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Casio g’zOne Commando Review

Th Casio g’zOne Commando is the first Android entry into Casio and Verizon’s lineup of rugged, world-proof handsets. The g’zOne (that’s pronounced geeze-One) lineup is known for being built tough and resistant to water, dust, shock, and general abuse. For this reason, the handset is marketed towards those with active lifestyles or those working in fields that can give a normal phone a good beating, such as construction or logging. The phone lives up to expectations in this area and delivers some unique features that we really liked, but an unresponsive touchscreen and below-par camera detract from our overall positive feelings about the phone.

Hardware Review

The Commando is built tough, cased in sturdy rubberized trim and watertight. Red accents are a nice, Droid-like touch, and some exposed screws give the handset an industrial look. This one is built about as tough as they come. Some may be a bit turned off by the phone’s bulk — it feels heavy and has a much larger footprint than is necessary for its 3.6-inch screen — but other will love the look and feel of what Casio has put together.

The right side of the phone offers a dedicated camera key and USB and 3.5mm headphone ports. These ports have watertight covers that must be popped out of the way in order to use. This side of the handset also features a notification light. The left side of the device gives us a volume rocker, dock connecter, power/standby key, and a tactile button that can be assigned for one-click access to nearly any service or feature on the Commando.

Below the screen you find the standard four Android softkeys and a set of speakers. We really liked the placement of the speakers on the Commando. It seems most handsets decide to put the speaker on the back of the device, which seems counter-intuitive when considering we might place the phone on a table to watch a video, muffling the back speaker. Not only is the speaker on the Commando placed well, but it sounds pretty good to boot. It’s loud, it’s clear, and it even has a bit of bass boom for your tunes.

The screen directly above the speakers measures 3.6-inches and features a resolution of 480×800 pixels. It looks good enough, but unfortunately its responsiveness is a bit of an issue. If you are slow and deliberate with your swipes and strokes you should have no problem, but don’t even think about quickly flicking through home screens or scrolling webpages. The screen simply doesn’t respond quickly to input.

Thankfully, the 800MHz processor within the Commando remains pretty zippy, helping to balance out some of the screen response issues with quick switching between menus and homescreens. Applications launch with ease, but this is by no means a 1GHz+ Snapdragon. It still feels like a mid-range phone in terms of pure processing power and speed.

Software Review

The Commando is an Android 2.2 device with a custom interface by Casio, though it feels for the most part like a stock experience. The UI layer isn’t as deeply integrated as HTC’s Sense or Motorola’s Blur, and most services look and behave as they would on a Google Experience device. This is not a Google Experience device, however, and Verizon has bundled it with Bing services and plenty of other bloatware including VZ Navigator and VCast apps.

The major refinement Casio has made to the software interface is the inclusion of the Snap-Out Menu. This is a customizable shortcuts menu that cane be “snapped-out” from the lower left-hand corner of the homescreen. Dragging your finger out reveals five shortcuts to choose from, and a sound cue can be helpful for locating services without looking at the phone’s screen. We like the idea of this menu and actually got quite a bit of use out of it.

Another way the Commando deploys shortcuts is through the tactile key on the left side of the phone. This key can be assigned to nearly any function or app within the phone’s software and quickly called up with one press. You could set the button to dial a specific number or launch your email app, for instance. We got the most use out of using this key to launch or messaging app for quick texting.

Speaking of quick texting, the Commando comes with XT9, a keyboard that takes its cues from Swype and allows you to type by dragging your finger through letters to form words rather than traditional letter-by-letter entry. I have always been a huge Swype fan and had no complaints about the implementation of a similar keyboard on the Commando.

Given that this device is geared towards those with active lifestyle, the pre-installed g’zGear suite of applications is perhaps the best software element of the phone. It brings a set of applications and widgets that allow you to track everything from the temperature to the tides. The Commando is outfitted to help anyone find their way on an outdoor adventure, whether you are running or hiking. Accompanying widgets allow you to grab information from any of the g’zGear apps at a quick glance.

Camera Review

The camera is perhaps the weakest part of the Commando experience. Taking pictures with the 5MP auto-focus snapper with LED flash is easy enough, but the end result is far from spectacular. I could try to explain, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so here are a few sample shots.

Video isn’t much better. It’s actually a bit worse. Video captures is by no means smooth and the end result looks like something you would have expected from a feature phone a few years back.

Being one to not use my phone for much video or picture taking, I can let the lack of a stellar camera slide. It doesn’t hurt my overall feelings on the phone too much, but for some it could be an area of big concern.

The Verdict

Being the first smartphone member of a Casio lineup of feature phones for Verizon, I fully expected to be let down by the g’zOne Commando. I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t the case. It isn’t the handset for everyone, but for those hesitant to buy a smartphone due to an active lifestyle or just plain clumsiness, the Commando is worth a good hard look. It is built tougher than you will probably ever need it to be.

