A Casio Pro Trek is "just a watch" in the same way that KITT is "just a car," which is to say… not even close. The Pro Trek is the watch series formerly known as Pathfinder, and it has been steadily improving in both the quantity and quality of features and performance over the years. The PRT-B50 model is notable for two major improvements: bluetooth connectivity to your smart phone, and a feature set that is incredibly rich for the price. The former was a mix of promise and frustration, but the latter provides solid value in the end even if you totally ignore the app.
First, the basics: on the wrist, the resin cased B50 is large but light, with a mineral glass face that is fairly tough and can be polished if light scratches appear. The metal band on our model came with a tool that allows fast resizing of the band by removing segments, and unlike the Casio G-Shock watches the lugs do not prevent the B50 from laying flat on a surface. The compass bezel rotates in both directions, facilitating somewhat the "boy scout" method of roughly determining where North and South are. The buttons are large and easy to operate even with gloves, which we pretty much always had on. The hands are luminescent but not any of the markings, so if you wake up in the middle of the night you're going to have to activate the light with the big button at 6 o'clock to read the hour. The small digital display is used for an amazing amount of data and can be customized to a degree.
The PRT-B50 is an ABC watch that tracks altitude, barometer and compass data. That's all standard for Casio's three-sensor models, but the B50 has a four sensor system that adds an accelerometer to track your step count. It's not super accurate – we found it had problems registering steps on soft surfaces like carpet indoors and snow outdoors – but it gives you a rough idea of the quantity of walking you're doing, even if it won't substitute for pace counting or ranger beads. You can set waypoints and use the second hand to guide you back to them. The wide variety of time zones, timers, alarms and ABC trend data is accessible through clever use of the watch hands and the small display.
The software… is a challenge. We had no problem installing the Pro Trek app on our iPhone X and pairing the B50, but then we got the privacy agreement where you're warned that profile data (height, weight, sex, birthday, time zone, system settings, serial number, etc.) may be shared. It also informs you that location data is shared with Adobe, app usage data with Google and unspecified data with Amazon. You're allowed to opt out of some of this, but even then it's not entirely clear what you're sharing and what you're not. Once installed, all the supposedly customizable watch settings – display units, etc. – were grayed out for us, so we couldn't change them in the app after setting them once. The step counter shows steps and calories, but neither is particularly accurate or – and we realize this is a larger issue with the whole idea of step counting and calorie estimates of activity – all that useful.
The route logging using the phone's GPS and mapping display is potentially the most useful feature, but we found that to be buggy as well. Sometimes it captured waypoints and sometimes it didn't, and often it terminated a route shortly after we started for reasons that are not entirely clear. So the three functions the app provides – step/calorie tracking, route logging and watch settings – were all buggy to a degree that they were more frustrating than useful to us. But here's the thing about the Pro Trek PRT-B50: if you totally ignore the app, and diligently RTFM to learn the display modes, features and functions, the B50 is one of the best values in ABC watches on the market. You get bombproof Casio reliability in a proven design with just about every feature you can imagine, at a price that beats the competition like a drum. If you want a full-on connected smart watch or a combat-ready trust your life to it showpiece, look elsewhere. But if you want 90 percent of all that stuff at a price that can't be beat, and in a package that rides large but light on your wrist, check out the Pro Trek PRT-B50.