Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Editors' note: Though we reviewed the Ravine 2 with a camera, the handset also comes without a shooter. That's the only difference between the two models.
If Casio's phones are known for anything it's their extreme durability. And in that regard, the new G'zOne Ravine 2 keeps up the company standard. Like the original Ravine, the Commando, and the other G'zOne models before them, the Ravine should withstand just about any physical conditions while offering a midrange feature set that includes world roaming, 3G support, and push-to-talk (PTT). Sure, the design is bulky and photo quality continues to be disappointing, but call quality on Verizon Wireless is improved over the earlier handsets.
It would be difficult to mistake the Ravine 2 for any other cell phone. It's big (4.33 inches long by 1.99 inches wide by 0.83 inch deep) and heavy (4.85 ounces), and it sports distinctive features like a ribbed hinge and a ring around the external display. It's far from pretty, but that's not really the point of a durable phone. And in case you didn't know that it was a Verizon device, the black-and-red color scheme will tell you so.
The thick plastic skin also stands out, especially if you're jumping to the Ravine 2 from a trendy thin handset. The absence of any rubber sidings was surprising, but the Ravine has a comfortable, solid feel that inspires confidence. And even with the extra bulk, the handset slips easily into larger pockets.
Casio promises that the handset will be able to withstand shock, dust, vibration, salt fog, humidity, low and high temperatures, and immersion in water. Casio has a convenient list of these durability claims on its site, most of which do appear to hold up. We gave the Ravine 2 a bath, put it in the freezer, dropped it onto a hard surface, and generally banged it around (now I just need to find some salt fog). In each case it survived and kept on ticking. The moving parts, like the oversized ribbed hinge, also are built to last.
The 1.38-inch external LCD shows the usual information, including the date, time, signal strength and caller ID. The display is full-color, as well, though we would prefer to be able to access basic features without opening the phone.
On the back of the phone are the camera lens and flash, though there's no mirror for taking vanity shots. The back cover is secured by a sliding lock to keep out moisture and dust, but it's still easy to remove. Thankfully, the microSD card slot is located on the right spine just below the Micro-USB charging port. Both have locking covers, as you'd expect on a durable device. Over on the left spine are a bright red PTT/shortcut button (that you can program), the volume rocker, and a voice command key. All are easy to find by feel when you're holding the Ravine 2 to your ear. On the downside, the headset jack is only 2.5mm so you'll have to use an adapter for most headsets.
The internal TFT display measures 2.2 inches with a full-color 320x240-pixel resolution. As you'd expect, it's nowhere near close to being a fancy smartphone display, but it doesn't need to be. Colors are bright, graphics look fine, and the standard menu designs (you can choose between grid and list formats) are easy to navigate. You have the usual set of options like changing brightness, the backlight time, the display theme and wallpaper, the menu and dialing font size, and the banner.
I couldn't ask for a better design for the navigation controls. There's a large silver toggle with a central OK button that you can program to give one-touch access to four features. Surrounding it are two soft keys, a camera control, and a combination shortcut for the speakerphone and activating the camera flash as a steady light. Compared with many phones, that's a useful set of keys that puts the best features in easy reach.
Farther down, there are the usual Talk and End/power buttons, and a Clear key that also opens the GPS features with a long press. The keypad buttons below have a spacious tactile design. There's plenty of room for fast texts, and you can dial. I also liked the bright backlighting and the large numbers and characters on the keys.
The Ravine 2's main function is making calls, though it's not without some productivity options. I'll start with the basics first. The phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for multiple fields. There's also a separate PTT phone book that holds an additional 500 contacts; you can connect with other Verizon PTT phones. Verizon's Backup Assistant will store your contacts on the carrier's servers for safekeeping.
Other essentials include messaging, voice commands and dialing, a calculator, a calendar, Bluetooth, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, a world clock, and a notepad.
