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Unboxed: Pebble Steel Smart Watch

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After its success with the original Pebble, the smart watch maker had announced the Pebble Steel, its premium version of its popular Smart Watch. We’ve placed our order as soon as it was announced during CES 2014 and it finally arrived last week. At US$100 more than the original plastic based Pebble, it maintains the same display and inner workings but furnished with more premium materials. The front comes with a similar 1.26″ ePaper display that does a 144×168 pixels resolution in black and white.

So what do you get out of the box? Firstly the smart watch body is more upmarket with a metal body and nice metallic buttons. The front surface is now glass which is toughen with Corning Gorilla Glass and Pebble now has also included a Tri-Colour LED notification light placed at the bottom left. It still charges using a magnetic cable dock which is of a different design that isn’t backward compatible with the previous version.

There are 2 colour options available – Brushed Stainless Steel and Matte Black. Whichever colour you choose, Pebble is giving a black leather strap as standard which is fastened by default out of the box. While the Pebble Steel comes with an instruction manual on replacing the strap, we are disappointed that the required mini flat head screwdriver isn’t included in the box. That’s as bad as buying an Ikea furniture without an Allen Key or buying a smart phone without a pin to eject your micro SIM slot. With a premium asking price, Pebble could have included a small screwdriver for ease of changing the strap.

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When we compare the Pebble Steel with its predecessor, the overall footprint is smaller with narrower width and shorter height. However the weight of the new Pebble Steel is 56 grams with the leather strap and a rather heavy 99 grams with the steel strap. As comparison, the original plastic pebble is much lighter at 38 grams. One gripe which we would like to highlight is the rough edges where the metal frame meets the glass on the watch face. The sides are noticeably sharp and rough which could probably cause a minor cut on the fingers, something we didn’t expect with a “premium” product.

Overall, the Pebble Steel is a material upgrade over the original Pebble, but we would have expected more from its US$100 extra price tag. A new rival in wearables is Qualcomm’s Toq smart watch which we’ve previewed at Mobile World Congress. Also priced at US$249, the Toq offers more functionalities with direct access to contacts, address books and the display pushes colours with its Mirasol technology. The Pebble smart watch was one of our favourites for basic notification on the wrist, but with emerging choices it is hard to justify the price with competition like Samsung catching up aggressively with more features.

Watch our hands-on of the Pebble Steel after the break.

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