Casio Exilim C721 Review

5
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

High-end camera phones might be the norm in Europe and Asia, but the U.S. market has been slow to release many models.  Verizon has had two previous so-called units, the Samsung A990 and FlipShot U900, but they were limited to only 3.2MP and image quality wasn’t too superb.  Verizon now hopes to change that with the introduction of the Casio Exilim C721, which combines a 5MP autofocus camera with 3x optical zoom and the same Military ruggedness that is found on the Boulder.  Despite these specs, the Exilim is up against tough competition from the 5MP Samsung Omnia and 3.2MP LG enV Touch.  Regardless of how good the camera is, the device still needs to offer good call quality, reception, and other useful features.  Let’s take a look and see how well the Casio Exilim does.

Included in the retail box is the Exilim C721 phone, 920mAh battery, wall charger, desktop cradle, USB cable, 2.5mm headset adapter, hand strap, digital photo CD, and user manual.

Design:

The design of the Exilim is reminiscent of the Samsung A990 and FlipShot, as all three utilize the clamshell form factor with 180 degree rotating display.  The device is constructed out of plastic, has the same durable qualities of the Boulder, and is roughly the same size as the Alias 2.  It feels comfortable in the hand and isn’t too noticeable when placed in your pant’s pocket, but there is a hard plastic protrusion right next to the camera that can be felt.




You can compare the Casio Exilim C721 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The front of the Casio Exilim C721 is very minimalistic with shiny black plastic and looks like the monolith from the movie 2001.  There is a small 0.7” 96x32 pixel PMOLED display located in the center, which is only large enough for time, signal strength, and battery level.  It will also show the number or name of an incoming call, as well as the track name when playing music, but the text is quite small.  We’re not sure why such a small external display was used, and would rather of had a larger OLED display like the one found on the Nokia Intrigue, or a color TFT display like the Chocolate 3 or V9m.

Located on the left side of the device is a microSDHC card slot that accepts up to 8GB memory cards and a 5-pin connector that is used with the desktop cradle.  On the right side is camera/music control buttons, status LED, and charging port.  The 5MP camera and flash is located on the back, and there is an unlock button on the bottom to release the watertight battery cover.



Opening up the phone requires both hands, as the hinge has two stop locations and produces a noticeable “click” sound at each.  The internal display was rumored to be WVGA, but is in fact 2.3” 240x320 pixel QVGA with 65K color support.  It is slightly larger than the Chocolate 3 and V9m, but not nearly as big as the Alias 2 or enV Touch.  Despite its modest size and resolution, images look good when used as the camera’s viewfinder or when playing them back with the Slideshow feature.  The d-pad and numeric keypad have a white backlight and is similar in size to the Chocolate 3.  The buttons are large and easy to use for dialing and text messaging and provide good feedback when pressed.





The desktop cradle allows you to place the phone in it, with the wall charger and USB cable connected.  This could be a convenient way for you to charge the battery and connect it to your PC, but if the phone had a standard microUSB port (instead of a proprietary port), the cradle would not be necessary.  You can also charge the battery by plugging the wall charger directly into the phone, bypassing the desktop cradle.

Since the Casio Exilim C721 and Boulder are both manufactured by Casio, they share similar Military specifications.  In fact, the Exilim is said to have passed 8 tests, including water, immersion, humidity, salt fog, drop, vibration, dust, and solar radiation.  We placed the Exilim in a sink full of water for 30 minutes and the phone could still be used, including the ability to take pictures.  We also dropped it several times on kitchen tile from a height of 5 feet and there was no physical damage to the device.  For those people who need a rugged phone, the Exilim is hard to pass up.



Casio Exilim C721 360 Degrees View:






Software and Features:

The main menu of the Casio Exilim C721 is laid out in familiar Verizon fashion with categories for media center, messaging, contacts, recent calls, and settings & tools.  Four themes are included: Classic, Optical Black, Positive Red, and Composite Silver.  The last three are the most graphical, but we liked the Optical Black theme the best as the color complimented the phone.  There are also options to change the menu layout between tab, list, and grid view, select your own desktop wallpaper, and change the clock layout.

Even though most new phones come with 1000-1500 entry phonebooks, the Exilim is still relatively small at 500 entries.  You can type in the person’s name, four phone numbers and two email addresses, as well as selecting a picture and ringtone that will be used when that contact calls.  After a contact is saved, you can assign a one of their phone number to one of 999 speed dial locations.

Messaging is also pretty straight forward, as you can send and receive text, picture and video messages.  The easiest way to enter in a message is by using T9 predictive entry through the keypad.  This is fine for simple messages, but heavy users may prefer a device with a full QWERTY keyboard.



