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Casio Pathfinder PRW-5000-1ER Watch Review

by The Review CrewJuly 19, 2010

If there’s any one company that continues to innovate, it has to be Casio. Their newest Pathfinder/Protrek, the PRW-5000, takes their kitchen-sink feature list and completely rethinks to design with an emphasis on analog hands.

Let’s start with the features:
•Solar powered.
•Atomic timekeeping, six bands: US, UK, Germany, China, Japan (2x).
•Altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer.
•Wold time, stopwatch, countdown timer, five alarms.
•Low temperature resistant down to -10C.
•Water resistant to 100m (330ft).
•Mineral crystal, fixed stainless steel bezel.
•Casio movement 5114 (PDF), with self-correcting hands.
•49mm across, 14.6mm thick, 85g on the 22mm resin strap.
•List price of $450.
Please read on for the full review.

We’ve happy reviewed quite a few Pathfinders on WatchReport, but this is the first one we’ve seen one with analog hands on it. Casio completely changed the look this time, yielding a watch whose complexity is less obvious. As a fan of analog-digital watches, this instantly became my favorite Pathfinder. There are, of course, compromises with the design, so read on to see if you agree or not.

In this design, the second hand is used to replace the second LCD layer in previous designs. It acts as compass needle, barometric pressure indicator, and altimeter, with the latter two read out from the orange inset on the dial. There’s a graph on the right hand side of the LCD that shows trends over time for pressure and altitude to complement the instantaneous readout. Since the LCD is smaller in size, modes and indicators are more terse (‘TR’ instead of ‘Stopwatch’, for example), so reading the manual is required to learn how to use everything.
Here’s a picture of the compass mode in action. The watch is pointing close to due north, with the LCD showing the precise reading and the second hand approximating. Note that the second hand jumps, updating once per second and indicating to the closest minute marker. This works well, but takes a bit of getting used to as it differs from a magnetic compass. Note also that the compass is disabled when the LED is on, so you can’t navigate at night with it (unless you have a flashlight, which you probably will).

The altimeter and barometer mode function similarly in that the second hand indicates relative readings on the orange section of the dial from 11 to 3. You can set two scales for the altimeter, and the barometer mode is quite nice for sailors or fisherman, as changes are visible quickly. I had no problem reading time and altitude change while biking on rough ground.

In time mode, you can switch the display from day of the week to barometer graph mode on the LCD by pressing Adjust — a nice feature that I appreciate. Each pixel shows 2 hours, giving a days’ view at a glance.

Nighttime viewing is done via a blue-white LED at six o’clock. The dial is brilliantly lit, and the LCD is fairly well lit, as well. I worry about impairing night-adjusted eyes, as the light is quite bright, but otherwise it works great. I like that solar power removes any worries about running down the battery with the backlight, too. In fact, every hiking watch should be solar powered in my opinion. It’s just one less thing to worry about before you set out.

Case, caseback, and strap are classic Casio: simple, functional, comfortable. There’s an inset metal segment that I could do without, but it does complement the design. On this model, Casio went with a stainless steel bezel with four probably-decorative screws and nice crosshatch pattern. It looks great — more durable and nicer looking than plastic. It’s even satin-finished so reflections aren’t a problem.

The main appeal of the Pathfinder line is you can grab it and go on anything from a dayhike to the Appalachian trail and never worry about your watch. Durable, water resistant enough at 100m, quartz-accurate even when it can’t get a radio signal, and a good backup for your primary navigation, too. They’re not cheap at $450, but good outdoor gear is no place to pinch pennies.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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