The Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20, Casio’s second version of an outdoors smartwatch with Android Wear (2.0) was announced at the beginning of 2017.
Sports tech authority DC Rainmaker called himself “perplexed” by it.
I found myself intrigued, now that it includes GPS.
Thanks to Casio’s PR agency in Germany, who provided me with a unit – at no cost to me, without any editorial influence or demands from them – I have had a chance to test the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 in-depth.
I have, by now, used it on this summer’s travels through China as well as back in Austria.
I have worn it for everyday use, during training, and on hikes / trail runs.
So, let me show you why I think it is a great #GetAtHome tool, if with a few oddities, in this first part of my in-depth review and with close-up explanations of how to get the best of it.
(In the second part, coming a bit later, we will take a closer look at specific apps and the use for training and navigation while on trail runs, hikes, and the like.)
The State of Android Wear
DC Rainmaker’s “perplexed” is a good summary of Android Wear smartwatches in general (and yes, this Casio smartwatch in particular, if you approach it from the perspective of a sports tech reviewer ostensibly focused on triathlons).
Right now, Android Wear smartwatches sit just on the edge between tool and toy. Increasingly, they also hover right between their initial promises of great function and their rising adoption as fashion items.
This is also, I think, among the things a potential user needs to consider:
As with Android smartphones, there is a certain similarity to all the devices (given their underlying operating system) that makes them all seem quite interchangeable.
That only makes the differences, not least in different maker’s different implementations of the Android system, all the more striking (and sometimes, problematic). Likewise with price and value/function.
In the case of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 outdoors smartwatch, this is particularly pronounced in looks and features, which make it very important to realize just what sort of use and user this watch is made for.
The Look of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20
If you’re familiar with the Casio line of tough G-Shock and rugged ProTrek watches – and who isn’t? – then the look of the ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 is immediately recognizable.
Big, blocky, pronounced buttons and screws, lettering for the button’s functions and more, it sits squarely in the Casio look.
If you have become a fan of cleaner looks and classical lines, this is unlikely to be a watch for you, but then you’d probably not even consider Casio, anyways.
For Casio fans, on the other hand, it works well in terms of looks, has the functions many G-Shock or ProTrek watches have (ABC triple sensor – alti/baro, compass), adds in the less-usual step counter, and puts the pretty unusual GPS reception on top.
Add in the functionality difference provided by Android Wear 2.0 as operating system, and this is a very different kind of watch from most of the other line-up.
At an RRP of USD/EUR 500,-, the ProTrek Smart is not a cheap watch, but with Casio watches of the ProTrek and G-Shock lines (of somewhat similar look and partly – without Android Wear – functionality) ranging between 300 and 700 dollars/Euro, it is not an outrageous price.
A Note on Battery Runtime
With the always-connected character of Android Wear and the bright touch displays alone, smartwatches like the ProTrek Smart are notorious electricity hogs.
Indeed, unless you turn off everything that turns this watch into more than a digital watch, chances are you will want to charge it every night, like clockwork.
If you want to use alarm functions to wake you up, down times of work in front of a computer are best used also to plug the watch into the charger.
You should definitely be aware of this before you get a smartwatch. Any of them.
Is it a deal breaker?
Depends on you.
I have found that I can start wearing the Casio ProTrek Smart in the morning, use it to go running for 1-2 hours, have it track my location (every 6 minutes) all day, and get the (probably comparatively few) notifications I get in the course of a day, just generally use it as a watch, and I still only need to recharge it – but then, very much so – around the time I also, finally, get to bed.
When I started using it as my alarm watch, I switched to hooking it up to its charging cable (with a plug that attaches magnetically to the side of the watch, by the way) when the battery runs lower and I know I will hardly move from the PC for quite some time.
It’s not the same as the Suunto watches that are less smart, but made for sports, which I’m pretty sure I can pick up whenever I want and count on them still having enough charge for a marathon, even after a week sitting somewhere.
Still, just simply turning on airplane mode while in airplanes, it was no problem for the watch to last the long travel days (with stopovers in Dubai) to China.
