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Kyocera DuraXV (Verizon Wireless) review: Ultratough and packed with plenty of features

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MSRP: $199.99
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The Good The Kyocera DuraXV has an intuitive user interface, expandable memory, a capable Web browser and a loud speaker.

The Bad The handset can lag at times, email is only accessible through the Web browser and its durable design adds more heft.

The Bottom Line Durable and water resistant, the Kyocera DuraXV is one of the most capable feature phones available.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 7

Review Sections

With its absence of a touchscreen or a robust Web experience, the Kyocera DuraXV is a basic feature phone to its core. But don't mistake this clam shell as a "bare-bones" device. In addition to nailing down the basics (clear audio quality, decent battery capacity, user-friendly interface), it also has other useful goodies like an adequate camera, external storage capabilities, and an Web browser that, while still rudimentary, is pretty easy to navigate.

The $100 on-contract handset also has a durable and water resistant construction. Though that adds bulk to its design, it also means the device will keep on ticking even after an accidental drop on hard cement or dunk underwater. When it comes to both protection and features, it's a top-notch choice for Verizon users.

Design

Due to its durability (which I'll dive into more later), the DuraXV is a physically hefty device. It weighs 5.6 ounces, and stands 4.13 inches tall, 2.15 inches wide and 0.98 inches thick. As such, don't expect the handset to fit comfortably in your jean pockets or slip into a clutch bag too easily. Shoulder bags, backpacks, or tool belt compartments shouldn't pose a problem, however.

On the bottom left side is a Micro-USB port that's covered by a thick plastic door. Above that are a volume rocker. Unlike some rugged Kyocera phones , which sport a 2.5mm jack for PTT headsets, this one has a 3.5mm headset jack on the right side, meaning it's compatible with your standard pair of headphones you might have at home.

The plastic top lid of the DuraXV is equipped with a 1.08-inch black and white display with a 102x90-pixel resolution. If you press any of the control buttons, the screen will light up and tell you the time, date, battery life, reception, missed notifications and enabled features (like GPS or Bluetooth). The lid also hosts a 5-megapixel camera with flash.

At 0.98 inch thick and weighing at 5.6 ounces, the DuraXV comes with a little heft. Josh Miller/CNET

When flipped open, you will see the device's main QVGA 2.4-inch screen, which is bigger than the usual 2-inch displays I've seen on previous Kyocera flip phones. The display can be difficult to see in direct sunlight, and its 320x240-pixel resolution is a bit low, meaning you'll see obvious aliasing in text and streaky color gradients. However, images, text, and icons are still very legible, easy to read and clear. It also helps that its user interface is extremely easy to navigate.

Above the display, you'll notice there is no in-ear speaker. That's because the handset, like many other Kyocera phones, uses Smart Sonic Receiver technology. In lieu of a physical speaker, this technology features an embedded ceramic transducer inside the DuraXV to transmit audio via the hard tissue inside your ear. It also means one less opening or seam on the device.

Below that is the handset's keypad. The first half includes two soft keys that flank a squircle navigation control with four directional keys and a select/OK button in the middle. Below that are shortcut keys for the camera and speaker.

The phone's spacious keypad rises above the surface of the handset, making it easy to navigate by touch. Josh Miller/CNET

Underneath this entire arrangement is a row of keys with the talk/send, clear/back and end/power keys. Below that is your standard set of alphanumeric keys, which are generously sized with ample space between each key. Each key rises just above the phone's surface, giving you more tactile feedback, and helps to make pressing and typing a breeze.

On the DuraXV's chin is a wide silver speaker grille (more on its quality later). Turning the device over, you'll see a small screw. Using a coin or flathead screw driver, you can turn the screw and remove the handset's backplate. There you'll find the removable 1,500mAh battery, and an included 4GB microSD card (you can insert up to a 32GB card, however).

Built tough

Designed to military-grade specifications, the phone's bottom lid is encased in thick black rubber to shield itself against drops, scuffs and scratche. That means it's protected against shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures. It also satisfies IPX68 dust- and waterproof standards, so it can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to 6 feet of water.

Aside from a quick wash in the sink, the phone can survive underwater in up to 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. Josh Miller/CNET

Though I didn't have a 6-foot-deep pool to test the DuraXV with, I did dunk it in a long vase for 30 minutes after making sure all its ports were properly sealed. As expected, the device survived and was perfectly operational afterward. It even registered an incoming call during its time underwater.

As for its durability, the handset is tough. I threw and kicked it down several flights of stairs, and dropped it repeatedly from a height of about 6 feet. I was particularly worried about the plastic top lid since it houses the external display, and isn't fortified with rubber, but other than a number of visible scratches and scuffs all around, the phone survived and functioned fine afterward.

Though having a durable mobile device seems like a no brainer for those who have active and outdoorsy lifestyles, or for those who have messy jobs like field operators and construction workers, its benefits aren't limited to the niche. Having a rugged and water resistant DuraXV can bring peace of mind to anyone who don't want to worry about themselves (or others, like children) physically breaking their handset. Sure, you'll have to make sacrifices when it comes to looks and sleekness, but if that's not a priority, a rugged phone is ideal.

Software features

The DuraXV runs the Brew MP 1.0.4 operating system and has an easy-to-understand and intuitive user interface. The home screen has all the same info seen on the external display (time and date, battery indicator, etc.), and at the bottom center is the Menu button. Once selected, you can access your address book, messages, call log, Web browser, media files, tools, apps, Verizon's own brand of navigation called VZ Navigator (that you have to pay to use) and settings.

The device has a Web browser, and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Josh Miller/CNET

The device has limited Web and Internet options, but there are some useful features available. The Opera Mini browser version 6.0 is vastly easier to navigate and operate than previous versions. Tasks like entering a URL, clearing your browser history and bookmarking a page, take less steps and are laid out in a clear manner. You can even send screenshots to someone and find words or phrases on a page.

For users who have social media accounts, the handset lets you send tweets to Twitter and status updates to Facebook by text. The sign-in process is a bit tedious, and takes some back-and-forth texting, but once you've logged in, you can start updating your friends and family about your whereabouts. Unfortunately, there is no baked-in email support, which means you can't directly email photos from the gallery either. You can only access email through the mobile Web browser, which supports AOL, Yahoo, Verizon and Windows Live accounts, but no Gmail.

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