Casio G'zOne Rock, Motorola Barrage and Samsung Convoy: side by side

7
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

With each year, Verizon Wireless tries to breathe life into its push-to-talk realm by releasing a handful of new devices. Recently, the carrier has set loose the Motorola Barrage V860 (which replaces the Adventure), Samsung Convoy U640, and the Casio G’zOne Rock C731 (which replaces the Boulder). All three PTT devices have differences, both in appearance and features, so it’s important to choose the one that’s best for you. Let’s take a closer look at each device.

Naturally, the retail package for each includes the phone, battery, wall charger and user manual. The only difference is that the Casio Rock also comes with a desktop charger that you can place the phone in.



Design:

The Motorola Barrage looks far different from the Motorola Adventure, as it no longer has a RAZR-type appearance. It is larger overall, coming in at almost 1-inch thick, and feels the biggest in your hand out of the three PTT phones. The device is all black with some red and dark gray accent pieces. However, the construction feels cheap and light weight, almost toy-like, which does not impress us. The Casio Rock, on the other hand, looks quite similar to the Boulder and continues the G’zOne tradition with bold lines, which gives it the look of durability and ruggedness, though the Rock is now all black in color. This also translates into the way the Rock feels, as you can clearly tell it will hold up to almost anything you can put it through. The Samsung Convoy is the most “traditional” looking out of the bunch, as its styling is quite boring and says “I’m a flip phone”, with charcoal gray and black plastic used throughout, though it does feel sturdier than the Barrage. Between the three PTT phones, we like the appearance and construction of the Casio Rock the best, as it feels the most durable and is the most unique looking.



All three devices meet MIL-SPECS-810F for shock and dust resistance, vibration, salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, altitude, and temperature extremes, but only the Motorola Barrage and Casio Rock are also water resistant, which you can tell by the rubber seal on the inside of the battery cover.

The external displays also vary between the devices, as the Barrage has the largest one at 1.75”, while the Convoy’s is 1.3”, though both are color TFT. The Rock, however, uses a small 0.9” PMOLED display in white, but the advantage is that it’s the easiest to read. With the Barrage, you can use the external display with the music player and voice commands, while the Convoy can also access the inbox, Bluetooth, schedule, camera and video recorder. The Rock also offers music control while closed, as well as access to features of the G’zGear set like a compass, walking counter, thermometer, tides, sunrise/sunset, and moon phases.



All three devices flip open quite easily, but only the Rock has a release button on the right side of the hinge. Pressing on it will allow you to do your Star Trek impression, as the phone flips open by itself. The 2.1-inch internal display on the Rock is also the best looking out of the bunch, as it has 240x320 resolution, which means that images and text don’t appear pixelated like they are on the 176x220 displays used by the Barrage and Convoy.



The d-pads on each are circular, but we found the one on the Barrage to be the most difficult to use, as the surrounding plastic doesn’t give a lot of room for your finger, whereas the Rock and Convoy both have larger d-pads, which is not only easier to use, but also more comfortable. We found that using the numeric keyboard on the Barrage feels almost like using Braille, as the keys are raised, but there is also texture between them. The Convoy is the complete opposite, as the keyboard is flat and smooth, but the buttons are still large and produce a nice “click” when pressed. The Rock is somewhere in the middle, as the keys are slightly raised and angled, yet are smooth and lack any grip or texture. After using the different keyboards for a while, we prefer the one on the Rock and Convoy the best, as they are the most comfortable.



Motorola Barrage V860 360 Degrees view:



Samsung Convoy U640 360 Degrees View:



Casio G'zOne Rock C731 360 Degrees View:





Software and Features:

There is very little difference when it comes to the phone’s main menu, as all have the same categories for media center, messaging, contacts, recent calls, and settings & tools. The Rock includes 4 themes (white, surfing, metal, and polyhedral rock), while there are 3 themes on the Barrage (white, slick black, steel) and on the Convoy (white, eclipse, laser wave). When trying out the different themes for the phones, we noticed that the Barrage was the slowest when navigating through the main menu, while the Convoy and Rock were noticeably faster.



For storing contacts, you have two phonebooks available for each phone. The first one allows you to store people’s name, 5 phones numbers, email and street address, while the second phonebook is strictly for storing PTT names and numbers. We wish these two phonebooks were integrated, so you wouldn’t have to enter information in twice.



