“For gamers, by gamers” is the kind of motto that sells liquid-cooled spec-obsessed towers, headsets, rumbling lounge chairs, and ergonomic mice with more buttons than a double-breasted suit. Razer, however, has these words stamped into the back of its wearable Nabu, which it’d like to remind us is not a smartwatch, but a watch with smart features.
The Nabu is a bulky little monster of a watch: mostly black rubber with flecks of silver, sandpapery buttons, and a dim, lime green OLED display to round out the Matrix aesthetic Razer is known for. The clunky form factor demanded that the left sleeve of my shirts remained unbuttoned, and in spite of its sleep-tracking function I found myself taking it off at night so I didn’t feel it on my face through the pillow. Even at its smallest band circumference the watch still felt uncomfortable on my admittedly scrawny wrists, but your mileage may vary. Even its weight can’t help the Nabu from feeling cheap.
As a watch, the Nabu has the usual bells and whistles — time, date, stopwatch, countdown, and alarms — all of which already exist on your phone. Bafflingly, the largest portion of screen is occupied by the “world clock” which kept resetting itself no matter how many times I tried to use it to show me the current time, here, in the place that I live — arguably the only critical function of a watch. The lower third of the display is also markedly brighter and clearer, for reasons unknown.
“Is that a G-Shock?” is something you should expect to (and will) hear if you plan to purchase one, as well as follow-up questions like “Razr? You mean the flip phones from 2004?” or “Naboo? Like that planet in the single worst Star Wars movie ever made?”
Nabu, however, is the Babylonian god of wisdom, and the irony should be apparent by the end of this review.
Using the Nabu to its full potential requires downloading the 2-star Nabu iOS app, which then requires you to fill out reams of personal information and create an account. The app lets you set up the smart features, such as they are: an accelerometer and scrolling push notifications.
Notifications work reasonably well and without any noticeable lag, although messages over 60 characters or so get truncated by an ellipse (meaning you have to check your phone anyway). The accelerometer is used for the aforementioned sleep tracker but also for a step and calorie counter that lives inside the Nabu app. I trust the gimmicky calorie counter as much as I trust it on the elliptical at my gym, and the step counter is utterly broken. I caught it ticking upward while sitting at my desk. Granted, I’ve been accused of being a loud typer but blogging is about as useful a measure of physical activity as counting steps.
The Nabu also tries to get permission to use Apple’s Health app but having two devices and two apps just to be told I spent most of the day sitting down felt egregious.
The Nabu app also has Pulse and Handshake – “social” features that exchange information with nearby Nabu wearers. I can’t tell you how those features are distinct or what they even do because in a week of wearing this somewhat-smartwatch they never went off once.
Nothing about these smart features screams “gamers!” to me since — aside from Dance Dance Revolution — most gaming doesn’t require a ton of vigorous physical activity. Likewise, notifications on your wrist are no less intrusive for someone deeply focused on a match than feeling your pocket or purse buzz. I can attest to experiencing huge spikes in blood pressure during particularly close matches of Super Smash Bros, but a heart monitor was noticeably absent.
In an effort to say something nice about this big ugly watch, Nabu’s handicaps are also some of its best features. Limited functionality gives it insane battery life: Razer clocks it as seven days on a full charge but I’m finding it’s closer to five — which is still much longer that anything else battery-powered in my apartment. Don’t say smoke alarms, I don’t have any. Likewise, the janky, monochromatic OLED display and rubberised case make the Nabu borderline indestructible to normal wear and tear. I bashed it into a ticket barrier (by accident), dropped it repeatedly onto tile floor from two metres (on purpose), and left it on in the shower (mostly by accident) with absolutely no signs of damage.
More than anything, the Nabu suffers from lack of ambition. Like many wearables, Nabu is a nuisance —because it’s one more thing you have to remember to charge, one more thing draining your phone through Bluetooth, one more buzzing, beeping, vibrating apparatus to remind you of tweets, suck you back into work emails, or remind you to walk around more — and it doesn’t solve nearly enough problems to merit the £160 price tag.
- Week-long battery life*
- Step tracker (sort of)
- Bulky but not heavy
- Push notifications from your phone (sort of)
- Screen: monochromatic OLED
- Connectivity: Bluetooth-enabled
- 3-axis accelerometer