Samsung Rugby Pro review: Tough-guy Android phone for a fair price

Cameras
Cameras are usually de-emphasized on durable phones, but I'm glad to see the Rugby Pro packing a quite decent 5-megapixel shooter. In addition to taking some nice outdoor and indoor shots, Samsung has given the Rugby Pro's camera many of its typical extra features.

Samsung Rugby Pro camera test
The Samsung Rugby Pro takes some pretty decent shots. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Let's start with the photos themselves. The Rugby Pro produces photos that are on the whole clear and detailed, with sharp edges and strong color. There clearly isn't as much detail as from most 8-megapixel cameras, and photos taken in good lighting are better than those taken indoors in mixed lighting or artificial environments.

Samsung Rugby Pro camera test
The petals' edges are distinct and color isn't overly saturated. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Compare photo quality among CNET's studio shots.

Those looking to do more than simply point and shoot will appreciate various shooting modes, including panorama and smile shot modes, and effects like sepia and black and white. Resolution options span from 5 megapixels to 0.3 megapixel, and you'll find settings for white balance, ISO, metering, and shutter sound. I always appreciate seeing scene choices, including night and sports modes.

Samsung Rugby Pro camera test
Color distinctions look a little duller and flatter indoors in mixed lighting. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The phone's 720p HD video capture was also quite good. The image was clear, mostly sharp (sharper outdoor than indoors), and colorful. The microphone didn't quite capture the subject's voice, which is sadly normal, but increasing the output volume solves the issue.

Samsung Rugby Pro camera test
The Rugby Pro captured this indoor chalk art well, but I'm fairly certain you'll never look at rainbows the same way again. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera took relatively decent shots, and more importantly, it works well for video chats.

Only 8GB internal storage graces the Rugby Pro, but you'll find relief for your content-collecting ways with a microSD card slot capable of holding 32GB.

Samsung Rugby Pro camera test
You can see the Rugby Pro's flash bouncing around this standard studio shot. It's a pretty good photo, but unsurprisingly can't compete with the best 8-megapixel shots. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Performance
AT&T's 4G LTE was blazing throughout my test period here in San Francisco, and the Rugby Pro's internals more than kept up. Using the Speedtest.net diagnostic app, the Rugby Pro typically achieved download speeds spanning the 13Mbps to a searing 59Mbps. Uplink speeds hovered in the teens, but never surpassed 16Mbps up.

Samsung Rugby Pro
Results from the Quadrant diagnostic benchmark test (left) and the Speedtest.net upload/download test. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Apps downloaded and installed in seconds, and Web pages loaded lickety-split.

The Rugby Pro's 1.5GHz dual-core processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960, is also tremendously fast. Navigating around took very little lag time, and gameplay was strong.

However, there were a few touch-and-go moments during my test period. There was that one random reboot, and the time I completely lost all signal. I got signal back after a while, but the return of my data took longer. Thankfully, this only occurred once.

AT&T Rugby Pro: Performance testing
Download CNET News app (646KB) 6 seconds
CNET mobile site load 4 seconds
CNET desktop site load 4.7 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 24 seconds
Camera boot time 1.75 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 3 seconds
Load up app (Quadrant) 1.78 seconds

As far as the battery goes, the Rugby Pro has a rated battery life of 11 hours and 12 days of standby time on its 1,850mAh battery. It lasted pretty long in my anecdotal tests as well, but in CNET lab tests, the Rugby Pro only played back video for 5.2 hours before shutting down. However, it lasted 15.9 hours in our talk test. The Samsung Rugby Pro has a digital SAR of 1.42 watts per kilogram.

Call quality
I tested the Rugby Pro (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; LTE 1700/2100) in San Francisco using AT&T's network. I don't get to say this very often, but call quality was amazing. Crystal clarity meant there was no background noise whatsoever, and I didn't detect any vocal distortion. Volume was robust on the highest setting (this came by default), and in the mostly quiet office, I needed it. That's usually a red flag, but the Rugby Pro has Samsung's call-boost control, which uses software to amp to decibels. As always, turning on the booster changes the audio's character; it made it louder, and also slightly less warm.

My testing partner agreed that the Rugby Pro is one of the clearest phones he's heard on his landline. It was comfortably loud, there was a little distortion on the high-frequency peaks, and I sounded a tad unnatural. Otherwise, he said I sounded "very, very good."

Samsung Rugby Pro call quality sample Listen now:

The speakerphone followed suit when I tested it at waist level. Its very loud (but not overly aggressive) volume meant that I could retreat further from the phone and still hear; an equally useful trait for listening in a moving car, a more raucous environment. Voices retained their warmth and clarity, but it was obviously still a speakerphone, and buzzed in my hands through the speaker.

My calling partner kept his assessment short and sweet: "Excellent speaker phone. Ditto above." He added that he was aware of normal amounts of echo from the surrounding room, but the handset wasn't contributing to the customary helping of speakerphone hollowness.

Who should buy this phone
If you're looking for an Android smartphone that you hope is a little tougher than the usual crop of breakables, the Samsung Rugby Pro is a good fit. Likewise, the reasonable $99 phone is a terrific option for outdoor workers who need a strong phone and prefer the Rugby Pro's camera and Ice Cream Sandwich frills.

However, if you require a handset to survive the toughest situations under extreme pressure, you should keep shopping for a more durable handset. The same goes for those who need to operate a phone with gloves on -- the Rugy Pro's touch display only works with bare hands.

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

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    Where to Buy

    Samsung Rugby Pro (AT&T)

    Part Number: SGH-i547 Released: 21 Oct 2012
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Release date 21 Oct 2012
    • Service Provider AT&T
    • Weight 4.6 oz
    • Diagonal Size 4 in
    • Technology LTE
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