Casio G-Shock GBD-200 Review: Perfectly Balanced

Casio G-Shock GBD-200 on the wrist, with hand in a pocket.

Casio G-Shock GBD-200 review: A perfectly balanced hybrid smartwatch

MSRP $149.00

“The GBD-200 is a true hybrid smartwatch that goes easy on the tech and overboard with durability, which combined with a slim case, a comfortable strap, and no battery to charge makes it ideal for all-day, everyday wear.”

Pros

  • All-day comfort
  • Reliable, informative notifications
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Only basic fitness tracking

Casio has been making connected G-Shock watches with basic fitness tracking for a while under its sporty G-Squad moniker, and over the past year has been experimenting with smarter versions, complete with a permanent phone link to enable notification support, and most recently a full Wear OS smartwatch too. The new GBD-200 brings together the fitness tracking and permanent Bluetooth connection to create an all-digital G-Shock hybrid smartwatch.

It’s not the first G-Shock with this functionality, but it is the first to put it all inside a modestly-sized square case. It’s a crucial change, and it has been expertly matched with just the right amount of tech. We think this is how hybrid smartwatches should be, and here’s why it succeeds.

Design

Casio has added fitness tracking and full Bluetooth connectivity to several watches already. Both the older GBD-100 and more recent GBD-H1000 G Shock watches include the functionality, but the design of both means they’re not ideally suited to all-day, everyday wear. It’s a problem because smartwatches, whether they are hybrid or full touchscreen watches, offer most of their benefits when you wear them throughout the day.

The Casio G-Shock GBD-200 display.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The GBD-200 is really the first connected G-Shock you’ll be happy to wear all day, and regardless of your wrist size too. It’s 58 grams and 15mm thick, and for comparison, the 44mm Apple Watch Series 6 is 36 grams without a strap and 10.7mm thick. It’s modestly sized for a G-Shock, doesn’t get caught on your cuff, can be worn tightly without discomfort, and looks great in most situations. It’s not too sporty, and the different time screen options allow a degree of personalization.

The square case is made from resin and attached to a very soft and flexible urethane strap, complete with wrist guards attached to the lugs to help keep the watch centered on your wrist. The combination of all these aspects makes the GBD-200 very wearable indeed. I’ve worn it every day for more than a week now, and not once felt the need to take it off because it was annoying or too hot.

The Casio G-Shock GBD-200's case back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Casio is well-known for its square watch models, but the GBD-200 has taken on a design all of its own. The resin case has a central split running around the side to show off the inner resin section’s color, the Start button is identified by its red stripe, and the light button has a slight texture to it. Naturally, it’s shockproof and has a 200-meter water resistance rating. Durability like this matters. The watch took some knocks and got pretty grubby when I did some garden work, so I washed it off under the tap, and now it looks as good as new.

I washed it off under the tap, and now it looks as good as new

I have a 6.5-inch wrist and the GBD-200 sits perfectly on it, at least to my eyes. It’s not ungainly or comically large, and the square case means it should suit a lot more wrist sizes than the GBA-900 or H1000 watches. People with smaller wrists may not appreciate the chunky look of the black GBD-200, but if you’re used to large watches and can get past the design (alternative colors are available), then it’s by far the best option out of G-Shock’s current range of fitness watches, and the strap is highly adjustable.

Casio G-Shock GBD-200 on a wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The stealth black version seen here will be joined by a bright yellow model in the U.S., with a cool blue model available in some other regions.

Screen and software

The GBD-200 does not have a touchscreen and you interact with it solely using the buttons on the case. There are five in all, with the ones on the side controlling the software, and the front button for activating the backlight. All are easy to locate but do require a little effort to press. However, this means you won’t do so by accident.

Like most G-Shock watches it takes a little while to get used to operating the watch, as it doesn’t always feel natural, especially if you’re used to touchscreens or no watch at all. The Mode button cycles through the menu, showing the interval workout screen, the stopwatch, activity data, and the notification window. A long press of the Adjust button opens a varied settings menu, while a short press changes the main time display’s layout.

Casio G-Shock GBD-200 buttons.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The screen has a “negative” look meaning it has a black background and a grey color for the text and numbers. It’s small compared to smartwatches, and there’s no brightness adjustment. The size means seeing notification details isn’t always easy at a glance, especially if like me your eyesight isn’t absolutely perfect. It’s clear and legible even in sunlight though, and if you still struggle due to the size, one of the alternate time layouts features very large numbers, making it easier to see.

I’ve tested the watch connected to an iPhone 12 Pro, where it requires the installation of G-Shock’s Move app. Notifications have been very reliable, but don’t expect them to be as glanceable or actionable as on a smartwatch with a touchscreen. There are two stages to a notification. You get a small alert showing the app and a few words of the message, which is enough to get an idea of whether it requires your attention or not. To see more you have to navigate through the menu to the notifications page, then choose the message you want to see in greater detail.

It’s a lot of button presses to get to this point, and even more to scroll through an individual message purely due to the screen’s capacity to show text, but you can see almost all the information. You can’t reply or interact with messages on the watch, but it does alert you to SMS and calls along with app messages. By default, the watch beeps when a message arrives but it’s quite loud and irritating. It can be turned off in the menu, or replaced by a vibration that is strong enough to be noticeable on your wrist.

