One of the great things about Android is the breadth of choice you get when it comes to hardware. Whether itís a small phone with 2.6Ē display or something huge with a 5.5Ē display there should be something for you. Do you want a huge 3000mAh+ battery or maybe something with a physical keyboard. 1 core? 2? 4? 2GB of RAM? Variety is the spice of life.
Android even has water-proof, ruggedized phones. In Canada we have the Sony Xperia Go, Motorola DEFY PRO and now the Samsung Rugby LTE. While the Go and DEFY are lower-end devices the Rugby has the same processor as the Galaxy S III so itís got considerably more horsepower under the hood.
Ruggedized phones can sometimes be brick-like so I was pleasantly surprisingly at how compact and light the Rugby is. Itís only slightly longer than my iPhone 5. It looks tiny next to the Galaxy S III.
Of course, Samsung was able to make the Rugby small by putting in a 4Ē, 800x480 display compared with the 4.8Ē, 1280x720 you get on the GS3. I had a case of deja vue when I turned the Rugby on for the first time. Itís very similar to the display in the Galaxy S.
It has exceptionally deep blacks with very good viewing angles. Thereís almost no colour shift when you view it off-angle. The display is arranged in a pentile matrix so it can look pretty grainy when you have black text on a light background or vice-versa. That said, the graininess is something most people will get used to. I never really noticed it when I was using my Galaxy S.
I was a little disappointed that the screen can sometimes get over-powered by the sun.
The 800x480 resolution sounds a bit low but then again, the display is Ďonlyí 4Ē. Really, while a higher resolution display would have been nice, 800x480 is adequate and a good compromise. The Rugby would have been too big if it had a 4.8Ē screen.
Thereís a latch on the battery cover. Underneath the cover is the removable battery along with the full-sized SIM card and MicroSD slots. Tightening the latch doesnít cause it to compress the waterproof seal around the battery so donít over-tighten it!
One of the Rugbyís I tried made rattling noises because it had a loose latch because it had been over-tightened. My suggestion is to only use your thumbnail to tighten it. Donít use a coin/screw driver/impact driver!!! I suspect the latch is only to keep the battery cover from flying off if you drop it.
The battery cover itself connects at multiple spots on the Rugbyís back just like the Galaxy S III.
The MicroSD slot is able to read and write to my 64GB MicroSD card just fine.
I actually tested the water resistance by tossing the Rugby in a mug of water and then running it under the tap. It was fine though I noticed that water causes the screen to think that someone is touching it. So, the screen goes kind of crazy when itís submerged.
If youíre going to buy the Rugby because you want to take it on vacation and use it for underwater pictures and video donít, because it wonít work. On the other hand, if youíre taking it on vacation because youíre worried it might get wet then youíll be just fine.
I figure outdoorsy types would also be interested in the Rugby. While the Rugby can handle accidental drops and water just fine, I wish Samsung had made it any other colour rather than black. That would have made it easier to find if you ever dropped it in the dark.
Notice that the 3 menu keys are physical keys which you can press in. If the screen is off, pressing the menu keys wonít turn the screen on, you have to use the power button.
PTT button (can be used for something else), volume buttons
flash, camera, speaker, battery latch
Iím very happy that Samsung included a lanyard connector. It fits in well with some of the Rugbyís target audiences.
It gets a little annoying having to pry open the covers each time you have charge it but itís necessary since theyíre needed to keep the water out. The opening where the microUSB is pretty small. Not all of my microUSB connectors would fit in it.
power button, lanyard connector
While the Rugby has the same processor as the GS3 it has a 5mp camera instead of the GS3ís 8mp. While I can live with a lower resolution sensor Iím very annoyed that the Rugby lacks the GS3ís burst mode plus itís shot-to-shot speeds.
Absolute image quality can actually be pretty good for a 5mp camera if you have a static subject.
Video capture resolution tops out at 1280x720.
I said it already but if youíre buying the Rugby as a vacation camera remember that while it will survive submersion in water, it wonít let you take pictures underwater.
While the Rugby has the same processor as the Galaxy S III the Rugby lacks many of the GS3ís software features including itís ĎNature UXí. Still, you get TouchWiz including SWYPE (Samsung calls it continuous input) and many of Samsungís customized apps..
You get good video codec support with the Rugby. Itís able to playback my 720p mkvís just fine.
As a GS3 user I miss the pop up video feature. Then again, the Rugby lacks the screen real estate for this feature so itís probably better they didnít include it.
Some features which the Rugby isnít missing include S-Beam (useful if your friends all have Samsung phones) and MHL (HDMI via microUSB).
The Rugby should be a brighter colour. Iím sure a lot of customers who buy this will be outdoorsy types. A brighter colour would make it easier to spot if itís dropped.
If you get the Rugby on Bell another feature which may appear to Outdoorsy (and work) types is compatibility with Bellís push-to-talk service. You use it with the soft button on the left side.
