Review: Crosscall CORE-Z5

A review of Crosscall's most recent rugged device

Posted: 18 January 2023
Stats: 1611 words / ~8 minutes

Mid-November, 2022, my trusty Nokia 5.3 began acting up. I began looking for a new device. I was only looking, though, because I don’t relish spending money on a device, or reading reviews, or dealing with transferring things from an old phone to a new phone. I rediscovered the French brand, Crosscall and spent some time learning how to compare devices. I initially planned of getting an eco-friendly or privacy-oriented device, but that idea didn’t pan out. Before I knew it, I had spent way beyond what I was planning on a device just to get something different…

A Chonky Boy

Crosscall CORE-Z5 front and back
Photo from Crosscall website

Judging the book by its cover

First impressions mean a lot

The Crosscall CORE-Z5 comes in a plain brown cardboard box (recycled, of course). What’s inside the box?

There are first impressions, and there are first impressions. I knew beforehand that it would be bigger and heavier than most phones I have used in the past. This thing is a beast.

It doesn’t just have bezels. It has a chin and a forehead. And a notch camera too. It is thick. There are buttons. Many buttons! But, most of all, it is heavy and quite solid feeling.

inside the Crosscall CORE-Z5
Inside the CORE-Z5: the magnesium chassis keeps things safe, and heavy

(source)

Around the sides of the phone there are 7 (seven!) buttons. Two are for the volume rocker, one is the power button (which doubles as a fingerprint scanner). On the top there is a single red button, and on the left side there are three buttons — these buttons can be configured with two functions each. This is a rugged device, so the headphone jack and USB port are protected.

image showing the position of the buttons on the Crosscall CORE-Z5
Button placement on the Crosscall CORE-Z5

The body is made of polycarbonate and thermoplastic elastomer, the screen is Gorilla Glass 5. I find the device to be rather slippery. On the back we have a camera (a single camera!), a speaker, and a Magconn connection (Crosscall X-LINK).

Overall, I like the physical design of the device. I do wish Crosscall had used the rubbery elastomer on the back as well, for comfort and to make it easier to hold.

Getting to the CORE of it

What’s inside this unit?

Performance-wise, I don’t have much to complain about, nor to compare with. Aside from a quick in-store test, I have never used a high-end flagship phone. That said, I find it fast enough to do what I do most: work. From quick emails to large, multi-tab, spreadsheets, the CORE-Z5 has made me realize how people are able to accomplish so much on their devices. I decided to run some tests on the phone and they confirm what I experienced: The phone is faster than what I was used to.

Benchmark Comparison (interactive chart)

The comparison chart above shows how the CORE-Z5 matches up against several other phones. The Nokia 5.3 (my previous phone), three phones that I considered buying (the Teracube 2e, the Murena One, and the Fairphone 4), and a recent flagship device (the Pixel 7 Pro). I won’t claim to understand these tests, but I am pleased to see that the PCMark Work test nearly doubled the results of my former phone. The Geekbench benchmark was probably the most user-friendly of the tests that I ran, in case you are also looking to benchmark your phone and, like me, you have no idea where to begin.

Additionally, I ran the GFXBench test on the CORE-Z5. I don’t game on my phone, but for those who are interested, here are the results:

GFXBench Results

Connectivity

Note: I do not have 5G

I tested the connectivity of the device on my home and work Wi-Fi networks, on 4G, and using it as a hotspot. Here are the results:

Upload Download
Wi-Fi Home 16.4 Mbps 0.96 Mbps
Wi-Fi Work 104 Mbps 89.1 Mbps
4G 82.9 Mbps 23.8 Mbps
Hotspot (4G) 59.5 Mbps 6.61 Mbps

Photography

In a world where most phones have at least two cameras on the back, the CORE-Z5 stands out. It has just one. It is listed as a 48MP camera, but the default in the camera app is set to 12MP “Fusion4”. Crosscall brands this as Fusion4 technology, but what is happening here is pixel binning. The default photo app is in need of a little upgrade, and is missing options like panorama altogether, and hides common options in the settings (timers, exposure, white balance, etc.)

The results are fine for me. If you love to take and share photos, you will be let down. A rugged phone is not meant for shutterbugs.

in-app preview of Kup action figure from Transformers
Kup has a face, and the phone detects it

photo of Kup action figure from Transformers
Bokeh achieved? (3000x4000 / 4.7mm focal length / 1/25 shutter speed / 1.8 aperture / ISO 834 / no flash)

While this isn’t the best example, it is realistic. One does not stage every photo, we do hope for things to turn out a little clearer. Even more so given that the product page for the CORE-Z5 states: “Accurate photos, even in low lighting.”

Daily driving

Weight and size notwithstanding, this is an easy device to use. I don’t know why more phone-makers haven’t put more programmable buttons on their devices. It makes the experience better.

My button layout looks like this:

(long/triple-tap)

Out of the box, you have Android 12 and a minimal, near-vanilla, experience. Crosscall has added a few apps (that cannot be removed — booooo!):

screenshot of Crosscall X-Camp app showing where the users are
Screenshot of Crosscall X-CAMP app: not so international...

Note: the phone is only available in 14 countries (see map)

Many of the close-to-vanilla Android devices can make the same claim: decent battery life. I have squeezed up to two days of moderate use from the CORE-Z5, three days of light use. I never need to worry about taking the charger. The phone itself can act as a charger, too, and I have used it to recharge my DAP while on the go.

I also purchased a USB hub for it, so I can output via HDMI and connect other USB devices to it. It worked perfectly, and I was able to give a lecture that included slides and a video. On another occasion, I corrected 25 homework assignments and entered the grades in a spreadsheet. Work-wise, I am very content. Additionally, I am more than impressed with the fingerprint sensor and the ability to use the phone while it is wet.

Conclusion and Complaints

A review without complaints is not a review. I have complaints, and here they are:

I have many positive remarks about this phone. Some are mentioned above (battery life, usefulness of the buttons, performance) while others fit into the category of “I forgot how much I missed that”:

I am not even close to the target market for this type of phone (no sports, not outdoorsy, etc.) and I can certainly see myself using it for the next five years, or more. Especially since it has a 5-year warranty and promises 10-year availability for parts and a high repairability score. Despite the many good things, I cannot give this phone a score higher than 3/5.

The Crosscall CORE-Z5 takes things somewhat beyond my expectations, but still falls short of exceptional.

Articles from blogs around the web

Made with openring