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Review: Motorola VA76r Tundra

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

The Tundra from Motorola (much like the pickup truck from Toyota) is one tough mother. Like many PTT-capable phones from Motorola, the Tundra is a man's phone. It is built to work hard — and not to look good while doing it.

It is chunky, blocky, heavy, and would probably be considered a lethal weapon were it to be tossed at someone (please don't do that). But this is all expected from such a phone. The exterior shell of the Tundra is bumpy, grippy and rubbery. This makes it easy to keep firmly in hand. Because it is so large and has a short, stubby antenna, I'd recommend against putting it in your pocket. That antenna could really cause some damage, and the sheer size of the Tundra makes in uncomfortable to carry in your pants. A phone such as this is clearly destined for a holster, or the cup holder in your truck.

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The build quality is excellent. It is sealed against water intrusion, and all the hatches and covers fit firmly and tightly. On the left side of the phone you'll find the volume toggle up near the top of the Tundra. The rubber-covered buttons are large and nubby. They are easily found, even when wearing gloves. The walkie-talkie button below the volume toggle is not as obvious when you pass your thumb over it, but it is so huge that this hardly matters. Mash your thumb down just about anywhere on the left side of the phone, and you'll hit the walkie-talkie button.

A hatch covering the mini-USB port is located on the bottom of the phone. You're not opening this hatch with gloves on. It is a large hatch, and seals well against the mini-USB port to keep dirt and moisture from getting in there. You'll be using the port to charge the phone, as well as transport data to/from it. The right side of the phone holds only one button, and it is for the camera. Like those on the left side of the phone, it is covered in rubber and is obvious to your thumb when you rub up against the side of the phone.

On the top you have two smallish buttons for the speakerphone and PTT calls. These are nubby enough that you can find them with no problems.

If you're thinking all the buttons sound great so far, prepare for some disappointment. None (none!) of them has good travel and feedback. In fact, the walkie-talkie button is so mushy, it is nearly impossible to tell when you've pressed it. The only clue you get is that the phone beeps at you. If you're using this phone in a loud environment (such as a work site), I wouldn't be surprised if you have trouble figuring out when you've started a walkie-talkie session and when you haven't.

The hatch covering the battery is a bit difficult to peel off. The upside of this is that it doesn't pop off and go flying across the room if the phone is dropped. In fact, it, too, is sealed for protection against dirt and moisture, so it takes some effort to press back on correctly.

The hinge for the flip is about as solid a hinge as we've encountered. It is solid and feels very strong. Inside, the keypad is a mixed bag. All the keys are set inside a plastic frame that has tall edges. The frame includes rows that run side to side, so you have the 1, 2, 3, keys separated from the 4, 5, 6 keys by a plastic edge and so on. The control keys at the top are set too far into this plastic framework, making them difficult to find and press. The soft keys, the MediaNet key and the Cellular Video key, in particular, are affected by this issue. If you're wearing gloves, forget it; you won't find them. The number keys (thankfully!) are better. They are given more room, and even though each row of keys is one large button, each individual number has a distinct hump so you can feel them. I was able to use them with gloves easier than some of the other keys. The good news is, these keys have good travel and feedback. There is a clear indication of when you've pressed the buttons.

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