Rugged, bulky, expensive, and almost worth it
Android-based Wear OS smartwatches may not have taken off like fitness based watches and bands but that hasn’t stopped the widely-lauded, well-known watchmakers at Casio from continuing efforts in that market with their latest PRO TREK series wearable, the WSD-F30.
It also hasn’t stopped the company from taking a completely different approach to the segment with a design that shirks health sensors and a slim build while upping the price to cover more outdoors features and a solid design.
This is, by no means, the least expensive device available at around $550 per watch with added cost for extra bands or Casio’s specially designed band that can be used over the top of a thick coat or jacket. That's also easily switched via quick release pins and sold under model number WSA-BX1.
While the wrist-borne accessory follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Casio PRO TREK WSD-F20, it refines on that offering by cutting away at the overall size, incorporating a high level of GPS accuracy, and adding a dual-layered screen. All of that equates to a unique experience that will be exceptional for those who -- as the wearable's name implies is allowed for -- like to undertake the odd trek or three on less-frequently traveled paths.
The price tag will put the PRO TREK WSD-F30 from Casio out of reach for many but it definitely isn’t going to be ‘too high’ for a limited group of potential buyers.
This watch was made for trekking …and that all starts with a unique build and battery life
The nature of Casio's PRO TREK can be found right in its name and despite the fact that trekking is a very niche use case, it is very good at what it does. That's setting aside added Android-based Wear OS functionality and Google Assistant connectivity that are nearly identical to other watches on that operating system. The hyper-specific features and category this watch serves start with the company's decision to approach smartwatch making differently in terms of external design and display technology.
Rather than centering around a more standard metal-frame, the design language is heavy on the resin-type materials found in traditional sports watches, accented by a watchband that's got both a carbon fiber look and feel. I have small wrists so that band's shortly-spaced notches were helpful to find a snug but comfortable fit while it will fit much larger arms too.
That rugged design isn't skin-deep though, with its rough exterior -- accented with orange in this case, though blue and black colors are available -- showcasing its military-grade toughness. The Casio PRO TREK can easily withstand pressures generated under just over 160-feet of water, making it suitable for not just a long hike in wet weather but for relatively deep free-diving too.
I didn't ever get Casio's latest smartwatch anywhere near that depth but the ruggedization is enough. At no point during my use of this watch did I need to stop and think about whether or not the activity I was taking part in would damage it. That's a level of assurance that isn't there in most wearables.
The plastics will offer a better experience in terms of holding the look too since scratches won't be as prominent as with metal cases and the water resistance means that rain, a swim at the lake, a day at the beach, or pretty much any other scenario isn't a problem.
The battery included in the Casio PRO TREK WSD-F30 and its optimizations may be another of its biggest highlights, if not the biggest.
A significant portion of the extended life probably comes down to the fact that health tracking is non-existent here but it lasts an extremely long time compared to its rivals. The company rates that at 1.5-days with GPS used intermittently and up to a full month with just the monochrome layer of the 1.2-inch 390 x 390 resolution display active. Up to two nights and three days of activity can be had with GPS location recording turned on making up for its high-cost in "extended mode."
I saw battery life at just over four days with the settings unchanged out-of-the-box. Since I'm not necessarily going on lengthy expeditions or taking full advantage of the Wear OS features, that's going to be atypical but it is a very good battery life all the same. That's compared to under a day of use with most devices I've used.
For charging, from its automatic entry into Monochrome mode for battery conservation to completely full took just over 2-hours and half a charge was complete in under an hour. Coupled with its fairly standard input rating, a battery bank or solar power accessory should easily make this one of the most hassle-free watches for extended outings or a week-long camping trip or more.
The dual-layer display helps make battery life great without sacrificing usefulness
The display on this Casio smartwatch is dual-layered and most of my time was spent with the screen showing in Monochrome Mode, which sets this watch far apart from others in its category. Rather than simply dimming things down on standby, Casio ensures that a more efficient single-color display is used unless deeper features are being accessed. That's easily and clearly visible, even in full sunlight and from almost all angles.
In Monochrome Mode, only time, date, and data from the built-in sensors are shown so, it can really only be used as a watch. That's not at all a problem. In fact, the ability to tap the watch icon on the settings menu to activate Monochrome -- accessed via a simple swipe down -- means it was not difficult to switch over or back. That made conserving battery life as needed between more intensive use sessions a breeze.
Full-color mode brings forward a similarly bright experience and viewing angles but in vibrant color that only OLED can offer. That means that the included -- or custom -- watch faces, apps, and notifications show up as they should on a $550 smartwatch. The optimization of this watch is high as well, allowing for buttery smooth, responsive interactions with the display that feel comparable to a similarly-priced smartphone.
