Casio G'zOne Ravine 2 Review: Rugged and Dull
Casio does rugged phones well, and the G'zOne Ravine 2 is no exception -- it's a great handset if you live a rough and tumble lifestyle and you want a solid flip phone, but it's quite similar to its predecessors, so don't expect anything cutting edge.
Just like the Commando and its other hearty brethren, the Ravine is built to resist shocks, extreme temperatures, dust, fog, vibrations and inclement conditions. It's also waterproof. Standing at 4.3-by-2.0 inches in size -- it's smaller than the original Ravine -- and just less than five ounces, it looks fairly tame. The plastic shell has a thick rubberized guard, and it's sturdy, but I expected a bulkier and more grizzled design. It's not overly aggressive or industrial, and red accents give it a more lighthearted touch than the rival all-black tough devices. But four screws in the front and ribbed hinge secure the weak spots, assuring you it meets strict military specifications for ruggedness.
An outer 1.4-inch display is basic, and shows the essentials like time and battery life. It uses a passive matrix, and not active, so it doesn't refresh as quickly. That's not a big deal, since you won't be watching videos on the display, but I was surprised because it's been outdated for a while. The inner 2.2-inch display, meanwhile, not much better. The low-quality 320-by-240 resolution has a pixelated 182-ppi pixel density. Text looks jagged, but images look fine, as long as you don't expect sharp definition. I like that you can adjust brightness and put the backlight on a timer, but this isn't a device for multimedia.
The keypad and navigation buttons, meanwhile, are raised and easy to press. It's easy to place a call or send off a quick text with just one hand. That's great if you're rock-climbing, for example, and you have to hold on for dear life. There's also a shortcut that keeps the LED flash on, turning it into a flashlight -- so if you camp with it, your phone can serve as a guiding light in a fix.
That's what you'll want to use the flash for because the 3.2-megapixel auto-focus camera is bad -- photos come out grainy and pixelated, despite the strong flash. You have a few editing options at hand, but they won't fix the dull and slightly blurry images. You can shoot 60-second video clips, but the same quality problems are there, so it's not worth it.
If you do want to save photos, it's simple to transfer them to a PC with a USB cord. It also takes a microSD card. But really, you won't need it, since photos aren't worth taking. Fortunately, the side-mounted slot is easier to get to. The old version was behind the battery, so you needed to take the phone apart to get to it. You won't need storage for music either, since the 2.5-millimeter headphone jack requires an adapter to play songs. That's way too much of a hassle, since there's no music player at all.
Oh, one good thing. You can use Verizon's push-to-talk service if you want to walkie-talkie with co-workers or outdoorsy buds for free. But honestly, it's a little-used feature. Still, if you run a construction business, for example, and you plan to buy a bunch of Ravines, it'll cut down on phone costs.
The software comes with a suite of wilderness-optimized apps like a compass, thermometer and star-gazing app, so it really is a fun phone to take on an excursion. As far as other programs go, they're not very helpful unless you get a data plan. If you plan to use the Opera browser to browse the Web, it doesn't make much financial sense to buy the Ravine. The extra fees alone make it worthwhile to buy a smartphone in the long run -- it all adds up to the same price as a cheap data plan.
But you can take it anywhere in the world -- it runs on both CDMA and quad-band GSM networks, with Ev-Do Rev. A and EDGE data -- but the device is tied to Verizon's international calling plan. Tricky. There's also no Wi-Fi. If you do take travel, don't forget the charger. The 1,150 mAh battery lasts a little over six hours of talk and a few days of standby.
Overall, the Ravine 2 is a durable clamshell, so if you like to hang glide, urban BASE jump or dirt bike, it's the phone for you. I thought it was better than other mid-tier rugged phones like the Motorola Barrage, but if you don't need toughness, it's a mediocre feature phone, so it really depends what your priorities are. ♦
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