ASUS’ new fitness watch is more useful and better looking

The VivoWatch SP looks like a real watch, not a medical gadget.

ASUS may not make smartwatches anymore, but it has kept one foot in the wearables space with its line of fitness watches. A year and a bit after launching the VivoWatch BP, the company is back with a new health-tracking watch that, most importantly, looks a whole lot better than its predecessor.

If we're being charitable, we'd say that the previous VivoWatch was not the prettiest device on the market, with the ECG sensor mounted on a carbuncle on the case. This time around, the sensors are mounted around the edges of the body, where you pinch it to run a test. There is a solid-state ECG button on one side, while on the other is a PPG sensor, more commonly known as an optical heart-rate monitor. That's the same sensor found on pretty much every fitness wearable, from low-end units like the MiBand through to the Apple Watch.

The aim of all this is to let you take both an optical heart-rate test and an ECG at the same time for a better picture of your heart health. VivoWatch Product Manager Greg Lai says that the device is now an "intelligent health gadget to prevent hypertension and heart disease." Each of these individual tests should take between 15 and 20 seconds, although on the prototype we tested, it took a little longer.

All of this data will be used to offer up suggestions on how to live a better, or at least healthier, life, with ASUS' connected health platform. Wear the SP for seven days straight and you'll start getting healthy lifestyle tips from experts at Taiwan's National University Hospital. You'll also get data on your PTT, or Pulse Transmission Time, a metric to understand your response to stress.

The VivoWatch SP is designed for runners, with GPS, pace coaching, speed monitoring, distance and route mapping. There's even an altimeter included for hikers, so if your blood oxygen level drops when you're at altitude, it can advise you on when to take a breather.

As before, sleep is another key focus of the device, although now with an added emphasis on your blood oxygenation levels. Essentially, when you're asleep, the watch will keep an eye on how much oxygen is pumping through your veins in case you're not getting enough. A lack of oxygen during sleep can be a symptom of conditions like sleep apnea, which could harm your ability to get a good rest.

Naturally, the VivoWatch SP is not a smartwatch, but Lai said that it will offer notifications for calls and messages, over Bluetooth. Lai also mentioned that smart replies will be available, albeit only in a limited manner, since the watch is running ASUS' own operating system.

Battery life has been quoted at 14 days, which is down to the fact that the SP uses a low power system-on-chip and a reflective display. While the screen is neither high-res or good in bright light, it apparently saves substantially on power drain -- up to 90 percent, according to ASUS. That battery rating also includes five or six ECG tests per day, plus you'll get up to a day of GPS from a full charge — although if you did, you'd need to recharge the device, pronto.

The VivoWatch is also a prettier device, as is the new strap with its Marc Newson-inspired up-and-under strap. But ASUS has also seen fit to use generic, 22-millimeter watch straps with quick-release, meaning that you'll be able to swap the band for any other on the market.

ASUS says that the VivoWatch SP will be available worldwide before the end of the year, regulation and production hurdles permitting. Unfortunately, the company wouldn't be drawn on a price, although I was told that the hope is that it'll be under $300. Given the number of ECG watches popping up that offer more features (often with shorter battery life), it'll be interesting to see how people take to this.