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Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Rugged credentials, fiddly design

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
450

Despite its impressive outdoor credentials, a frustrating user experience prevents the WSD-F30 from reaching its potential

Pros 
Robust MIL-STD build
Compass and altimeter
Some innovative features
Cons 
Casio apps are confusing
Terrible charger design
No HR monitor
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Wear OS smartwatches are largely homogeneous by nature because manufacturers are given little scope by Google to stamp their identity on devices beyond the odd software tweak. The Casio WSD-F30, however, is rather different.

The third device in Casio’s ProTrek range, it’s built with outdoor activities firmly in mind. It’s MIL-STD-810G tested against vibration, shock and extreme temperatures, as well as being waterproof to 50m. This is a wearable designed to take the abuse of a multi-day mountain trek without breaking down or giving up.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: What you need to know

As you’d expect, the Casio WSD-F30 has built-in GPS for logging activities. It also has an altimeter and compass so you can check your direction and altitude when you’re out in the hills.

Wear OS might not be the obvious choice for explorers and hikers but the WSD-F30 also differs from its stablemates in that it has Casio’s own apps for mapping and activity logging. The WSD-F30 also counts a handy dual-layer display among its selling points, and a number of special modes designed to extend battery life beyond what you might ordinarily expect of a Wear OS smartwatch.

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One glaring omission is that the WSD-F30 has no heart-rate monitor, which is unusual for a wearable aimed at those with active lifestyles. There’s also no NFC, so you can’t use it to make contactless payments.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Price and competition

At £450, the WSD-F30 is a considerable investment, too. The only other Wear OS device that can match it as far as tough credentials are concerned is the much cheaper Mobvoi Ticwatch S2 (£180) but that watch lacks the Casio’s compass, battery modes and dedicated outdoor apps.

If you’re interested in the Casio primarily for its mapping capabilities, you might also consider the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (£475). Along with full-colour TopoActive Europe maps and turn-by-turn directions, it has 12-day battery life, Spotify playback, NFC, and an optical heart-rate monitor. It's also much more sophisticated as far as fitness features are concerned.

Last but not least, if you need MIL-STD toughness, a compass and altimeter, but are happy to forgo full maps, there’s also the Gamin Instinct (£270). The watch has basic routing tools and offers up to two weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode at a considerably lower price than the Casio. 

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Design and screen

The Casio WSD-F30 is broadly reminiscent of the company’s legendary G-Shock watches and that’s in part thanks to its chunky body, which measures 53.8 × 14.9 x 60.5mm. That’s a good few millimetres wider and taller than the 47mm Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, which is the thicker device by just 0.9mm.

Although it has a touchscreen, the smartwatch also has three physical buttons. The main button opens Wear OS’s main menu and doubles up as a back button, while the other two open Casio’s Map and Tool apps. It makes sense that you need to press these quite firmly to avoid accidentally opening apps and wasting battery life but the squishy feel and lack of feedback from the buttons meant I often had to press two or three times before the app I wanted would launch.

As for the touchscreen, the WSD-F30 has a 1.2in panel and, crucially, it’s a dual-layer display: a 390 x 390 pixel colour OLED screen behind a monochrome LCD panel. The full colour screen is bright and sharp and, thanks to a built-in ambient light sensor, it can be set to adjust brightness to your surroundings automatically.

As long as “Always-on display” is disabled, however, the watch defaults to its low-energy monochrome display after a few seconds of inactivity. This screen shows time, date and battery info by default and although it’s easy to read inside, it’s not quite so easy when it catches the glare of bright sunlight.

With no optical heart-rate sensor to speak of, the WSD-F30 has a simple steel back plate that sits comfortably on the wrist. However, you can’t say the same of the watch’s plastic wristband. It’s much harder than the silicone bands that come with most sport watches and I found it often ended up digging into my wrist uncomfortably. It does, at least, use a spring-bar attachment, so you can swap it out for something else.

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Sadly, though, the hard plastic strap is not the Casio WSD-F30’s worst design flaw. That accolade goes to the charger, which is undoubtedly the least practical smartwatch charger I’ve ever tested. It’s not unusual for a charging cable to use a magnetic attachment but the the WSD-F30’s cable attaches so feebly that it’s easily disconnected with even the smallest of knocks. To add insult to injury, the cable comes in two parts connected by a power block, adding unnecessary bulk when you need to pack it away.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Map and Tool apps

First and foremost, the Casio WSD-F30 is a Wear OS watch, which means that it counts Google Assistant and an impressive selection of third-party apps among its standout features. However, when you dig a little deeper it’s clear that if offers a range of features not available on any of its rivals. Primarily, this comes in the form of Casio’s Tool and Map apps, which are accessible by pressing the appropriate physical buttons.

The Tool app is one of my favourite things about the watch because it’s so simple and effective (for the most part). It comprises a number of widgets that display altitude, atmospheric pressure, step count, day length and tide times among other information, which you can access simply by swiping or using the watch’s buttons.

