- Rugged Mil Spec build provides some protection
- Unique software and widgets
- Not as tough as it looks
- Dated OS
- Throwaway camera
Quick TakeThe Casio G'zOne Commando 4G LTE may look tough, but it can't withstand much abuse, making the sacrifices of form and performance not really worth it.
Rugged phones with modern features are a bit of a rarity; in this sense, Casio doesn’t have a whole lot of direct competition for its G’zOne Commando 4G LTE. But it’s difficult to deny that users make a lot of sacrifices opting for a phone like the Commando instead of a regular smartphone, including specs and software that aren’t top-of-the-line and, obviously, a rather bulky and heavy build. So the question is: is it worth those sacrifices for the added protection that the Commando aims to provide? Let’s find out.
Build & Design
You won’t be mistaking the Commando for an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S4 when you hold it in your hand, thanks to its heavy-duty build and unique shape that features a slightly pointed bottom. Obviously it’s not particularly thin, measuring half an inch thick, and it weighs in at a hefty 6.17 ounces. Yet, for all its chunkiness, the Commando still has a somewhat attractive, flashy look to it thanks to its red and silver accents complimenting the phone’s primary black color.
The casing/shell that runs around the entire outer edge is soft-touch but plastic, while visible metal screws hold the whole thing together. The earpiece and microphone both reside in raised silver bumps that are a little exposed, but at the very least it looks cool and futuristic. The back of the phone features textured plastic, giving the device some grip.
The Commando is meant to be built tough and to an extent, it is. It’s Mil Spec MIL-STD-810G, meaning that it can take a wide range of abuse, including being submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes, withstanding 26 four-foot drops, and being resistant to any matter of elements, including rain, dust, humidity, vibration, temperature, and pressure.
The reality of the situation, unfortunately, is that the Commando isn’t as tough as it looks or sounds, at least in my experience. Yes, it did just fine in the dust and dirt — I brought it to the beach once — and it handled water resistance quite well when I used it in the rain and dunked it in containers of water to take pictures for your viewing pleasure. But then, I dropped the Commando precisely one time on the pavement from the height of my waist, and in addition to small bits being taken out of the protective casing (a more rubberized and less plastic-based approach would have probably helped prevent that), the phone seemed to suffer internal damage.
From then on, the Commando would arbitrarily shut off if it wasn’t used often enough, at which point it could not simply be turned back on. The back plate had to be taken off and then the battery had to be removed and reinserted before the device could reboot. With rugged phones like the Commando, users are essentially sacrificing svelte, compact, stylish builds in exchange for enhanced protection. But when the thick, chunky build of the phone does little to protect it in practice, what’s the point?
The Commando’s 800 x 480, 4-inch display isn’t all that impressive overall, but it certainly gets the job done when considering the context in which the phone is supposed to be used. In other words, what it lacks in sharpness and color saturation it makes up for with a great viewing angle and good brightness. The phone’s Gorilla Glass 2 display fights glare well and while I’ve seen brighter screens, the Commando on its highest setting does enough to maintain visibility outdoors even on very sunny days.
The only thing some users might find a little unusual — if they’re familiar with some of the more recent Android devices — is that the Commando still includes the old-school menu/settings capacitive key below the screen in addition to the still-used back, home, and window keys. It’s not a huge problem, but it is a little out of the ordinary these days and, more importantly, indicative of the phone’s dated software (since more recent versions of Android no longer need the key and it was subsequently phased out).
Other Buttons and Ports
There are a few unorthodox additions to the layout of the Commando, offering up a refreshing change of pace from the typical minimalist approach seen these days. On the left side, in addition to the volume rocker, there is a programmable tactile key that can be set to launch an app of your choice after it’s been held down for a couple of seconds. It can also be programmed to switch the phone directly into glove mode, so people using the Commando with gloves on won’t have to navigate the menus to make the switch.
The bottom edge features a lanyard loop, and the right side has a covered charging port and contact points for docking the phone. The top edge, meanwhile, has a covered 3.5mm headphone jack and the power switch.
That just leaves the back of the phone, which features a very secure setup for covering the removable battery. The back panel has a switch that has to be flipped to unlock it, after which users must pry it off (admittedly a difficult feat given its water-resistant seal), and then flip another switch inside to release the battery. It’s a great way to offer both the convenience of an accessible battery (and microSD and SIM card slots) while also offering protection from the elements.