Sony Smartwatch 3 Review – Dull Design, But An Awesome Watch

Despite the fact that Sony said they weren’t going to release an Android Wear smartwatch, here we are with the Android Wear powered Sony Smartwatch 3. Other OEMs putting out Android Wear devices are on their first run making watches (excluding Samsung), but Sony has some experience here. So with a complete departure from their previous watches and some new hardware, is the Sony Smartwatch 3 worth your hard earned money?

Specs

  • 1.6” Inch 320×320 TFT LCD Display
  • Snapdragon 400 Quad-Core 1.2GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB Storage
  • IP68 Water Resistance
  • 420 mAh Battery
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • GPS
  • NFC

Hardware & Design

When it comes to hardware, Sony is bucking the trend of making a smartwatch look like a regular watch, or at least making some attempt to do so. That’s not the focus of the Sony Smartwatch 3. This watch consists of a central unit the easily slips out of the silicon band and can be placed in another band just as easily. The central unit consists of that 1.6” inch display, a stainless steel back plate, a microUSB charging port, and a power button that you can really only use if the band is on the watch.

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Software & Performance

When it comes to the specs, we’re not seeing much different from what we see on other Android Wear devices. What this means is that performance is identical to other models. Everything is smooth as far as navigating the interface and apps do work well. The device is running Android 5.0.2 at the time of this review and overall things work very well.

One complaint I do have regarding the software is the way it interacts with the microphone. Now this could be a hardware issue, but either way, its annoying. Android Wear gives you the ability to dictate responses to messages through the built in microphone, but on the Sony Smartwatch 3 this only worked about half the time. When I would starting speaking my response the watch would simply stop listening and give my the option to send “OK” back. Hopefully this can be fixed and the later software updates.

The watch does have a handful of exclusive watch faces that all look nice on the watch.

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Bands

Unfortunately the band on the Sony Smartwatch 3 is proprietary which means you’ll have to buy new bands from Sony. If you have a 22mm band you prefer however, you can pick up a special adapter from Sony that allows that functionality. Bands are available in stainless steel and also in silicon in a handful of different colors. My unit was black and personally I did like the way the band looked with the central unit on my wrist. It’s not attractive, but it gets the job done well. The band, since it silicon, tends to get a little sweaty as the day goes on, but that I can deal with. What I could barely deal with was how much of a dust magnet this band was. Within my first two hours with the watch the band was already coated in dust and dog hair (I’ve got three, it was inevitable). Luckily it’s not that hard to wash off larger and heavier things like dirt and hair, but the dust seemingly didn’t want to go away.

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Display

The display on the Sony Smartwatch 3 is a sore point. The TFT LCD gets plenty bright, but the display has very poor viewing angles and everything seems like it’s yellow compared to other watches like the Moto 360. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something I did not enjoy. Regardless this display matches the pixel density of most other Android Wear watches and gets bright enough for outdoor use. One highlight is that Sony threw in an ambient light sensor so you won’t have to worry about changing your brightness settings manually.

Charging

Charging a smartwatch is something many of us have simply come to expect, regardless of how much we don’t like doing it. Whether it’s the LG G Watch and it’s proprietary magnetic charging cradle or the Moto 360 and it’s Qi compatible charging method, it’s still not something we want to do. Makers of smartwatches have three basic routes to choose from when powering up their devices, proprietary charging cradles, wireless charging, or standard microUSB. There are watches on the market with all three methods and to decide, consumers have to ask three questions. 1) What if I forget/lose my charger? 2) How easy is it to use? 3) What does it cost to replace? For me, the second question is key. For many others, it’s what if I forget/lose the charger. Sony chose to appease them with the Sony Smartwatch 3 by including a simple microUSB port to charge, but I don’t think that was the wise choice. Charging the SW3 is not fun at all. First you need to open the small flap to reveal the charging port, then get the USB cord inside which, depending on your cord, may or may not be easy to plug in. Personally, I’d take a proprietary, but effortless, charging method any day.

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Battery Life

What Sony lacks in their charging method, they get back in the battery life. The Smartwatch 3 packs a 420 mAh battery inside that Sony rates at bringing up to 2 days of use, but I could pull up to 3 or even more. With the “always on screen” feature turned on, I generally lasted about 2 days, but with it turned off I could easily go to bed on the third day having plugged the watch it at around 25%. Kudos to Sony for not only bringing the best battery life on an Android Wear device to date, but not trying to exaggerate the battery life.

GPS

One feature the Sony Smartwatch 3 has that no other Android Wear device has added is a built in GPS. While this feature can’t be used for a lot of things, there are a few things you can do with it that can be very useful for runners. Now let me get it out of the way, I’m not much of a runner. So to test out how well the GPS and the pedometer worked, I gave it to someone who was. The response, it works pretty great. Using the My Tracks app they recorded their walking route and timed it independent of their smartphone. One note though is that battery life is a lot less when the GPS is active. The pedometer also met up closely with their Misfit Flash fitness tracker.

Final Thoughts

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So overall, is the Sony Smartwatch 3 worth buying? If you are an active person who wants to track their run everyday, yes. Even if you aren’t this is still a great option thanks to it’s stellar battery life. The Sony Smartwatch 3 retails for $249 from Sony and other retailers. The watch is available in a handful of different color options as well. This certainly isn’t the most premium smartwatch out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best out there.