Fitness trackers, for the most part, are not very attractive pieces of wearable tech. They may be cheap, but they never look quite right outside the gym. How about a hybrid smartwatch? They often provide way more functionality than a traditional fitness band, but at a steeper price.
Casio has found middle ground with the G–Shock GBA-800, which visually is obviously a G-Shock, but with all the step-tracking functionality you want from a simple fitness band. The price is realistic, and you’re getting all the usual G-Shock watch benefits — toughness, toughness, and a bit more toughness — to go along with a Bluetooth connection.
The GBA-800 is unmistakably a G-Shock. The angular, chunky, built-for-anything body is attached to a flexible strap, and the whole package is made to resist even the harshest treatment. Waterproof to 200 meters and able to withstand knocks, bangs, and long drops, you’ll have to work hard to even scratch the GBA-800. It may look over-engineered, but that’s a part of its appeal, and at least it has the brawn to match the looks.
Glance at the face and you’ll see it’s a hybrid analog, with two hands telling the time and a digital readout underneath. The display shows time, world time, stopwatch and timers, plus information on fitness levels. There’s also a circular graphic at the one o’clock position showing progress towards your daily step goal. There are four buttons on the body, each performing a different function, and a single large button to activate the backlight. There’s no touchscreen or complicated functionality here.
Put the GBA-800 on, and it’s a comfortable everyday watch. Casio has fitted a set of plastic case protector mouldings either side of the 15-hole strap, which helps it fit better around the wrist. But these often painfully catch our wrist hair. These aren’t found on the majority of G-Shock watches, so they will come as a surprise to even the most experienced G-Shock wearers. The watch is made to be worn loosely, so it never became sweaty, and despite it still being a fairly large watch, it’s compact by G-Shock standards.
Casio doesn’t seem to consider the GBA-800 unisex, and advertises it on men’s wrists. But while it’s larger than Casio’s Baby G range of G-Shock watches aimed at women, it is still smaller than most other regular full-size G-Shock watches. This means if your wrist is too slender or small for other G-Shocks, this one may still work on you. For women who don’t want the masculine design, Casio’s BGS-100 is the Baby G equivalent.
The GBA-800 is unmistakably a G-Shock.
Although we’ve been wearing the shockingly-bright lime green model, there are other versions in more muted colors out there. The combination of the green and dark grey is so funky, it’s hard to settle for the matte green or blue versions. They’re just a bit dull after looking at this one.
The GBA-800 looks like a G-Shock, and G-Shocks look like watches, not fitness trackers. This is a very good thing, and provided you pick a more everyday color, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to wear it everyday, with anything. Try saying that about a basic Fitbit or Misfit wearable.
Fitness tracking and app
It’s a fairly basic fitness tracking system using a three-axis accelerometer inside the G-Shock. It’ll count your steps, estimate calorie burn, and measure exercise intensity. Using the timer, you can count the number of sets you do, and the stopwatch is there for runners who want split times and to assign targets. There’s no heart-rate monitor or sleep tracking, and the app doesn’t provide instruction, motivation, or exercise plans.
On the watch, press the Reset button to see exact step count, and features are cycled through using the Mode button. Progress is quickly visible on the graphic at the 1 o’clock position. Handily, the stopwatch is all setup using the G-Shock app, which quickly and reliably connected to iOS on our iPhone every time. This is a massive improvement over early connected Casio watches, so if you were put off early on, things have changed for the better.
The GBA-800 is the epitome of wear-and-forget tech. You don’t have to remember to start exercise routines, worry that the watch isn’t tight enough on your wrist for the heart rate monitor to register, or even to charge the watch on a regular basis. You put it on, go for a run or a workout, or just about your daily business, and get a basic indication of your activity levels. The GBA-800 isn’t for the serious fitness addict, but it doesn’t aim to be either. The chance to download stopwatch logs will make it attractive to runners though.
The app is Casio’s general G-Shock Connected app, and it looks after all G-Shock watches with a Bluetooth connection, should you own more than one. We tried the version for iOS, but were disappointed to see it still hasn’t been tweaked for native display on the iPhone X. It’s only been about 8 months, so no hurry Casio.
It’s attractive and pleasantly designed, with menus spread across the bottom of the screen, and big red text that’s easily found and tapped for more details. We like the way it’s possible to set the world time in the app, adjust step count targets, timer and stopwatch goals, and even see a visual user guide. Few other fitness apps are so concise and user-friendly. It’s not the fastest app, which seems to be a design choice, as swiping through screens is often slower than we’d like due to animations and screen fades.
Watch features and battery
What else can the watch do? Outside of telling the time, you can select an additional world time zone, and activate a phone finder with a five-second press of the Start button. There are five different alarms, which sadly have to be set on the watch rather than in the app, which would have made life easier. Everything worked as you’d expect without any problems.
Good news on the battery side. You don’t have to charge the GBA-800. It has a standard CR2016 battery inside, which is expected to last two years before it needs replacing.
Price, warranty, and availability
The G-Shock GBA-800 is reasonably priced at $100, or 120 British pounds, which puts it above cheap fitness bands from Xiaomi, but alongside some of the better looking fitness bands from Fitbit. It’s also less expensive than most smartwatches, including hybrids. It’s available directly from G-Shock’s online store, through its retail stores, and selected partner retailers. G-Shock watches have a two year warranty.Our Take
The G-Shock GBA-800 is visually exciting, practically indestructible, and straightforward in every respect. It’s a classic G-Shock watch first, with added activity tracking to tempt you more, and it’s a massive style improvement over a cheap fitness band. A regret-free buy you’ll enjoy.
Is there a better alternative?
The world isn’t short of fitness trackers. There are dozens if not hundreds out there, at all different prices. We recommend the $25 Misfit Flash if you don’t want to spend much. Alternatively, Fitbit’s Flex 2 is the cheapest from the popular brand, costing around $60 now, while the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 or Mi Band 3 are around $35 with an importer. They’re great examples of fitness bands, but aren’t exactly stylish. We’re not denying their functionality; but the G-Shock GBA-800 has them beaten when it comes to wearability.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is our pick for anyone that doesn’t want a smartwatch-style tracker, all of which cost at least $200. The Garmin is feature-packed and definitely one for fitness addicts. However, while it comes in different colors, it’s still damn ugly. The GBA-800 is better compared to hybrid watches like the Nokia Steel HR, but that’s $180. If you’re a fan of the G Shock look, the GBA-800 is the only G-Shock watch with fitness tracking.
How long will it last?
It’s a G-Shock, therefore it’ll outlast us all. The battery will only need attention every couple of years, so provided Casio maintains the app, the GBA-800 will give you many years of happy use.
Should you buy one?
Yes. The GBA-800 has that unique G-Shock style and provides basic activity tracking without any fuss, all for a sensible price. The app works perfectly, there are plenty of colors to choose from, and it’ll withstand anything up to and including light artillery fire. We actually wanted to wear the GBA-800 without worrying about daily step count, something we’ve never felt about a fitness band, showing Casio has managed to breathe a little life into the sub-$100 fitness wearable market. The GBA-800 is here so you don’t have to settle for an ugly, cheap fitness band anymore.