Specialized software means there's no getting lost and a whole lot more
Full-color offline maps can be downloaded and location tracking happens via a triple threat combination of GPS, Russia's GLONASS, and Japan's Michibiki. In day-to-day use, that's not going to mean much to the average user. For those who want to get out and see the world, coupled with a plethora of apps associated with mapping, that's going to mean there's almost no situation where getting lost becomes an issue.
Better still, accessing built-in tools and maps the Casio PRO TREK WSD-F30 is designed around is as simple as pressing a button. All three of the smooth-operating button metal buttons on this watch are textured, with differences in the texture between the top or bottom button and the center key.
The button at the middle is used how one might expect, for accessing the home screen, watch apps, or turning the gadget off and on. The topmost button accesses a map of the user's current position. That proves extremely useful for finding your location or a route to another place at a glance.
More useful still, two of the watch faces have maps built right in, one with a standard map view and another with an accurate topographical view to give a better sense of the overall terrain. On either of those, a quick tap removes the hands or makes those transparent with the former of the two also showing customizable data from the location or an app.
Casio includes three watch faces-- in addition to those that can be downloaded and customized from the Play Store -- and the third shows a couple of interchangeable metrics as well as the date and time in a more traditional digital watch format.
For mapping, Casio includes offerings Satelite, Terrain, and the standard Map views from Google Maps as well as Mapbox's Street, Outdoors, Dark, Light, and Satelite views. Tying those to GPS under the Map hardware button or in the app drawer is Casio's "Location Memory" application. That can be used to save route history or set waypoints based on the destination, location, and distance in addition to allowing users to document their trip with various markers and voice memos.
The specialty software doesn't stop there either. Another included piece of software called "Activity" takes other measurement sensors included in the device -- linked to air pressure, location, altitude, speed, and distance -- and provides activity-specific metrics. Users can select from Trekking, Cycling, Snowsports, and even Fishing or Paddling sports modes.
Each allows activity recording too so users can track their ski run route, speed, distance, and times or how many fish they've caught and whether or not conditions are good for that activity. Users can take advantage of the Moment Setter app before starting any of those to be alerted when certain conditions or goals have been met. With Moment Link, up to nine people can be joined into a group to track participants progress and send messages.
Better still, all of that can easily be backed up via Google Drive through a connection with a smartphone.
A press on the bottom hardware button can be used to quickly access the built-in toolkit Casio has provided for the wearer. Aside from being available with a single click -- or multiple clicks for scrolling through the tools -- all of those are exceptionally easy to use.
The remaining tools include sunrise and sunset time tracker that points out the relevant event direction, making it easier to keep track of and take a break from an ongoing activity to watch either. The tide tool tracks local tide levels and its secondary built-in application helps the wearer track fishing metrics in a similar fashion to the related Activity app.
Last but not least, the "My Graph" tool lets users track their own metrics from activity time and step counts to exercise time, calorie consumption, and a cumulative total of altitude changes.
Here's where this watch doesn't quite meet the demands of its premium motif
The Casio WSD-F30 PRO TREK is thick and bulky. Despite being noticeably thinner and measurably scaled back in every way compared to its predecessor, there are going to be plenty who are unimpressed with its size. The weight of the wearable, although mostly stemming from the world-renowned OEM's choice to not use much by way of metals, doesn't square well will its chunkiness at all.
Proportions of the Casio PRO TREK smartwatch do bring some benefits to the table in terms of protecting the screen, improving ruggedization, and allowing the comparatively massive bolt-like fasteners that give it its outdoors aesthetic.
There aren't any speakers to be found here either, with Casio relying on a couple of variations on the standard vibration motor to inform wearers of notifications. That's also not an issue that will affect everybody since only a handful of Wear OS gadgets ship with a speaker and there aren't many features that take advantage of it. But it will feel like a step back for those who might be coming from a smartwatch that does have one.
Speaking on what this watch doesn't do, this particular gadget isn't going to offer up the fitness-oriented metrics often found in its counterparts because that's simply not what it's intended for. Health tracking is limited to almost nothing and it certainly wouldn't be useful for sleep tracking. This smartwatch is made to survive extremes and help its wearer stay on course while keeping its Android-based roots and very little else.
Probably the one to buy if you love the outdoors and want a Wear OS watch
Taken collectively, all of that means there will be plenty of potential customers who not only aren't impressed but who find it hard to justify the cost at all. Casio has geared this watch toward a very specific group of users and, bearing that in mind, the cost is certainly justifiable.
My own experience with the device didn't begin to put it through its paces but each of its applications and tracking features is as close to accurate as it's possible to get within the context of a smartwatch. Those are all laid out in a way that makes them easily accessible too. The battery life and charging time are similarly phenomenal, as one would expect from a name like Casio.
Summarily, I would not be able to recommend the Casio PRO TREK WSD-F30 to the average user who wouldn't make use of the array of mapping and environment tool or features. For those who spend a good deal of time outdoors or in environments where those features are helpful or convenient, particularly for long periods of time, there's probably not many, if any, better Wear OS smartwatches on the market right now.