Motorola Tundra VA76r
“The Tundra provides a surprisingly robust set of communication, workplace and entertainment applications...”
- Push-to-Talk; excellent sound quality and volume; 3G worldphone connectivity; bright 2.2-inch LCD screen
- Poor camera; no SMS threading; unattractive; clunky and heavy
Whether you’re an extreme sports fan, outdoorsy person, an outdoor worker or just a klutz, and you have to stay a large posse to keep in contact with, the aptly-named Motorola Tundra is your phone. It’s a rugged model that meets 810F U.S. Military Standards, which means it’ll pretty much survive whatever environmental conditions it, or you, stumble into. But this is no stripped down push-to-talk (PTT, aka walkie-talkie) phone.
Features and Design
By 2009 standards, the hefty (nearly 5 ounces) Tundra is ugly; uglier even than other touch phones such as the Casio G’zOne. But don’t judge the Tundra by its tough, no-nonsense exterior. Inside the turtle shell are familiar 2009 amenities such as 3G worldphone connectivity, multimedia features including access to AT&T’s anachronistically named Cingular Video services, AAC, WMA and MP3 playback with streaming XM Satellite radio access and stereo Bluetooth, aGPS-assisted navigation capabilities, email and text capabilities, and a 2-megapixel camera.
Best of all, Tundra uses a multi-tasking operating system, which means business and music apps can run in the background. Unfortunately, there are no lists of running applications. If you want to switch to an app running in the background, you have to cycle back around to it via the menu.
Tundra is a typical thick, heavy and clunky PTT phone, a dull black-and-gray clamshell with a .75-inch stub antenna. Its thickness, heaviness and clunkiness, of course, are well-suited to its industrial purpose.
On either side of the 1.05-inch external screen are twin microphones for PTT use, and above the screen is the 2 MP camera lens.
On the Tundra’s left perimeter are the volume toggle and the PTT key; on the right perimeter is the camera activation/shutter key. On the chin is the mini USB jack, with twin speakers on either side. On top of the phone are a speakerphone and action/menu select keys.
Inside, you’ll find a bright 2.2-inch LCD and a well laid-out keypad with humped numeric and function keys that provide reassuring tactile feedback. The circular navigation array is similarly humped, but the thin outer multi-directional array blended too much with surrounding keys and we often hit the wrong key by mistake.
You also get direct access keys to the Web and AT&T’s CV services.
Ports & Connectors
You get one port – the miniUSB jack on the phone’s chin. This port doubles as the headphone jack, but obviously you’ll need an adapter. As is now par for the course, no headphones are included.
To protect it from environmental wear and tear, the microSD card slot, which can handle up to an 8GB card, is located under the battery cover. Fortunately, you don’t have to remove the battery to insert or remove the memory card.
Can a phone serve as a workable PMP?
Absolutely. You can subscribe to the full array of AT&T CV TV services, which can be displayed in either landscape or portrait mode on the Tundra’s bright and crisp 2.2-inch, 240-by-320 pixel screen.
You also can either load your own music via a simple USB connection, or shop for tunes or videos in AT&T’s Napster Music Store. The music player can easily be set to shuffle mode, and there are plenty of EQ settings.
XM Satellite Radio ($8.99/month for 25 channels) isn’t delivered by satellite, but streamed through AT&T’s cell network. AT&T rightfully recommends you subscribe to an unlimited data plan. Unlike phones with an FM radio, you don’t need to attach headphones to listen to XM.
The Tundra’s speakers and earpiece offer excellent sound quality for music, and especially for voice (both standard cell calls and PTT) thanks to Motorola CrystalTalk Plus technology, with plenty of volume to overcome most outdoor ambient noise conditions with no distortion even at the highest setting.
Our only complaint is the earpiece. You have to carefully center the earpiece over your ear canal, otherwise the high quality sound becomes faint, muffled, or both, depending on the position.
AT&T’s PTT service is superior to Nextel’s in one respect – you get one phone number for both PTT and standard cell calls. If you initiate the PTT call, you can easily switch it to a standard cell call. PTT latency (time waiting for the cricket sound so you can talk) is less than a second.
Contacts are easy to enter, although once entered, the text is rather small, even though there’s plenty of room on the screen. Contacts are delineated into tabbed screens for phone numbers, email addresses, snail-mail addresses, and other personal information. You also can assign a ring tone and a picture.
Tundra includes presets for all the popular email services except Gmail, as well as plain and multimedia texting, as well as AIM. Text messages aren’t listed as conversation threads – texts you send aren’t listed.
Although not as fast as other AT&T 3G phones, Tundra’s 3G access pulls HTML Web pages down swiftly. Pages optimized for mobile load in between 5-10 seconds; speedier phones will load around 10 percent faster. Mobile CNN’s home page loaded in five seconds, ESPN in around seven and The New York Times in around 12.
While Tundra’s 2.2-inch internal screen isn’t exactly small, Web text can be tiny. Zooming is several clicks away, and doesn’t always work.
Tundra’s 2 MP camera provides the basics. The external screen doubles as a self-portrait screen and there’s no flash.
Shots indoors and out are fuzzy and lifeless, with dull colors. Without a flash, indoor shots suffer worse, but results aren’t as blurry as other digicams. Outdoor shots are disappointing. Yellows and greens pop, but sky blues and reds are dull, and direct sunlight bleaches out all detail.
The Tundra shoots 176-by-144 pixel videos, which are, as usual, tiny and pretty useless. But that’s par for the course with most 2 MP digicams.
Tundra’s talk time is rated at 5.26 hours (316 minutes), but our unscientific tests yielded far less – the best we got was 4.25 hours. Standby time is 20 days.
The Tundra provides a surprisingly robust set of communication, workplace and entertainment applications and features for a rugged PTT phone. But even if the Tundra didn’t offer such a wide variety of apps, and even if it didn’t offer 3G connectivity, it’s excellent sound quality alone, especially for PTT, would recommend it.
- Excellent sound quality and volume
- 3G worldphone connectivity
- Bright 2.2-inch LCD screen
- Poor camera
- No SMS threading
- Clunky and heavy
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