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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Casio PAW500 Watch > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

Casio PAW500
Owner Review
By Bob Dorenfeld
 
September 14 , 2013

Tester Information
Name:  Bob Dorenfeld
Email:  geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age:  55
Location:  Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender:  M
Height:  5' 6" (1.7 m)
Weight:  142 lb (64 kg)
I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, backpacker, amateur geographer and naturalist. Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I usually journey from 7000 ft (2100 m) to above treeline, with occasional desert trips to lower altitudes. Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) hiking in a day is my norm, including elevation change of as much as 4000 ft (1200 m) in a day. Most of my backpack trips are two or three nights, sometimes longer. Often I hike off-trail on challenging talus, snowfields, or willow brakes, with occasional bouldering.

Product Information & Specifications

Casio PAW500
Photo: Casio
Manufacturer Casio Additional Specs
Year of Manufacture 2010Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping
Manufacturer's Website www.casio.comAltimeter, Barometer, Thermometer
MSRP US$250Measurement data & recording: altitude, month, date, time
Listed Weight 1.7 oz (49 g)Button operation tone on/off
Measured Weight 1.8 oz (50 g)Accuracy: 20 seconds per month (with no signal calibration)
Color
Black/SilverBattery Power Indicator
MaterialsPlastic, Glass, Metal100M (330 ft) Water Resistant
Size of Case(H x W x D) 50.3 x 45.0 x 11.5 mm (2 x 1.8 x 0.5 in)Low Temperature Resistant (-10 C / 14 F)
Stated Battery Life 5 months on full charge (without further exposure to light)Full Auto Backlight with Afterglow
Battery IncludedYesPower Saving Function
Solar Charging
Yes29 times zones (30 cities), city code display, daylight saving on/off
Wrist Bank Type ResinAuto Calendar
Dial Display
Digital
12/24 Hour Formats

Overview

I purchased this multi-function watch about three years ago mainly because I like to monitor altitude along my hikes in the mountains, especially where elevation changes quickly either on or off trail.  I don't use the watch when I'm not hiking, except occasionally if I want to use the barometer to check atmospheric pressure changes.  This review will concentrate on the features that I use regularly and have tested.  There are many more features available (see Product Information above, and Casio's website by searching on PAW500 in their Product Archive section) and I refer the reader to those sources for more information. Since I don't wear watches on my wrist I'll ignore the wristband and the watch's operation in that position.  I removed the wristband and attached a small-diameter cord with clip so I can keep the watch on my pants waist and tucked into a front pocket.  

Like many sophisticated electronic devices, the Casio PAW500 packs a large number of programmed (and programmable) functions into a small package, and there can be a moderate to steep learning curve in understanding how to use it.  There are many similar watches on the market, and by a casual comparison I've found this watch to be quite typical of this type of multi-function device.  There will of course be differences in the details of how they operate, and I will describe some of those details.

The photo above shows the default face (Time mode) of this watch out of the box, and the diagram below shows the various configuration options for Time mode. The top row of the watch's display contains day name and number, the middle row (in larger characters) is current hours:minutes, and the bottom row is seconds.  At the upper left of the screen is the receiving indicator for the radio time-synchronization function, and at the lower left is the batter power indicator.  The Casio PAW500  is a combined solar-charge/battery device, which does not require a regular battery replacement during normal use.  Either sunlight or artificial light will sufficiently run the watch and recharge the battery.


Time Mode optionsDiagram: Casio
Time Mode Display Options

Here's a quick look at how to change some of the watch's display options and functions.  (For a complete rundown of how to see and change all options, see Casio's instruction manual available with the watch, or download it at their website -
search on PAW500 in their Product Archive section, manual is listed next to watch description.)   Press the lower left button at the side of the face to advance through the following modes (within each mode various options can be set using additional button presses): Data Recall, World Time, Stopwatch, Countdown Timer, Alarm, and Receive.  There are dedicated buttons for altimeter (lower right) and barometer (upper right).  When in either of these modes additional options can also be set.  Some of these options include 12 or 24 hour time display, Imperial or metric measurement, when to auto-update the time via atomic clock radio signals, and more.  Some options require a continued press on a button for 2-3 seconds to activate or set an option.  To activate the watch face light press the button on the right middle, or flick the watch from horizontal to near-vertical and the motion sensor will cause the face to light up for viewing in the dark.  The large extrusion on the left side is the air pressure sensor, and a ring around the face is the solar collector.


