Pebble smartwatch hands-on [Video]

Pebble's smartwatch begins shipping out to Kickstarter supporters this month, but we've grabbed some early wrist-action at CES today to see what the surprise sensation is all about. It's a surprise how close it is to the original concept shown on the crowd-sourcing site, though our favorite of the color range – the transparent one, which Pebble created for water-resistance testing – won't actually be offered to buyers. Read on for some first impressions.

On the wrist, it's lightweight, with the rubberized strap – that can be easily switched out – comfortable. The display is clear and legible, and lacks the refresh-pause we're familiar with from E Ink ereaders. The fact that it's only monochrome is offset by the great contrast, and the twin font levels make it easy to read even body text in emails and SMS.

Pebble's charging system - which magnetically attaches to pins on the side – clips on easily, though it also pulls off very easily; we'd prefer a slightly tighter grip, especially if you're trying to recharge the watch without taking it off first. The buttons are large and easy to press, the watch seems responsive.

Of course, the whole platform will only really come to life when third-party developers get into gear. That will be the moment when Pebble tips over from neat gadget to wrist-essential, using services If This Then That and other web apps to feed data to the device. The Pebble team says it's focusing on a core group of abilities that work with sufficient polish to get buyers to strap the watch on every morning, with a more expansive array of apps coming after that.

Pebble smartwatch hands-on and demo:

The first units will begin shipping out on January 23 to Kickstarter backers, with Pebble expecting it to take 6-8 weeks to fulfill all those orders.