For a G-Shock fan or collector, nothing comes close to the chunky, durable digital Casio watches. Likewise, traditionalists who love using a plain digital watch with all its beeps and button-presses for manually tracking running sessions, the idea of a smartwatch that needs everyday charging would seem counterintuitive.

A product that could crossover between classic and smart might seem niche, but for those it suits it's an ideal. That's where the Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000 comes in. This watch has the smart features you need to automatically track runs, plot your route and read your heart rate, without losing anything that also makes traditional G-Shock digital watches so useful.

Design

  • Dimensions: 63 x 55 x 20.4mm / Weight: 101g
  • Stainless steel and resin case build
  • Waterproof to 200m

Look at it on someone's wrist and there's nothing about this watch that makes it look like it's anything other than a digital G-Shock watch. It's big, chunky and has all the protrusions and bumps you'd expect to find on Casio's ultra-durable watch case.

The watch face is covered in a sheet of round glass, which itself is protected by seven protruding resin elements of the casing. These ensure that if you do bang the watch against anything while wearing it, or you drop it somehow, it's more likely the plastic will feel the force of the impact, not the glass.

There are a lot of markings around the watch's steel bezel, primarily indicating what each of the buttons do - whether that be the backlight or back/lap buttons on the right, or the three menu select buttons on the left. All of the buttons are suitably large and textured, making them easy to use, even in the cold and with a gloved hand.

Turn the GBD-H1000 over and this is when you get the first indication that you're looking at more than your typical G-Shock. Protruding from the stainless steel here you'll find an optical heart-rate monitor, as well as a three-point connector. The former is obviously for measuring your heart-rate during the day and for activities, the latter is for when you might need to manually charge it (which won't be all that often given its clever solar charging).

As for the strap, that's flexible but also suitably strong and versatile. It features rectangular cutouts all the way down the one side for fixing in the clasp, and these holes span almost the entire length of the longer strap side. On the underside, it features a subtle rippled design to help airflow, as well as a diagonal textured pattern to aid grip and avoid the watch slipping around during a wet or sweaty run.

Like any good G-Shock, the GBD-H1000 is waterproof - up to a massive 200 metres - and has been built to withstand pretty much anything you can throw at it. So whether you wear it while it's tipping down with rain, or when you're swimming, it will survive.

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To wear, it's safe to say that you can definitely feel the GBD-H1000 on your wrist. It's not the slimmest or lightest watch around, but you soon get accustomed to the feel of it - although we never quite got used to wearing it in our sleep. For us it's definitely one for taking off at the end of the day.

That said, it looks really cool, and we're particularly fond of the white and fluorescent green/yellow colourway we've been testing. Others are available - of course - so if you'd prefer a more subtle black, or a bright red model, you can get either of those as well.

Smart features and interface

  • Built-in heart-rate monitor, altimeter, barometer, temperature sensor, compass, GPS tracking

What might make this watch appeal is that its interface and display is very much digital. You get that classic monochrome, reflective, high contrast display panel with a one-side LED backlighting which lights the whole panel up in a cool blue light. You can see it even when it's bright daylight. And, at night, you can set it to automatically activate whenever you raise your wrist.

Press the buttons and you get that classic beeping you'd expect to hear from a Casio, with the back 'beep' being a higher pitch. There's no shortage of menus and screens to work your way through either - and it's in these menus you see the first glimpses of it being a smartwatch.

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By pressing the mode button, you can then scroll through the various features, while the display button cycles through different views for that mode. For instance, if you're in the heart-rate mode, you can either see your reading in real time, or see a chart plotting the averages over the past 24 hours.

Next up is a sensor reading mode, which lets you see a compass, an altimeter or barometer, and a temperature reading. All these elements are powered by the same triple sensor on the side of the watch. It acts as a thermometer as well as being able to determine altitude and air pressure.

Keep scrolling and you eventually get the screen that lets you see smartphone notifications. When paired with a smartphone the GBD-H1000 mirrors notifications and gives you that classic 'beep' when they come through (you can set it to vibrate or just mute it if you want).

Now, unlike proper smartwatches you can't really interact with these notifications. You can only read a short snippet of text, and see which app it's coming from. It reminds us of some of the earliest smartwatches like the Pebble and Meta that were really simple notification delivery tools.