For most of the widgets, you can also swipe a finger across the screen to uncover another layer of insights such as your recent altitude history on the altitude widget – a handy feature for any hiking trip. However, what stops it from being as great as it might be is there’s nothing to indicate which page of a widget you’re looking at.

As such, you need to memorise which screen you’re on, because swiping right when you’re on the wrong page dumps you back to the watch face. Even more irritatingly, you can’t then swipe left to get back to where you were; maddeningly, you have to press the Tools button.

As for the Map app, this can be opened via the top-right button but is also available, rather confusingly, from the app list via the “Location Memory” shortcut.

Once you’ve wrapped your mind around that quirk, the Map app itself is pretty simple and easy to use. It shows your current location at the touch of a button, and you can then swipe to move around and use the on-screen buttons to zoom in and out. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you’ll find options to save maps offline, start point navigation and review your location history.

Unfortunately, there’s no option to search for points of interest near your current location or to get turn-by-turn directions as you can on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus. Where the WSD-F30 does hold an advantage, however, is in the variety of mapping options it provides. You can choose between Google Maps and MapBox (which uses OpenStreetMap data) at the touch of a button and for each platform there are a number of skins to pick from. In the case of Google Maps, these include map, terrain and satellite and for MapBox you can choose from street, satellite, outdoors, light and dark skins.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Activity tracking and Moment Setter

If you want to log an outdoor activity, Casio’s dedicated Activity app includes modes for trekking, fishing, cycling, kayaking and skiing. Each of these has its own unique data screens, with the fishing mode showing atmospheric pressure and distance while also giving you the option to log catches on the map. Cycling, on the other hand, has data fields for time, speed, distance along with average and top speed.

For each mode you can also use Casio’s “Moment Setter” app to enable different rules that trigger on-screen alerts. In the Snow (skiing) mode, for example, you can set the app to notify you an hour before sunset or to show your average and top speed at the end of each run. This is clever stuff but its implementation, including the name “Moment Setter”, is so unintuitive that it’s hard to see it becoming a hit.

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However, what’s most disappointing is that Casio gives you no easy way to review your activities from your phone. That’s right, the Activities app doesn’t sync with your phone in any meaningful way, instead providing the option to export logs to Google Drive as .KML files.

This is a real shame when most other sports watches, including those from Garmin, sync seamlessly with a companion smartphone app and give you endless data to pore over. The WSD-F30 also lacks an optical heart-rate sensor, which means you’ll have no way off interpreting your exertion levels for any of your hikes or bike rides.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Performance and Battery life

As with most Wear OS watches from the past couple of years, the WSD-F30 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100. For the most part, its performance is nippy enough but typically it delivers a day or so between charges for most Wear OS wearables. That’s not ideal if you’re embarking on a week-long camping trip out in the wilds, so Casio has also included two additional battery modes to help you eke out more time between charges.

The first – Multi Timepiece mode – shuts Wear OS down altogether and lets you use only the watch’s low-energy monochrome display. You can choose between two different watch faces (Outdoor Style or Daily Style) with the former showing your altitude and a compass and the latter displaying battery level and step count.

These modes are pretty basic in terms of features, then, but they at least ensure the watch functions in the most basic ways when you’re away from power for several days at a time.

The other option is Extend Mode, which can double the WSD-F30’s smartwatch life to around three days. Unlike Multi Timepiece, this mode lets you activate the OLED screen and more specifically the Map tool with a single press of a button. There’s no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, though, and until you press the button the touchscreen is also disabled to preserve the battery.

This is a neat idea and again it’s only let down only by a rather baffling user experience. To elaborate, in order to use Extend Mode, you first need to create a “plan” that includes the time at which you want to start logging your location via GPS, followed by a “pause” and then a “restart log” time. This is presumably to preserve yet more battery by shutting Wear OS down when you’re not using the GPS functionality, but the instructions aren’t very clear as to how to use the feature or why you’re forced to set up a plan in the first place.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: Verdict

There’s plenty that’s interesting about the Casio WSD-F30 but, overall, the user experience is simply too frustrating to recommend it. For the most part this comes down to it running Wear OS, which limits battery life and creates the predicament of having to pick from not two but three battery modes.

Then there are Casio’s apps. While the Activity and Moment Setter tools have some innovative touches, they still feel somewhat unfinished. Indeed, with no option to easily review your activities from a smartphone, the watch serves primarily to help you keep tabs on what you’re doing when you’re in the field and little more.

There’s no smartwatch quite like the Casio WSD-F30 but, if you can forgo the MIL-spec credentials, I’d recommend the slightly pricier Garmin Fenix 5 Plus instead. Alternatively, if a tough Wear OS watch is all you need, you can save a lot of money by choosing the Ticwatch S2.