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printed October 20, 2014
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Review: Casio G'zOne Ravine

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There was a time when rugged, water-resistant phones were clunky and goofy looking. The original G'zOne designs had huge loops for strapping it to a carabiner, with thick rubber and exposed screws. The G'zOne Boulder was a bit more stylish, but the Ravine is downright sleek. If the Boulder was A-Team, the Ravine is Knight Rider. The all-black phone is highlighted with a few shiny, red metal accents, but the long, straight lines and tight-fitting clamshell design help this phone blend in better with modern flip designs. You still get classic G'zOne design features, like the huge, circular window around the monochrome external screen, a couple exposed screws and a grippy, rubber coating on the back of the phone. I do miss the carabiner loop, but the Ravine is still the best looking G'zOne design so far.

The G'zOne Ravine is very rugged, meeting the military 810G standards for water, shock and dust resistance. The phone will also withstand vibrations, salt fog, solar radiation, and low or high temperature climates. I'm thankful every day that I don't live somewhere salt fog is a problem, but if you need to take this phone into a desert or a swamp, it should live up to the challenge. There are only a few phones available from major carriers that can make this claim.

I beat this phone like an industrial-strength punching bag. I threw it out of a second story window onto concrete and it barely suffered a scratch. I left it in a chilly pool for an hour, then stuck it in the freezer for another hour. I stopped short of running it over with my car, since it is a loaner, after all, but I have no doubt it can withstand a great deal of punishment.

Open the flip, and you'll find a keypad with large buttons that are nicely spaced. You could easily make calls with gloves on, whether you're dialing the number or scrolling through your contact list, thanks to the big navigation circle in the middle. The push-to-talk button on the side was also nice and large, with ridges that make it easy find by touch. But some of the keys are a bit small. The volume keys were slim and flush with the side of the phone. The screen unlock key, which lets you use some features on the external display without opening the phone, was also too small, especially for a gloved hand.

There are some nice shortcut choices on the G'zOne Ravine. When the phone is opened, that screen lock key becomes a voice dialing key, with voice commands by Nuance. The Ravine did a fine job recognizing my voice input. Inside the flip, there is a camera / camcorder shortcut button. Unfortunately, it only opens the camera app; it doesn't act as a shutter button to take a picture. Even better is the dedicated speakerphone / flashlight button. A short press turns on the speaker. Hold it down and the LED light on the back turns on to act as a small flashlight. This is a great feature held over from previous G'zOne phones.

The G'zOne Ravine is waterproof, and the external ports are protected by large, plastic covers with rubber gaskets strapped to them. These covers seemed a bit flimsy to me. They certainly provided protection from water, but the tiny strip of plastic attaching them to the phone seems like it might rip after a few months of intense use. There is a microUSB port on the right side, and the phone can charge over USB. There's also a 2.5mm headset port on the left. If you want to use your regular set of stereo music earbuds, you'll need to find an adapter. Verizon does not include any headphones or handsfree mic in the box.

The back battery cover is stiff and secure, but it wasn't as difficult to remove as most waterproof phones I've used, and it was easy to seal the cover tight into place. Unfortunately, the microSD card is hidden under that cover, beneath the battery. That means you'll have to power down the phone to transfer photos and some music files, especially since the phone lacks a mass storage mode for transferring over USB. There seem to be contacts for a charging cradle on right side of the phone, but unlike previous G'zOne phones, the Ravine does not come with a charging dock, and Verizon Wireless strangely does not offer one as an accessory.

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