Review: Casio G’zOne Boulder

I’m not going to mince words. This phone is orange. Really orange. Like in the same obnoxious vein as the color options for a new Hummer. But if you can overlook this (as I eventually did), then you’ll probably enjoy Casio’s new G’zOne, dubbed the “Boulder.” That’s right – this angular, candy colored handset is the offspring of the Gadgetlab’s crumpled Type-V, Type-S, and Type-SL review units.

The Boulder isn’t another rugged rehash, though. In fact, Casio finally threw a curve by including some fairly useful multimedia features. Welcome additions like music playback, a more powerful (but still lacking) camera, and zippy EV-DO connectivity fatten up this phone’s already rock solid resume.

Ohhhh, but the Boulder doesn’t get a pass on these merits alone.

Being able to safely download music and surf the web in the great outdoors definitely elevates the usefulness of the Boulder. But let’s face it – Casio is extremely late to the party with these commonplace features. Previous pratfalls like the laughably low-res external LCD, and an annoying light show for incoming calls have returned too. Equally puzzling was the Boulder’s speakerphone performance. As a Push-To-Talk and outdoorsy handset I was expecting enough sound to wake the wilderness. Instead, the Boulder produced murky audio that served to only awaken my rage. After all, a phone like this should only be muddy on the outside.

Foibles aside, a lot of the ‘new’ features were actually well integrated into this otherwise hard knock handset. Tasks like downloading and playing music, mobile messaging, and accessing webmail were brisk and painless due to a sensible layout and speedy EV-DO network. Casio also moved away from the angular, militaristic keypad of the Type-SL and outfitted the Boulder with a symmetrical, text-friendly layout. Little usability improvements like this (and smart additions like a waterproof cover for the microSD port) reinforced Casio’s obvious commitment to achieving a rugged/user-friendly balance.

Of course, it takes more than balance to survive the G-Lab’s torture chamber. Truthfully, I was a bit surprised by the Boulder’s resilience. Not so much because it survived the battery of drop, dunk, and dirt tests. No, it was more the fact that it endured all that abuse despite its fragile-looking chassis. As always, Casio covered its bases by ensuring military certified protection from the elements. Still, I was sure the much more slender and er…’oranger’ Boulder would fail where its predecessors succeeded. A week of being beaten to bejesus and back proved otherwise. The end result wasn’t pretty – the handset ended looking like something between “road rashed” and “gratuitously shanked.”

Ultimately, this type of utilitarian dependability is all one should expect from the Boulder. Casio definitely gets kudos for bringing a tank like the G’zOne into the multimedia era. However, the Boulder is more a patchwork of desirable features, rather than a cohesive marriage of entertainment and durability.

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