly, meaning you can just plonk it in there unceremoniously. The cradle in which it sits is well-designed and wasn’t prone to the problems we faced with the G Watch R.

A nice touch is that the watch turns in to a low-light bedside clock while it’s charging by turning the watch face horizontally. It’s bright enough to see in the dark, but not so much that it disturbs your slumber.

Verdict

The Moto 360 is great as far as smartwatches go. It’s sleek, doesn’t get caught on your shirt and has high quality leather wristbands right out of the box.

Is it good enough to convince a smartwatch doubter to convert? Probably not. Smartwatch tech just isn’t quite useful enough to burst in to the mainstream yet. Maybe in a year or two.

Is it at least better than the LG G Watch R? Still no, but nor is it worse.

We liked the look and feel of the 360 more than the plastic sport watch design of the G Watch R. That being said, appearance is a very personal thing. If bulky sport watches are your preference then by all means hit up the LG.

The G Watch R does have the better display, but not by enough that it should override your choice if style is your primary concern.

As 2014 draws to a close we have two equally-viable leaders in the wearable market: the Moto 360 for comfort and simplicity, and the G Watch R for sportiness and screen.


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