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October 11, 2017

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

by John_A

Research Center:
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

While the 1.32-inch screen is large and easy to read, it’s not entirely being used. There’s still an out-of-place black bar at the bottom of the screen, which means it’s not entirely circular. It’s why the resolution is 320 × 300 pixels. This was a trend with a lot of early Android Wear smartwatches, such as the Moto 360, but almost all circular Android Wear smartwatches no longer have a “flat tire” and feature fully circular screens. We would have liked to see an improvement here with the WSD-F20.

The resolution isn’t as sharp as many newer Android Wear watches either, and we would have liked it to be a lot brighter, but we’re fans of the dual-layer LCD technology that debuted on last year’s watch. Essentially there’s a color LCD screen, where you can access Android Wear and special Casio outdoor features, but you can switch to the monochrome LCD, which only gives you the time and date but lets the watch last up to a month. Huawei implemented a similar feature in the Huawei Watch 2, where you can turn off Android Wear to keep the watch alive for 25 days with just a simple watch face. It’s far more useful than walking around with a dead, blank smartwatch.

To navigate through the watch’s many applications and tools, three metal buttons flank the right side of the large watch face. After spending an afternoon learning the Pro Trek’s ins and outs, correctly utilizing these buttons became second nature. The Tool button on the top cycles through the watch’s compass, altimeter, and barometer, while the App button on the bottom brings up a map showing your location via its built-in GPS. The large button between the two doubles as the back button but also lets you access Android Wear applications. Press and hold it, and you’ll also be able to talk to the Google Assistant.

Android Wear 2.0

Google improved its smartwatch operating system with the release of Android Wear 2.0 earlier this year. It features a better-looking interface that’s easier to use; the Play Store, where you can download apps to the watch itself; and the Google Assistant, an artificially intelligent assistant you can ask to perform functions, like send a message or set a reminder.

Like other Android Wear 2.0 watches, the interface is fluid, fast, and easy-to-use. Dismissing a notification makes it disappear from your phone, and you can interact with a good amount of them — such as responding to emails or replying to a Facebook message. These functions work best when the watch is paired to an Android phone, as iOS capabilities are limited.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Responding to notifications can be awkward, but there’s thankfully many options. You can use your voice and the watch will translate it into text; there’s a keyboard you can either tap to type or swipe; you can scribble emojis or letters to form sentences; or there’s Smart Reply, which uses on-device machine learning to offer up short responses based on the context of the conversation.

Access to the Play Store on the watch means you don’t have to crowd your phone with Android Wear apps — they can simply be installed on the watch. You’ll need Casio’s Moment Setter+ watch app to tweak Casio-specific features on the WSD-F20.

Android Wear 2.0 is a great upgrade over the original version.

You can access Google Assistant by holding down the middle button, or by saying “OK Google.” We found it fairly useful, especially to ask for things like the weather or to send messages, but it’s not as fast as we’d like it to be. Unlike the Assistant powering the Google Home speaker, it cannot control smart home devices, which is an unfortunate miss.

One of our complaints last year was how the Android Wear interface looks out of place alongside the Casio features. The same is true again on the WSD-F20. Android Wear looks sleek and minimal, while Casio’s software is crowded. Casio’s interface matches the design of the watch, but it does look and feel jarring when you switch between the two. Casio does win points, though, for making this Android Wear watch look distinct when compared to other Android Wear watches.

Android Wear 2.0 is a great upgrade over the original version, but keep in mind that its primary function is to let you see and respond to notifications. Additional useful functions are the ability to store music and play it via Bluetooth earbuds; and access to third-party apps such as Uber. We’d still like to see more third-party app support.

Casio hits the great outdoors

Aside from its Android Wear capabilities, the Pro Trek’s strongest appeal rests with its bevy of outdoor features. Featuring a compass, altimeter, barometer, and tide graph, the watch affords a wealth of useful information right on your wrist — and helps consolidate the amount of equipment one might usually tote while outside.

We found it easy to tailor the Pro Trek’s watch face to whichever activity we were currently doing. For instance, if we were ascending a particularly steep hike, the Altitude face would show information relating to our climb, helping us assess how quickly we might reach the summit. If it was just directions we desired, the Traveler face (with its built-in compass) provided us with north, south, west, and east pointers to help keep us on track.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

All of the WSD-F20’s features are quickly accessible via the Tool button, making it incredibly easy to navigate to the tide chart, compass, and barometer. We did have to calibrate the watch before accessing some of these tools, but that took no more than a few seconds.