Since this phone carries the Exilim name, the 5MP autofocus camera is one of its top selling features.  To begin, you simply open the flip, rotate the screen 180 degrees, and then close it back over the keypad.  Once that is done, the screen will show four menu choices: Start slide show, Browse album, Record video, and Take picture.  Pressing on the shutter button will activate the camera and will use the display as the viewfinder.  Across the edge of the phone are functions buttons for back, zoom in/out, menu options, and shutter.  The display will also show icons for things like the resolution, zoom level, shooting mode, and white balance.  Located in the center of the screen is a focusing square that will turn green when the shutter button is pressed down half-way (this indicates it has properly focused).  Then when the shutter button is pressed down the rest of the way, the image is captured.  It takes about 1.5 seconds to focus on a subject and then another 1.5 seconds to capture the image.  You can then choose to erase, send or save the image, which saving takes 3 seconds.  The total turnaround time to focus, capture an image, save it, and then focus and capture a 2nd image is 12 seconds.  Keep in mind most traditional digital cameras take half that time.  Turning the autofocus off cuts it down to 8 seconds.  There are a wide variety of settings, including 15 Best Shot Modes that automatically tailor the imaging options depending on the type of picture you want to take, image stabilization, resolution, flash, self timer, macro, brightness, and white balance.  The only two settings that seem to be missing are ISO and light metering.  We tried a few of the Best Shot Modes, including person, scenery, night view, and party.  Each one has its advantages, but most of the time turning it off would produce the best looking image.  The 3x optical zoom is also a rarity on a Verizon device and was only every offered on the Samsung a950 with 2x.  It offers a total of 6 zoom-stops, and is quite fast.  This is one of the coolest camera features on the Exilim, but the more you zoom in, the darker the image will become as the aperture gets smaller.  Turning on the Image Stabilization while using the zoom also produces a clearer picture.



We took some images outside with the Casio Exilim C721, Samsung Omnia, and LG enV Touch.  The Exilim produced above-average pictures, as would be expected, with accurate color representation and modest saturation.  What surprised us was that only the center part of the image looked to be in-focus, with corners looking blurry.  This was evident in every image and was most predominate in the lower-left corner.  We can only assume this is caused by a slight lens defect.  The Exilim’s images also had softer edges and less fine detail than the ones produced by the enV Touch.  In fact, when doing a side-by-side comparison, most of the outside pictures taken by the enV Touch looked better than the ones taken by the Exilim and Omnia.  (We will go into further detail and testing with our upcoming Verizon cameraphone comparison review).  When using the Exilim indoors it has the same problems as most other cameraphones; the noise level increases and the images start to look blurry due to the slower shutter speeds.  There is a two-LED flash that will stay turned on in dark environments and gets brighter when the picture is captured.  It does rather well if your subject is within 6 feet of the camera, but has almost no effect if the subject is further away.  One area of disappointment is that videos can only be recorded up to 320x240 resolution, when the Omnia and enV Touch can record at VGA 640x480 resolution.  In the end, the Casio Exilim is a major improvement over the Samsung FlipShot in regards to the camera, but the enV Touch consistently produced better looking images, even though it has a 3.2MP camera.  That being said, neither the Exilim C721 nor enV Touch is a true replacement for a real digital camera.




Since the Casio Exilim C721 is not designed as a music-centric device, it utilized the same Verizon “red” music player that is found on most of their other phones.  Music quality was average, though not as good as the enV Touch, enV3 or Chocolate 3, as those devices have stereo speakers, but was still better than what we experienced with the Boulder.  When the phone is closed, the front OLED display will show the track name and progress bar, and you can use the side buttons to rewind, fast-forward, play/pause, and adjusting the volume.  For better music quality you can use a Stereo Bluetooth headset or wired earbuds, but it does require the use of a 2.5mm headset adapter.


The web browser is said to be HTML, but we consider it to be quasi-HTML due to the way pages are rendered.  When going to a large site, such as PhoneArena.com, it divides a single page into separate smaller pages that you have to click through.  Because of this, the original layout is broken and it is harder to navigate sites.  We also attempted to view videos from the Mobile YouTube site, but they would not load.

Additional features include Voice Commands, Appointment Calendar, VZ Navigator for GPS guided driving directions, VCast videos, ringtones and game downloads.  All of these are standard on most Verizon phones.





Performance:

The call quality of the Casio Exilim C721 was equivalent to the Boulder.  Voices in the earpiece sounded clear, but a bit hollow, and there was some distortion if the volume was turned up past level 4.  People that we called on a landline also said our voice sounded hollow and lacked depth.  This is most likely caused by the thin plastic membrane that protects the speaker and microphone from water.  The reception was a bit disappointing.  Even though the phone was used in high-coverage areas, there were times when the signal bars would drop and nothing would be shown for EV and 1x, even though our other Verizon test phones showed 2-3 bars in the same location.  We could still place and receive calls, but it is cause for concern for people who travel or live in areas with spotty coverage.

The 920mAh battery was able to provide up to 4 hours of continuous talk time on a full charge, which is slightly better than the 3.8 hour rating.

Conclusion:

Even though the Casio Exilim C721 is a nice device overall, we have mixed feelings about it.  The camera’s image quality is better than most phones, such as the Chocolate 3, Alias 2 and FlipShot, but still doesn’t produce as good of an image as the enV Touch.  This is a bit of a disappointment since the Exilim has a 5MP camera, and the enV Touch is 3.2MP.  The reception was also under par when compared to most other Verizon phones, but call quality was average.  At this point, we would only recommend the Casio Exilim C721 to people who need a 5MP cameraphone with 3x optical zoom and absolutely require it to withstand water, sand, and being dropped, such as people on a construction site or hard work environment.  But if you want a device that will take better looking images (in our opinion), has more overall features, and don’t need the Military specs, the enV Touch is a better choice.

Casio Exilim C721 Video Review:





Pros

  • 5MP autofocus camera with 3x optical zoom and flash
  • Military specs to withstand water, sand, and being dropped
  • Rotating flip

Cons

  • Below average signal reception
  • Small external display
  • Still not a replacement for a real digital camera
  • Outdated music player

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

User Rating:

8.0
5 Reviews

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