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Cat S50 review: Rugged and tough, but certainly not a looker

Rugged, tough and a decent choice for the rough and tumble of the great outdoors

Rugged phones have carved out their own niche in the smartphone market. Although they aren’t selling in the millions, they’re providing the more adventurous user a device that can keep up with their busy lifestyle. As with any device of this type, the design of the S50 has largely been compensated with a real robust look, instead of a good-looking phone. Each part of the device is coated in reinforced plastic, with each port stored under a protective door. All the usual ports are included, along with the addition of a microSD slot. The back and corners of the phone are rubberised, but the camera sensor protrudes a little, which isn’t ideal. It’s big, chunky and really awkward to hold, but to compensate this, if you do drop it you won’t find a single bit of damage.

The 4.7-inch display has also been reinforced and while viewing angles on the IPS screen are great, the overall quality is average. Colours look dull throughout and there’s some very obvious pixilation in parts. This combination doesn’t translate well for the 8-megapixel camera either, with both photos and videos tending to look washed out and grainy. Although shooting options are varied, you’ll soon realise it’s not worth your time exploring them when the results aren’t up to scratch.

For it’s distinctly mid-range price, the Snapdragon 400 processor is fairly standard and the quad-core configuration here keeps things running smoothly. Although users will find several fairly useless Cat apps to look through, there’s a largely unskinned version of Android running here. It’s not the most seamless integration of KitKat we’ve seen, but there are no glaring errors to note. We also appreciate the addition of a microSD slot, which many of the bigger manufacturers tend to now leave out.

As it’s built for the more outdoorsy type, it needs a battery that can last a while. Thankfully the 2630mAh offering here is superb. On medium usage, users can expect to get a couple of days without needing to charge. There are also 3 speakers on the device, with two located on the front and a single enlarged speaker on the back. Sound clarity was mixed and the way your fingers sit when holding the device means the back speaker is instantly covered up.

This isn’t a phone built for the everyday user. It’s ugly, too chunky to suitably carry around and the display just isn’t up to scratch. But this is a device built to cope for the rough and tumble of everyday life, and where it lacks the real finesse of a sleek smartphone, it trumps the competition when it comes to providing unprecedented levels of protection out of the box.

For further reviews on the latest Android devices, make sure to get a copy of the new issue of Android Magazine.