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Real Reviews: The Best Digital Sports Watch
I didn't want a $10 P.O.C.
When I talk about digital watches, I'm talking about the athletic kind; the kind you wear while working out or doing yard work. I need something that I can wear just about whenever, and not have to worry about scuffing it or breaking it. That's exactly why I've always been hesitant to invest in a nice athletic watch, because I'd always be too worried about breaking the darn thing! So, I resorted to spending $10-$20; if it breaks, no biggie!
But truth be told, they were all pieces of crap. I was never really happy with them. They had no features, other than telling the time and date, and maybe a simple stopwatch. Their battery life was usually shorter than I would have liked. And they usually did break, because they were low quality.
A New Season
Last winter, as spring was around the corner, as I was thinking about getting back into shape. My workouts would consist of running, elliptical trainer, and various forms of circuit training.
One thing that's really important when doing any sort of "circuit" training is a stopwatch, but what helps even more is having a timer so you don't have to look at your watch while you're trying to focus on your intervals. Many wristwatches have stopwatches, but how many have timers on them? I didn't really know if I'd find one, but I needed a new watch anyway, so I started looking at the different options.
The problems I had with most of the sports digital watches out there were:
- they were too expensive,
- they didn't seem sturdy enough,
- they were big and clunky,
- the design was cheesy,
- they didn't have the right features (usually, no timer).
In the end, the Casio G-Shock Trainer series had everything I wanted and seemed the obvious choice.
I was right.
Casio G-Shock Trainer Series
Let's be honest. The first thing anyone goes for is the looks. It's the first thing you know about it when shopping: what it looks like. Casio watches in general appealed to me. Sure, there are plenty of other nice looking digital watches out there, and I looked those as well. But I was especially intrigued by some of the dark-faced digital watches that Casio had; it wasn't the same ol' black-on-white digits. The light-on-black display gave them a more refined, sleek look.
What's more, certain models have different color "schemes", giving you the exact same functionality, size, and shape, with colors to match your style.
Finally, it wasn't huge. There are many watches out there that are just plain big. For the average man, these huge wristwatches are too big, and can actually make his wrist and hand look smaller, or even effeminate. The Casio Trainer series were the "right" size; big enough, but not clunky and huge.
The Casio Trainer series seemed to have all of the features I was looking for:
- Time and date display (a given)
- A stopwatch
- A timer!
- Multiple alarms
I had to have something I wouldn't be afraid of breaking. Otherwise, it would defeat the purpose.
Casio "G-Shock" watches are built to be tough; it's the whole point of the "G-Shock" name. I was impressed to the attention paid to ruggedness in the G-Shocks, and was sold when reading the anecdote about one of the original quality tests: dropping the watch from a second-story window. If it still worked, it passed.
After everything else, these watches were right in my price range. At under $100, I wasn't breaking the bank, and I was getting a tough, attractive sports watch that had everything I needed.
So, I got it...
When I got the watch in the mail and opened it, I was immediately impressed with the look. The dark body with the dark background on the display was very cool looking; more-so in person than online.
I did have to get used to the light-on-dark display. But it was only because I'd never had one. I love it now, and it's just as easy to read as the traditional dark-on-light displays.
The Casio G-Shock Trainer ended up having more features than were listed on the Amazon.com description. For the money, it was way more than I expected:
- Clock w/ date (obviously)
- Stopwatch lap memory for later recall
- A timer, with a rest time timer and repeat up to 5 times
- Multiple alarms (snooze-able, daily, standard)
- Lights that flash during alarms and when the timer reaches 0:00
- Dual world time display, showing the local time alongside 2 other timezones,
- Several options for the main time display
- A 2-second backlight for seeing the display in the dark
The stopwatch is pretty typical. But it has two modes: the first always shows the total time, even when the lap button is pushed, the second shows the amount of time since the last time the lap button was pushed.
All of the "laps" taken while using the stopwatch are recorded! Have you ever had to write down your lap times so you could track them throughout a workout? Never again!
As a side note, I used this feature to track my wife's contractions when my son was born. It was pretty neat to go back afterward and see the progression over several hours. :)
The image here shows an entry in the lap history, including the lap number, the time of the lap, and the overall time when the lap occurred.
By far, my favorite feature. I use this for all kinds of things: interval training, work time and rest time, steeping tea, or even pulling the kids out of time out in 3 minutes! :)
What's nice about this feature, is that there are two timers. The obvious use for this is for setting up workout time and rest time. When you use both timers, they will repeat 5 times. So, this is perfect for a half-hour workout, with 5 repetitions of 5 minutes work, 1 minute rest.
The image below shows the current time and the timers. Timer number 1 has 45 seconds left, after which the alarm will sound and the second timer will start at 45 minutes.
This watch doesn't just have an alarm; it has FIVE. What's great about these alarms is that you can configure the "repeat" for each of the alarms:
- "once" - the alarm goes off only once until you turn it on again
- "weekend" - the alarm will repeat every day during weekends
- "weekday" - the alarm will repeat every day during the week
- "daily" - the alarm will repeat every day
One of the alarms is "snooze"-able. If one was so inclined, one could use a combination of alarms on this watch for every morning of the week, as well as reminders for other things. Having multiple alarms means you don't have to muck with alarms that have already been set.
The image below shows the current time and the info for alarm number 1, which is set to go off only once at 1:31 am, but is currently turned off.
This screen is also where the hour chime is set up. Most digital watches have some form of this feature, a beep on the hour, every hour. Some people like the beep, some don't.
Whatever your preference, this is the watch for you.
What impressed me about the Casio Trainer series watches it that this is configurable! You can set when the hour chime is enabled! I have mine turned off at night, for example. Or you can turn it off completely.
Finally, this watch will show you the time in 2 other timezones. This screen shows your local time, and the time in 2 timezones of your choosing. You can configure the timezones from a sizable list of pre-configured cities.
In this shot, I have both of the international times showing London.
Over the past year, I've given this a modest beating.
- I go running with it on, using the timer for interval training
- I wear it for full workouts - sweat doesn't matter on the non-fabric band
- I wear it for all household work, like yard work, which can make it pretty dirty
- After the work is done, I wear it into the shower to rinse it off, but throw it over the curtain onto the floor before soaping up (to prevent any sort of soap scum build-up). The impact of landing on the floor doesn't faze it.
- I have it on when giving the kids baths, completely submerging it in water.
- I've even run it through the dishwasher (top rack basket) when it got particularly dirty!
A couple of other small things I like about this watch:
- The buttons have a tone when pushed; nothing really special about that. But the button that changes the current screen plays a different tonewhen it reaches the "home" screen. I didn't think much of this at first, but it's actually really convenient to not have to look at the face to know that I've set the display back to the main, time-date screen.
- There is up AND down when adjusting values. I've had watches in the past that only had a single button for adjusting a value. So, if you accidentally go past the hour or minute you want, for example, you have to loop around all over again! If that happens with this watch, you just hit the other button to go the other direction.
Solar Powered Options
For a bit more money, you can eliminate the need to ever change the battery. There are solar-powered versions of these watches. I started with the battery version for two reasons:
- I didn't know how much I'd like the watch, so I wanted to keep the bill down
- I live in a northern climate, so I was a bit nervous about it keeping a charge over the winter months.
But #1 is no longer a question, so the next time around I will definitely be revisiting the solar powered versions.
I've had this watch for a little over a year now, and it's still one of the best purchases I've made in a long time. I don't usually wear it to work, but I wear it exclusively at home.
I don't know if this watch will be for everyone, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a tough, attractive, full-featured digital watch.
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