The Casio ProTrek Smartwatch & Viewranger partnership. Is it any good?

Updated: Jan 13, 2019



A while ago I bought the Casio WSD F20-A with the intent on using the Viewranger app for Wear OS, especially when it's raining as my phone isn't waterproof whereas the Casio is.


Equipped with built in low-power GPS and color map functionality, The Casio Protrek F20 series support a wide range of outdoor and water activities and can be used in areas without cellular service


Viewranger specifically optimised their app for Casio when making their maps available through Wear OS, which was also one of the key reasons I made the purchase.


Having been using the watch for the best part of 8 months (and slightly annoyed that the F30 was announced almost immediately after I made the purchase) these are my initial thoughts so far. Whilst I haven't really relied on it for a much larger day hike, there is also a good reason for it.

The watch itself

The rugged and outdoorsy F20 (and slightly cheaper F20-A) both come in at c.£350+ at the time of writing, although this will almost certainly reduce now in January 2019 when the F30 releases. (Update - the F20-A is now £199.99 at Cotswold Outdoor).


The watch is chunky, feels solid and takes up quite a bit of space on the wrist (but that's a good thing). It's waterproof up to 50 metres deep and rated up to MIL-STD-810. Not that military grade means anything (best spec for lowest cost after all) but it's a good sign that the watch can take a beating.

On the right side of the face you have three buttons. Tool, Home and App.


The Tool button takes you into the built-in compass, altimeter, tide graph, sunrise/sunset tracker and a few others.


The home button takes you to your list of apps, or back to the face from in-app.


The App button is a shortcut to an app of your choice (we chose Viewranger, obviously). Casio have built in an app that allows you to record kayaking, mountain trekking, fishing (?) and others, but sadly at this time once you stop recording an activity, that's it. No record, no upload, nothing.


The maps


Viewranger itself is pretty well optimised for Wear OS, as you would hope. The map is zoomed with a single swipe up and down rather than a pinch (handy on the smaller screen) and the level of detail is fantastic. I find myself looking at my phone a lot less now when following one of our routes (it even buzzes to alert you when you wander too far off the track you are following)


The maps are also available offline, meaning you can wander freely in areas with low signal and still navigate with no trouble at all (which we love).


However whereas Viewranger mobile will orient itself to the direction of travel, the maps on Wear OS don't at this time, which can get a bit difficult.


The other issue comes when zooming in and out. Whilst looking at maps offline at a single scale works, if you want to zoom in or out for context while travelling you can sometimes lose your map entirely.


Finally, you need to push routes to your phone in order to follow them and the track recording feature only works with a phone nearby and connected on Bluetooth, so you can't quite leave the mobile at home yet.



Wear OS


Now Wear OS is something I absolutely love. I also have a Fossil Q which looks and functions brilliantly. With the new 2.0 update the Casio is sharp, responsive and surprisingly easy to handle with only a 3.3 cm screen.


It does everything you would expect an Android watch to do and the Google Play store is full of third-party apps you can use to add to your watch and improve its utility day to day.




Battery life & usage


The watch has two screens - timepiece and smartwatch. The timepiece mode allows your watch to function purely as a digital watch with no Android running in the background. In this mode the watch can go roughly a month without charge.

However, when you turn the watch on and use it as a smartwatch the battery life drops dramatically. With medium usage on Friday and Saturday in the office and then outdoors (checking notifications, ignoring emails and then following a 7 mile route on the weekend) we got the battery life down to 24% by the end of the day. In reality, you would be lucky to get 1-2 days out of continued usage out of this watch. Not bad for the average day hiker, but harder to rely on in back country or mountainous terrain without a charger pack.


You can turn 'screen always on' off and have the watch revert to the timepiece-like mode when you aren't looking at it to extend battery life, but you won't gain more than a day with light to medium usage as Wear OS still runs tasks in the background.



Conclusion


Overall this is a good watch for outdoor enthusiasts who also want a bit of tech by their side day to day. I also find this watch benefits me as much in my work life as it does my outdoor life, but I honestly don't trust it enough yet outdoors to rely on it completely and find I keep resorting to Viewranger on my phone. But perhaps that's just me.


If you are looking for a dedicated sports watch however, this may not be the watch for you. A Garmin Forerunner would help you track your sleep, movement, heartrate and more using the proprietary Garmin app which the Casio can't do, but then again the Garmin isn't a pure smartwatch. It does have well over a 7 day battery life however with normal usage!


I'm going to continue wearing and using the F20 despite the launch of the new F30 this year to keep testing out the Viewranger partnership and I'll update this review as I go, so do check back often or subscribe to our newsletter for updates.


James

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