It delivers at the software level as well, providing a familiar Android experience with a few twists that really add some value. The Snap-Out Menu and Tactile Key get a big thumbs up, and g’zGear applications are sure to get some use by owners of the Commando.

The phone is definitely not without its flaws. The touchscreen can lag and be unresponsive, and a lower-powered processor doesn’t do much to elevate the phone from its humble, feature-phone roots. Throw in a shoddy-at-best camera and you get the essence of the Commando: a no-nonsense device for no-nonsense people. Tech heads and those on the cutting-edge might want to stay away, but for the everyman the Commando gets the job done just fine.

 

 

Continue reading on the Casio Commando forums, see the specs, or find news and reviews.




  • Dan

    maybe you could mow your yard and take down the Christmas lights…

    • http://profiles.google.com/bhinson15 Brandon Hinson

      This comment made me laugh out loud at work, then made me watch the video, watching the video made me think about the comment again, and thinking about the comment a second time made me laugh again.

      not sure why I found it so funny. But I liked it. You win good sir.

      and I agree mow your yard

      • http://twitter.com/Tehpriest Roger Pitman

        Sounds way to depressed to mow the yard. Hang on why mow the yard, grass maybe, yard Hmm..

  • http://profiles.google.com/bhinson15 Brandon Hinson

    How is the GPS on this phone? Is it any better / worse than other Android phones? I do IT for an Engineering company and have a few field guys that could use a tough phone.

  • 1linuxfreak

    I went to VZ store just to look at one of the Casio Commandos , was disappointed . It would not respond to and touch commands , like swiping to next screen , launched apps that were not touched . Called VZ employee over and asked if it was broken ? VZ employee fiddled with it did the same to them , finally they said they would have a Tech look into it .
    All other new phones I tried that day that were next to the Casio worked flawlessly , sorry Casio , EPIC FAIL !

    • http://twitter.com/marker1015 MrSix

      Little early to be calling epic fail on what amounts to a single lemon isn’t it? The phone in the video didn’t do any of those things, and there’s a few early adopters on another forum who haven’t had that experience.

      • 1linuxfreak

        You get one chance to impress me , the Casio Commando did not , my opinion , you can have yours , but it does not make mine less important !
        Even in the review video it looks slow , maybe if “rooted” , “overclocked” it might get better .

        • Sprockets

          Are your friends “epic fails”? I’m sure they failed to impress completely on one and only one try.

  • Elvis the Queen

    I’d rather get a Defy.

  • RJ

    That would be great for me, I work in a cemetery and I’ve already chewed up my G2 a bit after only 3 months. If Tmo had something like this I would grab it just for work.

  • Sprockets

    Well I would have to say that I am impressed with the one I got. It doesn’t have any of the problems that 1linuxfreak claims it does. Besides, where did 1linux freak get a store copy to play with anyway. The phone is internet order only until May 6 (as per VIrizon Wireless consumer rep department 4/28/2011.) None of the official Verizon outlets in my area have one yet and played with my phone when they found out I had one in my possesion. As far as speed goes.. my buddies at work have Incredibles and my phone was only a fraction of a second slower thant there’s. (Not worth getting pissy over in my mind.) I have had BlackBerry phones and this phone impresses me more than the RIM products. Another co-worker has the latest iPhone and has jailbroke it and overclocked his, and he says he is just as impressed with my phone in stock form. Of course if I want faster processing speeds and downloads I just take out my laptop and run it. Thank God for mobile broadband modems.

    The reason I got one is because of my past history with g’Zone phones. I beta tested a Type S (blue body.. the first g’Zone’s sold in a US market.) I still have it and still use it. When my BB’s failed it still worked. It has been through every thing NEC/Casio claims is it capable of and more, and still works just fine. So reliable product makes for this sale. Probably why I ride a BMW motorcycle… 147K miles with no major repairs…… ever! It isn’t the most powerful bike on the road but it does what I need it to, and starts every time without fail. So, if the Commando is anything like my BMW then I will be very happy with it.

    COMMENT: To the reviewer… The size and weight of the phone has way more to do with it’s ability to qualify for Mil Spec 810g. Phones that make that qualification do not just meet the minimum requirements they actaully have to exceed the minimums to even be considered to qualify for a rating. Not only does it do that for US Mil Spec 810g, but it far outperforms British Mil Spec, German Mil Spec, Japanese Mill Spec, and the list goes on. I have frozen phones before doing any of my many outdoor events and hobbies in the winter and the g’Zone is the only one that has survived, the rest failed to perform at all. So, while in the backcountry in near zero weather, or below, it is nice to know I can still use my phone if I need help.

    • turkeyman07

      uh the type v was the first G’z One sold in the us there guy…

    • turkeyman07

      also, the type v is known as the type r in japan… but regardless, great phones that are as tough as casio says…