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Stress-testing and review of the Casio G’zOne Brigade cellphone

April 25, 2010

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

Post image for Stress-testing and review of the Casio G’zOne Brigade cellphone

The full name of this phone is the “Casio G’zOne Brigade”. On the box, each of those three words is printed in a different font. To prevent confusion and annoyance, for the remainder of this article I’ll simply call this phone the “Brigade”.

The Brigade gave me a very good first impression. It’s clearly tough – ready for anything from construction sites to military work. It’s got good functionality, like doing one-handed messaging with the phone closed! Open the clamshell design for access to a nice wide horizontal keyboard and screen.

It’s a 3G multimedia phone from Verizon, with full access to the Verizon-specific applications like VZ Navigator and V CAST Music and Video. It’s got a 3.2MP camera and uses microSD for storage.

The operating system isn’t elegant – no screen-spinning snazzy effects like what you’d see on the iPhone, Android or Palm devices. The OS here has plenty of features, but navigation is simple and no frills – with the phone clamshell open, it’s basically a nine-option main menu with submenus. The screen is a widescreen display, good for video and messaging.

I really liked the keyboard. A few buttons are in weird places (like the period key), but the keyboard also has extra buttons that make data entry a little faster (there are dedicated keys for “Enter” and “Send” and “New Message”). The buttons are big without the phone itself being too big.

Another cool aspect is that if you don’t/can’t open the clamshell, you still have a lot of functionality when the phone is closed. With the front keyboard and small circular info screen, you can send messages (including with ABC/T9 input), take photos and video, and quickly access a 10-limit “Favorite contact” list. It has integrated Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi.

While it supports it, the Brigade would not be a good phone for corporate-level email synchronization (like with a Microsoft Exchange server). The sync service is another $10 per month, and while the Brigade does have the usual Email, Calendar and Contacts applications, navigation and usage is really basic. No frills. If I was doing instant messaging only, I’d love it. But I wouldn’t use it for corporate or business messaging.

But enough of the features. This is the Brigade, and right on the box is its selling point. “Rugged, dust shock and water resistant”. You can get the feature list at the end of this article, but most of the time we’re going to talk (and yes, TEST) the Brigade’s impressive durability.

The Brigade’s “810F military standards” and tough design

This phone is a bruiser- no doubt. Just by holding it, you can tell the Brigade is a no-nonsense, solid and tough smartphone. Verizon’s marketing material says:

“Meets Military Specifications 810F standards for Water, Shock & Dust Resistance, Immersion, Vibration, Salt Fog, Humidity, Solar Radiation, Altitude, Low and High Temperature Storage”.

In my earlier stress-test and review of the Verizon G’zOne Type-V, Verizon gave me very specific details about testing standards, like this:

“Immersion tests were conducted in accordance with Method 512.4, Procedure I. The G’zOne Type-V was immersed in water for a period of 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter (3.28 feet), but with ports closed.”

As of this writing Verizon does not have such information about the Brigade. I’m not sure why they haven’t published this information, unless my Verizon rep and I simply haven’t found it yet, or The Brigade was designed to meet these specs but never formally tested.

Regardless of the reason, my Brigade tests were built with input from my earlier tests of the G’zOne Type-V and the formal documentation of the “Department of Defense Test Method Standard for Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests” – this is a massive 539-page document detailing the 810F military test standards and methodology.

My limitation in performing these tests was that while I needed to verify the phone actually worked after testing, I didn’t want to physically damage the phone itself (apart from a scuff or two). You see, other reviewers will get this phone after me, and while a small scratch or two would be acceptable, I don’t want them to get a phone with a cracked case or dust caked in every crevice. Call it professional courtesy.

I was also limited by not being able to meet the criteria of all tests, and by time. For example, I don’t presently have the ability to run ten tests of 24-hours each while also fluctuating temperatures and maintaining a steady humidity. So while some of the tests below are fun, and some are impressive, this is NOT to be considered verification of the 810F standards claim. It does however, show that the Brigade can and does take rough-and-tumble abuse.

Disclaimer: I was given formal written permission by Verizon to stress-test the Brigade. Do not try this at home. Or if you do, I’m not responsible for anything that happens.


Test description

For each test, here’s what each of the result sections mean:

Reference: This is the page number in the “Department of Defense Test Method Standard for Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests” document that I used to build criteria for each test. This is how I determined conditions like test duration and temperatures.

Detail: Information about the test conditions and methodology.

Result: For the “Success” mentions below, here’s what I verified on the Brigade to determine success:

External and internal displays worked properly.

The Brigade successfully made a phone call.

The Brigade successfully sent an instant message.

External and internal keyboard buttons and menu navigation worked properly (including the 4-way menu button and “select” center button).

Brigade Test 1: Water

Reference: N/A

Detail: For a military-level test, one has to take into account the various aspects that can be tested. For example, the military standards discuss (at great length) things like rainfall rate, water droplet size, wind velocity, surface exposure orientation, water pressure, temperature and duration.

For my test? Screw it: I’m just going to spray this cellphone with the hose.

