After covering the release of Casio’s G’zOne Boulder ultra-rugged mobile phone, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one for review and put Casio’s rather bold claims to the test. When we finally got a chance to toss, dunk and drop it, we weren’t disappointed. The Boulder passed our abuse tests with flying colors, and even more impressive, made a solid, if slightly beefy, livable everyday phone, if you’re not looking for a lot of features..
Features and Design
Like all of the phones in Casio’s long-running line outdoorsy of Gz’One cell phones, the Boulder’s main attraction comes from its rugged good looks and the features that back them up. It’s waterproof to three feet, shock resistant, and even has a built in compass that needs no cell signal to function, plus it comes with an LED flashlight.
As we noted in our First Look of the Boulder, the exterior design takes on many of the attributes of a Hummer, right down to its outrageous orange paint scheme (though it’s also available in black) and deliberately edgy profile. The exterior LCD also gets a unique twist due to its circular shape, and Casio makes no attempt to hide the ten large screws that hold its reinforced plastic frame together, giving it a utilitarian look.
Other stats are far more pedestrian, including 256MB of internal memory, a microSD slot, a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and a 2.0-inch LCD. Verizon has also added the typed suite of carrier services, including V-Cast Music with Rhapsody, V-Cast Video, and a mobile Web browser, all of which take advantage of its EV-DO Rev. A Internet. For connecting to other Verizon subscribers effortlessly, it also supports Push to Talk.
Images Courtesy of Casio
Casio will have to forgive us for not taking its word that the Boulder would withstand all that it was cracked up to, and we weren’t particularly gentle in our attempts to try to prove it. After weeks of travel, a surf trip, and more than a few hectic nights out on the town, we can safely say it will stand up to all but the most egregious abuse, though not if you’re not intent on keeping it pretty.
Drop testing proved to be the easiest pursuit, since even the most fragile phones usually get accidentally tested this way, despite our best intentions. The Boulder defied up routine waist-height falls without problems, even onto to hard surfaces, which lead us to formulate a few more challenging tests. Dropping a phone from five feet – an extremely unnatural-feeling exercise – started producing nicks in the shell from hitting hard surfaces, but the phone still worked flawlessly. Putting all inhibitions aside, we even threw it onto hard pavement, and only the plastic edges were any worse for the wear. In the end, we were impressed with how its strong shell, hinge and even battery door (which locks with a swiveling motion) held up to abuse, but found that its polyurethane coating isn’t too much more impervious to damage than any other cell phone, meaning it’s still going to take on scars when gravel meets plastic.
Next up: water. In a full day of surfing at Los Angeles’ Manhattan Beach with the phone along for the ride, the worst we experienced was a bit of sand creeping into the sealed connector compartments. It not only defied the water, it took photos, videos and accepted calls when fully submerged. A scuba phone? Not quite, but if it can shake off the wrath of the Pacific, you had better believe it won’t be bothered by the puddle outside your house or a sink full of soapy water.
While we wouldn’t recommend pitching the Boulder against a wall for laughs, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that its waterproof abilities also make a neat party trick. Pretend to drop it into a pitcher of water at the bar, have a friend call it, and take in the stares of disbelief while it lights up in disco colors and shakes the pitcher with its vibrate function. (The author of this article stalwartly denies responsibility for this anecdote)
All The Rest
Outside its super-phone durability, the Boulder doesn’t particularly stand out from its clamshell competition, besides in the size department: This guy is pretty bulky. It’s depth of nearly an inch is very rare on modern folders, and neither its height of 3.9 inches or width of 2 inches is very slimming. Weight of 110 grams is reasonable, but not a strong suit.
Reception and talk quality were about average, but standby and talk time were excellent. Casio estimates 207 minutes of talk and 217 hours of standby. While we weren’t quite able to hit those numbers, we easily stretched a single charge for four days under heavy use, and probably could have done better with less.
The digital compass feature, while novel and seemingly accurate, didn’t quite cut it for us in an age when plenty of phones are pulling double duty as full-fledged GPS units. If we’re lost in the woods, or even downtown New York City, we want to see a map and a way out, not just which way is North. The exterior LED flashlight, on the other hand, truly came in handy all the time. Unlike the typical maneuver of using a phone’s backlight as a makeshift flashlight, the Boulder’s face-mounted LED lamp really cuts its way through the dark enough to navigate safely on foot at night.
The phone’s interface, while clean enough to keep us from getting frustrated with it, and generally responsive, didn’t stand out much. Shots taken with the camera had the typical grainy camera phone look – good enough to conjure up a memory of the moment, but not much else.
Most cell phones out there these days will handle a fall without self-destructing and a brief walk in the rain, but Casio’s Boulder truly goes a step beyond in durability. Whether you’ve got butterfingers, worry too much about your electronics, or just want to carry your phone where most won’t go, the Boulder makes a great companion. However, chunkiness and a relatively boring feature set both speak against it if you need anything more than a reliable handset. For $180, you could find a lot more full-featured phones like it in Verizon’s line up, but none will quite match its ruggedness.
• Rock solid durability
• Underwater capabilities
• Useful flashlight
• Average feature set
• Compass is mostly useless