Steve Punter tried it out and had this to say: ďThis isnít really a push-to-talk phone, but it does include an extra physical key on the side that can be programmed (in the phone settings) to do pretty much whatever you want. The Bell Mobility PTT app uses it, but so can 3rd-party apps such as Zello. I setup the phone to launch Zello when the key was pressed, and then I configured Zello to accept that key for push-to-talk functionality.
As for the Bell PTT service, I donít really see a major advantage in it, especially given that it costs you an extra $15 per month. It also locks you out of LTE (at least until sometime next year) because Bellís PTT service doesnít work over LTE. Their service isnít all that reliable, as it went down numerous times (sometimes for as much as 15 minutes). I will however give it credit for having slightly less round-trip delay than Zello (seemingly because it keeps a data session open throughout the conversation, thus removing the necessity to make a connection to the other phone each time the PTT button is pressed).
No one says you have to buy the Rugby as a PTT phone however. You can buy it without the PTT service offered by Bell and use it as a straight-up smartphone (and thus install Zello for FREE PTT if you want it).Ē
Note that as of right now, if you want to use Bellís Push to talk service you HAVE to use the Rugby in HSPA mode. The service is not yet compatible with LTE. I also wonder if Bellís PTT service has some quality of service settings which allow it to work when the network is close to capacity.
If you buy the TELUS version the softkey can be configured to launch programs. Note that if you configure it to launch the camera that is ALL it will do. If you have the camera open already, pressing the button will just re-launch the camera.
Since the Rugby has the same processor as the GS3 but only 40% of the pixels it should turn in better benchmark results. A good analogy would be taking the engine from bigger car and stuffing it in a smaller one. Letís see if this is the case. Note that I included the DEFY just because itís also waterproof and ruggedized. I fully expect it to get demolished by the Rugby when it comes to benchmark scores.
Samsung Rugby LTE: 525
Samsung Galaxy S III: 476
Motorola DEFY: 160
Peacekeeper is a cross-platform browser test. No surprises here, the Rugby does about 10% better than the GS3.
Samsung Rugby LTE: 1936
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1630
Motorola DEFY: 519
Vellamo is a suite of browser benchmarks. This time the Rugby beats the GS3 by about 15%.
Samsung Galaxy S III: 580
Samsung Rugby LTE: 580
Motorola DEFY Pro: 309
If you actually watch the Metal portion of Vellamo run it all happens off-screen so thatís why the GS3 and Rugby tie.
GL Benchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD On screen, higher is better):
Even though each phone has a different resolution, I decided to include GL Benchmarkís on screen scores since thereís nothing we can do to change each phoneís resolution. If a phoneís screen has a lower resolution then it wonít need as powerful graphics processor to drive it. I didnít include the DEFY because it kept crashing when I ran the test.
Samsung Rugby LTE: 3478
Samsung Galaxy S III: 2335
The Rugby outscores the GS3 by 40%.
Basemark (frames per second, higher is better):
Samsung Galaxy S III: 29.8
Samsung Rugby LTE: 55.94
Motorola DEFY Pro: 11.58
Again, you can see what a difference the change in resolution makes with the Rugby. Even though the DEFY has a lower resolution screen itís GPU is much weaker than the one in the GS3 and Rugby.
I still need to run my battery benchmarks but the Rugby has a relatively large 1850mAh battery and a sort-of-small 4Ē display so it should be able to make it through the day. Iíll update this with numbers soon.
As a phone:
Sound quality is good. It sounds clean and natural.
Maximum earpiece volume is just slightly lower than my iPhone 5 so itís good in this regard.
The speaker is very loud. Youíll never miss any calls (unless you turn it off).
Normally, I like compare whatever Iím reviewing with its competitors but to be honest, the Rugby LTE is a really niche product that doesnít have any competitors. While there are other waterproof phones on the market theyíre lower-end devices that you wouldnít really cross-shop with the Rugby. Both the Sony Xperia Go and Motorola DEFY PRO have smaller displays, with less powerful processors and less RAM.
Is the Rugby a phone you can live with? Absolutely. While it lacks the bling of itís bigger brother the GS3 itís fast. The screen isnít huge but I donít think itís too small either. Itís a good compromise since a bigger screen might make the Rugby too big. Itís a good size given itís main feature (being waterproof and ruggedized).
As for the price itís a little harder to say. Since the Rugby is such a niche product there isnít much to compare its price with. You can say that a Nexus 4 is a better deal but once you dunk a Nexus 4 in water or drop it on concrete itíll probably be worth far less than the Rugby. Still, given itís niche status Iíd say the Rugby LTE is priced about right. After all, since itís more powerful than the DEFY PRO and Xperia Go it should be priced higher than them right?
Anyways, if you need something tough and waterproof the Rugby is as good as it gets.
- drop proof
- reasonable size
- removable storage
- loud speakerphone
- long battery life
- screen resolution could be higher
- camera should be more responsive
- while phone is waterproof screen doesnít really work underwater