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Review of Docomo N-03C Burton


  1. Introduction
  2. Package
  3. First Impressions
  4. Design
  5. Battery
  6.  лавиатура
  7. Key Pad
  8. Screen
  9. Camera
  10. Sound
  11. Music Player


It finally happened! The long awaited shock resistant Casio phones are finally released after the merger of mobile divisions of NEC, Casio and Hitachi. Before that you could only get such phones from the Japanese AU KDDI (Casio G'zOne Type-R, Type-X and others) or from the American Verizon (Casio G'zOne Ravine, Brigade, Rock). In practice these phones are actually very solid and practically indestructible with bright and often eccentric looks. The biggest downer of these phones is absence of a GSM module. They all work only in CDMA networks and are not compatible with GSM carriers. Every time such a phone was released onto the US or Japanese market I could only salivate and envy. I should remind you that all the phones I am testing today can work with any GSM carrier. As of today you have to use a hypersim for that. In my case I used Inex ver. 3.60 together with a Beeline SIM.

Starting from Docomo N-03C NEC Casio is going to manufacture more shock resistant phones for Docomo and everyone who is apt to drop, smash or drown their phones. So, let's get started with the box!


The first thing you notice is how small the box is and as it should be with limited editions the package the box features a unique Burton design. Inside we find:

  • Handset
  • Battery 870 mAh
  • Cradle
  • A special screwdriver for the battery lid
  • Software CD
  • Manual in Japanese
  • Brief manual in English

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First Impressions

I can't wait to tell you what you feel when you hold such a masterpiece of technology. Before I finally laid my hands on the phone I merely thought of it as a heavy duty piece of plastic designed to be water and dust resistant. On the pictures Docomo N-o3C seemed to have regular dimensions for a Japanese flip phone. At the time the phone was announced I didn't really pay attention to the weight of the handset so I learned that it packs whole 158g/5.6oz. I haven't seen a Japanese phone this heavy for 5-6 years. I can recall Sharp 903SH (Vodafone 903SH) but it only weighs 148gr according to the specs.

The weight is determined by the special protective design elements. For example, the corners are protected by some sort of rubber bumpers which could save your phone during an impact.

Docomo N-03C Burton, HTC Hero and Softbank 830SH:

Docomo N-03C Burton and regular Nokia:

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The exterior design features kinetic lines of a race car. If you take a close look you might notice a lot of design details typical for most Casio handsets. For example, the rifled grill above the outer screen is almost an exact copy of that in Casio G'zOne Type-X. The battery lid is similarly shaped Ц it has same side notches for removing the back panel, metal screw, side bumpers etc.

We can definitely see the hand of Casio in the design, very little NEC and no traces of the third collaborator Ц Hitachi. The latter, however, has a few very interesting mobile and design solutions Ц just take a look at Wooo mobile phones family.

The body of Docomo N-03C is made of regular white plastic. The surface of the plastic is matte so you need not worry about fingerprints. The protective bumpers are brown giving the phone a touch of a military camouflage. The most of the front side is occupied by the hook symbol Ц the Burton logo. A 0.8" OLED screen with 96x35 resolution is nicely fit into it. Above it under the plastic there is an LED light indicator that notifies you about incoming calls, SMS and flashing during calls.

The indicator can also be set to flash every hour with a sound alarm helping you to keep the track of the time.

The other three colors available for Docomo N-03C look less aggressive Ц bright, vivid and eye-catching colors. And judging by my experience I can tell you that colorful phones don't look ridiculous or vulgar in men's hands. Moreover, classic black attracts less attention than red or blue. And generally speaking, it's not the color but the design that attracts attention to such devices. And if you have one of such phones you are likely to be bothered with questions like how many SIMs does it have and whether it has TV and radio. Bother not to go to lengths explaining things. Simply reply that yes, it is a novelty phone from China and it has three SIMs, FM radio, TV, Wi-Fi, a coffee machine and a waffle maker. In other words I would recommend choosing non-classical (Japanese) colors of these phones. Don't be shy Ц they look great in real life.

There only two buttons on the right side Ц when you press and hold one of them it turns the flash on that can act as a torch. The other turns on the outer screen and the camera which deserves a separate review.

The sides are covered with a layer of mesh plastic making the phone look even more aggressive.

The left side features a protective lid that covers the charger jack, USB slot and the audio jack. The lid has a rubber cushion protecting the slots from water and dirt.

As I have already mentioned the corners of the phone are protected by rubber bumpers. Naturally, if you drop the phone in a very hostile environment you wouldn't get away without scratches on the body but the bumpers might protect the inner parts of the phone.

The rear side is as well protected as the rest of the phone. The only thing that might make you worry is the area around the camera. I think there is a chance that the plastic around the camera might crack after an impact. And though the camera, flash, IR port, speaker and the lid that covers them are a bit buried under the surface of the back panel I think they could use a another bumper that would protect them against impacts and any object.

