Casio G'zOne Ravine 2 review: Casio G'zOne Ravine 2

Like most midrange phones, the Ravine 2 offers access to Microsoft Exchange accounts and POP3 services like Yahoo, Windows Live, and Gmail. You'll need to use Verizon's Mobile E-mail application for $5 per month, though, and the interface isn't quite worth the effort. Similarly, the instant messaging requires data use and I didn't enjoy a full conversation while using T9 predictive text.

The camera lens and flash sit on the Ravine 2's back.

The 3.2-megapixel camera takes photos in six resolutions, from 2,048x1,536 pixels down to 160x120 pixels. In addition to the aforementioned flash (which doubles as a flashlight), there are brightness and white balance controls, night and multishot modes, a digital zoom, and five color effects. The camera has a default shutter sound, but you can turn it off. The video recorder shoots clips in a 320x240-pixel resolution with a set of editing options. Unfortunately, you can shoot for only 60 seconds at a time whether you're saving the clip to the phone or sending it in a message.

The Ravine 2's camera produced average-quality photos.

Photo quality is just average, unfortunately, with washed-out colors and some image noise. Make sure that your finger is out of the way when shooting.

You easily can transfer photos off the phone using the data card or by syncing with a PC over a USB cable (the Ravine also has a USB mass storage mode). Inside, the handset has 512MB flash memory with 256MB of RAM. With everything that comes on the phone, however, users have access to only 216MB of space. The microSD slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB.

The Ravine 2 has a number of apps from both Verizon and other vendors. They're not exactly bloatware since they don't crowd out the main menu, but most require data network use. VZ Navigator stands in for GPS and turn-by-turn directions, V Cast TV brings streaming videos, and Daily Scoop promises personalized news and deals. Yeah, I definitely passed on that last one. City ID will display the city and state of incoming calls, though it's irritating that you have to have a subscription when Sprint offers the service for free. There's also an Opera Mini browser that includes access to apps like Facebook, WeatherBug, and YouTube, but it's frustrating to use on such a small display.

I tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900) Ravine 2 in San Francisco using Verizon service. Given that some of the previous Casio phones faltered when it came to call quality, I didn't have high expectations. But after a couple of days of use I was glad to find that the Ravine 2 shows nice improvement over its predecessors. I didn't notice the tinny audio quality that Nicole Lee heard on the original Ravine and my callers were more positive about the sound on their end.

For me, call volume was loud and the audio was clear and free of static. Voices sounded natural and I didn't hear any distortion. My only complaint is that I heard a few very brief audio gaps, but they weren't enough to color my experience. I also didn't have trouble using automated calling systems or with using the voice commands. For the latter, just make sure that you speak slowly, don't mumble, and use the proper commands (such as "Call Eric" instead of "Phone Eric"). Since the commands are speaker-independent you don't need to train the phone. What's more, I could use the feature even if there was some background noise.

As I mentioned, callers reported better conditions on their end. My friends could hear me loud and clear and my voice lacked the harsh quality that came with the first Ravine. Callers could tell that I was using a cell phone and a few friends mentioned some wind noise, but neither is unusual. Speakerphone calls were about the same. The speakerphone gets very loud and shows only a touch of distortion at the highest volume level.

The Ravine 2 supports Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A 3G network. No, it's not LTE, but there's really no need for 4G on a midrange phone in the first place. If you're used to 3G speeds you won't be disappointed by the Ravine. Mobile Web pages loaded quickly and streaming videos performed well.

As a dual-mode phone, the Ravine 2 uses Verizon's CDMA network in the United States and GSM and UMTS networks when abroad. The Verizon-supplied SIM card that comes with the phone means you'll be locked to Verizon's roaming partners, but it's still a great option for getting service when abroad. You don't need to activate the service, but you should invest in one of Verizon's global service plans for the best rates (see CNET's Quick guide to world phones for more information).

The Ravine 2 has a rated battery life of 4.68 hours and 21.1 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests the Ravine 2 has a digital SAR of 1 watt per kilogram.

Like its predecessors, the Casio G'zOne Ravine 2 stands out from the cell phone crowd for its sturdy and ultradurable design. It's not pretty in the least, but that doesn't matter when you can take the handset for a swim without giving it a scratch. Similarly, though it doesn't have a ton of features, call quality is respectable and it offers everything you need for communication. So if you need a device for calling for help while stuck in a sandstorm, the Ravine 2 is a great buy. I just wouldn't recommend taking photos of that sandstorm with the Ravine 2's camera.

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