All the more so as the watch regulates itself down until it finally just shows time and date, in which state it could last for hours longer before it ever runs out of battery completely. (Unlike Suunto’s travel watch, the Kailash, which I’ve had run out of juice and leave me in danger of being stranded without even knowing what time it would be anymore.)
On the way there, there would still be more possibilities for adjusting it to your liking (and energy/function requirements)…
The Functional Feel of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20
Android Wear 2.0 is where things get really interesting – and a bit challenging – with the watch.
It is only too easy to see a watch like the ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 and jump to the conclusion that this must be for outdoor sports.
Aren’t Android Wear watches like this all for sports? New Balance RunIQ, Polar M600, LG Watch Sport,…
From that (wrong) perspective comes some perplexity…
- Shouldn’t a watch like this include an optical heart rate sensor, for example?
- Why aren’t the Casio-made apps included on this watch better for sports?
- What does one do with a watch like this that can’t last long enough to run an ultra with it?
There is something to all those complaints, too.
The ProTrek Smart does, in several respects, feel very much like a watch made for the Japanese market with its predilection for pretty features that are not necessarily the most useful, but fun.
From this perspective, though, there is quite a bit to be said for it, too – and that extends into functionality of a more realistic, useful kind.
Typical of Android Wear smartwatches, a lot of that fun and functionality comes with the display quality.
The Casio ProTrek Smart’s display feels a bit flimsy to me, and it does have its first scratch now.
I got quite used to it over my use time, and find that that feeling has largely subsided. It still would be better, tough and all, if they had used sapphire crystal, but the display itself still is quite bright, highly detailed, and simply colorful.
It reacts very well to touch input, too. Sometimes maybe too well, so that putting it on standby is recommendable for washing the watch, for example.
What can the Casio ProTrek Smart do, that has made me enjoy it enough to use it as my daily favorite watch to wear – and why do I think it fits really well into my purpose of helping us #GetAtHome in this world?
The ProTrek Smart as #GetAtHome Tool – Putting You Roundly on the Map
Where the fun of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 starts is right when Android Wear and inbuilt GPS combine to put you on the map. Literally.
Two of the watchfaces made by Casio, “Location” and “Traveler”, already work with that:
The “Location” watchface shows a part of a world map centered around your location alongside your GPS coordinates and the date.
The “Traveler” watchface offers a few different data fields as “complications”. These are chosen by tapping on the indicator arrow on the display and then shown in the lower part of the display. It can show a map display, as seen in the photo above, showing your location and surroundings, or altitude, compass, barometer, world time, plan/agenda (i.e., the next event or events in the Google Calendar), or a shortcut to an app of one’s choosing.
Your location history is also being recorded, if you don’t leave that feature deactivated, with your position being tracked every 1 or 6 minutes.
The track (and history) is available in Casio’s Location app (factory set-up to be reached by pushing the lower right “App” button).
There, you get a map with a track showing all the places you went on that day…
That location tracking also gets shared with Google Maps’ Timeline feature, if you use that as well.
You can also look into the “History” section/feature of the Location Memory app to see where you had gone on an earlier day, and you can export a day’s record from the watch individually as a KML file.
Will you want any of that?
In daily use, just wearing the watch, all these things around locations and maps are probably not going to be the most used of feature sets. Nor even the most useful.
Even then, however, I find the reminder of place a good one.
It’s not only that, either.
Seeing where you are, the way the Casio ProTrek Smart offers it, can be helpful if you find yourself somewhere you could really use a map.
Especially on travels, these location offerings are reminiscent of what the Suunto Kailash does, but an immense improvement.
You don’t just get a count of countries and cities you have visited, after all, but a record of just where you went (not bad in the location memory, even better in Google’s Timeline, if you allow that and if it recognizes the places well), what distances you traveled and what places you visited (again, via Google Maps Timeline).
Without that, I wouldn’t have felt quite so comfortable walking out exploring Shanghai, Haikou or Hong Kong. Nor would I have known the geographical situation of Chengmai, Hainan, so well and easily.
In most of those places, I also couldn’t use my smartphone’s internet and (therefore) Google Maps, quite so well.
