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NEC Terrain (AT&T) review


The Good NEC’s waterproof and rugged Terrain features 4G LTE, push-to-talk, and an easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard.

The Bad The terrain is unattractively difficult, works with dated OS 4.0 4.0 and records bad videos.

The Bottom Line If you want a rugged AT&T handset, pick NEC’s sturdy Terrain, but those in search of a more stylish device should consider the pocket-friendly Samsung Rugby Pro.

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7.3 Overall

  • Design
  • Features
  • Performance

Rugged, waterproof and equipped with a handy portrait keyboard for all your messaging needs, the NEC Terrain is one device that can handle just about anything.

Though it runs a dated version of Android and isn’t the most chic handset to be lugging around in your pocket, it is indeed durable and runs on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Available for $99.99 after contract, it was also designed with enterprise workers in mind, and includes features like push-to-talk and microSD privacy encryption.

It is important to note that earlier this summer NEC announced it had cut the cord on your smartphone. The company will still support existing devices (including this one) but does not design or manufacture any new phones.

Regardless of NEC’s business strategy, the Terrain is still a solid device, in and of itself. And if you’re looking for a rugged smartphone on AT&T, this is the toughest one by far.

Like most reliable devices, the NEC Terrain is bulky and thick, and the reason why it resembles a 6.08-ounce weight is that it has a physical keyboard attached to it. This means that you should not expect a comfortable fit when stuffing it in the small front pockets of your jeans. However, it is still easy to hold with one hand through a narrow frame. You can type the physical keyboard this way (though it’s not the fastest technique), and maneuvering a touch screen with one hand shouldn’t be a problem.

Measuring 5.02 inches high by 2.54 inches wide, the terrain has crack angles at the top and its lower half ends with smooth rounded corners. Oddly enough, its long rectangular frame reminds me of the Palm Pilots of years past. The case is lined with smooth matte rubber, unlike Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE or the Kyocera Torque – makes it more professional and less industrial than others. This rubber appearance gives the phone physical stability and is similar to a regular device covered by the phone body.

The Terrain’s four-row keyboard is useful and makes typing out messages easier. Josh Miller

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On the left are buttons to activate the speaker and the Push to Talk function, as well as the volume swing. Above is a 3.5mm headphone port, and on the right is a Micro-USB port and a sleep / power button. Both openings can be sealed with small coatings lying flat on the surface of the unit.

You’ll find a 5MP (flash) camera on the back of your phone. At the bottom are the battery door, which is locked by a toggle switch. To unlock it, push the switch to the left and slide the back strap to the bottom edge. It will take a bit of muscle, so if you take care of your nails at all, it is better to use a stick or coin to break the door. Once opened, you will gain access to a 1 900 mAh battery and a microSD card slot that expands to 32 GB.

In addition to Corning Gorilla Glass 2.0 features, the 3.1-inch touch screen has a resolution of 640×480 pixels and 260 pixels per inch. In general, the display is responsive, bright and can be easily viewed in direct sunlight. It accurately displayed a clear white color, though the HQ videos on YouTube looked grainy at times.

AT&T’s husky, waterproof NEC Terrain (pictures)

Furthermore, though text and icons looked sharp, my main gripe was how small they were displayed. The screen is small to begin with, but that makes glancing at the time or your notifications much more difficult. The back, home, and recent app hot keys that appear onscreen, for example, are tiny. Instead of having a bottom bezel that’s wide enough to fit the AT&T logo on it, the handset’s display should be expanded as far as it can until it reaches the keyboard. Above the display is a 0.3-megapixel camera.

As for typing, I was surprised at how accurate I was at messaging, given that the keys were small enough and packed tightly together. Buttons are bulbous and easy to press. The keyboard does not have many shortcuts (though two alternative “.com” and “www.” Keys are inserted), and there is one button that activates the microphone. Under the keyboard are two front-facing speakers that can really download music louder and more depth than the standard speakers found on most phones.

Strength and durability
The device can reportedly last up to 30 minutes underwater at a depth of a meter. During my testing he lived 20 minutes in the shower and half an hour completely underwater in a shallow bowl. While he was immersed, he managed to make an incoming call as well. He also kept hitting after I got stuck in the freezer for another half hour under a pile of ice. After he had sufficiently thawed, he was still able to make calls and connect to the Internet.

As for its toughness, I repeatedly dropped it on cement on its sides, at a height of about three feet. It survived each fall and even bounced back up a couple of inches. Moreover, I kicked it down several flights of stairs. Unlike AT&T’s other rugged handset, the Samsung Rugby Pro , the Terrain battery door never popped up during this process. However, it did collect some scratches and scratches, but the screen was still intact and it worked just fine.

The Terrain can survive complete submersion as well as a few splashes here and there. Josh Miller

Features of software and OS
The Terrain comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. At this point, the OS feels long in the tooth, as Jelly Bean has been around for over a year. In any case, you will still get the usual launch of Google applications such as Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Navigation Maps, Latitude and Local, Messenger, access to Play Books, Movies, Music & Store, Talk and YouTube.

