Moto 360 Sport

From the start the Moto 360 has been one of the more popular Android Wear smartwatches out there, and the updated Moto 360 2015 hasn't slowed its momentum. But the decent leather or steel link bands that the 360 ships with aren't exactly what we'd call "fitness friendly". So there's now the Moto 360 Sport, an iteration on the 42mm-sized Moto 360, but with a design that's a bit more attuned to taking a beating.

The differences here are many, at least on the outside. On the inside the 42mm Moto 360 2015 and Moto 360 Sport are practically identical. The same 300mAh battery, the same 1.2Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, the same 4GB of internal storage and 512MB of RAM. Chip-wise, there's little different. Though this watch does pack a GPS chip inside, so you'll be able to engage in run tracking while away from your phone.

Instead of a standard LCD, Motorola's using an "AnyLight Hybrid Display" that's supposed to perform better under sunlight.

Design-wise, however, there's a lot different here. The display here is, as before, 35mm in diameter with a resolution of 360x325, with the black "flat tire" bar underneath for the ambient brightness sensor. The display itself, though, is different. Instead of a standard LCD, Motorola's using an "AnyLight Hybrid Display", a screen that's said to work both as a traditional backlit screen and as a front-lit reflective one (think old school color Palm PDAs) for use in the sunlight. Unfortunately, the sun hasn't come out from behind the clouds here since we received the Moto 360 Sport this morning, so we'll save testing that for another day.

That screen is covered in Gorilla Glass 3 and surrounded by a ring of metal — the inner half is a smooth matte metal finish, while the outer half is polished and etched with radiating lines. The two-finish effect helps to minimize the size of the bezel, and is something Motorola learned in designing the first and second generations of the standard Moto 360.

Unlike pracitcally every other Android Wear smartwatch (excepting the much-maligned Samsung Gear Live and the un-launched LG Urbane 2nd Edition), the Moto 360 Sport's bands are integrated, meaning you better well be committed to that color (with choices of red, white, and black) when you buy it. That silicone is soft and wraps all the way around the perimeter of the watch's body. There are cutouts for the microphones on one side and a protruding grippy black button on the other, both about 30 degrees off-axis from the center line of the watch.

Motorola's custom watch face is tuned for fitness, letting you track your steps, activity, heart rate through the day.

The band itself is stretchy, which more than once led to my putting it on tighter than I'd intended, and though it's thick, the slots for the buckle are angled so the buckle post and easily slide right in. The slots continue around on the buckle-end of the strap and higher than is reasonable on both ends, both for aesthetic balance and enhanced ventilation.

Motorola's also worked a bit of custom software with the Moto 360 Sport, and that's evident from the moment it finishes setting up. A custom watch face, tuned towards fitness, splits the display into quadrants to track your steps, activity, and heart rate through the day, while also offering a repeating 60-second timer. A "start" button in the center launches straight to the Moto Body app, offering quick access to timers, run trackers, and more that have all been designed for quick-and-easy controls on the small display.

While the Moto 360 Sport is nicely designed, in the short time we've had it a few things did stand out to us. The watch is incredibly responsive, offering one of the smoothest frame rates we've seen from an Android Wear watch. Surprisingly, the performance is notably better than the otherwise identical Moto 360 2015.

The AnyLight Hybrid Display allows for the backlight to turn completely off when the screen is sleeping, but that also means that the ambient display time is really quite dark when viewed in dimmer light. Under direct light it looks great, like an older LCD watch. Unfortunately it also has pretty poor viewing angles, easily washing out when viewed off-center.

It's also worth noting that the silicone strap has a tendency to pick up lint everywhere (especially evident on our white watch) and has a noticeable continuous seam that runs all along the outer edge.

We'll be giving the Moto 360 Sport a more thorough workout over the next several days so we can give you a conclusive verdict, but for now we'll leave you with this: if you're in the market for an Android Wear watch for an active lifestyle, the Moto 360 Sport should definitely be on your list... though it's not launching in the US until January 7, 2016, for the price of $299.99.