Imagine you want a watch, nothing too expensive but something that still catches the eye and looks nice on the wrist. You’re also in the market for some type of basic fitness tracker. One of the many smartwatches that offer a slew of exercise-related functions might seem like the obvious choice, but that means dealing with constant recharges, expense, features you’re unlikely to use, and, in some cases, fragility.
Then there’s the Casio G-Shock GBA-800.
Essentially, this is an analog G-Shock watch with digital readouts that’s also a step tracker with a calorie-burning counter. It’s fitted with a CR2016 battery that Casio says will last for two years, so no recharging it every two days, but don’t expect smart features such as a touchscreen or notifications.
I love the G-Shock brand and was the proud owner of one these analog watches for years. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, just know this: they’re mostly big, meaty, and designed to take a lot of punishment from sports and outdoor activities. Like the original Nokia 3310, they’ll probably be one of the few things remaining after a nuclear blast.
The GBA-800 follows the same design choices as many other G-Shocks. It’s large and pretty thick (54.1 × 48.6 × 15.5 mm), though no more so than many smartwatches, and wearing it screams, “yes, I do climb mountains on the weekend.” The buttons aren’t as prominent as those on some of the more expensive G-Shocks, and its shock-resistant hardened body is tough as nails. It’s also water resistant up to 200 meters, which is good news for those who swim often and like to take their timepieces into the shower.
The watch comes in six different colors (black, white, blue, green, charcoal). All of these are very nice, though the lime yellow review unit I had ensured everyone within a mile radius knew I was wearing it—picking one of the other options is recommended if you prefer subtlety. But I soon forgot about the eye-catching tones once I had it on my wrist.
Two pieces of curved plastic sit between the strap and the main unit, which makes GBA-800 so comfortable that it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. The strap is soft and very flexible, and it comes with 15 holes that allow an ideal fit on almost any wrist size, though, like all watches of this type, it will likely look overly large on slender wrists. Happily, I also found that despite having a Sasquatch-like level of hairiness, my arm hairs rarely got trapped—a common problem with many types of straps.
Behind the hands, you’ll find the digital readout that shows the local time and those from around the world, the stopwatch, and plenty of other exercise-related data such as the number of steps walked. There’s a circular ‘Graphic Display Area’ in the top right corner that gives a visual representation of how close you are to reaching your daily step target. This area also shows when a Bluetooth connection is made and is used for the stopwatch mode’s target time function.
The four outside buttons access the various functions, and there’s a satisfyingly textured, large button on the front that’s used to light up the display.
As mentioned, the $120 GBA-800 doesn’t offer a huge range of fitness features—no heart-rate monitoring—but then it isn’t designed for that market. It boasts a three-axis accelerometer that counts steps, and it can show calories burned and exercise intensity. You’ll need to install the G-shock app, which, despite being fairly basic, is clear, easy to use, and provides a button guide for the watch.
The watch records daily steps/calories burned/progress toward your set target—info that can be sent to the app by syncing the device with your phone via Bluetooth. The app stores data from other days that can be viewed from the calendar, which is viewable as daily, weekly, and monthly summaries. You can even see the routes you took on a map, though the 3D version was pretty cumbersome to navigate.
Elsewhere, despite ‘just’ being a stopwatch and timer, these modes come with plenty of functions, such as split times, targets, and sets, making them ideal for runners and those doing timed sets at the gym. They can be easily set up on the app before being sent to the watch.
I did find that the G-Shock held up well in the gym—not worrying that I’d broken the device every time it took a knock was a relief. Its accuracy when it came to counting steps seemed good. It was certainly closer to the actual number than my phone’s fitness app, which, as you might imagine, can sometimes add hundreds of phantom steps every day. The stopwatch and timers worked well and were simple to set up, and the G-Shock app is a definite a plus point; I especially liked all the graphical representations of my workouts and progression.
For many people, the GBA-800 will likely be a watch first and a fitness tracker second. And that’s fine. Plenty of friends passed admiring comments on it, more than I’ve had while wearing my more expensive timepiece, and one person admitted to loving the watch (and the color) so much that they wanted to know where to buy one.
So, what’s the bottom line? It all depends on your expectations. The GBA-800 isn’t for people who want something with a slew of health features such as heart rate and sleep monitors, and it isn’t a smartwatch. If all you care about are the fitness elements, get a Fitbit; if you want a smartwatch, you could always wait for Casio’s WSD-F30. The firm’s impressive Google Wear device was one of our Best of IFA picks, but the big caveat is that it will cost $550 when released next year—almost five times that of the GBA-800.
Ultimately, for those who still love to wear a traditional timepiece, particularly fans of G-Shocks, and want something that offers basic fitness functions alongside a solid app, you’ll struggle to find better than Casio’s GBA-800, especially for $120.