Kyocera Torque Assessment: A Rugged Telephone Delivering Superior Sound

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Sacrificing a smartphone's thin and sleek kind issue with a case is tantamount to sacrilege in some circles. Others really feel little consolation venturing outdoors with out having their telephone wrapped safely in one sleeve or one other. Sprint's Kyocera Torque, although, is for people who demand more than just a sheath of silicone to maintain their device protected. As a substitute of relying on a case for its protection, it's durable in its personal proper, with an IP67 score and Army Standard 810G certification to assist it withstand all the things from water to salt fog. As well as, the handset carries the distinction of being the very first cellphone released within the US with Kyocera's Good Sonic Receiver tissue-conduction tech, which does away with the standard earpiece. We put the Now Network's first LTE push-to-talk cellphone by way of our overview gauntlet not solely to gauge how robust it is, but in addition to find out how properly it performs. If you've ever used an Otterbox Defender case, you may feel at residence with the Torque. If you have ever used an Otterbox Defender case, you will really feel eerily at residence with the Torque. It's encased in a rubberized shell, and is available in at just a hair slimmer than an iPhone four wrapped in an Otterbox case, measuring in at 5.06 x 2.69 x 0.5 inches. Whereas it is built to take a licking, the hardware is not heavy -- the truth is, it feels a tad light at 5.94 ounces (168.5g), contemplating the type of beating it is designed to take. With IP67 and MIL-STD-810G scores, the Torque can stand as much as blowing rain, dust, humidity, shock, low stress, salt fog, solar radiation, temperature extremes, vibration and being immersed for so long as 30 minutes in up to one meter of water. With regards to ruggedized smartphones, there's not much that may be mentioned for fashion, however the Torque manages to maintain a respectable profile despite the extra padding. Of us will know you imply enterprise, but they won't surprise why you've stumbled out of a construction zone with an industrial walkie-talkie. Nevertheless, once you want to keep it out of sight you may discover it slips comfortably in and out of jean pockets. Generally, extracting a portly smartphone out of your pocket generally is a challenge, especially if it has a rubberized shell, but the Torque's plastic exterior is minimally gummy, which makes the entire affair an easy process. Reasonably than counting on a specialized coating to make the machine withstand the elements (see: the Xperia Z or Liquipel), the Torque uses seals and flaps to maintain out dust and water. For example, the battery cowl packs a rubber lining that locks up very important components and keeps the handset from being breached. The backside also sports activities a metallic lock mechanism to maintain all the cowl in place. Happily, it's easy sufficient to show together with your nail or the tip of a finger, but it isn't so free that it's prone to open by accident. A 3.5mm headphone jack sits atop the headset, additionally hidden beneath a flap, and it's flanked by a pair of buttons: one for switching energy on and off, and another to toggle speaker mode for Dash's Direct Connect function. The speaker mode button on one in every of our test units appeared to be considerably caught and didn't depress as it ought to have, however on one other, it felt considerably extra tactile. We suspect the damage might have been sustained throughout one of our drop assessments. Solely a useful devoted digicam button occupies the precise facet of the Torque, however the left edge sports a quantity rocker and a devoted push-to-talk key. Pressing the direct connect button with the house display up launches the Direct Join menu. Another press initializes a session with the last phone contacted through push-to-talk. In fact, holding the button permits users to yammer away as in the event that they have been using an old style two-means radio. The addition is actually helpful, but gripping the handset firmly means that you're going to usually push the button down without intending to enter DC mode. Fortunately, push-to-discuss will solely be activated when the cellphone is on the house display screen, so jamming the set off when you are using different apps won't foul something up. Nevertheless, with the ability to hit the button with out something happening would possibly feel a tad unnatural -- though we'll take that over being kicked unceremoniously out of an app. If you do not have DC flipped on, you may map the button to another perform. Underneath the display screen, you may notice the standard again, dwelling and menu keys, along with a pair of chrome speaker grilles. Not only is that this cellphone constructed to take a beating, however it additionally pushes out surprisingly sturdy sound. Every thing from ringtones to speakerphone audio is fantastically loud, so it is easy to image it excelling in a noisy development zone, or making itself heard from the bottom of a hiking backpack. Even turn-by-flip directions have been easy to listen to over music we had playing on a car stereo. Sadly, that means your "I did not hear the phone ring" excuse shall be null and void as soon as associates and family get an earful of its auditory power. Something chances are