Field Use

Using the PAW500
As I mentioned in the Overview, the first thing I did to my new watch was to remove the wrist band and thread a small cord through the wristband pin slot, attach a small clip to the cord, and clip the watch to my hiking pants waistband or belt (see photo). Custom CordWhile this will block the solar charger, I leave the watch exposed to plenty of light when not walking, so I've never run the battery low when actively using the watch.  The two display modes that I use most often are Time and Altimeter.  Time is the default (see photo above), but I'm in Altimeter mode most of the time I'm on the trail.  Sometimes in Time mode I'll display the 24-hour barometer graph at the top of the screen, showing the air pressure trend (up or down) as measured every two hours.  This is of course very handy to predict clear or stormy weather moving in or out of an area.  This is an easy display change - just press the upper left button to cycle through the top row display settings.  I also set my Home City to Denver, since that's the nearest programmable city to where I live (there are many other cities around the world to which the watch can be set); this affects auto-time and date synchronization.  The display works well outdoors, as the high contrast is readable for me even in most situations of bright sunlight.  The display backlight is a subtle blue and also easy to read in the dark.  (I have more to say about the backlight below.)




Altimeter
Switching to Altimeter mode takes one press of the bottom right button; there will be a delay of about 3 seconds as the watch calibrates air pressure and calculates what the altitude (in feet or meters) should be.  (The manual contains a good explanation of how altitude calculation is tied to air pressure and what kind of accuracy to expect under differing conditions.)  
This diagram shows the four different screen choices available for Altimeter mode (I prefer Format 3, which is most useful to me):

Altitude Mode Diagram
Diagram: Casio
Altimeter Mode Display Options

I really like the "Altitude differential" at the top, since a quick glance tells me how high or low I've walked since setting the base altitude.  The differential gets set back to 0 either when resetting the base altitude, or manually by pressing and holding the upper left button.  "Base altitude" is the altitude at which the watch calculates all subsequent altitude measurements, and is usually reset by me any time I'm beginning a new hike, or when I have reason to believe that the currently-displayed altitude is incorrect.  I consult a map to find the altitude at my trailhead or other starting point, and by pressing and holding the upper left button move the watch into altitude-set mode, causing the display to flash.   Press the upper right button to decrease and lower right button to increase the display; pressing and holding will fast-forward or fast-reverse.  Press the upper left button to set at the desired feet (or meters, if that option was previously selected).  There is an option to preset and recall an altitude if there's a need for a frequently used setting.  Altitudes are displayed in increments of either 20 ft or 5 m.  Sometimes I'll use the altitude recording feature, which will save readings every 5 seconds for the first 2 minutes, then every 2 minutes every quarter hour thereafter.  It can be interesting to compare different hikes or different parts of a trail for maximum or minimum altitudes, or total cumulative ascent or descent.  Altitude sessions are stored until erased by me, or overwritten by subsequent sessions.

I have found the altitude measurements of the watch to quite accurate, having using the watch in many places from 0 to 14000 ft (0 to 4300 m).  By checking measurements on maps, trail signs, and other published information, I've verified readings within 60 ft (18 m) about 90% of the time I check it.  As the manual warns, since altitude measurement is tied to barometric pressure and temperature, errors can be introduced if weather changes rapidly,
temperature changes rapidly, or the watch is subjected to strong impact. In these cases I'll either reset altitude to known value from another source, or estimate based on prior data or circumstances.  Sometimes driving across big changes of elevation affects calibration, so I always check when I get to the trailhead.  One other possible cause of incorrect altitude reading could be due to my keeping the watch tucked into my pocket while hiking, since this may not let the watch's sensor (at the left side of the case) operate as it was designed.

Barometer
Switching to Barometer mode takes one press of the top right button;
there will be a delay of about 3 seconds as the watch calibrates air pressure.  Unlike Time or Altitude mode, the watch will not stay in Barometer mode until switched, but rather it will after about 5 minutes revert to Time mode.  This is an annoying feature of the PAW500, and I don't know why it wasn't designed to stay in this mode until switched out by the user.  
Here is a diagram of Barometer mode:

Barometric mode diagram
Diagram: Casio
Barometer Mode Display

Units of pressure can be displayed as either hPA or inHg.  hPA, or hectopascal, is the International System of Units (SI) measure of atmospheric pressure, while inHg is "inches of mercury" is the British and American unit for the same measure.  I've been keeping my setting as inHg simply because it's what I'm used to.  Note that in the PAW500 barometric pressure is displayed as "sea level", and unfortunately cannot be corrected for altitude.  For example, today at my home altitude of 7000 ft (2100 m) the PAW500 shows 23.05 inHg, which corrected would be equivalent to about 30 inHg.  So I'll just remember add about seven to whatever number I see and that is usually close enough for what I need in weather observation, and to compare to weather data I might see reported elsewhere.

