Gear Reviews:

Casio ProTrek PRW2500T Alt. Watch

Casio ProTrek PRW2500T Altimeter Watch – Casio Scores Again, but First Things First…

Casio ProTrek PRW2500T Alt. WatchFirst things first: I am a gadget freak. So, lots to talk about on the Casio altimeter watch front. I did fly with the PAW1100T and found it to be quite useful all around (including outside of flying) and certainly durable. Additionally, I was able to get a rather pleasantly surprising inflight experience with its altimeter! All in all I liked that watch, but I’m returning it… And here’s why: When compared to the NEW Casio PAW2500T (image on the right) and how much of a difference that is from the PAW1100T, there’s really only one thing I like about the PAW1100T anymore… That’s it, JUST ONE… And I’ll get back to it.

In a nutshell, Casio’s latest watch, the PAW2500T which I’ve used for five days now, is a huge leap forward from the PAW1100T. It’s as though they listened to customer wish lists in every corner of this latest re-design. But first I shouldn’t carry on without bracing you for the cost increase: The PAW2500T will set you back $400 bucks at its suggested retail price, although they can be found for around $50 bucks cheaper online. Compared to the PAW1100T’s paltry $189 price tag at Sam’s Club, the PAW2500T had better come with a whole lot of improvements. Well I assure you that it does and I’ll be covering the lion’s share of them here.

The Rationale for this Route, as Opposed to Other Devices…

Why am I using a non-GPS watch for flying in the first place, you ask? Because I’ve tried the alternatives and this is just what works best for me… That’s it. That’s all. But I’ll explain some of the motivations behind my madness and maybe you’ll just agree with me.

Yes Garmin and others make GPS watches, but none (that I’ve I found) offer this amount of information and are ‘wimpy’ compared to the Casio Pro Trek Series (I admit it, I beat the heck out of my gear). I don’t like anything I have to mount to the gear or tie to my leg – It makes launching (especially in calm winds) that much more difficult for me. I’ve had both the iPhone and Samsung Droid (both GPS devices) and dedicated PPG apps on each, and found both to be inadequate, but not in what they offered though – Running the GPS constantly drained the batteries very fast on both platforms. Having to have the screens on bright on both didn’t help in the realm of battery life either, ESPECIALLY on the Droid.

Don’t get me wrong, smart phones have their place, especially when it comes to point logging and plotting your route in Google Earth later, which I found especially handy, but they still didn’t tip the scales for me. On that note I also liked knowing my ground speed, as a useful estimate of what the wind speed up high was doing. But here’s the real deal… Anymore I am the only one I’m out flying around with lately – Let’s face it, paramotor pilots can be a scarcity (I’m working on getting more people involved in my area but that’s the topic of anther post). In the end, to me, draining the battery on my cell phone while out paramotoring around solo just defeats the primary purpose for it being with me in the first place. Additionally, it seemed like overkill looking at what amounts to a multifunction display in an airliner in terms of the all information presented when I was using a small mirror for a fuel gauge lol. And last, as an Airline Pilot I couldn’t rationalize that much sofistication in any flying I was doing outside of work – A rationale that is perhaps exclusive to a PPG pilot in my shoes I suppose, but none the less still another rationale behind my reasoning here.

Now, even though I for one really like this new watch, that doesn’t mean you will, nor does it mean you’ll get the most out of it like I have. One of the things to remember is that to get the most out of these watches in the age of touch screen smart phones, you just have to resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be putting a little more effort back in – Both in educating yourself upon their initial purchase AND while they’re in use – Forever.

IT’S A TOOL. IT’S A TOOL. IT’S A TOOL…

And that doesn’t necessarily make watches like the PAW2500T “hard” from a user friendliness standpoint. So, if you’re ok with putting the effort in required each time to get the most out of this device, then the overall experience while using it can be quite rewarding. What this device IS, is more in my opinion then what it isn’t – It is a rugged, durable, waterproof, self-sustaining, and self time setting computer that has a barometer, a digital compass, an altimeter, a thermometer, a data logger, and a tide and moon computer, among all the other things less they weren’t considered ‘standard’ I would have included them here as well. Whoa! That’s a lot considering this is something you wear on your wrist :)

What’s Better About the NEW PAW2500T

A Brief Rundown…

  • Casio provided us with a watch here that can take altimeter readings every 5 seconds for up to an hour. The PAW1100T did that for only the first three minutes, and then every five minutes after that for an hour. So if you wanted your current altitude after the first three minutes of hitting the altitude button, you had to hit the altitude button again or wait five minutes. Additionally, this would reset the MIN & MAX altitudes, and the total ascent and descent trend data the PAW1100T logged. That was what at first had me thinking was Casio’s reasoning behind not recommending this for paragliding, but more on that later. If you wanted to know your height above field elevation on the PAW1100T, you had to change the displayed altitude to zero before launch (the ‘reference’ altitude). On the PAW2500T the mean sea level pressure altitude AND the reference altitude are both displayed! So while flying you can see your mean sea level altitude and your altitude above the field, and both get updated every five seconds, instead of every 5 minutes on the PAW1100T.
  • The PAW2500T also provides moon and tide data for your home city. I don’t use the moon data other than for kicks. But the tide data is handy because I do live near the coast and several flying spots can be found at the beach. You can see what both what the tide and moon will be doing for any date and time in the future, up to the watch’s limit which I believe is the year 2099. If you live inland and don’t do any beach flying, then obviously this feature is useless to you. Interestingly the watch will still give ‘tide’ data if your home city is Denver. In a nutshell, this is because it’s calculating the gravitational pull from the moon no matter where it is in the sky.
  • The PAW2500T is thinner and lighter, at least 10% by my estimate.
  • The band on the PAW2500T is more elegant, and the mount design at the watch’s ‘hubs’ is more of post modern, aluminum industrial look. Aesthetics and design are important to me.
  • The ‘Adjust’ button is much easier to press
  • The overall data layout is more robust – You get more information in one look because it’s been strategically placed to be more informative WHEN YOU NEED IT.
  • The PAW2500T’s shoulders are flexible, providing for a better and more comfortable fit. A watch’s shoulders are the parts underneath on either side that touch the curves of your wrists, where the band mounts to the watch.
  • The PAW2500T’s clasp is thicker, stronger, more rugged, durable and stylish.

