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Gadgets Smartphones Cat S52 review – Rugged smartphone from Caterpillar

Cat S52 review – Rugged smartphone from Caterpillar

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In today’s review, I’ll talk about Cat S52, the new rugged smartphone from Caterpillar, the well-known manufacturer of utility equipment. The brand is not a newcomer to such gadgets and before that it had already released tough smartphones, mobile phones and even tablets. But S52 model has a striking difference – it’s not only rugged, but also suitable for everyday use.

Cat S52

Cat S52 specs

NETWORK Technology GSM / HSPA / LTE
LAUNCH Announced 2019, October
Status Available. Released 2019, November
BODY Dimensions 158.1 x 76.6 x 9.7 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.38 in)
Weight 210 g (7.41 oz)
Build Glass front (Gorilla Glass 6), plastic back, aluminum frame
SIM Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 35 mins)
Drop-to-concrete resistance from up to 1.5m
MIL-STD-810G compliant
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 5.65 inches, 82.4 cm2 (~68.0% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 720 x 1440 pixels, 18:9 ratio (~285 ppi density)
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 6
PLATFORM OS Android 9.0 (Pie), planned upgrade to Android 10.0
Chipset Mediatek MT6765 Helio P35 (12nm)
CPU Octa-core (4×2.3 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A53)
GPU PowerVR GE8320
MEMORY Card slot microSD
Internal 64GB 4GB RAM
MAIN CAMERA Single 12 MP, f/1.8, (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF
Features LED flash
Video 1080p@30fps, gyro-EIS
SELFIE CAMERA Single 8 MP
Video 1080p@30fps
SOUND Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
COMMS WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS
NFC Yes
Radio FM radio
USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go
FEATURES Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 3100 mAh battery
Charging Fast battery charging

Price and positioning

The pricing policy of rugged smartphones is somewhat different from conventional devices. The cost of Cat S52, is impressive: £449 (when buying on the official website). On the one hand, you can buy a good, sometimes even excellent flagship for this price.

On the other hand, no ordinary smartphone offers the level of reliability and security that Cat S52 has. In addition, bear in mind that the protected device already implies a certain niche, and there are practically no examples of such devices with more or less serious hardware.

Cat S52

What’s in the box

S52 smartphone lies in a small cardboard box in Caterpillar’s signature black and yellow design. Along with it is a power adapter with support for Pump Express Plus 2.0 technology with a maximum power of up to 18 W, a USB/Type-C cable and a set of documentation. In addition, a protective glass is glued directly from the box on the device itself.

Design, materials and build quality

Since we have a rugged phone, it’s certainly large, even uncomfortable for an ordinary user. It has a reinforced structure and an abundance of rubberized elements. This is partially true: most of what is on this market today looks exactly like that.

Cat S52 is different in that it tried to combine business with pleasure. It retained the brutality and security characteristics with more traditional looks.

Cat S52

It is clear that the smartphone still does not deserve the title of the most stylish, but given the level of security, it looks quite good. In front of us there are symmetrical bezels that aren’t too big for the class.

The panel, as already noted, is covered by an additional protective glass. Underneath it is Corning Gorilla Glass 6. Interestingly, there is a thin protruding side made of plastic around it, but what is even more remarkable is that it protrudes even over the protective glass. That is, the screen itself is very deep.

Along the perimeter the structure is framed by a high-quality silver aluminum frame. A certain brutality is added to it by screws at the ends and large massive buttons. They are also made of metal, by the way.

Cat S52

The back panel is made of rubberized material, thermoplastic polyurethane. It is also divided into two different textures, with a ribbed bottom.

Now about the most important thing – what protection standards are applied. Dust and moisture protection in accordance with IP68. The smartphone, judging by official data, will survive immersion in water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 35 minutes.

Laboratory tests were performed by dropping it from a height of 1.5 m onto concrete on each side and angle. In addition, the case is protected according to the American military-industrial standard MIL-STD-810G, which implies resistance to sudden changes in temperature, high and low temperatures, vibration and corrosion.

Cat S52

Element configuration

Above the display are located: a front camera, an LED, a slot with a speaker, light and proximity sensors. Below it there is a cutout with a microphone.

