LG Watch Urbane Review
When we got our hands on a modern-day smartwatch for the first time back at the end of 2013, we weren't quite sure what to make of this new paradigm. Here was a whole new category, with hype around it reaching a crescendo, and many wondering if it wasn't destined to take a place next to smartphones by providing a lucrative new revenue stream for traditional and emerging gadget manufacturers alike.
Entrants — such as Pebble — definitely made a small fortune on the form factor, but things have been rather quiet overall. That is, until Apple announced that it's going after the still small and highly niche market with its own Watch. By then, however, we had an entirely different view on smartwatches.
Smartwatches weren't going to be as big a deal as smartphones were (and still are) — not even close. Instead, their function would be auxiliary at best. For the time being, this is a more than fair assessment — some would, for example, go as far as saying that they're useless. But there's a problem with that mindset, and one that LG, among others, has been trying to address with its latest smartwatches, but most notably — with its new Watch Urbane.
So what's wrong with that aforementioned assessment? Basically, all the hype raised expectations way beyond what is practically achievable on a gadget that has to conform to your wrist. Indeed, now more than ever, the way forward seems to be for manufacturers to go after a blend of useful features and more classic, less-intimidating design choices. Certainly, LG has taken this philosophy to heart with the Urbane.
Let's see how well that worked out.
In the box:
- Charging cradle
- microUSB cable
- Wall charger (0.85A)
- Quick start manual
Square or rectangular, round or oval, there's no single form factor to rule them all when it comes to watches — smart or otherwise. Like so many other things in life, it's a matter of taste. But be that as it may, we have no qualms about calling the Urbane one of the most dashing smartwatches currently on the market, and that includes the Apple Watch.
LG's latest wearable comes in two color options as pertains to the stainless steel body of the watch — silver and gold (though that one looks like copper). In almost every way, the Urbane reminds us of its predecessor, the Watch R, but there are some important differences. For example, the pronounced defensive bezel of the R is much more subdued on the Urbane, and while that means that the display is less protected from bumps and scratches, we do appreciate the look of it more. Also similar is the sleep/wake crown dial on the right of the newer smartwatch, though it's slightly smaller, all the while protruding more. At the back, we see that LG has found a way to remove the four unsightly screws holding the gadget together from view.
LG has done some splendid work in other important areas as well — like straps. Not only are we treated to a genuine, stitched leather strap this time around, but you can switch for another, at least so long as it's 22 mm in width. In all, from the smaller, more elegant clasp and duo of free loops, down to the skinnier default strap, the water- and dust-resistant Urbane is LG's best shot at blending gadgetry with classic timekeeping yet. Just make sure you pick the color option that will better match your wardrobe.
LG is sticking with a display of proven quality — a round, 1.3-inch P-OLED panel with 320 x 320 pixels, or the same model it's using with the Watch R. From what we've seen so far, the two render rather identical images in terms of brightness and color reproduction, though the Urbane does look a little warmer. Generally, there are no visible improvements to speak of.
Unlike Motorola's Moto 360, the Urbane doesn't feature an ambient light sensor, which means that tweaking brightness falls on you. Android Wear allows you to do that from the main screen — just slide down from the top, as you would with your notifications bar on your smartphone, and you can activate 'Brightness boost'. With summer right around the corner and all, this is sure to come in handy, and soon.
Lastly, as fellow smartwatch owners would expect, LG's gadget's screen is set to always-on, so you can take a peek at the time and any new notifications without having to manually wake up the device.