you'll not discover at first glance is that the telephone lacks a speaker slot where users take heed to calls. As a substitute, Kyocera has baked in its Good Sonic Receiver tissue-conduction know-how under the hood, and the Torque is the primary phone with this technology released in the US. Utilizing a piezoelectric transducer, the system transmits sound by vibrations that can even discover their manner by on-ear headphones. Simply contact the phone's earpiece space to the headset (or your ear, in fact), and the sound will come by means of. We're not convinced this can have many practical purposes, but we imagine it may very well be helpful if a few of your different headgear is getting in the way in which. Like conventional speakers, however, your ear doesn't have to be pressed proper up against the smartphone's physique to listen to what's being said. The standard and loudness of call audio is on par with other handsets -- actually, it is tough to inform the difference between Kyocera's newfangled setup and previous-format audio system. Presumably, leaving out the speaker slot makes it so that there is one much less breach point for the likes of water and mud. Inside, the Dash LTE-succesful handset totes a twin-core 1.2GHz MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 Plus processor flanked by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of constructed-in storage. On the battery entrance, it comes loaded with a 2,500mAh pack that's rated for 18.9 hours of talk time. Visuals on the gadgets are served up by a 4-inch, affect-resistant IPS contact display with a WVGA (800 x 480) resolution. It is not a standout display screen by any means, nevertheless it gets the job achieved. The hardware's auto-brightness characteristic fails to maintain the show seen when in direct sunlight, however manually kicking up its brightness fixes the problem. LE / EDR. The Torque additionally options NFC help that plays nice with Google Wallet, an accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient gentle sensor, compass and barometer. When it comes to imaging, the smartphone sports a 5-megapixel, rear-facing autofocus camera accompanied by an LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel shooter in front. Now, for the primary attraction. Just how a lot of a beating can the Torque take? Quite a bit, it turns out. To place the cellphone via the ringer, we carried out our drop tests outdoors on a concrete floor next to a pool. To simulate a fall, we held the handset in mainly two positions: as if taking an image or video, and making a name. For this editor, that translates into a spread of roughly 5- to 6-foot drops. Drop after drop, Kyocera's cell fortress clung to life. On some occasions, the battery cover lifted along the edges. If the battery unseated itself just sufficient, the phone would shut down, but fitting the cover back on revealed that the Torque was fully purposeful. The display, in the meantime, remained unscathed, with nary a crack or scratch. The identical cannot be stated for other areas of the phone, but what injury it sustained was purely cosmetic. In a single occasion, one of its ornamental rivets came unfastened, but we had been in a position to push it again into its place with out a problem. Because the rubberized edges bore the brunt of the falls, the corners of the gadget obtained essentially the most noticeable nicks and scratches, however they don't spoil what beauty the phone has. While the back sustained plenty of very minor scratches, paint flecks from the concrete sticking to the rubber material were the biggest nuisance. With a bit of H2O and elbow grease, we easily rubbed out the stains. We took the cellphone out for a spin at a neighborhood lake and absolutely submerged it close to the shore (after ensuring its ports were plugged, in fact). For good measure, we tossed it round in the sand as well. The Torque kept ticking -- although some of the sand continued to shake out over time. The smartphone additionally survived being immersed in a vase with water for half-hour. Again, the torture was nothing the Torque couldn't handle. If you're dreaming about using the telephone whereas underwater, we now have some news to break to you: it turns into inoperable. When dipped in water, the touchscreen registers liquid lapping against the display as input, making for a nigh uncontrollable mess of an expertise. If you are crafty, nevertheless, you possibly can manage to begin a video recording that continues capturing footage when it goes underwater. As you can think about, the captures function nothing but the not-so-nice aquatic ambience. Outfitted with a 5MP autofocusing digital camera, the Torque can compete spec-sensible with the likes of the iPhone 4, but not contemporary flagship units with 8- to 13-megapixel cameras, of course. Nonetheless, its 2,592 x 1,944 images are fairly solid -- even when seen on a MacBook Pro Retina show. In some instances, however, the shooter captures muted colors, however flipping it into HDR mode largely remedies the scenario. Even in the case of motion photographs, the hardware performs admirably -- we had been even in a position to nail a shot with birds spreading their wings as they took flight. Macro shots may stand to be a bit sharper, however they hold up decently when not blown up to full-display on a Laptop. Image high quality suffers in decrease-lit situations. The "night