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Casio Exilim C721 (Verizon Wireless) review: Casio Exilim C721 (Verizon Wireless)

Casio Exilim C721 (Verizon Wireless)

Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
9 min read


Casio Exilim C721 (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The Casio Exilim C721 is slim and stylish, yet it's military-certified to withstand the elements. It also has an innovative rotating display that makes it look and feel like a camera. The 5.1-megapixel camera takes great pictures. Features include EV-DO Rev. A, GPS, and a HTML Web browser. Call quality is great as well.

The Bad

The Casio Exilim C721 requires a dock to sync with the PC, the Web browsing experience is a little clunky, and it's quite pricey.

The Bottom Line

If you don't mind its expensive cost, the Casio Exilim C721 is a sleek yet durable phone with a great megapixel camera and plenty of high-end features.

Casio may be better known for its slim Exilim cameras than its mobile handsets in the U.S. The only Casio phones available in the U.S. have been the G'zOne series of handsets, all of which are ruggedized and built to withstand the elements. The G'zOne Type-V was the first, followed by the G'zOne Type-S, and most recently the G'zOne Boulder. While these phones are certainly tough, they're not exactly slim and stylish, and they're a little lacking the multimedia department, too.

Well, Casio has decided to combine the Exilim camera brand with its rugged handset philosophy, resulting in the Casio Exilim C721, possibly the country's first high-end megapixel camera phone built to be water and shock resistant. Indeed, the C721 has a 5.1-megapixel camera with plenty of features that rival that of standalone point-and-shoots. It even has a rotating display that fold out to act as a camera viewfinder. On top of that, it comes with a music player, EV-DO Rev. A, and a HTML Web browser. If you want a high-quality feature phone built to withstand the elements, the C721 is certainly the one to get. Still, the C721 won't be cheap--it'll cost $279.99 with a two-year service agreement and a $50 mail-in rebate, which is pricier than most smartphones.

The Casio Exilim C721 does not look a thing like a ruggedized phone. Unlike its G'zOne brethren, the Exilim C721 has a sleek, smooth, and stylish exterior, which is more indicative of the Exilim brand. You would never think that the Exilim C721 is military-certified (under code MIL-STD 810F) to withstand immersion in water, blowing rain, shock, dust, vibration salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, and high altitudes. The chassis is a hard plastic shell, and the headset and microSD ports are protected with tight rubber seals. There's also a slide lock mechanism for the battery cover. Though we didn't submit the C721 to the same battery of tests as the military, we did dunk it in water and throw it on the floor a few times to test its durability. It kept on working without a problem. We even managed to take a couple of photos with the camera while it was still in a tank of water.

The Casio Exilim C721 may be a rugged phone, but it doesn't look like it.

Measuring 4.06 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.77 inch thick and weighing 4.76 ounces, the C721 is wide yet slim, and has a nice solid heft in the hand. The entire front surface of the C721 is clad in glossy black save for the Verizon logo at the bottom. However, if you activate the phone, you will see a monochrome OLED display that shows the signal strength, battery life, and a digital or analog clock (you can choose the clock format in the settings). It also displays caller ID, and if you have any new messages or missed calls. It even shows the currently playing track if you have the music player activated. Of course, it doesn't support photo caller ID, and you can't adjust things like backlight or font size.

On the left of the phone are a microSD card slot and a charging pad. On the right are a headset jack, a back button that doubles as a rewind or previous track key for the music player, volume controls that can be used to navigate the camera's menu and act as camera zoom controls when in camera mode, a side control key that can only be used in camera mode for selecting functions and settings, and the camera shutter button. On the back of the C721 are the camera lens, a very bright LED flash that can also act as a flashlight, and an external speaker.

You can twist the Casio Exilim C721 display around so it looks and acts like a camera.

Flip open the phone and you'll see a beautiful 2.3-inch display with 262,000 color support. It's bright, vibrant, and colorful, which really shines when using the display as a digital photo frame. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the menu display, the clock format, and the size of the dial fonts. But there's another very interesting thing you can do with the front flip; you can actually twist it so that the color display faces outward, and then close the phone, thus transforming it into a large viewfinder for the camera. In fact, doing so actually activates the camera and all of the controls on the right side of the phone become the aforementioned camera controls. This really makes the Exilim C721 look and feel like a regular point-and-shoot camera. For self-portraits, you can twist the display so that both the viewfinder and camera lens are facing you.

Of course, the Exilim C721 is still a phone, so when you twist it open again, you'll find the typical navigation array and number keypad underneath the display. The navigation array consists of two soft keys, a round toggle with middle confirmation key, a dedicated camera/camcorder key, and a speakerphone key that doubles as the flashlight key (which just turns the LED flash on). The up, left, and down direction on the toggle can be mapped to user-defined shortcuts, while the right direction leads to a My Shortcuts pop-up menu, which you can customize with up to four more shortcuts. The Send, Clear/voice command, and End/Power keys are clustered together with the number keypad. The keypad is spacious, and the keys are separated by slight edges and indentations, so it's easy to dial by feel.