I could, however, download at least some of the maps to the watch beforehand. (Google Maps is blocked in China and doesn’t let you store China maps for offline use anymore, but the Casio usually uses Mapbox maps instead, anyways.)
So, for travels and to #GetAtHome, this is not a bad beginning – and we’ll have to return there, as the ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 has a few more tricks when used with good apps!
Casio Outdoors “Tools” Apps on the ProTrek Smart WSD-F20
Back at outdoors basics that make this a true Casio ProTrek watch, there is the usual array of sensors of many a Casio. In a less-than-usual presentation and with a few extra tricks thanks to the Android Wear system.
Just as the Location Memory app is reached simply by pushing the “App” button (as the watch comes set up), so the “Tool” button on the upper right leads into these “Tools” apps.
Here we have:
- Tide Graph
- “My Graph” centered around either calories burned or steps or altitude or workout time with a graphical display showing data related to that value as it changed during the day…
These are all pretty usual sensors for the outdoors by now, and they all seem to work quite alright – with a few ups and downs.
On the downside, I have seen complaints that the tide graph only lets you set comparatively few locations, for example. So, the city for which you want to know the tides might not actually be on there.
Haikou, for example, didn’t seem to be; Hong Kong was.
With me being more of a mountain than sea person, that’s not much of an issue, but maybe you would mind.
The compass sometimes reacted a bit strangely to interferences, wanted me to calibrate it, and I’m still not entirely sure how one does actually do that (in spite of helpful pointers on the watch). Somehow it all seems to have worked, anyways…
On the upside, all the displays are bright and pretty and there is use to be had from them.
Somewhat surprisingly, though it makes perfect sense going for ‘photography to get at home’, it was the sunrise/sunset display that I truly came to love:
It shows the beginning and end of nautical twilight as well as the end and the beginning of civil twilight.
Thus, the display gives an indication of when the skies start to turn bright(er) in the wee hours of the morning and when the sun actually comes up, as well as of when the sun sets and when the night sky will be falling truly dark.
That proved exactly what was needed for an early rise, especially to set an alarm to go somewhere for photography in the golden hours, and to take photos of the sunrise or sunset itself.
Check out my post and video on Two Views of the Bund and you’ll see why this made me really happy.
Talking of the alarm, I should probably mention the usability of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 as merely a watch, and a smartwatch, before diving any deeper into specific apps…
The Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 Watch as… a Watch
We already saw two of the possible watch faces to use, but of course, there’s more.
Android Wear, after all, offers quite the customizability…
As the Casio ProTrek Smart ordinarily functions, you get a standby display which shows day of week and of month, plus time. This display is always on; there is no display timeout that shuts it off completely when the watch is just sitting somewhere (as the Suunto watches do it).
Tilt to turn on is also active, so you only need to turn your wrist towards you to turn the main display back on.
You can also set your chosen watch face to be always on, if you’d rather have the watch look nicer and give all data all the time (more or less; there seem to be standby versions of some of those displays as well).
The more you use a set watch face with more details (“complications”, as they are called in smartwatches), the higher the battery use, though.
In contrast, to save battery, Casio has created the “dual layer” watch face which basically uses the same display/face as the standby described above as the major watch face (just in a different color).
To save even more battery and protect the watch from accidental input, you can also turn the display off. What that does is not actually turn it off completely, but have it stay on the standby-type watch face until the power button is pressed.
Similarly, Android Wear comes with a dedicated “timepiece” mode in which everything but the watch’s function as a watch is deactivated. A short press of the power button only turns on the backlight when in this mode. It takes a long press to reactivate the watch as more than a mere timepiece.
More on the Display (and Battery)
Display brightness can also be adjusted, but that doesn’t do quite all that much, I find.
Bright sunlight can become a bit of an issue, reducing readability quite a bit, but not enough to make things useless, in my experience. (I just seem to have sports apps, more often than not, turned to a dim screen to save battery when I really shouldn’t let them run like that…)
Night vision might actually be more of a problem, as the active display shines quite brightly. The (orange) dual layer display might be a good idea for night use because of that.
