Review: Casio G'zOne Brigade
The Casio G'zOne Brigade has two screens: a tiny, 1.2-inch, monochrome, passive matrix OLED display on the front, and a 2.9-inch, color screen inside the fold. The internal screen displays 400 by 240 pixels, which is good enough for this device. The external screen is nearly useless except for dialing, though Casio tries hard to extend more features to the tiny window. But text messages don't fit well on the external screen, and though it can be used as a camera viewfinder, this was only helpful for self-portraits, as the passive matrix screen couldn't display even a black and white image well.
The internal screen is bright and colorful and it looked good showing off pictures or reading text. Web pages gave us some trouble, but that was more because of the lousy browser. The Web browser's font was also thick and chunky, sometimes too bold and sometimes too jagged. Most importantly, though, both screens were easy to read outdoors and even underwater.
I didn't get good reception from the Casio G'zOne Brigade on Verizon Wireless EV-DO Rev. A network, though the slower 1xRTT network always held onto a of bar or two of service. Voice calls were affected slightly, and I heard some static and dropping out during calls. Data could be quite sluggish and regularly stalled out during long load times. For a Rev. A network phone, I was disappointed with the data speed I saw, whether loading a Web page or downloading a track from the V Cast Music Store. I also tried the PTT functions on the Brigade and occasionally had trouble connecting to my contacts. Plus, PTT chats had more of a delay than I'd like to see. Sprint Nextel still has the best walkie-talkie service among U.S. carriers.
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For a waterproof, PTT phone, the Casio Brigade delivers with an extra loud speakerphone that was also nice and clear. Even for music playback, I was impressed with the volume I could achieve with this phone, though the sound could exhibit a bit of static from time to time. The earpiece on the phone is pretty good. I heard plenty of feedback on my end so I could manage my own volume, and callers came through clearly. On the other end, my callers reported a muffled, distant sound that was listenable, but not too pleasant. On voicemails I heard, my voice sounded worse than with most other phones. Such is the price for waterproof durability, I suppose. Bluetooth headsets actually sound a bit better than the built-in mic, especially if you're using a high quality headset like the Plantronics Voyager Pro I use for testing.
There's a large battery stuffed into the Casio Brigade, but I wasn't impressed with the battery life. In a flat out talking test, the battery lasted more than 6 hours, which is respectable. But in general use tests, with a mix of Web browsing, some photography, calling and a few miles of navigation, the battery didn't hold on for more than a day and a half. That's what I might expect from a smartphone, but for a rugged, outdoor phone like the Casio Brigade, I'd hope for much more. If you're taking the Brigade on a long hike, I'd advise using it just for calls, not for campfire song downloads.
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