Activity trackers are getting more powerful, and smartwatches are getting healthier. With the convergence of features, what is the best wearable that will fit all your needs?
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 might look the same as last year’s model but it has numerous improvements.
The two case sizes available now are 44mm and 40mm - 2mm larger than their predecessors. But case thickness has actually been reduced from 11.4mm to 10.7mm. On the wrist, the difference is surprisingly pronounced, with better comfort and proportions.
The display is over 30% larger too. Apple even designed two exclusive Series 4 watch faces (Infograph and Infograph Modular) that can show up to eight complications to track of more stuff.
Also new are a haptic Digital Crown and louder speakers. Haptic feedback provides a more intuitive experience scrolling through long lists, while the louder speakers comes in extremely useful for the Walkie-Talkie feature in watchOS 5.
The Series 4 watches are powered by Apple’s 64-bit S4 processor. A new W3 wireless chip supports Bluetooth 5.0 for quicker wireless transfers and improves power consumption.
Series 4 also comes with improved sensors. The accelerometers and gyroscope are now more sensitive and can detect double the dynamic range. This allows it to detect if the wearer has a serious fall, and automatically notifying emergency services with your location, a nifty feature for the elderly.
Talking about sensors, the last big improvement comes in the form of new electrical heart rate sensors capable of taking an electrocardiogram using the ECG app. Note that this feature requires regulatory approval from relevant health authorities to work, and may not be available in your location.
I’m not a particularly heavy user, and I find myself left with about 50% to 60% battery at the end of the day. Using cellular data, however, will put a huge drain on battery life so use judiciously. In short, Series 4 will still require nightly charging to get the best out of it.
AT A GLANCE
CPU S4 64-bit dual core, W3 wireless chip
SOFTWARE Watch OS 5
DISPLAY LTPO OLED Retina Display
BATTERY Up to 18 hours
HIGHLIGHTS Electrical heart sensor, 2nd gen optical heart sensor, fall detection
PRICE From $599 (GPS), $749 (GPS+Cellular)
CASIO PROTREK WSD F30
Casio’s third attempt at a smartwatch, the WSD-F30 is one handsome beast, with a standout color and strealimed design that successfully hides how huge it is. It’s nearly 54mm wide, and yet the 46mm Samsung Galaxy Watch looks larger at a glance. I’ve gotten more compliments wearing the F30 than any other watch in this shootout.
Under the ProTrek name, the F30 is built as an outdoor adventure watch and comes with a set of ten “Featured Apps” you can install from hiking to horse riding. Bear in mind that these apps are available to all Wear OS devices too. However, Casio claims to have partnered with the developers to optimize them for the F30.
However, the F30 is the only watch in this shootout that does not feature a heart rate sensor, making it less useful as a daily activity tracker. For a smartwatch released in 2019, this is a rather unfortunate omission. It also doesn’t have NFC, so you can’t use Google Pay either.
Its standout feature is a dual layer display combining a 1.2-inch color OLED with a monochrome LCD. This means the F30 can work in either full smartwatch or timekeeping mode, which turns it into a standard digital ProTrek watch. It can run for up to a month in this mode before the battery goes completely flat.
In smartwatch mode, battery performance was a mixed bag. In normal conditions, it lasted above two days days, higher than advertised. However, the moment any active tracking is used, such as a workout, and you’ve got yourself a dead watch in a few hours. Very disappointing given that the F30 doesn’t even have a heart rate sensor.
For Casio fans, the F30 is a step up from a regular ProTrek, and it carries the rugged look best. However, you can’t help but notice the lack of basic features expected from a smartwatch in 2019 when put against the competition. It doesn’t help that the F30 costs $749, the second most expensive smartwatch in this shootout.
AT A GLANCE
CPU Snapdragon Wear 2100
SOFTWARE Google Wear OS
DISPLAY 1.2-inch dual layer , OLED (390x390 pixels) , Monochrome LCD
BATTERY 1.5 days average (Smartwatch mode), 1 month (Multi Timepiece mode)
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