Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review

Casio's WSD-F20A Wear OS watch is classier, more reasonably priced than the original

The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 is a good smartwatch with features too niche for most people.
The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 is a good smartwatch with features too niche for most people.
The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 is a good smartwatch with features too niche for most people.

Highs

  • Useful outdoor features
  • Solid GPS functionality
  • Clever dual-layer display
  • Wear OS offers better user experience over 2.0
  • Daylong battery

Lows

  • No heart-rate monitor
  • Expensive
  • Bulky design, still not fully circular
  • Fickle charging cable

Looking for an outdoor watch? Your mind may trickle to Casio, maker of the popular rugged G-Shock series. But if you want something different, take a look at Casio’s second-generation smartwatch, the Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 or WSD-F20A. It runs Google’s Wear OS, meaning you get useful outdoor features, as well as the ability to see and interact with notifications from your phone. Not much has changed from last year’s WSD-F10, but there’s finally GPS on board. In our Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review, we find the addition of GPS to be useful, but the watch still is meant for a niche audience.

Update: Casio has released an updated model, the WSD-F20A. We’ve added more details about the watch mostly in the design and price section, and photos as well.

Bulky but not obtrusive

A big watch, no doubt, the Pro Trek WSD-F20 did manage to avoid feeling like we were wearing a brick on our wrist. It’s largely the same size as last year’s WSD-F10, but a little slimmer. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as an everyday watch because of the size, but its sturdy construction is a welcome benefit for something bound to take a beating while outdoors.

Casio also released the WSD-F20A, which has a slightly smaller case, and it uses stainless steel for the bezel as opposed to resin on the WSD-F20. We didn’t notice too much of a difference in size and weight, but we think it’s the most aesthetically pleasing version of the WSD-F20 available. It comes in a unique indigo-and-black color, and the markers on the bezel are slightly more subtle. Feature-wise, there’s nothing different about this model, but it is $100 cheaper.

The MIL-STD-810G-certified rugged design doesn’t mean the watch can just take a beating — you can also take it for a swim thanks to its water-resistance of up to 50 meters. The watch’s companion polyurethane band is also comfortable and easy to clean – be it sweat, mud, rain, or whatever the outdoors throws at you. For the regular WSD-F20, the orange color model is our favorite, but there’s also an all-black option if you want something a little more muted. There’s also a “limited-edition” white version of the device, but only 1,500 models of the Casio WSD-F20WE were made, and you can’t purchase it anymore.

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 (now Wear OS) smartwatches, such as the Moto 360, but almost all circular Wear OS 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 Wear OS 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 Wear OS and special Casio outdoor features — but you can switch to the monochrome LCD, which only gives you the time and date and lets the watch last up to a month. Huawei implemented a similar feature in the Huawei Watch 2, where you can turn off Wear OS 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 Wear OS applications. Press and hold it, and you will also be able to talk to the Google Assistant.

Wear OS

Google improved its smartwatch operating system with the release of Android Wear 2.0 last year. It features a better-looking interface that’s easier to use; the Google 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. A new update to Wear OS, the new name of Android Wear, is coming soon and will further improve the usability of the watch.

Like other Wear OS watches, the interface is 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.

Responding to notifications can be awkward, but there thankfully are 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 Wear OS 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.

A new update to Wear OS is coming soon and will further improve the usability of the watch..

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 you can also use it to control your smart home products like with Google Home devices.

One of our complaints last year was how the Wear OS interface looks out of place alongside the Casio features. The same is true again on the WSD-F20A. Wear OS looks sleek and minimal, while Casio’s software is noisy and cluttered. 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 Wear OS watch look distinct when compared to other smartwatches.

Casio hits the great outdoors

Aside from its Wear OS 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. In January 2018, Casio also launched the “Journey” watch face, which displays a map of your current location behind an analog watch face. Through Google Calendar events, the face will also show a map to your next destination.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
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.

That said, Casio does include that particularly useful way to turn off Wear OS 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 Wear OS 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 Pro Trek is expensive, coming in at $500 — far more than most Wear OS smartwatches — and it does not have any cellular functionality. The WSD-F20A, on the other hand, is $100 less. We think it’s the one you should purchase. It’s available now at Casio’s website, as well as retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, REI, Best Buy, and more.

The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 and WSD-F20A have a standard limited warranty, which protects the watches from manufacturing defects up to one year from the date of purchase. It does not cover accidental damage.

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, Skagen Falster, 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. Casio also announced the WSD-F30 recently, which will be released soon, so you may want to wait for a price drop on the WSD-F20 or F20A, or just buy the newer model.

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. You should also take a look at the Galaxy Watch from Samsung.

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.

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 Wear OS 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. We also recommend waiting for a price drop on the WSD-F20 or F20A, or simply purchasing the WSD-F30 when it’s released soon.

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