On the right side of the device are three metal buttons: increase and decrease the volume, plus a power button with deep embossed notches. Also, three hex screws.

Cat S52

On the left are the same screws in the same quantity and a cover under which there is a tray for two nanoSIM cards and a microSD memory card, and also a hole with a button to deactivate the smartphone. The tray, by the way, can be pulled out without a key/paper clip/needle, but it’s not easy.

Below are several slots for a multimedia speaker and a Type-C port in the center. The connector is not closed in any way, but it is still protected from moisture. At the top there is a hole for an additional microphone and a 3.5 mm audio port, which is also open, but moisture will also not damage it.

At the back, in the upper left corner, there is a slightly protruding module with a camera and flash, but the glass that covers the eye is recessed. In the center there is a round platform with a fingerprint scanner, and on the right is a large embossed glossy Cat logo. At the bottom – the aforementioned area with a texture.

Ergonomics

We have already found out that one of the features of Cat S52 is a certain similarity with typical smartphones, rather than rugged ones. This is achieved not only with a more restrained and accurate design, but also due to the dimensions. The dimensions of the case are 158.1 × 76.6 × 9.69 mm, and the mass is 210 g. This, for a protected device, is definitely good numbers. What I mean is the smartphone fits in your pocket without any problems.

In general, in fact, there can be two questions: does the thickness affect the usability and does the device feel heavy? The first is absolutely not, S52 feels like an average smartphone. It is weighty, yes, but I’ve used heavier specimens, and they were far from being protected.

In the hand, Cat S52 feels reliable, but the metal frame does not cling to the hand and the device can slip out in certain situations. Protruding buttons on the right slightly smooth the situation – you can catch on to them.

Cat S52

There are no other comments: you can use it with one hand, the buttons and the scanner are located conveniently.

Cat S52

Cat S52 display

5.65″ diagonal display with 18:9 aspect ratio. Made using IPS technology, the resolution is HD+ or 1440×720 pixels, and pixel density is 285 ppi.

Cat S52

If we talk about screen resolution, then it’s strange for me to see such characteristics in an expensive smartphone. No matter how secure and niche, this is a dubious simplification. Yes, the diagonal is not so big and maybe someone will not notice it at all, but I still notice a lack of clarity.

Cat S52

On the other hand, the lower resolution probably helped to slightly reduce power consumption, and in this vein, the manufacturer can be understood, especially since the battery in Cat S52 is not very large.

What can you expect from a screen in a secure device? I do not think that saturation and contrast are very important, but viewing angles and brightness are. The brightness at the current time, without very bright sun, is enough, and even with a small margin. The corners are completely typical for IPS, with the traditional dark fading at an acute angle along the diagonal.

Everything is normal in colors, not oversaturated, just “natural”. Contrast is medium. This fact does not particularly affect the overall impression, but when switching from other screens and viewing a similar image on Cat S52, it is clearly visible.

By settings: night mode and glove mode, which significantly increases the sensitivity of the sensor. And for such a device this is very important. Using it with gloves is really easy.

Cat S52 Performance

Cat S52 runs on the 12nm MediaTek Helio P35 (MT6765) platform, which includes 8 Cortex-A53 cores with a maximum clock speed of up to 2.3 GHz and the PowerVR Rogue GE8320 graphics accelerator. In synthetic tests, we see the expected average results.

There is 4 GB of RAM, which is more than enough for a SoC of this level and you can work with several applications at once.

There is 64 GB of storage, and 47.17 GB are available for the user. You can expand it by installing up to 512 GB in a separate dedicated slot.

The interface works quickly and relatively smoothly if no other processes occur. Freezing, for example, can happen while downloading or updating applications. Basically, everything is at least not bad, although not a flagship level, obviously.

Cat S52

Games… well, you need to understand that a person who buys this device does not plan to play something serious on it. Simple arcade time-killers will run fine, and that’s about it.

Cat S52 Cameras

The main camera in the device is one – a 12MP Sony sensor with f/1.8 aperture, 1.4µm pixel size, Dual Pixel PDAF focusing and electronic stabilization system (EIS).