Fitness, activity tracking and performance

  • Solar-charging system harnesses any light source for charging

Where this watch gets interesting is in the run-tracking department. If you're a runner who has long-relied on digital watches to time your long-distance efforts, and like having the security that comes with having a battery that doesn't run flat quickly, you still get that with the G-Shock GBD-H1000.

Using nothing but its solar-powered battery refilling, you can use it as just a time-keeping watch for up to 12 months (yes, months) without having to plug it into its cable for additional charging. Even with tracking runs using the GPS and heart-rate sensors, you rarely have to plug it in. In fact, we tested it over a period of a few weeks, tracking two or three 40 minute runs per week, and still didn't come close emptying the battery.

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If you're going on a much longer run, you might need a top-up eventually, but with our own use-case, we can imagine being able to go months between charges thanks to its solar powered refilling and relatively low power drainage.

For everyday usage, you'll get much the same activity data you'd get on most activity and fitness trackers. Casio's watch will count your steps, and estimate the number of calories you've burned through the day, as well as keep an eye on your heart-rate averages. That's pretty much it though. It's relatively basic in that daily activity regard.

But as a running watch it offers everything you could need. Press that big run button on the side, wait for it to log your GPS location (which can take a little time), and then you can start your run. While running, you'll be able to see the time you've been running, how far you've gone and your pace. By default, you'll get that beep sound again once you get to the end of each kilometre.

Finish a run by pressing that big start/stop button, hit save, then wait a little while for it to process the data. Once you're back within range of your smartphone's Bluetooth connection, the data will transfer to the G-Move app on your phone and you can view your running stats, which offers everything you'd want in terms of running metrics.

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You get distance, time, average pace, energy consumption, cadence, ascent and descent, elevation, and a breakdown of your heart-rate zones. Like Garmin's watches, you'll also get a relative aerobic and anaerobic effort breakdown, alongside a recommendation as to how long you need to rest before heading out on another run. This is all shown on a screen which also has the route mapped out at the top.

If you want, you can enable sharing with Strava, so your runs are all automatically logged on the popular third-party running/cycling app.

As for accuracy and performance, the G-Shock GBD-H1000 seemed pretty much the same as a lot of the other watches we've used on the same route. It seems to measure distance a little differently to the Apple Watch - within 50 metres difference on a 5km run as an example - but the key metrics are so close in terms of cadence, speed and heart rate that it's certainly accurate enough.

The fact it has a sensor specifically for measuring altitude, air pressure and temperature, means some of those measurements are more likely to be accurate with the G-Shock than a lot of other fitness trackers.

Our only complaint is its general sluggishness. Launching a tracked run and waiting for GPS takes a bit of time, then saving the activity similarly leaves you waiting for a good 10-20 seconds.

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Still, for those who want to train towards a specific goal - whether that be distance or just improving your fitness - Casio's app lets you setup a training programme from within the app. 

Sadly for those who want to track multiple different activities, this isn't the watch for you. It's run tracking and that's it. There's no mode for cycling, HIIT workouts, walking, and so on - modes that could elevate the experience even more.

Verdict

Compared to any other smartwatch, or smart fitness tracker, the Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000 comes up short in a few areas. It doesn't have a lot of lifestyle features - like contactless payments, or wider activity tracking, there's no colour screen - and its smartphone app is quite basic.

But this Casio's purpose is very different to a normal smartwatch. In our minds, the GBD-H1000 succeeds in its mission of mixing G-Shock classic with modern tracking. So if you want that classic digital G-Shock experience, but want some smart features and run tracking, it hits the nail on the head.

Plus you simply won't find a fitness watch with as long a battery life as this thanks to its solar charging. So if all you do is run, and happen to be a G-Shock fan, this watch ought to suit you down to the ground. 

Also consider

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Casio Pro Trek WSD-F21HR

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If you want that chunky Casio look, and the advantage of both a classic digital display and proper smartwatch interface, the ProTrek WSD-30 is a mix off both worlds. The battery doesn't last as long, but it will do more. 

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Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

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Garmin's watches track a lot of different activities and are regarded as the pinnacle of smart sports watches. Top of the pile is the Fenix range. You get fantastic build, loads of fitness tracking data and great battery life.