Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

Casio's second Android Wear watch is more outdoor friendly, but still needs work
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

The Casio WSD-F20 is the iconic Japanese watchmaker's second stab at making an Android Wear smartwatch. Like its first, the WSD-F10, this model is all about the great outdoors, falling into Casio's Pro Trek range of watches, with dedicated modes for activities like trekking, cycling, paddling and even fishing.

One of our biggest criticisms of its predecessor was the baffling decision to omit GPS, pretty much a staple for all outdoor watches. Casio told us that was because it hadn't come up with a solution yet that wouldn't hammer the battery life. This time it's managed to squeeze in a low power GPS chip that unlocks tracking without a smartphone as well as a host of new features to make it a better fit for adventurers.

It also ships with Android Wear 2.0, Google's biggest software update so far, which experienced a problematic roll-out on other watches but does make it onto this new model as well as its predecessor. That means that out of the box you can enjoy the improved iOS support, download apps straight from the watch and access the new Google Assistant among other additions.

The question is though, does built-in GPS and some new software extras make Casio's smartwatch a true rival for a Garmin or Suunto outdoor watch? We've spent a few weeks running, trekking, canoeing and commuting with the Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 to find out.

Casio WSD-F20: Design

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

The first Casio was a big ol' smartwatch and for anyone hoping that was going to change, you're sadly out of luck. Put it up against something like the Fenix 5 or the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR and it's a giant in comparison. It's near identical to the original with that hulking bezel still in tow plus metallic-looking plastic casing that plays its part in offering rugged protection and keeping the display well guarded. Unfortunately, it's not going to look great peeking out of your shirt sleeve at work. It's a tad slimmer than the F10 but weighs in at the same 92g and you will notice it on your wrist. It's not going to weigh it down or feel cumbersome, but you'll definitely know it's there and so will everyone else.

Durability is the name of the game once again, so you're getting military standard levels of protection plus water resistance at up to 50 metres so you can take it for a swim, although there's no dedicated swim tracking support. It's up for grabs in either orange or black, with the former being the more attractive of the two, the orange casing nicely complementing the machined screws, black bezel and black watch strap.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

Side by side, it's hard to tell the difference between the new and the old models. All of the physical buttons and the charging port are in the same place, so there's the Tool button up top, main Android Wear button in the middle and a bottom one that opens up the mapping function.

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There's an identical 1.32-inch dual layer LCD colour touchscreen display with a 320 x 300 resolution that does have that rather unsightly black bar at the bottom that we've seen ruin other Android Wear smartwatches.

It's certainly not the sharpest or the most vibrant display we've seen on a smartwatch either, but the monochrome mode does help to improve battery life. As far as screen visibility goes, it's not great and struggles in bright sunlight even with the brightness levels turned up to the max. That's a real bugbear for an outdoor watch, and when out trail running it was almost impossible to discern any information on the screen without stopping to shade it. Poor show.

Casio WSD-F20: Features, sensors and Android Wear 2.0

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

So let's talk about how Casio is hoping to make the WSD-F20 the adventurer's best friend. There's a whole host of sensors on here for starters, which include pressure (air and altitude), accelerometer, pyrometer and magnetic compass sensors that should all come in handy for activities like hiking, trekking and water sports. Hit the Tool button and you'll see how those sensors are put to use displaying compass, altitude, air pressure, tide and activity graphs. Altitude readings were in line with the TomTom Adventurer watch we used during the testing process, while sunset predictions squared up with what we could see out of the window.


The big deal here though is the built-in GPS, and Casio takes full advantage of the inclusion of a low-powered sensor to add more features to the WSD-F20. Hit the Tool button and you can see a full colour map of your current location and even harness those GPS powers with preinstalled watch faces to display mapping data. There's GLONASS and Michibiki satellite support here as well to improve mapping support when you travel further afield. GPS signal pick-up was quick as well, taking no longer than a minute to get us ready for tracking.

One of the nicest features is the ability to download offline maps via Mapbox, which can then be used in the Activity and Location Memory applications as well as some third party apps. Just make sure you're running the latest version of the Casio companion apps that support it to get it up and running properly.

This is of course a smartwatch first and foremost, and it's running on Android Wear 2.0 out of the box. We tried it out with both an iPhone and an Android phone and didn't experience any big issues with pairing although we'd say you're going to get a better experience syncing it up with a Google-powered smartphone if you can. Once you've negotiated the long and labouring loading screen and set up Wear as standard, much of this will feel very familiar. Pressing the middle button on the watch opens up the app drawer where you can scroll through apps. Holding that button down will activate Google Assistant. Swiping up from the home screen reveals your notification stream and the Google Play app store is present as well.

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There four unique apps built specifically for the Casio smartwatch. There's Tool, which we've already spoken about, and Activity, which appeared on the first watch and is able to track activities like snow sports, cycling and fishing display a host of metrics and routes. There's no dedicated run tracking, but there's a host of third party Wear apps, like Strava and Runkeeper, you can download to solve that.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

Next up is Moment Setter+, which only works on Android phones and is where you can set unique notifications for different activities. So you can be prompted when you are a certain distance away from a target altitude, for instance, or the watch can display your current altitude when standing still during a trek. If you're fishing, you can get a heads up when it's high tide. It's an interesting approach, taking notifications beyond the standard messages or Facebook updates, and is definitely a nice addition.