It has been really great to wear a G-Shock watch that also shows notifications

The GBD-200 doesn’t provide the same level of interaction or smartphone syncing as an Apple Watch or other full touchscreen smartwatch, but it does enough to be helpful. It has been really great to wear a G-Shock watch that also shows notifications, as it closely matches what you get from a fitness band, including a phone finder, without compromising on style.

Fitness tracking

While notification and smartphone support are close to what you get on a simple fitness band, the fitness tracking is centered around walking and running, and there are no options to track specific workouts or activities like golf, swimming, or yoga. Starting a run is as simple as pressing the Start button, and the display then shows time elapsed, distance, and pace. Press the same button again to stop the tracking.

That’s about it, apart from interval workout tracking. This takes some setting up, but it does only need to be done once. It can store up to 20 different intervals for a single workout and the time can be set for each stage individually. It’s a shame this can’t be set up in the G-Shock Move app, as it’s long-winded on the watch. It’s also easy to make a mistake and because the operating system isn’t very fast, the trial-and-error aspect can get frustrating.

Data is synced across the app when you open it. The Move app is highly customizable, right down to the order information is shown on the screen. Step count can be seen on the watch face or in the app, where you also get a breakdown of your workout with calorie burn and distance. I really like the watch face that shows progress towards your goal for each day of the week, which helps better understand your daily activity. The watch does not have a heart rate sensor or its own GPS, but it can take data from your phone or another device for this. It also links with Apple Health, Google Fit, and Strava.

Put alongside a smartwatch or fitness band and the GBD-200’s fitness tracking is basic, and not very informative. Accuracy is good and the watch matched the step count and distance tracked by other wearables. Whether the functionality is enough depends on your own needs. If you want a daily step count and a way to track a walk or run, just to monitor your personal activity levels, it’s perfectly acceptable. However, if you want deeper analysis including data taken from a heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, or multiple workout modes, it won’t be the watch for you.

Battery and charging

This will be a short section, just as it should be for any hybrid smartwatch. The GBD-200 uses a single internal battery which Casio says should last for about a year before it needs replacing if you use the Bluetooth connection all the time and track an hour of activity each day. Use it less and the lifetime may be up to two years.

Not having to charge the battery is a huge advantage. The need for regular charging has become more commonplace even on hybrid smartwatches as they become more technically complex. Casio neatly balances just about enough fitness tracking and smartwatch functionality with truly long battery life. Yes, it would have been great to see solar charging on the GBD-200, but this would affect the price.

Price and availability

The GBD-200 costs $149 or 139 British pounds. It will be available through G-Shock’s online store and boutique retail stores, in both the U.S. and the U.K.

Our Take

The G-Shock GBD-200 is exactly what a hybrid smartwatch should be. It looks exactly like a normal watch — in this case, a distinctive and desirable square G-Shock — and because it has been made by an experienced watchmaker drawing on decades of experience, the comfort level is exactly right. It has basic smartwatch connectivity but manages to include reliable and informative notifications, plus decent fitness tracking provided you don’t want anything too in-depth. It does all this without the need to charge the battery, so it’s entirely wear-and-forget.

You pay less for it than you would for most full touchscreen smartwatches, and it’s similarly priced to its closest rival, the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR. However, I consider it better looking, and it’s certainly more watch-like than the Jorn, which edges more toward a full smartwatch. This is actually where Casio succeeds. Many companies have moved beyond the traditional hybrid smartwatch, getting carried away with adding tech with limited benefit. The GBD-200 doesn’t do that, and it’s all the better for it.

Instead, the GBD-200 remembers it’s a G-Shock watch, so it’s very tough and has a long-lasting battery, and sensibly avoids the size-related drawbacks of its other recent hybrid models, plus it doesn’t try to do too much on the tech side. It’s enough for anyone who isn’t an athlete or hardcore fitness fan and doesn’t want a touchscreen watch to charge each day. It gets the balance between design and technology just right, making it a true hybrid smartwatch.

Is there a better alternative?

There isn’t necessarily a better alternative, but what if you want more tech and fitness tracking features? In that case, you have the option of Casio’s hybrid connected G-Shock, the more expensive $400 GBD-H1000 which has solar power and a larger screen, plus a heart rate sensor and GPS. It’s a much larger and heavier watch though and does need external charging if you use the GPS regularly.

The $195 Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR along with Fossil’s other Hybrid HR watch models also have a heart rate sensor, plus a clever E-Ink screen to show notifications and other information. They’re a step up from the GBD-200 in terms of fitness tracking, but the battery life is about a week. What if you want a full touchscreen smartwatch, or a fitness band with more activity tracking, without spending more than $150? The Amazfit GTR 2e is our recommendation, or you can spend around $60 or less and get the Honor Band 6, Xiaomi Mi Band 6, or Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 fitness band.

How long will it last?

The GBD-200 meets G-Shock’s usual toughness standards, so it’s shock and vibration proof and is water-resistant to 200 meters. The resin body is very durable, and the urethane strap is very securely attached to the case, plus it’s strong and flexible. The battery can be replaced either by yourself if you have the tools and the knowledge to make sure the water resistance is retained, or by taking the watch to a specialist. The G-Shock GBD-200 will last for years without a problem, even if you don’t treat it very nicely.

Should you buy it?

Yes. It’s a highly durable, very distinctively designed hybrid G-Shock watch with just the right amount of activity tracking and smartwatch functionality.

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