Motorola Tundra VA76r (AT&T) review: Motorola Tundra VA76r (AT&T)

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The Good The Motorola Tundra VA76r offers a sturdy design, easy-to-use controls, and a brilliant display. Call quality is fantastic.

The Bad The Motorola Tundra VA76r suffers from poor photo quality and variable streaming video.

The Bottom Line The durable Motorola Tundra VA76r succeeds admirably at making calls, but its multimedia experience doesn't measure up.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Though it added the Samsung Rugby to its lineup last fall, AT&T hasn't carried a huge selection of rugged phones. That's why we were glad to see the Motorola Tundra VA76r make its debut at CES 2009. In many ways the Tundra is a Nextel phone wrapped up in an AT&T package. It has a durable design with a rubber sidings, similar exterior controls, and support for push-to-talk (PTT) services. Call quality was satisfying, and the Tundra offers the benefits of 3G and multimedia features. You can get it for $199 with service, but it is $399 if you pay full price.

The Tundra is relatively bulky as flip phones go (3.85 inches by 2.10 inches by 0.96 inch; 4.94 ounces), but that extra girth is because of the durable design. The front and rear faces are plastic but the edges and external controls are covered in rubber. As a result, the Tundra has a sturdy, comfortable feel, and it is certified to military specifications for rain, shock, vibration, and the like. We guess that it could survive a trip through the tundra as well. Though external antennas are a rarity on GSM handsets these days, the VA76r sports one. It's not extendable, which is another thing that the Tundra has in common with Nextel phones.

The Tundra's external display is smaller than we'd like (1-inch diagonally) but it shows all the information you'll need including the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. Also, because it is full color, it supports photo caller ID and it works as a viewfinder for the camera. The camera's lens sits just above the display, but it doesn't offer a flash.

Next to the antenna you'll find a speakerphone key and a button for selecting the ringer setting through the external display. The two buttons are close to what you would find on a Nextel phone. A volume rocker and the PTT button sit on the left spine, and a camera shutter sits on the right spine. All controls are spacious and are covered in a tactile rubber surface. On the bottom of the Tundra there's a mini-USB slot for a USB cable and the charger.

The internal display measures 2.2 inches (320x240 pixels) and supports 262,000 colors. We like the bright colors, sharp graphics, and easy-to-use menus. You can change the brightness and the backlighting time, but the font size, which can be tiny in some internal menus, is not adjustable.

The Tundra's keypad and navigation array are excellent. Both are spacious and conformable with tactile keys that are firm to the touch. The navigation array has a circular toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a Web browser control, a shortcut to AT&T's Cellular Video service, Talk and End/power controls, and a Back button. By all accounts, the array is intuitive and easy to use, and you can set the toggle to act as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. The keypad is equally well-designed with large buttons, sizeable text, and bright backlighting. We could dial and text quickly without making errors.

The size of the Tundra's phone book is dependent on the 100MB of shared internal memory, but you can store an additional 250 contacts on the SIM card. Each contact holds five phone numbers, an e-mail address, three mailing addresses, a birthday, an assistant's name, a manager's name, a Web address, spouse and children names, a company name, and title. You can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones.

Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, calendar, download and file managers, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a voice recorder, a notepad, and a task list. You'll also find stereo Bluetooth, PC syncing, voice dialing, USB mass storage, support for AT&T's PTT network, assisted-GPS for the carrier's AT&T Navigator service, instant messaging, and Web-based POP3 e-mail.

As a 3G (UMTS/HSDPA) phone, the Tundra offers the full set of AT&T's wireless broadband multimedia services. You'll find Cellular Video (streaming-video content) and AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through partners). The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats (MP3, AAC, eAAC+, and WMA) and it offers useful features, such as album art, playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and an airplane mode. The Tundra also has a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio Mobile, a Music ID application, a Billboard Mobile channel, music videos, and a community section with access to fan sites and downloads.

The Tundra's camera doesn't have a flash.

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