Editors' note: Though we reviewed the Ravine 2 with a camera, the handset also comes without a shooter. That's the only difference between the two models.
If Casio's phones are known for anything it's their extreme durability. And in that regard, the new G'zOne Ravine 2 keeps up the company standard. Like the original Ravine, the Commando, and the other G'zOne models before them, the Ravine should withstand just about any physical conditions while offering a midrange feature set that includes world roaming, 3G support, and push-to-talk (PTT). Sure, the design is bulky and photo quality continues to be disappointing, but call quality on Verizon Wireless is improved over the earlier handsets.
It would be difficult to mistake the Ravine 2 for any other cell phone. It's big (4.33 inches long by 1.99 inches wide by 0.83 inch deep) and heavy (4.85 ounces), and it sports distinctive features like a ribbed hinge and a ring around the external display. It's far from pretty, but that's not really the point of a durable phone. And in case you didn't know that it was a Verizon device, the black-and-red color scheme will tell you so.
The thick plastic skin also stands out, especially if you're jumping to the Ravine 2 from a trendy thin handset. The absence of any rubber sidings was surprising, but the Ravine has a comfortable, solid feel that inspires confidence. And even with the extra bulk, the handset slips easily into larger pockets.
Casio promises that the handset will be able to withstand shock, dust, vibration, salt fog, humidity, low and high temperatures, and immersion in water. Casio has a convenient list of these durability claims on its site, most of which do appear to hold up. We gave the Ravine 2 a bath, put it in the freezer, dropped it onto a hard surface, and generally banged it around (now I just need to find some salt fog). In each case it survived and kept on ticking. The moving parts, like the oversized ribbed hinge, also are built to last.
The 1.38-inch external LCD shows the usual information, including the date, time, signal strength and caller ID. The display is full-color, as well, though we would prefer to be able to access basic features without opening the phone.
On the back of the phone are the camera lens and flash, though there's no mirror for taking vanity shots. The back cover is secured by a sliding lock to keep out moisture and dust, but it's still easy to remove. Thankfully, the microSD card slot is located on the right spine just below the Micro-USB charging port. Both have locking covers, as you'd expect on a durable device. Over on the left spine are a bright red PTT/shortcut button (that you can program), the volume rocker, and a voice command key. All are easy to find by feel when you're holding the Ravine 2 to your ear. On the downside, the headset jack is only 2.5mm so you'll have to use an adapter for most headsets.
The internal TFT display measures 2.2 inches with a full-color 320x240-pixel resolution. As you'd expect, it's nowhere near close to being a fancy smartphone display, but it doesn't need to be. Colors are bright, graphics look fine, and the standard menu designs (you can choose between grid and list formats) are easy to navigate. You have the usual set of options like changing brightness, the backlight time, the display theme and wallpaper, the menu and dialing font size, and the banner.
I couldn't ask for a better design for the navigation controls. There's a large silver toggle with a central OK button that you can program to give one-touch access to four features. Surrounding it are two soft keys, a camera control, and a combination shortcut for the speakerphone and activating the camera flash as a steady light. Compared with many phones, that's a useful set of keys that puts the best features in easy reach.
Farther down, there are the usual Talk and End/power buttons, and a Clear key that also opens the GPS features with a long press. The keypad buttons below have a spacious tactile design. There's plenty of room for fast texts, and you can dial. I also liked the bright backlighting and the large numbers and characters on the keys.
The Ravine 2's main function is making calls, though it's not without some productivity options. I'll start with the basics first. The phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for multiple fields. There's also a separate PTT phone book that holds an additional 500 contacts; you can connect with other Verizon PTT phones. Verizon's Backup Assistant will store your contacts on the carrier's servers for safekeeping.