(Pocket-lint) - Credit where it's due: Casio has really stuck to its guns on its approach to WearOS smartwatches. Rather than just make another watch like so many others, it opted to go with its tried and tested rugged, chunky looks and an interesting dual-screen makeup.
Now on to its third generation, we wanted to see if Casio has been able to take the experience gained from the first two and make the third a killer outdoors watch. However, with no heart-rate sensor, has the WSD-F30 missed an integral beat?
Chunky, outdoorsy looks
- 5ATM (50 metre) water resistance
- MIL-STD-810 durability
Just like the previous two watches, the WSD-F30 is an outdoor watch. It's big and chunky, with plenty of character - including metallic exposed screws and bolts everywhere, to give it that outdoorsy look. The black bezel around the display protrudes quite far, presumably in an effort to avoid the screen being impacted from head-on collisions.
Now, while it's hardly a tiny watch, we appreciate the lengths Casio has gone to in shaving dimensions down to a more palatable size. It's half a millimetre thinner and virtually a full 4mm narrower than its predecessor. If you're upgrading, you'll definitely be able to feel the difference, but if you've gone from more traditional smartwatches to the Casio, it'll still feel quite huge.
Physical controls are lead by three rather large textured buttons on the right. Disappointingly for a watch this rugged looking, the buttons feel very spongey when pressed. Like pressing on a button made from rubber, without even a hint of a click, neither physical or simulated by some kind of haptic engine.
Similarly, while durable, the watch strap isn't particularly well-designed either. The top portion of each of the strap halves is pretty thick and rigid, so doesn't bend or move easily. It feels like it's been designed to last a long time rather than being to be comfortable or good looking. We didn't particularly like wearing it day in day out. That said, the strap's rectangular slots for the clasp are well-designed - placed at frequent intervals up the long half of the strap - while the two loops designed to hold it once attached do a good job of ensuring it stays put.
All in all, Casio has clearly built this watch to not just last, but to thrive in tough conditions. It's not going to be destroyed by a wet, windy scramble in Snowdonia, and its strap won't come loose even if you try to ruin it on purpose.
Given all this solidity, it's surprising then that the charging connector isn't quite so tough. It uses a pretty weak magnet to attach to a dedicated port on the side, so easy to knock off accidentally. We'd much prefer one similar to a Garmin; one that clicks into place and stays put until you yank it out.
Two displays is better than one?
- 1.2-inch round dual-layer display
- 390 x 390 colour OLED panel
- Monochrome digital LCD
What made Casio's smartwatch unique when it launched was its dual-screen technology. It has one regular colour screen, just like most other smartwatches, but a second monochrome refractive LCD panel on top to display the time constantly.
We use the past tense because - since Casio launched it - other companies are doing it now too. The TicWatch Pro from Mobvoi, for instance, uses a similar setup but in a watch that looks much more likely to be worn in the office than Casio's Pro Trek number.
The advantage of Casio's two-screen setup is two-fold. Firstly, it means you always have the time on display. Secondly, it makes it possible to extend battery life to days of use, as long as you're content to limit the number of smartwatch features you need.
While it's certainly great having this secondary display that's always visible, the primary display could be better. Use it indoors as a regular smartwatch and you'll not have any problems: the screen is clear, colourful and sharp enough. Use it for one of its many outdoor tracking features, however, and you might struggle to see it on a sunny day - we took it out in the mountains with bright sunshine and struggled to see all the data that was on the screen, even when squinting.
The great outdoors
- Pressure/altitude sensor
- GPS + GLONASS and QZSS satellite navigation
- Compass, gyroscope and accelerometer
What sets this watch apart from many others is its activity tracking features, where it excels. Like its predecessor, the Activity app has the ability to track various outdoor pursuits, like trekking, paddling in a canoe/kayak, cycling, snow sports (skiing/snowboard) and even fishing. With this selection, and the lack of a heart-rate sensor, this clearly isn't a watch for gym-addicts or runners. This is a different kind of activity tracker.
Depending on the activity you're doing, the interface will include different metrics during the session. Go hiking with it, for instance, and you'll be able to set an elevation target and then see how far away you are from that. You also see distance and time, with second and third display areas showing you your ascent and descent details, as well as a map showing where you are and a line tracking where you've been. All of this is possible with downloadable maps. With mountains being particularly difficult places to find a mobile signal, you can't rely on auto-refreshing map data, so downloadable maps are a necessity.
The only real issue we had with data was that, after the activity is done, there's no real user-friendly way to check it over. You don't get an Activity app on your phone to browse through your stats in a convenient interface like Withings, Google Fit or Strava might.
If you're prepared for a tiny bit of work you can sync the data with your Google Drive account and export it as a KML file, which is compatible with the Google Earth desktop app. And the end result is pretty cool. You can see your tracked route on the 3D map, zoom in and out, and get the full 3D Google Earth effect. Sadly though, KML isn't an app format supported by many other applications. We'd rather there was a dedicated Casio Activity web portal or app.
That's not to say there's no app at all. You do get a Moment Setter app for the watch, but that's limited to just changing the way the watch acts during activities. For instance, you can get the watch to automatically show a map when you get to specific location, or show an alert when you've reached a particular altitude. You can't view activity history - and if you could then we couldn't find a way.
- 1.5 days normal use
- Multi timepiece mode - up to 30 days
With its dual-screen makeup, the Casio has battery performance that outshines most of its WearOS rivals, but when using it as a regular smartwatch the difference isn't massively noticeable. We were able to get through about two days with it before needing to plug it in, which included a 90 minute exercise session within that time.
That said, if the battery does get really low, you can still use it as a watch, just with the secondary digital display being used. Or, if you'd like to, you can customise performance and limit smartwatch features and have a balance between full digital and full smartwatch, which can add a couple of extra days' use. Still, as direct comparisons go, this Casio can't outlast the TicWatch Pro.
Casio continues to offer a WearOS watch with a specific audience in mind. It's a smartwatch for Android users who like their outdoor pursuits. It's well made, tracks activities well, and offers decent enough battery life.
But we're not sure that's quite enough. Truth is, if you want a watch that pairs with your smartphone and accurately tracks your outdoor activities, you might be better served by a Garmin. It may not be a "full" smartwatch, but you can still get notifications, all of your activities are synced, stored and analysed in a fantastically detailed smartphone app - plus you can get heart-rate monitoring which lacks with this Casio.
So we take our hats off to Casio for catering for a specific market, but with the dual-screen unique sales point no longer unique in the market, it's not as appealing as the original idea once was.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Its RRP may be higher than the Casio watch's, but with it now being a few months old, you can easily find it for a similar price to the WSD-F30. As we mentioned, it offers a lot of the same features as the Casio, including downloadable built-in maps, much longer battery life, and it has a heart rate sensor. We think it's one of the best in its class, and if you're any kind of outdoor sports person, this will serve you well.
So it might not be the most suited to outdoor pursuits, but it is far more affordable and has a similar dual-screen makeup to the Casio. What's more, there's a heart rate sensor, and some decent fitness tracking apps. You might need to find/download a dedicated third party app for outdoor pursuits, but in theory it could serve well, even if it does look more like it belongs in the boardroom than in the mountains.