Monday, August 29, 2016

Gear Closet: Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch

As an Apple Watch owner I've come to rely on my smartwatch more than I ever thought possible. Not only does it give me the date and time, but it also provides access to my calendar of events, quick viewing of texts and alerts, the ability to control the music on my iPhone right from my wrist. It also tracks my workouts, provides weather updates, and gives me scores of my favorite college and NFL football teams. Heck, it even holds my boarding passes when I'm traveling, providing a very convenient way to whisk through the airport.

But for all of its strengths, the Apple Watch has plenty of faults too. For instance, its battery life is limited to about one full day of use, which makes it a challenge to keep charged while traveling. It is also designed to be more of a fashion accessory rather than something that is truly built for adventure travel or outdoor activities. In fact, it is rather on the fragile side, which is why I recently used the Apple Watch Case from Catalyst while traveling through Quebec. So, while I love the idea of wearing my smartwatch everywhere, it just isn't always practical to do so. That is, unless you happen to have the Smart Outdoor Watch from Casio, a timepiece built specifically with the outdoor enthusiast in mind.

Officially designed as the WSD-F10, this smartwatch was built from the ground up for adventure travelers and the active outdoors person. As such, it comes equipped with a host of sensors and features that will make our life in wild and remote places much easier. For instance, the watch has a built-in electronic compass, altimeter, and barometer. It also comes with a database of the current times for sunrise and sunset based on your current location, and it even has a tide chart to help you plot the movement of bodies of water. Casio's device even serves as a fitness tracker too, closely charting your movement and calories burned throughout the day.

Despite all of that functionality baked into the Smart Outdoor Watch, there is one feature that is glaringly missing – GPS. Most high-end outdoor watches today come with some GPS capabilities that allow their users to track their routes, follow trails, and keep track of speed, distance, and direction. The WSD-F10 does all of those things, but it uses the GPS chips on the smartphone that it is tethered to in order to accomplish those feats. That means you'll need to carry your smartphone with you everywhere you go, including the backcountry. Considering how many of us already do just that however, it seems like a small price to pay, even if you now have to keep two gadgets – your phone and your watch – charged.


Speaking of keeping a device charged, if Casio's smartwatch has an area that needs improvement, it is probably battery life. Don't get me wrong, in standard operating mode, it will easily outpace the Apple Watch, lasting for as many as three days between charges. But, turn on a host of features, interact with apps on a regular basis, and have it track your movement while out on a hike, and suddenly the battery life begins to drop significantly. In fact, it is possible that you might not even be able to make it through a full day of usage if you turn all of its features on and leave them functioning for an extended period of time. As with most smartwatches that are currently available, this one could use a bit more juice.

Those issues aside, the WSD-F10 is a great watch for use while traveling and in the outdoors. It is rugged and durable enough to take anywhere, including into the water. This watch is waterproof down to 50 meters (164 ft) and it is both dustproof and hardened against drops according to the MIL-SPEC 810G standards. That means that you can take this watch on a trail run, mountain biking, and paddling and never worry whether or not it's going to survive.

Casio has used a unique two-screen system on this watch that not only allows it to show the current time at all times, but it can do so without wiping out the battery. The first display is a simple monochrome option not unlike something you might find on a Kindle. This particular screen is used to give users the time and date at a quick glance, even in bright sunlight. This low-power display sips energy from the battery, which is what allows it to be on all of the time. The second display is a full-color screen that is used for interacting with apps, reading text messages and alerts, and providing other information to the user. It is bright and vivid and on par with pretty much every display that I've seen on a smartwatch to date. This two-screen approach works seamlessly to the person wearing the watch and brings some versatility to the WSD-F10 that isn't found in its competitors.

While Apple uses its own proprietary Watch OS to power its wearable, Casio has employed Android Wear to run its device. This lightweight operating system has been designed specifically to run on devices such as the WSD-F10 and as a result it is fairly snappy in its execution and provides a solid platform for creating unique apps that can run on the device. Android Wear doesn't have nearly as many apps for it as Watch OS, but most of the big names that you would expect are there, and can be used with the Smart Outdoor Watch too, provided you use an Android phone. The WSD-F10 will pair with an iPhone, but its functionality is severely limited due to the restrictions that Apple places on access to iOS functionality.

One of my favorite features of most smartwatches is the ability to customize the face of the watch to display exactly the information that you want to see. The WSD-F10 has this same functionality built-in as well, but with a nod to its particular audience. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate that with a quick glance they can check their current altitude, direction they are moving, speed, route, and more. The sheer amount of customization that can be done is a bit surprising at first, but you'll soon discover that it is very nice to have that level of versatility right at your fingertips.

Priced at $500, the Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch is about on par with similar products from both Suunto and Garmin. However, those watches all tend to come with GPS built-in and have longer battery lives, which will make them more appealing to many customers. But, they also lack most of the "smart" features that make Casio's device so intriguing. If you don't mind recharging your watch more often, and are already carrying a smartphone with GPS capabilities, the WSD-F10 may just be the more full-featured option.

Personally, I really like this watch. The fact that it is a smart wearable designed for those of us who venture out to remote locations on a regular basis makes it a great option for adventure travelers and outdoor lovers. I appreciate its high quality construction, excellent built-in features, and expanding app ecosystem. This is a watch I can wear on daily runs and bike rides, as well as trips to the far side of the planet. That alone gives it a leg up on my Apple Watch, and makes me wish Apple would crate something similar. That will never happen, but thankfully Casio is here to fill the void.

Buy the Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch at REI.





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