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AT&T-specific apps include a code scanner, a drive-mode app that silences notifications and sends autoreplies to messages when it senses the device is traveling at more than 25 mph, an app to set up the handset’s push-to-talk functionality, a branded navigation app, myAT&T (which lets users check their minutes and data plan), and the Yellow Pages app.

In addition to a textured direct-connect button (seen here in the middle), the Terrain also has an AT&T app that’ll help set up your push-to-talk preferences. Josh Miller

Other amenities include Amazon Kindle, an FM radio, a movie editor, and a Quickoffice mobile office suite. The main task management applications include a calculator, calendar, alarm clock, native email and browser clients, voice recorder, to-do list, and voice dialing. You’ll also get 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and mobile hotspot.

Camera and video
The quality of the photos on the back camera was quite good and better than I expected. Since many camera settings overlap the left and right side of the viewfinder (more on this later), the picture frame is difficult if you do not pay enough attention. However, the photos taken in sufficient light turned out to be clear and focused. The indoor photos did have a lot of digital noise, but the subjects still had clearly defined edges and colors were genuine.

Both the 5-megapixel camera and the 0.3-megapixel front camera feature an exponent, five white balance options, geotagging, three color effects, two quality settings and a timer. However, only the rearview camera has a flash, digital zoom, three focus types, five scene modes, four ISO settings and five sizes (640×480 resolution up to 2,560×1,920 pixels). Meanwhile, the other camera only has three photo sizes (from QCIF to VGA)

Though dark hues are hard to distinguish, colors are accurate and the buildings in the background are in focus. Lynn La
In this indoor shot, you can digital noise throughout, but images still look adequately sharp. Lynn La
This standard studio shot features digital noise and a small blue hue in the center against the white background. Josh Miller

In terms of video, both cameras offer three quality settings and store the same exposure meter, white balance settings, geotext and color effect settings. The rear camera also has six recording sizes (from MMS to 720p), continuous flash, digital zoom and autofocus. The 0.3 megapixel camera has only five recording sizes (from MMS to 640×480).

The recording quality could have been better. Because the camera couldn’t focus smoothly, the lighting was constantly adjusting and was everywhere. While recording, you may see a lens that tries to focus repeatedly, giving the shot a subtle “throbbing” motion. In addition, the sound was low on static during recording and the images looked blurry and uneven.

I tested the phone in our San Francisco offices on AT&T’s network and call quality was great. None of my calls dropped, I didn’t hear any extraneous buzzing or noises, and audio didn’t clip in and out. Volume range was adequate, especially maximum volume, which can be very loud. My friend sounded clear and close by; likewise, I was told I too sounded clear and precise. Conversations via speaker sounded good, but at times voices came off harsh. When volume was increased, I could hear a sharp tinniness follow my friend’s voice from time to time.

NEC Terrain (AT&T) call quality sample

Listen now:

Terrain runs on the carrier’s LTE 4G network, and data transfer speeds were usually fast. The CNET mobile site loaded in 7 seconds, and our desktop took 12 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took approximately 6 and 13 seconds, respectively. The ESPN mobile site took 5 seconds and its full site loaded in 9 seconds. The Ookla Speedtest application showed me an average of 7.23 Mbps and 1.05 Mbps. It took 59 seconds to download 35.01MB game Temple Run 2.

NEC Terrain Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 7.23Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 1.05Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 35.01MB in 59 seconds
CNET mobile site load 7 seconds
CNET desktop site load 12 seconds
Restart time 38 seconds
Camera boot time 1.75 seconds

Terrain runs on a 1.5GHz dual core processor. In general, the daily and necessary tasks worked smoothly. There were no problems opening the lock screen, opening the application browser and returning to the home screen. Playing the intensely graphic game Riptide GP, the handset did not malfunction or delay. However, I have seen frame rates and smoother graphics on other mid-range phones. When the camera was turned on, I noticed a slight gap between the items in front of me and the feedback displayed on the viewfinder. It took about 1.75 seconds to launch the camera and 38 seconds to reload the landscape.

During our 1,900 mAh battery test, the battery operated for 11.05 hours of continuous talk time. Talk time is up to 10 hours and standby time is 14.5 days. Anecdotally, he had an average battery life, which was likely to be depleted. After a full day of minimal use and no charge, the battery would drop below 50 percent, which I thought was pretty low. According to FCC radiation standards, it has a digital specific absorption coefficient of 1 W / kg.

If you’re an AT&T customer and you’re in the market for an ultratough, survival-of-the-fittest smartphone, the Terrain’s sheer brawniness will satisfy those needs. Its rubber encasing, sturdy construction, and recessed screen assures you that it can withstand a wide range of physical abuse.

However, if you can go with lighter protection and prefer something more modern instead Samsung Rugby Pro is the best gadget. It is also $ 99.99. It runs on Android 4.0, but it also has a better camera and larger (4-inch) screen than Terrain’s. True, it won’t be that difficult and you will have to do without a useful physical keyboard, but it will still be more stable than your standard handset.

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