Most other software features remain the same between the three phones as all of them come with a calendar for saving appointment alerts, text/picture/video messaging, MP3 music playback, VCast video streaming, and VZ Navigator for GPS guided driving directions. There is also Mobile Web for basic web browsing, but it is limited as it doesn’t fully support HTML and changes the layout of most pages. Only the Casio Rock comes equipped with a unique program called G’zGear. It is located in the Tools menu, but as we mentioned earlier it can be accessed by the front display as well. Earth Compass shows a red line designating North and your current direction and degree heading (0-360), while World Nature tells you what Earth features are in your direction, such as the North Pole or Mt Everest. Walking Counter tracks your steps on a daily basis and shows them on a graph, including miles walked. Tides shows the current tide levels for cities around the US coast line and Current View displays an animated graphic of what the tide level would look like. Going into Sunrise/Sunset shows how many hours there are until the event, and even a day/night chart. Lunar Phase, as the name implies, shows the current phase of the moon (from full to new-moon), and Cosmic View (our favorite) displays the current location of the sun, moon, and earth in relationship to each other. You can also use the d-pad to change the day, thus animating the cosmic view. All of these features are nice as each one has a useful function for the outdoorsman.





A built-in 2MP camera is included with each device, though only the Casio Rock comes with an LED flash. Images taken outside with the Motorola Barrage were the most disappointing, as they were generally out-of-focus, had least amount of detail, and poor color representation. The Samsung Convoy did better, with outside images being sharp and in-focus, and also with neutral colors. The Casio Rock was better than the Barrage, but still not as good as the Convoy, as some images were slightly out-of-focus and colors weren’t accurate. While indoors, the Convoy also continued to provide the best looking images, but in complete darkness, of course the the Rock gains the upper hand, as it is the only one to come with a flash, even though it is almost useless. Both the Barrage and Rock can record videos at 320x240 resolution, but the Convoy is limited to only 176x144. Still, all of them produce videos with poor quality that should only be viewed on the phone.









Push-to-Talk:

Regardless of everything else, the Push-to-Talk capability is the main feature for these phones. It has been about a year and a half since Verizon has re-launched its PTT service using its 3G EVDO Rev A network. Connection time between the devices is only about 1 second, with voices also taking about 1 second to transmit. Both the Rock and Barrage reproduce voices the loudest and with very little distortion, through the Convoy still sounded good, but was not as loud. We’re not sure why this is, as the Convoy and Rock both have stereo speakers on the front flip, while the Barrage only uses a single speaker on its bottom edge. One thing that we didn’t care for was the black PTT button used by the Motorola Barrage, as it does not stand out like the orange button used by the Rock and Convoy.



Performance:

Call quality was adequate on all 3 phones, but voices sounded the best on our end while using the Samsung Convoy U640, as they had fuller tones and was clearer. In contrast, voices produced by the Barrage and Rock sounded “thinner” and more distant. We believe this is because there is a small plastic film that protects the speaker from water, but it also means that sound is being blocked by it. We also experienced this on the Casio Exilim and Casio Boulder. Signal reception was about equal with the Rock and Convoy having 2-3 bars, while the Motorola Barrage V860 would average 1-2 bars. Using the speakerphone produced the same results as using the PTT, where the Casio G'zOne Rock C731 and Barrage were the loudest, followed by the Convoy.

We should also point out that there was a slight manufacturing issue with early shipments of the Motorola Barrage. Units that were sent out with “HW B” on the back label are prone to a problem with the earpiece speaker not working correctly. Even though you would have the volume turned up to the highest setting, you could not hear the other caller in the earpiece. This issue was identified by Motorola and fixed, as newer units with “HW C” on the back do not suffer from this problem. Our review unit had “HW C” printed on the back.

The included battery that comes with the Convoy has thelargest capacity and is rated at 1300mAh, while the Barrage is 1170mAh and theRock is 1150mAh. Despite these differences, the talk time rated is at 6 hourson the Barrage and 5 hours on the Convoy and Rock, though during our testing wegot around 5 hours of continuous talk time with standard calls or 4 hours ofPTT usage with each device. For standby time, you can only get about 4 dayswith each phone before needing to recharge it.

Conclusion:

Out of the three new PTT devices for Verizon, we came away more impressed with the Casio G’zOne Rock C731. It has the best looking design, sturdiest construction, extra software features, and loud PTT with stereo speakers. Up next we would rate the Samsung Convoy for 2nd place, since its construction felt more durable than the Barrage, and the call quality was also good, though PTT wasn’t as loud. In 3rd place is the Motorola Barrage, because of its cheap-feeling construction, poorly designed d-pad and keypad, lower signal, and out-of-focus images.

Overall ratings:
Casio G’zOne Rock C731 – 7
Motorola Barrage V860 – 6
Samsung Convoy U640 – 6.5


Casio G'zOne Rock. Motorola Barrage and Samsung Convoy: Side by Side





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