The future is evidently now, and many of those neat-o gizmos you ogled over in the cartoons and movies are quickly becoming a reality. Although floating cars are still a ways away, smartwatches are here and they are big, bold and busting out quite a few unexpected stops. A true standout among a small, elite crowd is the newly revisited and remodeled Pebble Steel, a striking and highly capable smartwatch that’s surprisingly affordable (averaging around $249.99) and amply professional in appearance. A popular, fashion-oriented and well-polished product indeed, the new Pebble Steel has much more on its mind than just the time of day.

Residing on the upper tier of functionality and flare, the Pebble Steel smartwatch has been quickly making a name for itself during its short lifespan, already outclassing its predecessor, the original Pebble, which in only twelve months of availability secured a home on well over 300,000 wrists. The Pebble is successfully laying claim to an expanding smartwatch kingdom, and it seems that the new Steel version is about to put a fork in the remaining competition. At least for the time being.

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So what does competition the smartwatch competition look like? Over the past few months and merging into the fresh horizon of the New Year, the world has witnessed quite a few smartwatch offerings blossom forth from titanic companies like Qualcomm, Sony and Samsung. These corporations have been producing small armadas of these time-telling trumpets of the future hoping to claim a fixed foothold in the digital race, especially while the marketing soil is still fresh and untrodden. But what makes the Pebble Steel so special?

Think of the Pebble as the forerunner to beat in this competition. Most of the smartwatch contenders are using it as the archetype with which to base their specs off of, particularly concerning sophisticated electronics like a fully colorized touch-screen, as well as overall design and fashion appeal. But even the Pebble Steel itself is seeking to out-do its older brother with a sleek new design that orients itself more to a jewelry item than a semi-kitschy sports watch or athletic accessory.

Thoughtfully adorned in matte black or brushed stainless steel, the overall aesthetic of the Pebble Steel, with its unique analog watch-face, carefully cajoles onlookers into viewing it as a sincerely legitimate wristwatch and not simply a crude novelty.

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The Pebble Steel has upped the ante concerning digital display with a clearer, more compact feeling screen and an e-paper display that’s covered by durable Corning Gorilla Glass 2. The backlight and accelerometer are the same as the first model, and it’s still waterproof up to five atmospheres, but the Steel version offers new tri-colored LED lighting in its screen-face that illuminates when charging. It’s claimed that newer Pebble models will be able to utilize the LED for alert configurations.

The Steel’s screen has also received a bit of a facelift in that it’s now more squared-off and less curved, providing a much more compactable impression and feel for the wearer. Even the Pebble Steel’s buttons are smaller and easier to use. Many things, however, have been kept the same, especially in regards to the inner workings of the device. The Pebble Steel still utilizes the MagSafe-like contact charging system, although the original Pebble’s charger will not work with the Steel, and vise-versa. However, all Pebble apps are still applicable in both cases.

A downside to the Pebble Steel is ironically the stainless steel itself. The new version is somewhat heavier (weighing approximately 99 grams) than the original, which was made of plastic and weighing-in at roughly 38 grams. On a day-to-day basis this extra weight would not likely pose a problem, but if you plan on taking a jog or exercising with the Steel attached to your wrist it may prove to be a bit uncomfortable.

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The battery-life for the Pebble Steel model is successfully rated at approximately five to seven days, and the available application memory to the device is fairly roomy leaving twice as much space for apps and watch-faces. Unfortunately, however, this extra memory is still locked and users/wearers will need to accept using a still impressive eight apps and watch-faces at a time.

So what’s the bottom line? The new Pebble Steel smartwatch certainly has an upscale disposition, and it opens to a blossoming world of fun, useful Pebble-based apps. However, this watch is a bit heavy and may be a bit too “masculine” for some female purchasers. Ultimately it’ll require an in-person test to decide whether this new gadget will be right for you or if you’d rather hold your horses for the next futuristic offerings that may be waiting just around the corner.

Ezra Melino is an all-around-geek turned serious blogger out of North Carolina who not-so-secretly relishes an in-print love affair with everything from technology and multimedia entertainment to film and the hopper. He has written for and managed multiple tech blogs that are devoted to exploring new technological developments all around the world.