Review: Casio G’zOne Brigade Rugged Cellphone

We’ve covered travel-friendly, all-weather flip phones before. A lot. This kind of handset is great for bragging to co-workers that you’re surfing the Gulf Coast … when you’re actually surfing it. But using a rugged phone to do more than just make calls from the beach? Another matter entirely.

Casio’s ultra-rugged Brigade balances form and function better than most tough phones: It’s waterproof, shockproof and dustproof with a full QWERTY keyboard and productivity chops.

At a chunky 5.5 ounces (and with one of the beefiest hinges we’ve ever seen on a phone), the Brigade is hardly inconspicuous. While closed, it resembles a bulky candy-bar phone, replete with an exposed dial pad and a tiny, no-nonsense monochrome OLED screen. Flipping it open reveals a bright 400×200-pixel screen and a QWERTY keypad.

The ideal usage scenarios are clear: Keep it closed for making calls, open it up for messaging and multimedia. In these contexts, it works well, for the most part.

For calls, the Brigade is a blunt if effective instrument. The interface is simple, the call quality is merely passable, and the speaker is nothing special (except for being waterproof). It gets the job done, but for warm, long-winded, telephonic heart-to-hearts you’re probably better off hooking in a headset.

Messaging acumen is where it’s at, though. We e-mailed, sent texts and even peeked at Microsoft Word files with the document viewer, all while strolling along five city blocks in the middle of a downpour. Though the Brigade doesn’t hold a candle to smartphones for productivity, little additions like the full HTML browser were good enough to get us dabbling in webmail.

The militaristic and pragmatic Brigade is absolutely not about frills. In fact, cubicle dwellers will probably want to stick to their comprehensively capable, push-notifying smartleashes. However, if the goal to traverse the great unknown (or play hooky while remaining conscientiously in contact), it’s worth bringing a Brigade for backup.

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