Cat S52

The manufacturer claims that this is the best camera in the class of reliable rugged smartphones. I cannot confirm or refute this statement, because the niche is very unpopular and there is simply nothing to compare it with. Cat S52 camera is hardly impressive. In daylight it shoots well, with the correct and natural color rendition. In the evening and under other difficult lighting conditions, everything is more complicated. There is a watercolor effect due to active noise reduction.

EXAMPLES OF PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION

Video recording is in Full HD. Something special cannot be said about the video either. The quality is average, but we must say thank for the availability of electronic stabilization, which is often neglected by other manufacturers.

The front camera is 8 megapixels, f/2.2 and in general terms it will be enough to ensure a normal level of, say, video calls. It also constantly smooths your face, and you can’t turn it off.

The camera application is concise, from the modes: portrait, photo, video. The first modes is hardly needed here. Blurring the background with rugged smartphone… well, it’s hard for me to understand the need for it. It works only when determining the face and is not particularly accurate. It would be better to replace it with some kind of panorama.

Unlocking methods

On the back of Cat S52 in a small recess is a fingerprint scanner. It works quite fast and stable, and there were practically no errors. It is worth considering that you should periodically wipe the surface of the area, because it can get dirty and stop recognizing the fingerprint.

Cat S52

There is no dedicated face recognition here, but it can be found in Google Smart Lock. This is not a very safe system in itself, plus if there is not enough light around it will not work. But still, I admit the use of such a function, because theoretically there may be situations when you cannot use a password or a fingerprint scanner, but you need to unlock the device. However, there is a catch here – one way or another, you will have to swipe the screen anyway.

Cat S52

In short, if you don’t worry about security, you can use it. Otherwise, the thing is doubtful. By the way, more about security. The settings also have a function to erase user data if there are too many failed attempts to enter a password. You can set the number of attempts yourself: from 2 to 8 times, after which the automatic cleaning process will start.

Cat S52

Cat S52 battery life

A 3100 mAh battery is not enough for any smartphone, and considering Helio P35 platform, which I could not call energy efficient, it would seem like a complete disaster. But surprisingly, Cat S52 showed decent working times, all things considered.

Cat S52

With an average load, I could use the device for one and a half to two days with 6.5-7 hours of screen activity. The result is certainly good, but let me repeat myself – I did not expect anything like this with such a modest battery.

Along with the device, there is a power adapter with support for fast charging technology from MediaTek – Pump Express Plus 2.0. But I would call it fast charging, because in the end the charging speed decreases. Timing is like this:

  • 00:00 — 4%
  • 00:30 — 40%
  • 01:00 — 74%
  • 01:30 — 88%
  • 02:00 — 93%

Cat S52

Sound and communication

The speaker in S52 is fine, you can hear the voice clearly. A medium-sized multimedia speaker is not very loud and obviously not designed for music. In terms of sound in the headphones, everything is generally good, both with wired and wireless headsets. There is enough volume and the quality is good.

Cat S52

Communication: a device indoors doesn’t catch a mobile network signal as well as any other smartphone. At the same time, during the conversations I did not experience any problems with voice transmission or problems with data transmission via LTE. Just know that if under the same conditions other smartphones show a full (or almost full) bar, then Cat S52 show one or two lines.

Cat S52

With the rest of the modules everything is fine, there is everything that is needed and there are no nuances. There is dual-band Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0 (A2DP, LE), GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO) and NFC.

Cat S52

Firmware and software

Cat offers a smartphone without a third-party shell, just a regular Android 9.0 Pie with a guaranteed upgrade to Android 10. However, the timing is not mentioned, but they still promise that you’ll get it. They also talk about security patches that will be released every 90 days. The system already has several most popular social networks pre-installed, but they can be removed without problems.

In the launcher, there are several supposedly “applications” that lead to separate web pages related to Caterpillar – for some reason they cannot be deleted. In general, everything is quite concise in settings. There are features like gestures and digital well-being. There are no problems with software stability.

Cat S52

Verdict

Who should buy Cat S52? Well, people who want a rugged smartphone. And also people who want a phone that’s comfortable to use it in everyday life, and not just in extreme conditions. That’s the main idea of the device – a smartphone with normal dimensions, with okay design, but with high degree of protection.

Cat S52

On the other side of the scale is the cost, which is high. However, if you really want a secure and ordinary-looking smartphone, then Cat S52 might suit you.

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