The Casio Exilim C721 comes with a handy charging/syncing dock. When you dock in the C721 with the display facing outward, it will automatically trigger the photo frame or slideshow mode. We liked the dock because it's convenient to simply drop the phone in to sync and charge. You can also charge the phone by plugging in the charging cable directly into the headset jack. However, you do need the dock to sync the phone with your computer, which can be rather annoying.

The Casio Exilim C721 comes with a generous 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can then organize them into groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, and one of 12 polyphonic ringtones. You can also choose not to have a ringtone at all if you want. Other basic features include a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, a world clock, a notepad, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, and voice commands.

More advanced users will like the GPS support with VZ Navigator, stereo Bluetooth, mobile instant messenger (AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger), links to mobile Web e-mail (this launches the browser), and visual voice mail (which costs $3 a month). You can also get a mobile e-mail app so your e-mail arrives directly to your in-box, but the app costs $5 to download.

Perhaps the most surprising feature on the Exilim C721 is that it has a HTML browser. We usually only see HTML browsers on touch-screen phones or phones with large displays. You access the browser via the Verizon Wireless Dashboard, a Web portal that leads to various channels and information sources (You can read more about it in our LG enV3 review). The HTML browser also supports WAP 2.0, so you can choose to either view Web pages in its full size or the scaled down mobile versions. We quite like it, as you can zoom in and out of pages, subscribe to RSS feeds, and search through pages. The only caveat is that if you want to enter in your own URL, you're redirected to a VZWGoto site where you can then enter in the URL in a small search box. This constant redirection makes surfing the Web a bit of a pain.

Since the Casio Exilim C721 has EV-DO Rev. A, it has access to Verizon's wide array of broadband services, which include V Cast video, Verizon's streaming video service, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, where you can purchase and download songs over the air. Each song is $1.99, but that includes a PC download as well. The music player on the Exilim C721 is housed within the V Cast Music interface, which isn't the most attractive, but it's functional enough. Songs are organized by artists, album, and genre. You can also create and edit playlists, and set songs on repeat or shuffle. Also useful is an airplane mode, so you can keep listening to tunes while in the air. There's a microSD card slot for additional storage.

The Casio Exilim C721 has a 5.1-megapixel camera.

But the biggest feature of the Casio Exilim C721 is undoubtedly the 5.1-megapixel camera. The features on the camera rival that of dedicated point-and-shoot cameras. You can take photos in seven different resolutions (2,560x1,920; 2,048x1,536; 1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240; and 160x120), two quality settings, and five white balance presets. There's 3x optical zoom, 16x digital zoom, auto focus (with both spot and nine-point focus), an incredibly bright LED flash, an image stabilizer, normal and multishot modes, and a digital photo frame function that puts all your images in a slideshow. Other settings include macro mode, brightness, a self-timer, and a shutter sound (which you can toggle off).

The Casio Exilim C721 takes great photos.

The camera feature we liked most is BestShot, a series of 15 modes that let you pick the right custom setting depending on your subject. These modes are Person (for portraits), Scenery, Night View, Person & Scenery, Twilight, Food, Character (for nutrition labels or business cards), Sports, Party, Monotone, Sepia, Reverse, High Sharpness, High Contrast, and Vivid. Photo quality was stunning. We really loved how sharp the images look and how vibrant the colors were. The image stabilizer really works well in preventing blurry images.

There's also a camcorder setting that can record in three resolutions (176x144 for video messages, 176x144, and 320x240). Settings include four color effects, to toggle on/off the recording light, a macro mode, brightness, white balance, and a start sound (which you can also toggle off). Video quality is surprisingly decent for a camera phone. The image stabilizer works in preventing jerky videos, though they're still not quite as sharp as we would like. Still, they work as short video messages or something you would upload to Facebook or YouTube.

You have plenty of personalization options with the Casio Exilim C721. You can adjust the wallpaper, display themes, alert tones, and more. You can download more via the Verizon online store. The Exilim C721 doesn't come with any games, but you can download them via the Verizon store as well.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Casio Exilim C721 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. We were very impressed with the call quality. Callers had no trouble hearing us, and we experienced no static or interference. They said our voice sounded clean and natural, almost landline quality. They couldn't tell when we were on speakerphone as well. On our end, we could hear them loud and clear, too.

We were not terribly pleased with the audio quality from the speakers of Casio Exilim C721. The speakers sounded rather tinny, and the bass was lacking. We would definitely recommend using a wired or stereo Bluetooth headset for better fidelity.

We were very impressed with the EV-DO speeds. V Cast videos had no hiccups when loading, and loading a complicated Web page like CNET's front page took about 18 seconds. Downloading a 1.96MB song took about 20 seconds. The V Cast videos didn't have the best video quality--action sequences seemed particularly vulnerable to choppiness--but it was still watchable.

The Casio Exilim C721 has a rated battery life of 3.83 hours talk time and 22.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 19 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Casio Exilim C721 has a digital SAR of 0.524 watt per kilogram.


Casio Exilim C721 (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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