Dropped phones and broken handsets are nothing new to many cell phone owners. That's why the Casio G'zOne series of ruggedized handsets have been so popular over the years; they're not just for those with construction jobs, but also those who want a reliable phone that won't break at the drop of a hat. The most recent Casio G'zOne Ravine is an update of thefrom last year, and it continues the Casio trend of military-certified toughness. It also comes equipped with outdoor-friendly applications like a compass, a tidal graph, an astro calendar, and more. The Ravine has a slightly better camera than the Rock, but its features remain largely the same. The call quality could be better as well. It is available for $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a new two-year agreement.
The Casio G'zOne Ravine's overall heft and bulk is similar to its predecessor, the G'zOne Rock. However, the front of the phone is slightly better styled; the Ravine has beveled edges that run along the length of the handset for a more streamlined look. We also think the metallic red circle surrounding the external display is a nice contrast with the mostly black phone.
Measuring 4.3 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.9 inch thick, the Ravine is constructed out of a durable plastic shell. In fact, it meets the military 810G standards for resistance against water, shock, dust, immersion, vibration, salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, altitude, and extreme temperatures. The result is a rather bulky phone with rubber stoppers in all its ports and a textured rubberized back. The battery cover also has a locking mechanism to ensure the phone's internals don't get damaged.
The aforementioned external display is a 1.35-inch mono LCD. It shows the signal strength, battery life, date and time information, and any incoming calls or text messages. It also shows the currently playing track when the music player is active. You can use it as a camera viewfinder as well, but it's black and white and very pixelated, so we wouldn't recommend that. You can change the clock format and whether you want the background to be black or white. However, there aren't any external music player controls as on the G'zOne Rock. You also can't access Push-to-Talk contacts and applications while the phone is closed.
Above the external display is a secondary microphone for when you're using the Ravine as a walkie-talkie device. There's also a charging-indicator LED inside the red circle. On the left spine are the voice command key, the volume rocker, a red key, and a 2.5mm headset jack. The voice command key also acts as a bottom side key for unlocking the external display. The red key acts as a Push-to-Talk key when PTT is active, but you can map it to any shortcut when the phone is on standby. The charging port is on the right spine. On the back is the camera lens and LED flash. You can use the LED as a flash light as well. To get to the microSD card slot, you need to remove the battery.
The Ravine has a very sturdy hinge that snaps and locks into place when you open or close it. When opened, you'll find an inviting 2.2-inch 65,000 TFT color display. It might not be as rich as a 262,000 color screen, but we actually found the 240x320 pixel display to be quite sharp and colorful for the most part. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the menu layout, the font size for both the dial fonts and the menu fonts, and the clock format.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a round toggle with a middle select key, a camera key, and a speakerphone/flashlight key. The toggle's up, left, and down directions can be mapped to three user-defined functions, while the right arrow brings up a My Shortcuts dialog box with four more user-defined shortcuts. There are also the usual Send, Clear, and End/Power keys under the navigation array. The Clear button doubles as a shortcut to the G'zGear application suite. The overall keypad mirrors the phone's geometric exterior. The keys are raised and angular-shaped, which definitely make them easy to find by feel.
The G'zOne Ravine has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for four numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging screen name, and a street address. You can also add up to 500 Push-to-Talk entries with multiple contacts. As usual, you can add your contacts to groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, and match them with any of 12 polyphonic ringtones. A few more basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a countdown timer, a world clock, a notepad, and the aforementioned flashlight capability.
For the slightly savvier phone customer, the Ravine also has voice command support, mobile IM (Windows Live, Yahoo, and AOL), a wireless Web browser, Bing search, and three e-mail options: mobile e-mail, corporate e-mail, and mobile Web e-mail. Mobile e-mail is essentially an application that lets you get e-mail directly from your provider, be it a Web service like Yahoo or your own POP/IMAP server. The corporate e-mail option uses the RemoSync service to sync your company's e-mail, contacts, and calendar information to you via Exchange. Last but not least, the mobile Web mail option simply opens up a browser with links to popular Web mail services like Hotmail and AOL Mail.