surroundings" mode baked into the default software program notably -- however not vastly -- bumps up the publicity when photograph subjects are near, however becomes much less effective when objects are farther away. Regardless of stand-up picture quality in the course of the daytime, the handset hits a snag with its default digital camera app because it lacks a faucet-to-focus function and its continuous capturing mode solely captures pictures in VGA decision. To its credit score, the appliance does embrace a panorama mode that stitches collectively photographs with a maximum decision of 1,280 x 720. As for the front-going through camera, issues aren't so peachy as its high quality is harking back to a low-end webcam. As for video, the handset can capture 1080p footage at 30 fps. At maximum resolution, recorded video looks pretty strong. Our prime gripe in the case of video truly pertains to storage. Though it might pack 4GB of constructed-in storage (not including additional space courtesy of a microSD card), only 1GB is usable as the rest is filled up by the operating system and important files. Due to that, capturing 1080p video fills it up fast -- particularly when much of that area is already occupied by apps, photos and other footage. We freed up house by deleting a video, and were capable of file a one-minute, 38-second video that clocks in at 235.4MB. Anybody with a hankering for taking pictures photographs or downloading video games will need to plunk down the cash for a microSD card. Kyocera's ruggedized smartphone totes principally stock Android 4.0.Four (Ice Cream Sandwich), however carries a number of Dash-flavored tweaks. Specifically, a few service-specific apps reminiscent of its Dash ID suite, Mobile Sync to back up contacts and Sprint Zone. In addition, the handset additionally packs Eco Mode, which is a fairly nifty automation of what smartphone customers have skilled themselves to already do: shut off features to conserve power as the day goes on. With the function, people can specify a sure battery stage that, when reached, will make the app set off consumer settings ranging from decrease brightness to shorter tolerances for sleep mode. The Torque also has Swype baked into its virtual keyboard. Ice Cream Sandwich would not please your palate? Dash says the cellphone's set to receive an upgrade to Jelly Bean in the next few months, but does not come laden with it because it doesn't natively support Qualcomm's QChat, which Sprint uses for push-to-discuss. Given the wait instances and inconsistency of provider-distributed Android updates, though, you should not hold your breath for the Torque to be graced with the most recent taste of Android. In relation to efficiency, the phone is responsive and snappy swiping by way of screens, menus and working apps thanks to a 1.2GHz twin-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor. Kyocera's Torque carries the same silicon because the HTC One X for AT&T and T-Mobile's Samsung Galasy S III, but it surely falls in need of their scores in the majority of horsepower benchmarks. The hardware is a far cry from a gaming machine since it scored 14 fps in our benchmarks, but it can run 3D games fairly properly, with some stutters when GPU-intensive occasions happen. Actually, what hamstrings the handset is having only 1GB of out there memory, which means games over 1GB or so are out of reach with out a microSD card. Despite its lack of accommodation for gaming, the smartphone holds up as an e-mail and social-networking machine. On our standard rundown test, the Torque was capable of squeeze out 9 hours and 15 minutes of life from its 2,500mAh battery, however fared effectively in day-to-day use. On a day out fishing and taking in the sights at a Renaissance truthful, the machine stayed alive at the same time as this editor compulsively checked e-mail and social networks, and made a number of calls over 3G. Not solely did it survive a 24-hour long day, it putted along with leftover juice for an extra 12 hours mostly on standby. Though it's outfitted with an LTE radio, we didn't encounter a 4G community while using it. With that mentioned, our 3G speed tests carried out round Kissimmee and St. Cloud, Fla., averaged about 564 Kbps for downloads and 410 Kbps for uploads. Throughout the spectrum of Android telephones, the Torque is in the end an underpowered handset. It will set house owners back $ninety nine (after a mail-in rebate) and hitches them to a two-year contract with Dash. If your main issues are aesthetics and energy, you're better off going with the most recent flagship telephone from the sundry outfits battling it out for smartphone supremacy. Nonetheless, if ruggedness beats out your thirst for sheer horsepower and sleek appears to be like, the Torque might match properly in your pocket -- if you do not mind choosing up a microSD card to treatment its irritating 1GB of obtainable storage, that is. Sure, you can drop the cash on the newest and biggest smartphone and purchase a case that'll keep it secure while marring its good looks, but the Torque provides a considerably cheap deal: a good Android experience on affordable, ruggedized hardware. All merchandise really helpful by Engadget are selected by our editorial staff, impartial of our mum or dad company. A few of our stories embody affiliate hyperlinks. If you purchase something via one of those hyperlinks, we could earn an affiliate commission.