Sony SmartWatch 2 review


The watch face is perfectly flat, borderless glass covering a 1.6-inch capacitive touchscreen.

The previous model used an OLED display, which required a push-to-view setup due to its high power consumption. Charming at first – after all, this is how the first LED watches worked in the 1970s – but ultimately an annoyance.

The SW2 instead uses a 220x176-pixel transflective LCD – sounds fancy, but that’s the same display technology used in conventional digital watches, calculators and other common gadgets.

LCDs use minimal power themselves, with the backlight accounting for most of the power consumption. Transflective displays use reflected ambient light to illuminate the display – so they’re visible in daylight without the use of a backlight.

For night-time use, and to display the sort of high-contrast, full-colour imagery used in the SW2’s ‘smart’ interface, an LED backlight illuminates the display from behind, causing it to function like the transmissive displays used in your LCD TV, monitor or smartphone.

The SW2 constantly displays the time, just like a watch should. To turn on the backlight (i.e. to check the time in the dark), just press the single button on the right-hand side of the watch. To access the ‘smart’ interface, press the button a second time. Pressing it a third time takes you back to the low-power watch face. Simple as can be.

Digital watchface, with backlight on maximum brightness.Digital watchface, with backlight on maximum brightness.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear attempts to get around the time-visibility issue by lighting up the screen in response to wrist movement. When I briefly tried on the Gear, I wasn’t too impressed by that feature – I had to move my wrist into a very artificial ‘I’m looking at my watch’ posture for the screen to trigger.

Sony has the right idea here, and doesn’t sacrifice practicality for the sake of a more impressive (but ultimately no more useful) display.