The Pebble Steel is definitely more stylish than the original Pebble smartwatch, and thanks to its metal body and several design changes it's also easier to disassemble.
The Steel is a clear step up from the original Pebble watch in both design and construction. It's display is covered with Gorilla Glass, it has a steel body, and it comes with both leather and metal bands.
The watch weighs just under two ounces, which is about a half an ounce more than the original Pebble. The body however is actually a tiny bit smaller. The Steel also has redesigned buttons, a slightly different magnetic charging connector, and a new LED, which shows the charging status.
On the inside however, the Steel has basically the same hardware as the plastic Pebble--an ARM Cortex-M3 MCU, a tiny bit of storage, a three-axis accelerometer, magnetometer, and an ambient light sensor.
For a step-by-step teardown guide of the Pebble Steel, check out our full Cracking Open gallery.
Cracking Open observations
- Easy-open case: Unlike the original Pebble watch, the Steel is surprisingly easy to open. The back cover is held in place with four Torx T4 screws. After removing the screws, the cover comes off without much fuss.
- Some removable components: Although the battery is soldered to the main circuit board, you can remove both components as a single unit. Unfortunately, the Steel's "e-paper" display, button contacts, and internal plastic frame appear to be glued to the metal body. If any of the components were damaged, you could likely remove and replace them. But, removing them without causing damage seemed difficult, if not impossible.
- More storage than original Pebble: Neither the Steel nor the original Pebble watch have what I would call "a lot" of internal storage. Compared to the average smartphone, it's paltry. That said however, the Steel's 64Mb is twice the original Pebble's 32Mb.
Steel is a step in the right direction
The Pebble Steel is definitely a smart looking smartwatch. And thanks to its removable back cover, you can replace the internal hardware if it gets damaged. A plus over the 2013 Pebble.
I only wish Pebble had made all the parts more modular. Doing this would have made it possible for Steel owners to upgrade their watches as new hardware was released, instead of having to toss out their entire $250 watch.
Our Pebble Steel test unit had the following internal hardware:
- STMicroelectronics STM32F205RE ARM Cortex-M3 MCU with 512 KB Flash, 120 MHz CPU, ART Accelerator
- STMicroelectronics LIS3DH 3-axis accelerometer (8346 C3H 0590X)
- 64Mb Micron N25Q064A11EF640E Serial Flash Memory
- Freescale Xtrinsic MAG3110 Three-Axis, Digital Magnetometer (MAG CWW)
- Texas Instruments BQ24040 Single Cell Li-Ion Battery Charger
- 059 3959 1340
- Texas Instruments CC2564 Bluetooth Controller
For a complete list of Pebble Steel specs, real-world call tests, and an extensive look at the user interface, check out the full CNET review.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.