Review of the Samsung Rugby LTE


The Rugby LTE is a ruggedized phone, which means that it has been designed to take extra punishment than regular models. Itís got water seals on all of the openings and a gasket around the battery to allow it to withstand immersion in water or being blasted by sand or dirt. Samsung has used the name Rugby one quite a few ruggedized phones over the years, but specifically we are talking about the SGH-i547c here.

Last Updated: 06-Dec-2012

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

RF Performance

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

I performed numerous tests over at Square One in Mississauga, where there a number of locations inside the mall that are exceptionally poor for Bell Mobility. Along with Howard Chu we compared the performance of the Rugby LTE running on HSPA again his Galaxy S2 and against a Sonim XP5520 BOLT, which is a super-ruggedized non-smartphone that Bell sells as a push-to-talk device. In all cases we couldnít find any concrete differences between them, which suggests that like virtually all phones that use a Qualcomm baseband chipset, the RF performance is about what youíd expect.

Audio

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, an how to interpret it.

The earpiece is reasonably loud and has a nice tone to it. However, it isnít markedly louder or cleaner than the earpiece on the Galaxy S2, so in that respect itís just average Samsung. Thatís still pretty good, but I expected better given the extra space they had to work with in this device.

One area where the Rugby LTE really shines is it loudspeaker. It is both loud and clean-sounding and it handles loud volumes without any of the usual annoying sympathetic vibrations. In speakerphone mode in particular it is one of the best-sounding smartphones Iíve tried in ages. As for multimedia audio however, the win isnít quite so clear, but it still produces very clean and loud audio. The case even has a slightly raised nub to keep the speaker openings from being blocked when the phone is placed on a hard flat surface, thus ensuring the sound remains loud and clear.

Display

The display appears to be a standard 4.0-inch Samsung Super AMOLED type with a resolution of 480 x 800, but I couldnít determine if it was a Super AMOLED+ from the Galaxy S2, or the older type from the Galaxy S Captivate. It produces similar screen brightness to other Samsung phones, which is to say it could do with being a bit brighter in outdoor conditions, but looks great indoors with incredible black levels.

Camera: The camera in the Rugby is a 5 megapixel unit that may or may not be the same as the one in the Captivate/Galaxy Nexus. It takes excellent-quality photographs with low noise, but the provided camera app isnít the usual feature-loaded one you expect to see in a Samsung model. It lacks various important features, such as the Scene Mode. Itís still great for taking snapshots and youíll generally love the overall image quality and color clarity.

Processor and Chipset

The Rugby runs a Snapdragon S4 (MSM8960) dual-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. I couldn't find out which GPU it uses, and even based on the Antutu benchmark I couldn't really figure it out. With the same screen resolution as my S2 LTE the Rugby pulls off a benchmark of around 10,700 while my phone gets around 9,300. That doesn't seem enough of an improvement to suggest the Rugby uses the Adreno 220 over the Adreno 205 found in the S2 LTE. However, the slightly higher numbers might just be the results of the Snapdragon S4 vs the Snapdragon S3.

Memory

The Rugby comes with 1 GB of RAM (pretty much standard for any non-top-of-the-line Android phones these days). It has 8 GB of internal flash memory and can be expanded by a further 32 GB with a MicroSD card.

GPS

I didn't really put the GPS through any rigorous testing, but based on my findings it seems to match the accuracy of my S2 LTE. This is likely because both phones support Glonass satellites for increased accuracy when buildings block the signal from too many GPS birds.

Data Speeds

The Rugby supports LTE on AWS (band 4) and 700 MHz (band 17). It will therefore work on LTE using Rogers, Bell, or Telus here in Canada.

Camera

The camera on the Rugby is only 5 megapixels, but it produces some very nice-quality shots. However, the camera app provided in this version of Ice Cream Sandwich is a far cry from the one we're used to seeing in Samsung Android phones. It lacks various features we'd come to expect, such as scene mode. However, the pictures it does take look pretty good, even when you pixel-peek.

Push-to-Talk

This 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).

Ruggedness

The claim-to-fame of all the phones Samsung hangs the Rugby moniker on is that they are designed to withstand harsh treatment. As I noted earlier the phone is waterproof (though to what depth Iím not sure) and it has a sturdy case that can probably take a fair amount of punishment. I wouldnít take the chance of throwing it in the air in a parking lot, as you can do with some seriously ruggedized hardware like the Sonim XP5520 BOLT, but it looks like it can take the sort of punishment one might encounter in a harsh working environment (like construction work, where dust, water, and the risk of dropping the phone are ever-present).

Conclusions

Itís hard to find anything not to like about this little phone. Itís plenty powerful, comes with a smooth-running version of Ice Cream Sandwich, supports LTE data speeds, has a pretty good camera, and is rugged enough to take a fair bit of punishment. As a bonus the extra button is great for push-to-talk services, whether you opt for something official like that offered by Bell Mobility, or go with the free 3rd-party solution like Zello. The 4-inch screen seems small to me these days, but some people might find it just right. The speaker is marvelous and overall feel of the phone is solid. The phone weighs a bit more than most, but it doesnít feel overly heavy.

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