Thursday, July 19, 2012

Casio Outgear SGW-300H-1AV simple review

More than 10 years without a watch, then came the Casio Outgear SGW-300H-1AV… 

UPDATE: -  April 2014 - This watch DIED after about just 2 years during a recent trip to New Zealand. Actually before that, the buttons had stopped working within a year of purchase and the dealer would not honour warranty (ignored all my emails, the dealer is GPeople at, avoid at all costs!) but I eventually managed to get another Casio dealer to do a reset and it was working like normal but then water got inside (it lost its water resistance after it was opened by a service technician for resetting). Then the strap also broke off (seems to get brittle too soon).

Right at home: Casio Outgear SGW-300 in the great outdoors!
Just got a new watch but believe it or not, I had not bought nor worn a watch regularly for more than 10 years before I got this new one! Probably the last time I wore one was back in 1999, or 1998. It was a Casio. One day, while visiting some friends, I took it off and their dog found it and chewed up the wrist straps. I’ve not had a watch on my wrist (not regularly anyway) since then!

That’s not to say I hate wearing watches, I just never felt the need to have one. So how did I tell the time? Ask the time from strangers and passers-by? No. I carry two phones that provide me with accurate time and date info. And back when I used a Fuji F10, I’d simply switch on the camera while hiking and the time would be displayed briefly. Not as convenient as a quick glance at a wrist watch but never bothered me. 

Then, a couple of years ago, on a trip to Mount Murud, some of my outdoor friends introduced me to durable outdoor watches also by Casio. G-Shock and Protrek. I especially liked the Protrek models which had a lot of useful features for an outdoors person like me. Built-in compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and accurate timekeeping. 

So I hit the net and searched for a model I really liked, the choices were quite overwhelming! There were so many to choose from and although the prices were quite steep, I thought the watches were well worth the investment. But I never got around to buying one, mainly because I had a Garmin Vista Hcx outdoor GPS unit which served me so well. It provided me with all the information I wanted or could ever need except for temperature readings. But that I got from a keychain thermometer, not very accurate but good enough to get a rough idea of the current ambient temp. So while I did like the Casio outdoor watches, I never really felt they were justified.

Until one day, while browsing an online shopping site, I came across a watch called “Casio Outgear SGW-100-1AVDF” which had a thermometer as well as an electronic compass. I clicked on it and listed under the related products section were more “outgear” models. What caught my curiosity was the amazingly low prices compared to the more expensive Protrek models. 

At first, I thought they were fake knockoffs, but a quick search revealed that the Outgear line is sort of a budget “Protrek” - they’ve got the usual sensors like barometer, altimeter and thermometer but are without advanced functions such as the ability to record pressure changes etc. The Outgear models are also without solar power and the watch glass is made of resin glass (I suppose “resin” is what Casio calls plastic) instead of mineral glass. 

None of the missing features bothered me, I can get all that from my GPS unit (far more convenient too to look at lots of information on a relatively large GPS screen than on a watch face!).
Well that was a lengthy introduction, wasn’t it?! :P

Altimeter-mode. 45m elevation, temp 32.9 degrees Celsius, time 2:11pm. Note that the time is always displayed in all modes, a big plus!

Anyway, here’s my quick review of the Casio Outgear SGW-300. I took these photos while out birding last week, check the date on the watch!

There are a few Outgear models, each one has different features. The SGW-400 is the top of the range model, and costs only a tiny bit more than the SGW-300. Interestingly, at time of purchase, the SGW-100 was slightly dearer than the 300. The 100 is water resistant to 200m, lacks both barometer and altimeter but has an electronic compass.

I went with the SGW-300 because it had everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want. It came in a small box with a display stand in a plastic display case. In the box was a 1-year Casio warranty card and a tiny but multi-language thick manual.

It’s a good looking watch with a battery that lasts for about 3 years. However, I suspect I’d have to replace the batt sooner than that since that figure is probably quoted for brand new batts newly popped into the unit. I also use the backlight quite a fair bit which drains the battery faster. Backlighting is provided by two amber-coloured LEDs. The duration of illumination can be set to either 1 or 3 seconds.

Setting up the watch was a fairly straight forward affair, but you may still need to consult the manual to find out what certain abbreviations mean and to find out what buttons to press to get to certain modes. The watch measures temps from -10C to 60C. Time accuracy according to the manual is +/- 30 seconds per month which isn’t so good compared to some top of the range models; but it means at worst, I’d only have to adjust the time by a minute every two months (or adjust it by 5 minutes every 10 months, worst case scenario).

Barometer mode. Atmospheric pressure can be displayed in either inHG or hPa units. 

When entering barometer mode, the watch automatically takes readings every few seconds for the first few minutes then it’s every hour or so. It has the ability to compare the current reading with that taken when the barometer was last activated. A drop or rise in pressure will indicate whether the weather is turning cloudy or fine. I’ll get a chance to put that barometer to good use when I go mountain climbing in a week’s time!

I do have a minor complaint here, instead of pressing one single button to return to timekeeping mode, one has to press the “mode” button 5 times. But at least the time is displayed in all modes.

When it’s time to have the battery replaced, get a qualified Casio service technician to do it. Avoid doing it yourself or you may end up with a watch that is no longer water resistant!

The usual standard functions of an outdoor watch are all there: stopwatch (with two time stops/records), world time (48 cities, 31 time zones), countdown timer, and 5 alarms! The beeps emitted by the watch aren’t that loud however, so not too sure how effective this will be as an alarm. I found that the alarms beeps also go off a bit too soon. Still, a nice function to have.

The SGW-300 does not have a built-in compass, analogue or electronic. This isn’t a big deal as I much prefer an old fashioned analogue compass for outdoor use. The one on my GPS is also very good.

I’m also quite impressed with the build quality given its low price (relative to a Protrek). I had searched for reviews of the product before making my final decision. Although reviews were scarce, there was one very good one done by a watch fan in a watch forum complete with detailed photos which boosted my confidence. The watch really looked good and well built in all those photos and now that I own it, I can testify that it does have the look and feel of good quality product. It’s not too plasticky as one would expect.

However, I expect the plastic or “resin” glass to scratch far more easily compared to mineral glass. So who knows what it would look like after a few trips to the jungle. :)
Oh by the way, that watch forum… that one really surprised me! I mean I get camera and photography forums, or computer hardware forums, but watch fans buying multiple watches and reviewing them and talking about buying a few more different models… I guess for someone who doesn’t “get” photography or cameras, camera forums are weird too. =)

The whole watch with its strap weighs in at only 47g, which is more than 30 grams lighter than a Protrek model I looked at.

What else is there to say about this watch? I really like it so far. Am very happy I got this model. Why spend on features I neither want nor need in a watch? All the functions it has I find useful and whatever it doesn’t have such as pressure or elevation plots, I can get off my Garmin Vista Hcx which follows me on all my major outdoor trips.

And the best thing is, for about 1/5th the price of the Protrek model I had been eyeing, I now have an outdoor watch to take with me up mountains and into the jungle. With it on my wrist, I no longer have to rely on my GPS, mobile phone or camera for the time. ;)


abiom said...

baik punya review HM

Timothy Lanchang said...

Its a great review since i purchasing the product from Gpeople. My watch model that i have now is SGW 100 Outgear hopefully it last long and not to send to the normal watch dealer. :)

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