The Casio G’zOne Brigade for Verizon is the newest edition to the G’zOne tough phone lineup; and it certainly fits the bill. Brigade meets Military Specification 810F, and can withstand water, vibration, dust, shock, and extreme temperatures. At first glance Brigade appears to be a well-designed classic cellphone with a numerical keypad and a small monochrome screen; but flip it open and its got a beautiful 2.9” display with an amazing QWERTY keyboard. It’s impressive to find a cellphone that can withstand so much abuse, pack so many features, and still fit in your pocket (also it’s not officially Batman and Wonder Woman approved, but you would have to figure he and she would love it).
It has been a very fun couple of weeks putting the Brigade to the test. I went to town submerging it in water, mud, and even sprite. I hurled the phone to the ground regularly, threw it as far as I could, and even dropped it from two stories up. I even stood up on it, applying a nice 200lbs of pressure. To my amazement, after all of this abuse, not one noticeable scratch or mark. If you take a look around the internet, you’ll find other people who have put their Brigades and other G’zOne phones through much more abuse.
The build quality is just phenomenal; it’s built tough in every way imaginable, and yet it seems like a regular cell phone. Being that this phone is meant to withstand the elements, Casio has taken great care in making sure every input port was covered by a rubberized cap. Meaning water and dirt is kept out of seeping into the handset. The caps provide a snug fit that is almost suction like and manages to keep the wetness, cold, and grime out.
The qwerty keyboard is extremely finger friendly. The large square rubberized buttons are very easy to type on. The black and grey color scheme fits Brigade well. The 1.2” monochrome PM-OLED front display is a very nice detail; it is high resolution and easy on the eyes. The internal display is a 2.9” wide screen, with 65k colors, and a 400x240px resolution. It’s a very nice display for everything brigade does, but it’s unlikely you’ll watching movies on it. The back of the phone is made of a dense rubber, it feels nice on the palm. Brigade weighs 5.5 ounces, which isn’t too heavy, but its definitely got some heft to it.
Casio put so much effort in to designing this phone it’s surprising it has as many features as it does. Brigade has a 3.2 megapixel camera with auto focus, Bestshot™, self timer, video capture, macro mode, and a flash. Brigade is equipped with stereo bluetooth. It supports the following profiles: headset, handsfree, serial port, stereo streaming, audio/visual remote control, dial-up networking, object push profile for Vcard and Vcalendar, File Transfer, Phone Book Access, and Basic Printing. Brigade has a Push-to-Talk button which works with other Verizon PTT users for instant communication. Brigade also packs GPS, voice commands, V Cast Music, speakerphone, microSD expansion, e-mail, instant messaging, music and video player, internet browser, Visual Voice Mail and a bunch of other nifty features. All of the more useful features are all accessible with Brigade in its closed state. This includes dialing (of course), messaging, camera, music, and settings such as pairing bluetooth.
In the lower part of New York the service was great. It is potentially better than AT&T. Call quality sounded good on both ends. I seemed to always have 3g service. I experienced no dropped calls. Bluetooth connectivity with my headset and car speakerphone worked perfectly. The speakerphone on the Brigade is fantastic. It is very loud and very clear.
The weakest aspect of brigade is the operating system. It’s outdated and confusing to use. The text based navigation takes you through a series of menus to get where you want to go. Brigade has a ton of neat features, but they’re confusion and cumbersome to get to. The browser is also rather unimpressive by today’s standards.
The battery was pretty good. I got roughly six hours of straight talk time. Standby was very impressive lasting a little over a week.
The camera 3.2 megapixel camera was great on this phone. Better than a lot of other cell phones out there. The auto focus and bestshot allowed me to take some nice shots. I loved how easily accessible the camera is with a button on the external of the device, as well as the internal. Both screens can be used as the viewfinder. The flash is nice and bright.
Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the music/video player other than you can’t add music to your phone via bluetooth without a micro-sd card. Unfortunately, a USB cable does not come with the Brigade, and it requires a special proprietary cable which you would not have laying around the house.
Casio’s G’zOne Brigade for Verizon is a solid cell phone in every sense of the word. If you work in an industry where you need a phone that can take a beating, then this is by all means the phone. It packs a ton of features you’ll find on all new smart phones today, even if it is a little confusing to access them all. This would have been the ideal phone to have in high school. Not only would it be awesome to impress all of your friends with, but it could handle the crazy lifestyle and would stay in great condition for years. It may be a little thicker and heavier than other cell phones out there, but three years ago a clamshell phone with QWERTY keyboard this size would have been mind blowing. Casio G’zOne Brigade is only on Verizon and will cost $249.99 with 2 year contract.
Good: Virtually Indestructible (and fun testing this), lots of features, great camera, looks awesome. Would go nicely with a Panasonic Toughbook.
Bad: User Interface seems very outdated and complicated, proprietary charger/USB connection, some may consider too bulky