Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE Review (Verizon Wireless)
Casio has been creating rugged smartphones for a while now. Their previous model, the original G’zOne Commando obtained a cult-like following among users that spend a lot of time outdoors or work in harsh environments. That phone is actually still for sale today from Verizon Wireless, even though it launched way back in April of 2011. This year’s model, the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE (model number C811), has improved on the original in every way possible and appears to be the perfect upgrade for anyone looking for a phone with new features, a larger screen and more power, while keeping the ruggedness and durability that Commando smartphones are known for.
Verizon Wireless was kind enough to send over a brand new Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE for us to play with and we have used the device constantly over the course of the last few weeks. So read on to find out what we think about the latest rugged phone to hit Verizon.
Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE Unboxing
The Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE smartphone ships with a wall charger, MicroUSB charge/sync cable, a 1800mAh battery, and a bunch of user manuals. Sadly, there are no headphones included with this device. I would have liked to see a pair included, especially since wired headphones are required to make use of the phone’s FM Radio feature.
Design & Hardware
I might be in the minority here, but I personally love how the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE looks. I found it refreshing to use a smartphone that wasn’t trying to be razor thin and didn’t feel fragile in the hand. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder though, and I heard from a few people who didn’t care much for the design. Like its predecessor, the Commando 4G LTE has a look that you’ll either love or hate.
Rugged phones usually have designs that stand-out among all of the black slab devices on the market and the Commando 4G LTE is no exception. The phone is protected by a hardened and thick rubberized shell that is secured in position with exposed screws that are visible on both the front and rear. The bottom edge of the phone is sharply angled and metallic red accents surround both the camera and the main speaker. It isn’t for everyone, but the Casio Commando 4G LTE easily has the most unique looking design of any smartphone we’ve reviewed.
Going around the device, you’ll find the Commando’s MicroUSB charging/sync port and charging dock connections on the right side. A volume rocker and programmable tactile key are located on the left side. There is a power/lock button and a headphone jack up top, while the Commando’s main speaker and row of capacitive Android buttons are on the bottom. A 1.3 megapixel front facing camera resides directly above the display along with the ear peice and a 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED is on the rear along with a removable and lockable battery door. We’ll go over that in more detail in the Battery section of this review.
Each of the Commando’s ports are sealed with a cover that works like a rubber O-ring to help ensure moisture can’t find its way into the device, even if it becomes fully submerged in water. The Commando 4G LTE has MIL-STD-810G certification, which basically means it can withstand some serious abuse. It is rated to survive being exposed to rain, dust, salt water spray, 95% humidity conditions, vibrations, solar radiation and extreme temperatures. If that’s not enough, it will also survive being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes at a time and 4-foot high drops.
The Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE measures 5.11 by 2.68 by 0.54 inches (HWD) and weighs in at 6.17 ounces. There is no denying that it is a bulky Smartphone, but I actually appreciate that bulkiness. The Commando fills my hand nicely, the rubber coating provides a great grip and the entire phone has a solid feeling to it.
Internally, the Casio Commando 4G LTE isn’t quite as impressive. It is easy to tell that a few compromises were made on this device, as is usually the case with rugged phones. One area where this is most evident is processing power, which in this case is supplied by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU and 1GB worth of RAM. That puts the Commando 4G LTE behind some other Android devices in the same price range. We were mostly satisfied with how it performed in real world use, but the Commando 4G LTE did show some UI lag a few times during our testing. This only occurred while running several applications at once and closing apps we weren’t using usually sped everything back up. Ultimately, the Commando 4G LTE performs acceptably in most situations, but it would have been even better if Casio had upped its ram to 2GB.
The display is another area where some compromises were made. The screen found here is 4.0″ and has a resolution of just 480×800 pixels. That is a much lower screen resolution than we are used to seeing and results in text and images appearing jagged or fuzzy at times. On the plus side, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which should make screen damage from bumps or drops much less likely.
On the software side of things, we have Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Nope, that wasn’t a typo as the photo above proves. It is unfortunate that Smartphones are still shipping with such an old version of Android. I honestly thought, or maybe just hoped, I wouldn’t be reviewing any more ICS-powered devices, but manufactures are still using it for whatever reasons. My personal Android device is running Android 4.3 and going back to ICS after growing accustomed to how Jelly Bean works is just painful. Will the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE be upgraded to Jelly Bean? Who knows at this point, Casio hasn’t said either way yet, but we certainly hope it will.
Despite the disappointing presence of ICS, the Commando 4G LTE’s software isn’t all bad. Actually, Casio has done a great job of adding unique and useful software features to the standard array of Android core apps and features. I like Casio’s overlay, it brings an industrial style to ICS that compliments the Commando’s overall look nicely. Out of the box, the Commando 4G LTE comes with several helpful widgets assigned to the home screens. These include a clock that can turn into a compass with a tap, sun/moon set/rise information, current temperature, an atmospheric pressure gauge and others. It is like the phone is begging you to take it on a long hike the moment you unbox it.
All of the Android ICS and Verizon Wireless apps you’d expect are here. You’ll get access to Google’s services such as Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Talk, Google+ and Google Play Music. As well as Verizon apps like Verizon Tones, My Verzion, Verizon Navigator and Viewdini.