Location Memory lets you leave memos and marks on maps as reminders of key landmarks or places of interest, and then there's also Casio Recommended, which picks out a handful of apps that are well suited to the Casio watch but need to be downloaded. These include the Moment Link app, which is able to display the location of other group members on a map and lets you send them messages. There's also the Exilim Controller app, which will let you remotely control a selection of Casio's digital cameras.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

Casio does its best to make this feel more of a unique Android Wear experience, largely through its own apps and watch faces that take full advantage of those onboard sensors. It's got some of the best pre-loaded software we've found on an Android Wear smartwatch, which really shows that some thought and consideration can go a long way towards making Google's operating system feel fresh and different.

Casio WSD-F20: Tracking

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

So how does it perform out in the field? We were able to put a few of the outdoor tracking modes to the test and there's good and bad news. Up first was trekking mode, which can be accessed by Casio's Activity app or from supported third party apps like the one from Viewranger. Unfortunately we had technical issues getting the Viewranger support up and running so had to rely on Casio's own software to step in and do the tracking instead.

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Once you're ready to track you can swipe through screens to see ascent, descent and distance data and see a full colour map of your current location. In terms of accuracy, it wasn't spot on with the trekking modes on the TomTom Adventurer and the Forerunner 935 that we tested it against, but it was definitely in the same ballpark and not wildly inaccurate. What's somewhat more frustrating is that once you've completed the trekking activity, you can view the data inside a notification, but once you swipe that away that's it. The data doesn't live on anywhere else, which is very odd.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

We also headed out for some canoeing to try out the paddling tracking feature, which tracks elements like average speed and distance as well as offering mapping support. GPS and distance tracking were in line with our Garmin Forerunner 935, but again it's frustrating not being able to review the data beyond that initial notification.

In terms of running, it's down to the user to choose an Android Wear running app, as there isn't a dedicated ecosystem built into the Casio. That's actually okay as runners will likely have a preferred app. It's a no-frills running experience but as we outline below, we were impressed with battery life. GPS was again accurate. However, it's far too bulky to be recommended for pure runners.

Casio WSD-F20: Battery life

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

For any outdoor watch, being able to last a day or two without worrying about a charger is crucial. While Casio doesn't reveal the capacity of the battery included on the WSD-F20, it does suggest you should get at least a day's use out of it, which is pretty much what we've found in our time with it. You can get a day and a half max, but that requires tinkering around with display settings and restricting the use of some apps and notification support. That's pretty much on par with most Wear watches, both sporty and non sporty.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20
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After fully charging it at the beginning of the day and then doing a three-hour trek, that battery life was down to around 70%, which is pretty much in line with what a Garmin, TomTom or Suunto watch is capable of. However, most of those watches have the ability to change the frequency of use of the GPS depending on the activity – hiking doesn't require a reading every second, for instance, but does require a longer battery life. While we were impressed with the longevity of the Casio, if you're hiking for days rather than hours, you'll be left wanting.

The monochrome watch mode plays an important role in prolonging battery life too, jumping into action when you hit around 10% and managing to keep the watch going for a few more days or longer without needing to be plugged in. Bottom line, if you're planning to be outdoors for more than a day or so, then make sure you've got that charging cable handy.

Speaking of charging, we should also talk about the cable that powers up the Casio smartwatch. It's the same one used on the original and that's definitely a bad thing in our book. It magnetically clips into the same port on the top left of the watch, but the connection is so flimsy, it's very easy to knock out of place. That meant that all too often we returned to the Casio to find it hadn't charged at all.


Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20
By Casio
As far as being an improvement on the first Casio Android Wear smartwatch is concerned, the WSD-F20 delivers simply because of the addition of GPS, which should really have been there in the first place. In the Android Wear realms, it feels better equipped for the outdoors than the Nixon The Mission and we applaud the work Casio has done to make the software experience feel different from other Android Wear watches that are currently available. If you’re asking us if we’d say it’s a great outdoor watch, though, we’d probably say no. When you compare it to what a Garmin or a Suunto can offer, that both deliver decent smartwatch-esque features as well, it’s hard to justify – particularly when it comes to battery life. If you can live with something that can get through a day’s worth of outdoor pursuits, and you like its bulky, rugged looks then it might have some appeal. We think your money might be best being spent elsewhere, though.

Hit
  • Customisable watch faces
  • Offline map support
  • Great battery life
  • GPS finally built-in
Miss
  • Big, bulky design
  • Tracking data not stored
  • Poor screen visibility
  • Third party apps very flaky


3 Comments

  • Nischit says:

    Brilliant! I hope that casio releases a Smart G Shock watch i the near future

  • yogibimbi says:

    I dig the buttons. That's what truly missing with my Nixon. Other than that, I have seen the old Casio smartwatch in real life, and, while the screen is the same size as The Mission, the housing is the size of a Suunto dive computer. I'll have to check it out again next time I see it.

  • 786 says:

    wsd f20 is avleble in india i want this watch

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