Kyocera DuraXT (Sprint) review:

Kyocera DuraXT (Sprint)

You can also check your e-mail, as long as it's a Yahoo, AOL (do people still have those?), or Hotmail address. A Gmail shortcut is not included. And you can check up on your social-media networks like Facebook and MySpace (forget what I said about AOL earlier, do people still have MySpace pages?)

Camera and video
In addition to a flash and a self-timer, the 3.2-megapixel camera has a 12X digital zoom, five picture modes (normal, beach/snow, scenery, mirror image, and night/dark), three meters for brightness, sharpness, and contrast, and five white-balance options. There's also a package of "fun tools" that include color overlays like aqua blue, sepia, and B&W, and a multiple-shot mode.

After you take a photo, there are some editing options. You can add text captions, access picture metadata, and resize images up to 2 megapixels (1,200x1,600 pixels). When you decrease the image of a photo (the lowest you can go is 240x320 pixels), you get more "special effects" including fun frames and stamps to superimpose on your pictures, cropping, and rotating.

The Kyocera DuraXT's 3.2-megapixel camera Josh Miller/CNET

As for the camcorder, you're first prompted to choose between two video lengths, video mail (50 seconds) and long video (which depends on how much memory is available). With the exception of the sharpness meter, all options in the camera mode are retained. The only editing option is to add text captions.

Though the camera has low specs, photo quality was still decent. In outdoor shots, colors were true to life and edges were well-defined. Due to a lack of focus, bright whites were washed out and it was hard to differentiate dark hues, but objects for the most part were in focus. Indoor shots fared a little worse, however, with more graininess showing up in the photos.

In this outdoor shot, objects in the back and foreground are in focus. Lynn La/CNET
In this sunny indoor shot, colors are muted and images grainy. Lynn La/CNET
In our standard studio shot, objects are well defined. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was less impressive. Audio kept picking up a low but constant humming or buzzing sound, which was particularly noticeable (and annoying) in recordings taken outside. Images were heavily pixelated and grainy, and moving objects were blurry and out of focus. Colors were also muted.

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800, 1900) Kyocera DuraXT in San Francisco using Sprint's services. Call and signal quality were both very strong. My friends sounded clear and were easy to understand. There were no extraneous noises or buzzing, calls didn't drop, and audio didn't clip and out. Speakerphone was also superb and loud. Voices only started sounded sharp when volume was turned all the way. Likewise, my friends said they could hear me perfectly well. One even commented that it sounded like I was speaking from a landline.

Kyocera DuraXT call quality sample Listen now:

The phone includes Sprint's Direct Connect feature, enabling users to quickly connect with other Direct Connect subscribers using push-to-talk. It works on Sprint and Nextel network platforms. Customers using Group Connect can talk to up to 20 subscribers instantaneously, or up to 200 people using its TeamDCsm feature. You can also set up alerts, texts, and notifications, which will let you send an audio or text alert to other people to let them know you are trying to reach them via Direct Connect.

The walkie-talkie feature worked pretty decently. Setting it up between to DuraXT models came easy, and it didn't take long before I could hold down the push-to-talk button and communicate directly with another person. Voices sounded loud and clear, even as I walked outside our CNET offices. I especially liked the chirping, which notifies you that your call was successfully sent.

The Kyocera DuraXT's push-to-talk button Josh Miller/CNET

As a rugged handset, the DuraXT can definitely take a beating. I dunked it in a fishbowl and in a fountain, threw it around on the floor and against walls, and stuck it in a freezer for 10 minutes. It always came out completely functional and in one piece without any visible scratches or dents. One thing I did notice, however, was that after it had been underwater, moisture gathered underneath the internal display. I didn't notice it when I was inside but it was noticeable when I was outdoors. I could really see the small amount of water droplets and steam and it obscured my view of the display. Though the device kept ticking, it might not be as sealed as it should be.

Sprint's 3G network (1xEV-DO rA) is slow as molasses on this phone. The carrier reports that the average download speeds range for the DuraXT ranges from "400 to 700 Kbps with peak rates up to 2 Mbps." Loading the CNET, The New York Times, and ESPN's mobile sites took an average of 10, 12, and 11 seconds, respectively. Mind you, these sites resemble nothing like they do on a regular smartphone. Many of the images and codes are stripped away, leaving a skeleton of the sites' key headlines.

The processor is also sluggish. Opening up menu items, using the GPA navigation, returning to the homepage, and even pressing the back button took so long that sometimes I thought the handset had frozen or hadn't registered my commands. The camera lags so much that one, I have to hold the device completely still for a handful of seconds after I click the shutter to prevent motion blur; and two, I have to sit through a progress wheel every time I want to save a picture or record video.

During our battery drain tests, the phone lasted nine hours. Anecdotally, the handset has great battery life. I spent most of the day browsing the Web, talking on the phone, and using the walkie-talkie feature without making a dent the battery usage. Furthermore, the handset can last a couple of days without a charge. When it was plugged in, charge time took less than an hour. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.328W/kg.

Though I'm no construction worker, I still dig the Kyocera DuraXT. I like how it offers more features for daily use than the DuraPlus. With the DuraXT, Kyocera traded in the Plus' useful flashlight for a low-grade but decent camera. Users also get a microSD card slot and the device's clamshell design is less unwieldy than the rubber-brick-build the Plus sported. Most importantly, call quality is still top-notch and as for the DuraXT's physical durability, well, I'd expect nothing less from Kyocera.

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