The wearable market is constantly in motion, which is excellent news for someone like me who makes a living reviewing the best smartwatches. I only have two wrists, though, limiting the number of intelligent timepieces I can review at the time (two, to be precise). This means that the review of some watches deemed less time-sensitive will always be pushed back, and that's exactly what happened to the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600.
It's unfortunate, as this retro-looking watch is actually a fun timepiece. I tested many smart G-Shock watches, including the Casio G-Shock Pro GSW-H1000, the Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000, and most recently, the Casio G-Shock GBD-H2000, the latter of which is most closely related to the DW-H5600, thanks to the Polar integration, allowing the watch to collect and analyse health and fitness data like a 'proper' running watch.
Unlike the bulky G-Shocks mentioned above, the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 isn't bulky, making it better suited for all-day wear. It features a more sustainable resin body and, most importantly, looks and behaves like a wrist wearable people in the 80s thought smartwatches would look like in this day and age. Should you get one? Let's find out!
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: price and availbility
I tried finding out how many colours it's available in during my research, but Casio doesn't make it easy to determine this. The UK site lists three colours, while Casio's international website has around three million different options. Either way, I tested the DW-H5600-2ER version, which has a pale blue case and strap.
For the best Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 prices in your location, check out the price widgets at the top and bottom of this review.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: specifications
- Weight: 59 grams
- Size: Not stated
- Case materials: Bio-based resins
- Display: Memory-in-pixel (MIP) with LED backlight (resolution not stated)
- Bezel size: Not stated
- Processor: Not stated
- Battery life: Not stated
- Charging: proprietary Casio charger and solar charging
- Durability: WR20BAR (200 metres), Shock-resistant structure
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Storage: Not stated
- Positioning: No
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: design and build quality
- First ever 5600 square G-Shock G-SQUAD model
- MIP screen
- Heart rate monitor
- Shock-resistant structure
- Solar-assisted and USB charging
Casio is terrible at disclosing information about its products the same way Apple/Google/Samsung does, so you'll have to excuse me for not being able to tell you a lot of technical details about the G-Shock DW-H5600. What I do know is that it is the first ever 5600 square G-Shock G-Squad model and also one of the first ones to utilise the Powered by Polar system.
I'll discuss the latter in more detail below, but what you need to know is that the Powered by Polar package is compromised of 25 algorithms, which are available for Polar's commercial partners, including Casio, to pick and choose from, fuelled by tons of user data covering sleep, training, wellness, activity, performance, and recovery. Essentially, Casio allowed access to one of the best performance wearable algorithms on the market.
Health data to feed the algorithm is provided by the optical heart rate sensor at the back of the watch. There is no GPS, nor are there the sensors you'd find in modern smartwatches.
However, one exciting new addition is the bio-based resin bezel and band made with a new eco-friendly material. Bio-based resin is said to use renewable and sustainable organic resources such as corn but is rugged and offers the same wearing experience as classic plastic G-Shock models. Indeed, the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 is water-rated to WR20BAR (200 metres) and has the same shock-resistant features as all G-Shock watches.
The watch features a small memory-in-pixel (MIP) always-on display, similar to classic Garmin watches. MIP displays aren't as flashy as some of the AMOLED screens you see in modern wearables. They are also less energy-intensive, which helps improve battery life. Surrounding the MIP screen, you'll find a solar harvesting ring, which is said to improve battery life even more as long as you expose the watch to enough sunlight.
I mentioned that the display isn't huge, which means the data on the watch is pretty small, too. I usually get away with reading my smartwatches without using my glasses, but not the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600. The menu options are absolutely tiny!
You'll find four push buttons around the edge of the case, and they are a bit of a pain to control. They are shallow and sit too deep in their recesses, making it impossible to press unless you use your nails. I have pretty big fingers, which I assume didn't help, but I would've appreciated the buttons being operated more efficiently, considering the watch hasn't got a touchscreen.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: features
- Basic smarts
- All the digital watch features under the sun
- Breathing exercise timer
The Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 isn't the smartest smartwatch in town, that's for sure. It tracks heart rate, blood oxygen level and sleep and can receive notifications from your connected smartphone. The wearable can track four different workouts (more on this in the next section) and provides some additional information via the Powered by Polar ecosystem, but that's pretty much it.
It does all the digital watch stuff, though, such as being able to tell world time (38 cities + UTC), sunrise/sunset times, and moon age. It also has a stopwatch functionality, a countdown timer (60 Min.), four daily alarms (with snooze), and a vibration alert. Most smartwatches can do these things, too, so nothing super exciting here.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: health and fitness tracking
- Supported sports: Running, walking, gym and interval timer
- No GPS
What differentiates the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 from your standard G-Shock watches is its supposed capability to monitor health and fitness. Polar watches are renowned training tools among athletes; the idea of combining this functionality with the retro aesthetics of G-Shock watches is indeed enticing.
However, as I mentioned above, Powered by Polar allows companies to pick and choose which of the 25 algorithms they would like to use, and clearly, now all 25 have made it into Casio G-Shock DW-H5600. You do get some exciting features included, though, like Nightly Recharge, which is pretty cool.
Sadly, there is no GNSS, so the watch relies on the motion sensor to determine distance, which will never be as accurate as GPS-backed systems. Remarkably, the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 isn't too far off compared to full-blown multisport watches when it comes to tracking distance. That said, I wouldn't use it for anything too serious.
Another slight hindrance is the Casio app. Unlike well-thought-out companion apps like Garmin's Connect, the Casio app feels rather clunky, with the homepage not acting as a dashboard but more like an advertising space for Casio. You'll find most of your data under the third tab, grouped under the scrollable cards you get for each day you wear the watch.
It's not the worst system, but there is a complete lack of gamification, and you can't see your trends either, both of which usually help people stay active over time. For passive tracking, it's more than enough data, but one wonders what's the point of having the refined Polar algorithm on board if you aren't really using it. Maybe Casio has to tweak its app to make it look more like the redesigned Fitbit app.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: verdict
I said many less-than-appealing things about the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 in this review. The truth is, I don't dislike the watch, although I wish it were better. It's the first smart G-Shokz I didn't want to take off as soon as I finished testing, thanks to the more compact case and the throwback aesthetic. As a millennial, these kinds of wearables will always have a special place in my heart.
That said, unless you're a G-Shock fan, you'll find better smartwatches for the same or less money. Casio needs to pivot towards not advertising digital watch features as smart features, like World Time, which a smartwatch should automatically be able to tell anyway since it's connected to your smartphone. Notifications and breathing exercises without a respiration sensor just won't cut it in 2023.
I appreciate if you're a G-Shock fan, the DW-H5600 is an exciting proposition, as it incorporates some health and fitness tracking and provides that same old-school G-Shock watch experience. If you like the look of the watch and wouldn't mind gaining access to some of your health data, by all means, get the watch. I'll be waiting patiently for an updated version that irons out the hardware and software issues. Hopefully, I won't have to wait for too long.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 review: also consider
There is nothing quite like the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 on the market today I can recommend. There are plenty of excellent wearables on T3's best smartwatch guide, but I feel the closest alternative would be something like an older Garmin with a MIP screen, like the Garmin Forerunner 245 or the Garmin Forerunner 55. None of them has as much swag as the Casio, but they are much better at tracking fitness.