The main thing to say about the display, though:
It is a pleasure.
Of course, that’s also a big reason why the watch draws a lot of battery, but it is very nice and detailed and colorful – enough so that seeing maps on it is really cool, and so are all other notifications and more.
Alarm, Timer/Countdown, Stopwatch
All these usual features of a watch are to be found here, among the apps.
For example, the alarm (although, the look of it changed with a recent update, since I made the video – go figure):
There aren’t any particularly special features with them, but they are colorfully set up – and, in one neat trick I do rather like about them, I have found these functions more easily reached and even set up, at least partly, via Google’s Assistant on Android Wear.
Just long-press the power button to activate Google Assistant, tell it what you want, et voilá:
Set timer for 15 minutes. Nap time.
Start stopwatch. Go, time that.
Set alarm for 5 a.m. Good night.
Here, of course, things already got a bit smarter than your ordinary watch, certainly as long as you’re online…
The Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 Watch as a Smartwatch
With the display of location and maps, with special sensor displays, and with the mention of the Assistant, finally, we have already talked about the WSD-F20 as quite a smart piece.
Talking of a smartwatch, though, I assume that most people will think of notifications, first of all, followed by things like smartphone music player control and apps.
Let’s have a look there!
Notifications on the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20
Easily the one raison d’etre and saving grace of smartwatches could be their notifications management.
At least, the vision for them was that one could remain informed, satisfying FOMO, without constantly pulling out one’s phone to check notifications there.
Just have the watch discreetly buzz you, glance at it to see if the news were worthy of any of your attention, continue with your work. Or life.
It still helps to block most apps from sending notifications, frankly, but the way notifications are handled e.g. here on the Casio ProTrek Smart with Android Wear 2.0 is pretty nice. The (factory) way I see it:
If the display is on standby, there is only the vibration buzz of something new.
With the normal display/watchface on, the main data of the notification is shown.
Then, a round symbol similar to the ones shown next to the sender name in Gmail and other Google stuff (including for one’s own account) showing what or who the notification came from appears at the bottom of the display before fading out again.
Either way, when there are (two or more) unread notifications, their number is shown in a small icon at the top of the watch face display.
Swipe down and you get into the notifications.
There, the icon and name of the message’s/notification’s sender is shown along with a short text such as the e-mail’s subject line and intro.
Swipe left or right on a notification, and you have dismissed it (on the watch as well as the connected smartphone).
Tap the notification to open it, see more data (such as when it was delivered), read the whole text (of the notification, as far as that delivers it – that is a phone setting, too…) and get to options.
For tweets, for example, you could reply to them (on your smartphone, not on the watch, though), and in further options re-tweet or like them right from the smartwatch.
Emails can, depending on where they came from, be archived, replied to (this time, straight on the watch, with pre-populated replies, audio, emoji, or using the on-screen keyboard to type a reply).
It all just depends on the app and what that offers.
You have hopefully gained an impression of the Casio ProTrek Smart WSD-F20 by now.
Hopefully, when it comes to an impression of what I think of it, a positive impression, but also a “it depends” one…
If you wanted to run 100-milers with perfect control of your data, no worries about battery, and heart rate recording, then this outdoors smartwatch wouldn’t be for you. (We’ll have a closer look at reasons – and sensible use cases – for that kind of thing in part 2 of this review, coming online in a week or two.)
In fact, a smartwatch like the Casio ProTrek Smart might not even be for you if you get a thousand notifications a day.
For me, with the way I manage notifications already on my phone, use the Google ecosystem to its fullest, and enjoy pointers to my location and situation in the world, the Casio ProTrek Smart has well proven itself.
Sure, like my smartphone, I better plug it in every night to really draw good use from it. That use more than makes up for the slight hassle of managing energy, trying to find ways to recharge on the go and off-grid (in my sometimes extreme case), though.
It’s been a pleasure to use and a helpful tool even on the travels in China (where Google services are often an issue) and it still serves me so well that it has become my daily-wear watch.
If you find yourself interested, consider getting the watch from REI or Amazon via my affiliate links: