Last year I had the opportunity to test and review Casio’s WSD-F10, a smartwatch designed with the active outdoor enthusiast and adventure traveler in mind. Although I am an Apple Watch and iPhone user, I came away impressed with all of the features the WSD-F10 included out of the box, and the way that Android Wear operates to deliver a smooth, easy to use experience.
Fast forward to 2017 and both Casio and Google have refined their products further, delivering an even better experience for users. Recently I’ve been testing the new Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 smartwatch as well, and have found it to not only be a worthy successor to the original model, but an impressive and powerful device in a class all its own.
Like last year’s WSD-F10, which remains in the Casio line-up, this new watch was built for use in the outdoors. It is rugged, durable, and can take a lot of punishment without fear of it getting beat up. My test model easily shrugged off everything I threw at it and came away completely unscathed. This helps to provide a nice sense of security and confidence when wearing the WSF-F20 in the field where you won’t have to think twice about whether or not it could get damaged. This level of ruggedness is much appreciated of course, but it does make the watch bulkier and heavier than most other wearables on the market and gives it an undeniable “outdoorsy” look that will make it bit less versatile when wearing it in other environments.
The latest edition of Casio’s outdoor smartwatch received a number of upgrades, including the ability to run Android Wear 2.0. This introduced such features as stand alone apps, a redesign of the interface, built-in Google Maps, Google Translate, and direct access to Google Assistant. There are even customizable watch faces giving users the opportunity to customize their wearable devices further. This alone makes the new Pro Trek a major upgrade over the previous generation, delivering a lot more power and versatility to the wearer’s wrist. The inclusion of these features helps to make this smartwatch a lot smarter.
But easily the biggest upgrade to the WSD-F20 is the inclusion of onboard GPS tracking. While this is common functionality on most outdoor watches, it was omitted from last year’s model simply because of the challenges associated with having GPS on a smartwatch with already limited battery life. Since then however, Casio has found a way to include a low-power GPS chip on its latest offering, allowing it to track location, distance, speed, and a number of other variables without the need to be paired to a smartphone. This update eliminates the biggest criticism of last year’s model and makes the WSD-F20 much more attractive to the active outdoorsman.
In addition to built-in GPS, the smartwatch is also equipped with a number of other sensors, including a barometer, magnetometer, accelerometer, and more. Each of these pieces of technology work in conjunction with one another to help track movement, altitude, shifts in weather, and so on. All of that data is fed into the watch’s custom apps that track activity in a wide variety of sports, including running, cycling, hiking, and even fishing.
Like its predecessor, the WSD-F20 uses a special dual-layer LCD screen that is designed to improve battery life as well. When in its basic mode, the screen displays time, date, and a variety of customizable information in a monochrome, non-backlit fashion. But, when using some of the watch’s more higher level functions, such as maps and tracking, the screen shifts to a full-color mode that is much higher resolution, with crisper and more clear graphics. Unfortunately, that screen still gets a bit washed out in bright sunlight, which is perplexing for a watch designed for use outside.
As with any outdoor or smartwatch, battery life is a key component. Casio says we should get a day of normal use out of our WSD-F20, depending on the features that are used. For instance, running GPS at all times will drain the battery dramatically faster, cutting down the usage time significantly. During my testing, I found that I could usually get through a full day with a bit of a charge left over, which is solid for a smartwatch, but a bit annoying for one designed for use in the outdoors. That means that in order to keep the watch functioning during extended trips, you’ll need to find a way to keep it charged each and every day. That isn’t too much of a problem when staying in hotels, but while traveling in the backcountry it becomes a significant hurdle to overcome. That challenge is made even more difficult thanks to a proprietary charging cable.
I tested the WSD-F20 with both an Android device and an iPhone, and as you would expect the experience is better when paired with another Google-powered gadget. Still, thanks to Android Wear 2.0, the watch does offer more functionality with an iPhone over the previous generation. No matter where your allegiances lie however, its easy to get use to receiving notifications, phone calls, and text messages on your wrist. That is a level of convenience brought by pretty much every smartwatch, but it is nice to have for sure.
The WSD-F20 delivers a lot of features and functionality that outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers are sure to love. It is tough, durable, and versatile, and puts a lot of excellent and useful features right on the wearers wrist, not the least of which is GPS tracking and maps. All of that technology comes with a $500 price tag, which may be price when compared to other smartwatches but is highly competitive with other outdoor timepieces. That makes this a good value, provided you don’t mind recharging it often.
Buy now at REI.com.
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