Like most midrange phones, the Ravine 2 offers access to Microsoft Exchange accounts and POP3 services like Yahoo, Windows Live, and Gmail. You'll need to use Verizon's Mobile E-mail application for $5 per month, though, and the interface isn't quite worth the effort. Similarly, the instant messaging requires data use and I didn't enjoy a full conversation while using T9 predictive text.
The 3.2-megapixel camera takes photos in six resolutions, from 2,048x1,536 pixels down to 160x120 pixels. In addition to the aforementioned flash (which doubles as a flashlight), there are brightness and white balance controls, night and multishot modes, a digital zoom, and five color effects. The camera has a default shutter sound, but you can turn it off. The video recorder shoots clips in a 320x240-pixel resolution with a set of editing options. Unfortunately, you can shoot for only 60 seconds at a time whether you're saving the clip to the phone or sending it in a message.
Photo quality is just average, unfortunately, with washed-out colors and some image noise. Make sure that your finger is out of the way when shooting.
You easily can transfer photos off the phone using the data card or by syncing with a PC over a USB cable (the Ravine also has a USB mass storage mode). Inside, the handset has 512MB flash memory with 256MB of RAM. With everything that comes on the phone, however, users have access to only 216MB of space. The microSD slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB.
The Ravine 2 has a number of apps from both Verizon and other vendors. They're not exactly bloatware since they don't crowd out the main menu, but most require data network use. VZ Navigator stands in for GPS and turn-by-turn directions, V Cast TV brings streaming videos, and Daily Scoop promises personalized news and deals. Yeah, I definitely passed on that last one. City ID will display the city and state of incoming calls, though it's irritating that you have to have a subscription when Sprint offers the service for free. There's also an Opera Mini browser that includes access to apps like Facebook, WeatherBug, and YouTube, but it's frustrating to use on such a small display.
I tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900) Ravine 2 in San Francisco using Verizon service. Given that some of the previous Casio phones faltered when it came to call quality, I didn't have high expectations. But after a couple of days of use I was glad to find that the Ravine 2 shows nice improvement over its predecessors. I didn't notice the tinny audio quality that Nicole Lee heard on the original Ravine and my callers were more positive about the sound on their end.
For me, call volume was loud and the audio was clear and free of static. Voices sounded natural and I didn't hear any distortion. My only complaint is that I heard a few very brief audio gaps, but they weren't enough to color my experience. I also didn't have trouble using automated calling systems or with using the voice commands. For the latter, just make sure that you speak slowly, don't mumble, and use the proper commands (such as "Call Eric" instead of "Phone Eric"). Since the commands are speaker-independent you don't need to train the phone. What's more, I could use the feature even if there was some background noise.
As I mentioned, callers reported better conditions on their end. My friends could hear me loud and clear and my voice lacked the harsh quality that came with the first Ravine. Callers could tell that I was using a cell phone and a few friends mentioned some wind noise, but neither is unusual. Speakerphone calls were about the same. The speakerphone gets very loud and shows only a touch of distortion at the highest volume level.
The Ravine 2 supports Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A 3G network. No, it's not LTE, but there's really no need for 4G on a midrange phone in the first place. If you're used to 3G speeds you won't be disappointed by the Ravine. Mobile Web pages loaded quickly and streaming videos performed well.
As a dual-mode phone, the Ravine 2 uses Verizon's CDMA network in the United States and GSM and UMTS networks when abroad. The Verizon-supplied SIM card that comes with the phone means you'll be locked to Verizon's roaming partners, but it's still a great option for getting service when abroad. You don't need to activate the service, but you should invest in one of Verizon's global service plans for the best rates (see CNET's Quick guide to world phones for more information).
Like its predecessors, the Casio G'zOne Ravine 2 stands out from the cell phone crowd for its sturdy and ultradurable design. It's not pretty in the least, but that doesn't matter when you can take the handset for a swim without giving it a scratch. Similarly, though it doesn't have a ton of features, call quality is respectable and it offers everything you need for communication. So if you need a device for calling for help while stuck in a sandstorm, the Ravine 2 is a great buy. I just wouldn't recommend taking photos of that sandstorm with the Ravine 2's camera.