UPDATE: This “first impressions” review was written after a brief time with this rugged smartphone. A more complete version based on extensive testing of this model is available here:
The Casio G’zOne Commando is Verizon Wireless’ first rugged smartphone. It was designed to keep going under rough conditions. Despite this, it has all the features of any Android device, like a web browser, email software, music and video apps.
I haven’t yet had a chance to fully test out this tough but capable handset, but these are my first impresions. A full review will be out soon.
BUILD & DESIGN
We usually think of “rugged” electronics, those designed to be taken into harsh environments and subjected to adverse conditions, as being oversized and bulky things. Heavy casings, clumsy buttons, and generally unsuited to use by a general public which likes light, trim, and efficient.
The Casio G’zOne Commando turns that idea on its head. I didn’t have any real expectations before I opened the box, and that’s probably a good thing, since, if I had the Commando would have shattered them. It’s no larger than most mid-size smartphones, and measures just 0.6 inches thick. It weighs 5.4 ounces — less, actually, than the Motorola Droid X also available from Verizon — and sports a large, open 3.6-ounces touchscreen. Were it not for the solid, rubberized casing, and the prominent steel screws holding it together, you would barely know that you were holding a rugged smartphone in your hands.
Where the Commando’s appeal lies is it’s durability: drop it, kick it, dunk it in water, leave it in the sun, cook it to 180 degrees or freeze it to 13 below zero, this thing is designed to take even the harshest environments, and still keep running. You can drop this thing six inches deep in a mud puddle, pick it up, take it inside, wash it with hot soapy water and a scrub brush, and it will continue computing most cheerfully. That is the main, chief selling point of this device: it’s nearly impossible to destroy.
Apart from being rugged, the Commando isn’t overly impressive in the specs department. It runs on Verizon’s 3G network, and features the usual Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as an 800 MHz processor and 1 GB of flash, of which 330 MB is available to the user. A 3.6-inch WVGA screen, 5 megapixel camera, and a bundled 8GB microSD card certainly make it serviceable, but not very flashy when it’s compared to the higher end Android devices. But flashy isn’t the point. Functional is.
Although rugged devices have their uses in industrial work–construction, factories, etcetera–the Commando has a definite bias towards outdoorsmanship. It comes with a small suite of apps providing such information as high and low tides, pedometer, sunrise and sunset for your current location, digital compass, thermometer–wait, what? No, that’s not a typo: the Commando has a built in internal thermometer.
The first word I’d use to describe the Casio G’zOne Commando is “potential.” It’s not equipped out of the box to do all the things that you might want out of a smartphone in the middle of the woods — but the availability of the Android Market means that you can get equipped pretty quickly. With or without an investment in software, you can configure the Commando from anything from topographical mapping for a hike, to the ultimate geocaching tool, to just a good smartphone that you’re not afraid to take into a rough environment, be that a forest or a factory.
As always, you can look forward to a more in-depth exploration of the Commando’s capabilities and limitations in our full review, along with battery life, benchmarks, what sort of survival testing the handset’s design has gone through, and of course, what else I’ve done to it to see how well it really does.