The temperature, which can be set to either F or C units (I keep mine at F) takes 10-20 minutes to update to ambient air temperature after I've taken the watch out of my pocket and laid it on a rock or log.  Apparently the watch case needs some time to lose heat and attain air temperature.  However, it's very accurate when I've compared it to other thermometers, both analog and digital.

Other Features
I'll summarize some of the other features of the PAW500 that I occasionally make use of:

  • Not necessary to place the watch in full sunlight to recharge the battery, since diffuse sunlight or indoor light is sufficient (although it may not recharge quite as quickly)
  • Power Save feature puts the watch in low-power mode whenever it's in the dark for extended periods of time, blanking the display until re-exposed to light
  • Auto Receive automatically synchronizes the watch's time and date with a national atomic time broadcast, completing the operation in the early morning hours
  • A barometric pressure differential pointer along the display right side indicates the relative difference between the most recent pressure reading on the display graph, and the current value displayed when in Barometer mode: this is a quick way to see just how quickly a high or low pressure weather system could be moving past

Problems Encountered
Here are some of the problems I've encountered with the PAW500:

  • I found that keeping the watch where it can jiggle or vibrate sometimes causes the altimeter/barometer to temporarily malfunction, forcing me to wait 5-10 minutes for the watch to resume working properly.  Solution: keep it snug in my pants pocket, instead of dangling outside of clothing.  (Wearing the watch on one's wrist as Casio intended would keep this problem from occurring.)
  • The display backlight for night reading stays on for too short a time: about 1.5 seconds, and I don't see any "afterglow", one of the watch's advertised features.  This might be OK for just a quick read of the time, but when I need to read smaller portions of the screen it's quite annoying to have to keep repressing the light button.  Also, the light does not come on when pressing the other function activation buttons.

Other Operation Notes
On occasion I've accidentally dunked the watch briefly in water and it's not suffered any for it, as far as I can tell.  Occasionally it sits in an area of high humidity in the rain (but not exposed to the rain) and I'll just need to wipe the condensation off the face.  The face of the PAW500 is made of what appears to be scratch-resistant glass, and after being in constant use for three years on many hikes and other trips, it now has just a couple of very faint scratches, visible only if I look for them.  Once in a while I'll use the alarm feature, but I've found the volume of the alarm to be too quiet for much practical use; for example, I may want to time some food cooking on the stove, but unless I've got the watch in my hand I'll miss the alarm due to all the usual outside sounds at a campsite.  I have dropped the watch a number of times from waist-high, and it's operated just fine afterwards.  
According to the owner's manual the battery rarely needs to be replaced since it's recharged continually by the watch's solar panel; the original in mine seems to be functioning like new.

Maintenance
There really isn't very much maintenance with this watch.  As the manual recommends, it's good for the battery to keep it at least partially charged all of the time (I keep mine fully charged as much as I can), and to enable Power Save to keep the battery from draining.  Since I carry my watch in a pocket it's usually not exposed to dirt and dust, but I like to wipe it clean every now and then, especially the glass display cover.


 Final Thoughts

This is the watch I always take with me hiking and camping, and it's one of the very few electronic devices I carry on wilderness adventures (or anywhere, for that matter).  I like knowing altitudes when hiking because they help me navigate with or without a map, even when I'm already familiar with an area.  Although I don't use some of the other features very often, it's nice to know that when I would like to record a altitude session, or run the stopwatch for some activity, I can do so easily and accurately.  The PAW500 has proven to be very durable, showing only a small amount of wear-and-tear on the case and a couple of very minor scratches on the display glass: this is no more than expected after being in use for over three years.  There are a lot of electronic watches on the market, with many configurations and options, but based on my use I would recommend the Casio PAW500 as a good middle-of-the-market option.

Liked

  • Nice dark contrast on the display
  • Easy operation for the main functions that I use
  • Reasonably small size of the case, and not too heavy, but heavy enough to hang securely in my pants pocket
  • Display glass is very scratch resistant
  • Altitude mode shows both altitude measurements and time without having to switch display modes
  • Labels on display face (albeit in a tiny font) providing hints for some of the button functions and display symbols

Didn't Like

  • Display won't stay in Barometer mode but automatically reverts to Time mode after about 5 minutes
  • Atmospheric pressure has no option to correct for "mean sea level" equivalent at altitudes above sea level
  • Display backlight duration is too short at 1.5 seconds, and "afterglow" is not apparent
  • Button operation has no option to turn on backlight automatically

Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Southern Colorado Rocky Mountains



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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Casio PAW500 Watch > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld



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