Casio G'zOne Rock - black (Verizon Wireless) review: Casio G'zOne Rock - black (Verizon Wireless)
The Casio G'zOne series of ruggedized phones have made fans over the years, ever since the Type-V model that was released in 2006. They are made not just for those with hard-hat jobs, but also for those of us who simply want durable phones that will survive a dunk in the tub. Like its predecessors, the recent G'zOne Rock will do that and more. Not only does it have EV-DO and push-to-talk, it also comes equipped with outdoor-friendly tools like a GPS-enabled compass and a tidal graph that shows you the best time for fishing. The Rock is certainly a rugged handset made for outdoor use, but it is so chock-full of multimedia features, you'll enjoy it at home as well. The Casio G'zOne Rock is available for $149.99 with a two-year service agreement.
Like the Boulder and the other Casio G'zOne phones, the Rock is not exactly pretty. It has a rough-and-tumble appearance that reflects its namesake, with jagged and blocky angles that make it look decidedly masculine. Measuring 4.1 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.9 inch thick, the Rock has a very durable shell made out of rubber and a hard plastic chassis and weighs 4.4 ounces. All of its ports are covered with a rubber stopper, and the battery cover has a locking mechanism so the battery and internal chip won't get damaged. We can certainly see how it managed to pass a variety of obstacles to be MIL-STD-810F certified. This means it can withstand water, shock, dust, immersion, vibration, salt, fog, humidity, solar radiation, high altitude, and extreme temperatures.
On the front of the phone is a square 0.9-inch external display set in a decorative silver circle. This 96x96 OLED monochrome display shows the typical date, time, caller ID, battery, and signal strength information. Surrounding the display are touch-sensitive music controls that glow red when activated, so you can also control your music without opening the phone. You can also access your Push-to-Talk contacts and the G'zGear applications (more on that later) from the external controls as well. You can use the external display as a camera viewfinder as well, but it's black and white and is quite choppy, so we wouldn't recommend it.
Above the external display are the external speakers, while the 2.5-mm headset jack, push-to-talk button, volume rocker, and side key are on the left spine. The side key is used to unlock the keyguard on the phone as well as act as a user-defined shortcut. On the right of the phone are the charger jack and connector pins for use with the charging dock. On the back is the camera lens along with an LED flash. The LED flash can also be used as a flashlight.
Located on the right side of the Rock's hinge is a silver button. This acts as a one-touch button that will open up the phone instantly. You don't need this to flip the phone open, but we found it handy all the same. When you open up the phone, you'll be greeted with a nice 2.1-inch display with 65,000 colors. Though this may pale in comparison to displays with 262,000 colors, it still looks very good. It is a 240x320 TFT display that is bright, sharp, and saturated with color. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the clock format, the menu style, the dial fonts, and the menu font size.
Underneath the display is a navigation array that consists of a round toggle with a middle OK key, two soft keys, a dedicated camera/camcorder key, plus a speakerphone key that can also act as the flashlight key. The toggle's up, left, and down directions act as shortcuts to three user-defined functions while the right arrow leads to a mini My Shortcuts pop-up with up to four additional user-defined shortcuts. Beneath the array are the Send, Clear/Voice command, and End/Power keys plus the alphanumeric keypad. The keys are raised and jagged, much like the exterior of the phone, so they're easy to dial and text by feel.
The Rock has a 500-entry phone book with room in each entry for four numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messaging screen name, and a street address. You can then organize your contacts into caller groups, match them with a photo for caller ID, or with one of 12 polyphonic ringtones and alert tones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a stop watch, a countdown timer, a world clock, and a notepad.
Advanced uses include voice commands, mobile IM (Windows Live, Yahoo, and AOL), a wireless Web browser, and two e-mail options; mobile e-mail and mobile Web e-mail. Mobile e-mail is a dedicated e-mail in-box that lets you receive POP and IMAP server mail while mobile Web e-mail simply sends you to a Web interface to access e-mail from popular Web mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. The Rock also has stereo Bluetooth, USB mass storage, Push-to-talk capabilities, plus GPS with VZ Navigator's turn-by-turn directions. Like the other Verizon Push-to-Talk phones, the Rock is compatible with Field Force Manager, a resource management tool that lets businesses keep in touch with their mobile field workers.
One particularly handy feature for the outdoorsman is the G'zGear suite of applications. They include an earth compass, a walking counter/pedometer, a thermometer with both Celsius and Fahrenheit measurements, an astro calendar that shows the lunar cycle, a Sunrise Sunset application that shows the time and position of the sun, and a tidal graph application. The latter is especially useful to show the best time for fishing, while the others would be useful for hiking or camping.
And while you're outside, you might enjoy the various entertainment options that come with the G'zOne Rock. The Rock comes with EV-DO Rev. A, which gives it access to Verizon's broadband suite of applications like V Cast Video, which is a streaming video service, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, which lets you download music over-the-air for $1.99 per song. The music player is tied to the V Cast Music interface so it does feel a little sluggish and not as intuitive as we would like. Still, it works fine as a simple music player. You can set songs on repeat or shuffle and you can create and manage playlists on the fly. To add music to the phone, you either sync it via USB or add songs via a microSD card. The Rock supports up to 16GB of external storage.
The Rock's 2.0-megapixel camera is also a slight upgrade over the Boulder's 1.3-megapixel shooter. The 2-megapixel camera can take pictures in five resolutions (1,600x1200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120), five white balance presets, and six color effects. Other camera settings include flash, a self-timer, a shutter sound toggle, brightness, flash, multishot mode, and night mode. Photo quality was all right. Though images looked sharp, colors looked a little yellow and overcast without flash. Flash did help brighten up the picture, though the lighting looked harsh. There's also a built-in video camera that can record videos in 320x240 resolution in either 60 seconds for MMS or 60 minutes for storage. The settings are similar to that of the still camera.
You can personalize the Rock with a variety of wallpaper, display themes, alert tones, and more. You can also get more from Verizon's Get It Now service. The phone doesn't come with any games or applications, but you can always buy more titles as well.
We tested the Rock in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was a little mixed. We heard our callers loud and clear without distortion. Their voices sounded natural for the most part, albeit a little tinny at times.
On their end, callers said that even though they could hear us, voice quality was quite hollow and harsh. It was as though we were talking inside a tin can. It was even worse when we turned on the speakerphone. There was quite a bit of echo, and we had to make sure to speak up in order to be heard clearly. On our end though, speakerphone calls sounded fine with plenty of volume.
Audio quality was OK as long as you used a headset. Without one, the speaker sounds tinny, hollow, and lacking in bass.
We were impressed with the speeds of EV-DO Rev. A. We managed to download a 1.7MB song in around 40 seconds, and there was only a few seconds of buffering time with the V Cast Video. Still, video quality was quite pixelated.
The G'zOne Rock has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 26.25 days standby time, or Push-to-Talk standby time of up to 3.33 days. We saw a rather impressive talk time of 7 hours and 8 minutes from our tests. According to the FCC, the Rock has a digital SAR of 1.18 watts per kilogram.