What makes this iteration of Casio’s Pro Trek especially useful is the watch’s integration of a working GPS. Capable of being presented in the style of Google Maps or the vector maps on Mapbox, the built-in GPS adds a unique element to an already feature-rich watch. While in the Google Maps interface, the watch quickly identified where it was located, producing a familiar map upon the immediate touch of the “App” side button. We liked how easy it was to mark places on the map via voice memo or simply touching the screen, a useful way to tag hidden hiking trails or alternate routes and passages – or simply note your favorite sushi spot.

The Pro Trek’s strongest appeal rests with its bevy of outdoor features.

Perhaps one of its best features is the integrated barometer, which uses atmospheric pressure to predict changes in the weather. Though much of our testing occurred during warm, summer days in Portland, Oregon, this feature allowed us to see even slight changes in pressure. As the dial rose and fell, we had a precise view on whether to prepare for rain or switch into a T-shirt to enjoy some sun.

Additionally, the Pro Trek offers five different tracking applications for use while trekking, fishing, cycling, kayaking, or skiing and snowboarding. These features track speed (average and top) and distance traveled, allowing for accurate, continuous recreational tracking for each activity. The trekking function even records ascent and descent statistics, which we found to add a unique (and fun) way to track hikes.

Average battery life

Like most smartwatches, Casio’s Pro Trek had a tough time lasting much longer than a day when we consistently used its buffet of features. We would have liked a longer-lasting battery, especially for a watch built to be used outdoors, but it’s on par with its competition.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 Compared To

Apple Watch Series 3

Motorola Moto 360 (2015)

LG Watch Sport

Huawei Watch 2 Sport

Huawei Fit

Samsung Gear S2

Apple Watch Series 2

Vector Luna

Martian Passport MP100WSB

Garmin fenix 2

Meta M1 Watch

LG G Watch R

Wellograph

Martian Notifier Watch

Phosphor Touch Time

That said, Casio does include that particularly useful way to turn off Android Wear in favor of the digital clock (via the monochrome LCD). In this mode, battery life extends to a whopping 30 days. This feature is especially critical for longer backpacking trips where we’d be able to switch off Android Wear when we didn’t need to know an area’s pressure density and simply turn it back on when we did.

Casio sadly hasn’t improved the charger. The proprietary charger magnetically connects to a port on the side of the watch, but the magnetic connection is weak. It easily disconnects when slightly moved, which is frustrating.

Warranty, pricing, and availability

The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 has a standard limited warranty, which protects the watch from manufacturing defects up to one year from the date of purchase. It does not cover accidental damage.

The Pro Trek is expensive, coming in at $500 — far more than most Android Wear smartwatches — and it does not have any cellular functionality. It’s available now at Casio’s website, as well as retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, REI, Best Buy, and more.

Our Take

The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 is a good smartwatch with features too niche for most people. But if you’re an outdoors enthusiast that loves checking out data from barometers and altimeters, or even tracking the way you’ve traveled, you’ll like what the Pro Trek has to offer.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re a looking for a simple smartwatch that looks good and can offer up notifications, check out the Movado Connect, or the Michael Kors Access Sofie or Access Grayson. For more targeted fitness features, such as heart-rate monitoring and GPS, there’s the Huawei Watch 2.

Perhaps the closest in competition to Casio’s Pro Trek is Garmin’s Fenix 5X. A full-featured multi-sport watch that also boasts GPS, water-resistance, a compass, barometric altimeter, and a bevy of fitness-tracking options, the Fenix 5X does much of what the Pro Trek offers wearers and does so in style – that is, if you don’t mind the bulk. Clocking in at some $200 more, the premium price buys a premium experience as well as Garmin’s dedication to updating its software and companion application – which mean it might be the last watch any active outdoorsy type will ever need.

If you have an iPhone, your best bet is the Apple Watch Series 3, which now boasts cellular connectivity so you can leave your phone behind. The LG Watch Sport is a solid option if you want an Android Wear watch with cellular capabilities.

For specific outdoor features, you may want to look at the Garmin Forerunner 935 and the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR, both of which focus less on notifications and more on fitness functions.

How long will it last?

The Pro Trek WSD-F20 is MIL-STD-810G-certified, meaning it can take a beating. It’s also water resistant up to 50 meters. You’ll have a tough time breaking this watch, so it should last you quite a few years. It will likely only get software updates for two years at the most, so you may see some issues after that point. The battery will degrade over time as well, so every year you’ll see poorer and poorer battery life. Still, we expect this device to remain functional for three to four years.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you like what Android Wear has to offer and are interested in Casio’s outdoors functions, this watch may be for you. If not, there are plenty more affordable smartwatches to check out.

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