Sonim XP Strike review:

Poor design and camera plague tough device

Handy tools include a clock with alarm features, a calendar, a memo pad, a to-do list, a calendar, a stopwatch, and a world clock. With the entertainment icon, you can access your videos, music, and photos, as well as an FM radio.

Sonim XP Strike (Sprint)
The handset can be submerged in up to 6.5 feet of water for 30 minutes. James Martin/CNET

Finally, you get some rudimentary Web access. One is the Access NetFront 4.2 Web browser, which lets you visit stripped versions of Web sites. There's also a GPS navigator from Telenav that you'll need to register for.

Other features include Bluetooth 2.0, a shopping app, and 256MB of RAM.

Camera and video
The camera has brightness, contrast, and exposure meters, red-eye and night modes, a timer, four color effects, five white balances, four image sizes (from 320x240 to 1,600x1,200), and geo-tagging. Video options include the same brightness, contrast, and exposure meters, as well as the same white balances, but also audio muting, two video resolutions (128x96 and 176x144), and two format options (3GP and MP4).

Picture quality was downright awful. For some reason, objects in the live view looked fine and crisp, but once I clicked the shutter, photos came out blurry and heavily pixelated. You can see distinct aliasing along the edges of objects, colors were washed out, and auto white balance was yellow and wonky. Were it not for how these photos looked while I viewed them in the handset, I would have thought these photos had been rendered incorrectly when I sent them to a computer. But because they looked just the same on the computer and on the phone, I can conclude that the camera really is this terrible.

Sonim XP Strike (inside)
You can see heavy aliasing against the white wall's edges and corners. Lynn La/CNET
Sonim XP Strike (outside)
The flowers here look jagged and pixelated. Lynn La/CNET
Sonim XP Strike (SSI)
Not only does the white background take on a yellow hue, but objects are out of focus. Lynn La/CNET

Video didn't fare any better. Though some nearby audio picked up clearly, objects were out of focus, and heavily pixelated, and it was hard to make out even the simplest of things like close-up text. Feedback lagged behind my moving of the handset as well.

I tested the dual-band (800, 1900) XP Strike in our San Francisco offices. Call quality was excellent. There were no extraneous noises or static, audio didn't cut in and out, and none of my calls were dropped. In times of silence, I heard absolutely no background noise, and even on maximum volume, voices didn't sound too harsh or tinny. Speaker quality was just as good, as I heard my friends loud and clear. Likewise, I was told my voice quality sounded great too. One person even remarked that it sounded like I was calling from a landline.

Sonim XP Strike call quality sample Listen now:

As a rugged device, the phone is tough: I dropped it on a hardwood floor and it practically bounced up and landed with no visible scuffs or scratches. However, I got some inconsistent performance with underwater testing. The first time, I put it underwater in a sink for 30 minutes. When I took it out, it operated perfectly. But when it was dunked a second time for just a few minutes, the phone began to act oddly. The camera shortcut button didn't work, the number 5 kept appearing on screen, and finally, it shut down altogether. I also saw moisture collecting underneath the display. I checked to see if any water had leaked into the handset, even though I hadn't opened it up since the first submersion. Sure enough, water had gotten into the battery compartment. I will leave it out to dry and will update the review when I revisit the handset.

The Strike's 1,950mAh battery has a reported talk time of 8.3 hours and a standby time of 319 hours. During our talk-time test, it lasted 11.53 hours. Anecdotally, it has long battery life. It doesn't do much, so you can go through at least a couple of days without a charge. According to the FCC, it has a in-ear SAR rating of 1.39W/kg.

I'll give it to the Sonim XP Strike that it's built like a brick, and it performed excellently both in call quality and taking a few knocks against the floor. But other than that, there isn't much here. Sprint has a pretty robust lineup of rugged handsets, and Kyocera's Dura family, for example, are all cheaper than the XP Strike. Both the Kyocera DuraPlus and DuraXT are currently available for $70 with promotions. Though it doesn't have a microSD card slot, the former doesn't suffer from the XP Strike's particular design flaws, and the latter has a decent camera. Frankly, I'd consider these two before the Strike.

What you'll pay

This week on CNET News


Discuss: Sonim XP Strike Sprint

Conversation powered by Livefyre