Casio has also equipped the Commando 4G LTE with an innovative glove mode, which makes doing basic activities like checking messages or placing calls easy to accomplish while wearing a glove. Glove mode is assigned to the tactile key by default, and it worked flawlessly during our tests.
We like to think of the G’zGear app as the ultimate outdoors app. This exclusive app provides users with several useful functions such as an earth compass, thermometer, tides, sun/moon, star gazer, walking counter and a barometer. The earth compass works like any digital compass you may have used in the past. It will accurately display your current heading as well as show your location in relation to known landmarks. The thermometer feature can show the current temperature at your current location as well as the temperatures of cities you choose. Tides allows users to monitor the times for low and high tide and check their height. Sun/Moon displays how many hours until the sun or moon rises or sets for your current location and the star gazer app works just like Google Sky Map. With it, users can check out the stars and constellations in the sky.
As was mentioned above, many of the G’zGear functions can be added to the Commando’s home screen in the form of helpful widgets, which allows for faster and easier access to all of the information G’zGear collects.
Another exclusive app for the Commando 4G LTE is G’zWorld. It uses the Commando’s built-in GPS receiver to track and display your current location and elevation and can be used for dropping bread crumbs. This is really useful for anyone that spends a lot of time hiking or camping, as it will track everywhere you have been and allow you to trace your steps back when it is time to leave.
The Route tab allows users to begin recording their current activities, Pin is used for pinning your current location on the map and the Photo tab allows users to create new pins with photos. Users can also add comments to their photos. Perhaps most interesting of all, is the fact that your recorded G’zWorld activities can easily be shared with others if you want.
A user replaceable, 1800mAh battery pack powers the Commando 4G LTE. Although small when compared with other smartphones, this battery provided satisfactory results. In our testing, the Commando 4G LTE last nearly two full days of mixed usage on a single charge. The smaller battery capacity also made for fast charge times once the battery was drained. If that isn’t enough power for you, Verizon Wireless offers a larger, 2920mAh extended battery with a new battery door for the Commando 4G LTE. We didn’t have the opportunity to test out the extended battery, but can safely assume that the increased capacity would make a noticeable difference in battery life. Either way, the extended battery and replacement cover costs just $49.99 and is available for purchase at the link below.
Everything about this smartphone is rugged, so it should be no surprise that special attention was given to the battery door. The battery door on the Commando 4G LTE is watertight thanks to a rubber seal. It also ensures that the battery will never pop out on accident by using a special, dual lock design. First, the battery door itself locks securely in place with a sliding tab. On top of that, the battery is locked in place with sliding tab. I can’t count how many times I’ve dropped a phone and seen the battery go flying out. That won’t be happening with the Commando 4G LTE.
Once the battery has been unlocked and removed, users can gain access to the micro SIM card and micro SD card slots. The Commando 4G LTE ships with 16gb of internal storage and the micro SD card slot is rated for up to 32gb cards. Though I was able to use a 64gb micro SD card with the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE with no problems.
Connectivity, Data & Call Quality
As the name suggests, the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE sports Verizon Wireless 4G LTE connectivity. Data speeds while using 4G LTE in my area were as fast as any other Verizon device I’ve tested recently and the Commando had no problems locating or keeping a strong connection. The Commando’s 4G LTE connection can be shared with up to 10 separate devices thanks to its mobile hotspot feature.
The Commando 4G LTE also supports quad-band GSM, HSPA/UMTS and dual-band EV-DO Rev. Making it a great choice for anyone that requires a global device. All told, the connectivity options listed above enable the Commando to work in over 200 countries.
Call quality on the Commando 4G LTE is quite good. Calls sounded excellent on both ends and the phone’s main speaker is plenty loud for use as a speakerphone, even while in noisy environments.
Other connectivity options of the Commando 4G LTE include Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, DLNA and NFC. There is also a built-in FM radio tuner that uses your 3.5 mm headphone wire as an antenna.
The Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE comes equipped with a 8 megapixel, auto focus camera with LED flash and is capable of recording videos in either 720 or 1080p HD. At this point, we’ve used several smartphones with similar camera setups, but we can’t recall any of them performing the way the Commando’s camera does.
The sample photo above shows our biggest complaint with this camera. The Casio G’zOne Command 4G LTE has a real bad habit of occasionally making stuff look gray. The grayish-looking bush next to the bench is actually green. It is almost as bright a green as the putting surface is, but the camera didn’t reproduce the color for some reason. I have also captured images with this camera of someone that was completely grayed out from head to toe. I would have liked to post those pictures here, but the subject asked me not to because she looked like an alien.
It is possible that our review unit has a faulty camera. As the photos below show, the color reproduction problem doesn’t always happen and it is possible to capture decent images with this camera, just be prepared to take multiple photos of anything important in case the first shot does turn something you care about in the image gray.
When deciding on your next smartphone, it is very important to consider your own personal needs. For that reason, you more than likely already know if you will be making the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE your next smartphone or not. If you work in a harsh environment, or spend a lot of time outdoors and need a rugged smartphone running on Verizon’s network, you simply will not do any better than this. The Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE isn’t perfect (no smartphone is), but the few compromises it makes are ultimately worth it for any user that requires a smartphone that can take a beating.