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Fossil Q Founder review: Fossil misses the mark with its first Android Wear watch

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MSRP: $315.00

The Good The watch looks good (for a big watch) and runs the latest version of Android Wear. It includes an ambient light sensor for automatically adjusting display brightness.

The Bad It's big and bulky. Weaker battery life than competitors. Android Wear software runs slowly and lacks finesse. No heart-rate sensor. Display isn't a complete circle. No custom apps. Included charger is absurd.

The Bottom Line The Fossil Q Founder looks nice from a distance, but it's not the best Android Wear watch -- and, there are better options for prospective smartwatch buyers.

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6.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Battery 5
  • Performance 6
  • Software 6
  • Features 6

The first watch I owned was a Fossil. It was a beautiful stainless steel timepiece that I wore throughout high school. It's been almost 15 years since I unwrapped it on Christmas morning, and while I no longer wear it, it still works just as it did that cold day in December.

It's only fitting that years later I would once again unwrap a Fossil watch on a cold December morning. The Fossil Q Founder looks similar to that watch I held near and dear, but behind the beautiful exterior is a flawed product: a mediocre Android Wear watch.

There are too many watch manufacturers all making smartwatches at the same time, and the problem with Fossil's return to the smartwatch landscape is that its good looks are only skin-deep. This watch doesn't do anything better than similar smartwatches you can get for the same amount or less, and it's not even more nicely designed than some. It suffers buggy performance and poorer battery life.

The Fossil Q Founder is available for $275 (which converts to about £180 and AU$380) with a leather strap or $295 (£195, AU$405) with a stainless steel link band (the model I reviewed). It's a bit less expensive than my favorite Android Wear watches, the Huawei Watch and Moto 360, but it's not as good, either. I like Fossil watches, but I wouldn't recommend this one.

Design: Beautiful, yet flawed

There's no shortage of nicely designed smartwatches. Two of our favorites -- the Huawei Watch and Moto 360 -- feature stainless steel casing and circular displays. On the surface, the Fossil Q Founder looks like it can compete. Its stainless steel casing feels strong, and the crown resembles a traditional watch (even though it doesn't spin, and is only a button).

fossil-q-founder-01.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Most people weren't aware I was even wearing a smartwatch. But the Q Founder isn't for everyone. It's big (46mm diameter) and heavy. I like big watches. Not everyone does.

Things start to fall apart when you get a little bit closer. The screen isn't a complete circle: at the bottom of the 1.5-inch 360x326-pixel resolution display sits a black bar that houses an ambient light sensor, just like the Moto 360. The result isn't attractive.

The display also isn't as crisp as I would like. Images and text look pixelated. The 1.4-inch 400x400-pixel resolution display on the Huawei Watch looks much better, trust me.

fossil-q-founder-01.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Q Founder is powered by an Intel Atom processor, rather than the Qualcomm chips found in many other Android Wear watches. It doesn't seem to fare well: the watch suffered noticeable lag as I swiped through different screens. On more than one occasion I was forced to reboot.

Aside from the Intel processor and additional RAM, the Founder is like every other Android Wear device. It has 4GB of storage for music and apps, Wi-Fi to function when your phone is left behind, and both an accelerometer and gyroscope for tracking steps and distance. But it's one of the few that doesn't include an optical heart-rate sensor. There's also no GPS for tracking pace and distance when running or cycling.

This isn't a sport watch, it's a fashion one.

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