Result: Success. While open, and while being sprayed with water, the Brigade continued to play streaming video with sound. No problems during or after the spraydown.

Brigade Test 2: Shock resistance

Reference: Page 349

Detail: Drop the Brigade from a height of 30 inches. Drop it so it lands on each side of the phone (6 times minimum – it actually took me about 10 times, because the phone kept rotating after I dropped it). The landing surface was a wooden cutting board.

Result: Success. Even though this test was the fastest and easiest to perform, it was the scariest. Even though other tests dunk this phone inwater, there’s something scarier about intentionally dropping an expensive phone on to a hard surface and hearing that loud crack! But the Brigade was fine – fully operational and no dents, scratches or cracks.

Brigade Test 2: Water immersion

Reference: Page 207

Detail: 1 meter immersion for 30 minutes was the recommended test. I didn’t have a deep enough container. My test was with about 20 inches. The picture you see below is just a photographic effect I achieved while experimenting with camera ISO and the Brigade display. I kept it here because I think it looks cool, kinda like what would happen if you dropped your flux capacitor in the tub while moving at 55 MPH (which, admittedly, would be difficult).

Result: Success.

Brigade Test 3: Vibration

Reference: N/A

Detail: The military tests have different recommendations based on testing acoustic noise, shock, pyroshock (I don’t know what that is, but it sounds really cool), gunfire vibration, ballistic shock and more. I don’t have guns or ballistics laying around. So my weapon of choice was obvious: the “Euro-Style Basic Vibrating Massager”. Also included were several rubber bands who were all very confused about the task I had for them: I rubber-banded the Brigade to the vibrating percussive head of the massager, and let it run on high speed for 30 minutes.

Result: Success.

Brigade Test 4: Low temperature storage

Reference: Approximately 25F (-4C) for 30 minutes.

Detail: I have a home refrigerator. Nothing else in my house can get colder. Unfortunately, this doesn’t even meet the most mild of the military test standards for cold weather operation (14F / -10C), but it’s all I’ve got. So, figuring that atmosphere could substitute for truly freezing conditions, here’s the Bridgade in my freezer next to some ice cream.

Result: Success. Until the phone warmed up, the keys (particularly the external keys) were a little difficult to use and required more effort to push.

Brigade Test 5: High temperature storage

Reference: Page 84

Detail: The testing standards called for 160F (71C) for 1 hour. In my case, I couldn’t set my oven that low. So my test was performed at 170F (77C) for 1 hour. To simulate movement or wind, the oven used was a convection oven.

There are two recommended procedures for testing high temperature. Since Verizon didn’t specify what test they used, then yes: I’ll pick the harder one! Per the military, this is defined as a more extreme test than what’s usually done, and is suitable for testing devices in locations including “Northern Africa, Middle East, Pakistan and India, southwestern United States and northern Mexico.”

Result: Success. There was a heavy plastic smell when I opened the oven after the Brigade finished “cooking”, but everything worked fine, even though my fingers hurt from typing on the phone when it was still so hot.


The Brigade is a smartphone with a good physical keyboard, it provides easy access to messaging features with the phone open and closed. And it looks cool, too.

The Brigade can handle extreme conditions, certainly, including multiple cringe-inducing drops onto hard surfaces, and full water immersion for up to thirty minutes at a time. While I’m not positive Verizon or Casio truly tested this phone to the standards they claim to have met, I’m certain that this phone is ready to take any reasonable abuse you throw at it, including use in truly nasty conditions, like construction sites or desert marches.

Nothing is indestructible, of course, but the Brigade is a lot closer to that definition than most any other cellphone on the market today.

The Casio G’zOne Brigade is available from Verizon Wireless for $250 and a two-year contract.

Brigade features

  • Tough Technology Design – Horizontal clamshell with QWERTY keypad
  • 3.2 megapixel camera with flash, video capture and LED light
  • Clear Talk for superior sound quality
  • Water, shock, dust, immersion, vibration, humidity, salt fog, altitude, high and low temperature storage, and solar radiation resistant conforming to MIL-STD-810F
  • Field Force Manager capable – A resource management tool that provides businesses with the ability to locate and communicate with their mobile field workers
  • Document Viewer – Makes reviewing Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and PDFs a breeze
  • Dedicated message keys – Provide one-touch access to messaging
  • Text to Speech – Allows customers to listen to their text messages, multimedia messages and e-mails
  • Best Shot™ – Has six presets for a perfect photo finish and automatically changes the setup of the camera based on the background
  • Auto Focus – Offers single point, nine point and multi point and face detection, perfect for group shots
  • V CAST Music with Rhapsody – Choose from millions of songs to download over the air
  • V CAST Video on Demand – Watch favorite television shows while on the go, including live college football, college basketball and NHL hockey games, local and national news and weather, and family programming
  • VZ Navigator ® capable – Receive audible turn-by-turn directions to more than 15 million points of interest and share the directions with others
  • microSD™ storage for high-quality photos and music
  • Speakerphone with front-facing stereo speaker


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