The outer speaker is protected by a rubber cushion from the inside so that no water or dust gets inside.

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Everything about man should be beautifulЕ even the lid that covers the battery. After all, it just looks great. I cannot recall any other manufacturer to use screws for mounting the back panel so extensively.

No waitЕ Yes I can remember one:

The battery lid is mounted very solidly to the body. The sealant that protects the phone from water tightly secures the clearance between the two parts Ц the screw simply pushes the lid closer. You will have to use the two notches to up it (there is a special plastic screwdriver for this in the package) and take it off then you can unscrew (or screw down) the bolt with your digit.

870 миллиампер по документам могут продержать телефон в режиме ожидани€ около 330 часов. The 870 mAh battery is quoted to last 330 hours in stand-by or 4 hours of calls. During my test the phone could work for about 3 days in stand-by or 2.5-3 hours of talk time. You can increase the battery life by setting the battery to Eco-mode, refrain from using the camera or the player or sending SMS which will give you extra 40-50 minutes of voice calls or another 12 hours of stand-by.

Unlike regular NEC phones here the memory card slot has been moved deep inside the body for security reasons. You will have to turn off the phone, then take off the lid and the battery to get to it. A downer if you don't have a USB cable at hand.

The slot for connecting the phone to the cradle is easily accessible and is also protected by a lid with rubber cushion to keep it safe and sound.

Unlike regular NEC phones here the memory card slot has been moved deep inside the body for security reasons. You will have to turn off the phone, then take off the lid and the battery to get to it. A downer if you don't have a USB cable at hand.

The slot for connecting the phone to the cradle is easily accessible and is also protected by a lid with rubber cushion to keep it safe and sound.

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Key Pad

The phone looks like a Leviathan next to regular phones but the target audience is not exactly school girls from a ballet school. However, I think they would also appreciate the durability. In practice, the phone feels nice in hand and is convenient to use. You don't have to aim for the key Ц the ergonomics here is excellent but the phone could use a push-open button.

The combination of dark and light colors improves the visual perception and gives you a feeling of possessing something exclusive. The white keys are big and salient Ц very handy and making dialing very easy. The brown characters are easily discernable. The decorative wood grained panel looks great together with the brown elements of the design. Everything is simple and tasteful.

When it's dark the white backlight of the key pad looks fantastic:

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It is a standard 3.2" screen with the resolution of 480x854 displaying up to 16 million colors. The manufacturer was not trying to make a stress on content viewing here Ц it would be redundant. The weird thing is that the Japanese manufacturers keep ignoring glass panels for screens while it would be very appropriate in this phone Ц another downer.

It is not a touchscreen but there is a G-sensor that works for the gallery and camera.

I got the phone for testing only so I had to keep the protective film on the screen.

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Docomo N-03C, as well as other phones of this family, uses an 8.1MPix CMOS camera. The main feature of this camera is an almost instantaneous readiness for shooting Ц it takes less than a second to start making photos, almost the same moment you push the shutter button. The pictures are processed by Exmor processor and I must admit the quality is rather mediocre.

The phone can record videos up to HD quality of 1280x720 at 30 fps. The downer here is the autofocus which takes forever to focus on anything and sometimes it even hangs and you have to move the camera to another object for the focus to start working again.

The samples below were taken with default settings out-of-box, see for yourself:

HD video samples:

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As you may already know the phone has only one speaker on the rear side. The sound volume margin is more than sufficient. The body does not muffle the sound so the ringtone will not allow you to miss an important call. Besides you can always turn the vibration alert on.

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Music Player

Docomo N-03C is the first modern Japanese phone capable of playing non-converted MP3. Non-converted means not converted into the only legal in Japan WMA format. I should remind you that on regular Japanese phones you have to copy your MP3 tracks on the phone via a USB cable only using only Windows Media Player Ц and there is no other way. This is due to the illegal status of the MP3 format in Japan. I do not know why NEC/Casio broke the rules and whether this practice will be used in future phones. I believe that other Japanese manufacturers should follow NEC in this case.

So now you can simply copy all your music folders in MP3 into the directory PRIVATE/NEC/MP3 on your microSD card and Docomo N-03C is ready to go.

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Bottom Line

In contrast to the saying that the first try is always a flop I can say that NEC, Casio and Hitachi did pretty well. Docomo N-03C Burton is a real Japanese phone while it has a GSM module and a series of other advantages like water-dust-shock resistant body, MP3 support (being the only Japanese phone with MP3), nice screen and a unique design. The downers are: inconvenient location of the memory card, no glass cover for the screen while some European low-range phones have it.

Probably many will find the weight excessive (158g/5.6oz) but this is arbitrary.

This phone is designed for amateurs of unusual and, most importantly, reliable things. I can't wait for new phones from the NEC, Casio и Hitachi alliance.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Dmitry Provorov (info@j-phone.ru)
Translated by Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 25 April 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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