What’s Not Better

Here’s the part I said I’d come back to: The PAW1100T’s display was huge – See the image on the right. The PAW2500T’s display has more info in the same space, so naturally everything is smaller.

This watch is not a precise instrument… And it’s not a professional altimeter. But why do I need that level of precision when I fly in the day time, maintaining visual reference to the ground at all times, above terrain I am familiar with? In order to get the most out of this watch though you do have to calibrate the MSL altitude before every flight – If you don’t calibrate it, your MSL altitudes will be inaccurate once airborne… So it helps to know the field elevation before flying. A great website for determining this is here.

The Reward

The rewards for me in using this device have been stated already in this post, but I’ll sum them up: In a nutshell I’ve got a robust, wrist mounted device which where erganomics are concerned is very important to me. It for the most part preserves overall cost where a combination of devices required to do the same functions would exceed this device’s cost. This method “of doing it” preserves my phone’s battery while still giving me a lot of handy, useful information I really use: The altimeter for AGL & MSL altitudes, a stopwatch and/or countdown timern for fuel, tide data, a record of what the pressure’s doing over the last day or so, a compass, a watch, and various time zones including UTC which I use at work all the time. I think most people who are willing to put in the effort to get to know the PAW2500T will have the same amount of payback I’ve had out of this watch.

Specs

  • 200M Water Resistance
  • Tough Solar Power
  • Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping
  • New Duplex LC Display
  • Triple Sensor with Tide & Moon Graph/Data
  • Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping (US, UK, Germany, Japan, China
  • Receives time calibration radio signals which keep the displayed time accurate
  • Auto receive function (up to 6 times per day)
  • Manual receive function
  • Signal: US WWVB, UK MSF, Germany DCF77, Japan JJY40/JJY60, China BPC
  • Frequency: US 60kHz, UK 60kHz, Germany 77.5kHz, Japan 40/60kHz, China BPC 68.5kHz
  • Tough Solar Power
  • 200M Water Resistant
  • Duplex LC Display
  • Tide Graph (tide level for specific date and time)
  • Moon Data (moon age of the specific date and moon phase graph)
  • Digital Compass
  • Measures and displays direction as one of 16 points
  • Measuring range: 0 to 359 degrees
  • Measuring unit: 1 degree
  • 20 seconds continuous measurement
  • Graphic direction pointer
  • Bidirectional calibration and northerly calibration function
  • Magnetic declination correction
  • Bearing memory
  • Altimeter
  • Measuring range: -700 to 10,000 m (-2,300 to 32,800 ft)
  • Measuring unit: 5 m (20ft)
  • Manual memory measurements (up to 14 records, each including altitude, date, time)
  • High altitude / Low altitude memory
  • Total Ascent / Descent memory
  • Others: Reference altitude setting, Altitude differential
  • Barometer
  • Display range: 260 to 1,100 hPa (7.65 to 32.45 inHg)
  • Display unit: 1 hPa (0.05 inHg)
  • Atmospheric pressure tendency graph
  • Atmospheric pressure differential graphic
  • Barometric change indicator
  • Thermometer
  • Display range: -10 to 60 C (14 to 140 F)
  • Display unit: 0.1 C (0.2 F)
  • Low Temperature Resistant (-10 C / 14 F)
  • Full Auto EL Backlight with Afterglow
  • 5 Independent Daily alarms
  • Hourly time signal
  • World Time
  • 31 times zones (48 cities + UTC), city code display, daylight saving on/off
  • 1/100 second stopwatch
  • Measuring capacity: 23:59‘59.99″
  • Measuring modes: Elapsed time, split time, 1st-2nd place times
  • Countdown Timer
  • Measuring unit: 1 second
  • Countdown range: 1 minute to 60 minutess, (1-minute increments)
  • Reset time: 1 to 5 minutes (1-minute increments)
  • Others: Time-up alarm, progress beeper
  • Battery level indicator
  • Power saving function
  • Full auto-calendar (pre-programmed until the year 2099)
  • Button operation tone on/off
  • Accuracy: +/- 15 seconds per month (with no signal calibration)
  • Storage Battery: Solar rechargeable battery
  • Approx. battery life:
  • 5 months on full charge (without further exposure to light)
  • 23 months on full charge with Power Saving Function (without further exposure to light)

Wishlist…

I wish this watch had a way to figure groundspeed and wind direction aloft, but it’s not a GPS, so there. Like I said, it’s a wishlist lol.