Cat S41 review

The bulldozer under the smartphones?


Cat S41 review

Cat of Caterpillar we know mainly from the large excavators and bulldozers. In addition, the company also releases smartphones that must be able to operate under the same conditions as the construction machines.

Cat's newest and most powerful phone is the S41. This is on the one hand an Android phone and on the other hand a carrier with the necessary extra fall and impact protection. With this type of rugged device, there are often concessions in terms of specifications. At first glance, the S41 doesn't seem to be that bad. It is equipped with an octa-core 2.3GHz processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, 13 megapixel camera and 5 inch Full HD display.

Content of the box
Charger (model 3M52)
Micro USB cable
Micro USB to female A cable
Screenprotector

Waterproofing is now the rule rather than the exception for smartphones, but for a device that can withstand a fall just as well as the S41, the choice is limited. Since Samsung's Galaxy S Active line is not available in the Netherlands, the Samsung Galaxy Xcover 4. That other obvious manufacturer, RugGear, has been failing with new models in recent years.

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Prices Cat S41 unlocked


Price comparison Cat S41
  Model Price    
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Black
$ 449.99 $ 449.99   View more

Design

There is no escape; everything about the S41 breathes robustness and can take a beating. All around, the S41 has a sturdy and coarsely ribbed rubber bumper and the rear is almost completely wrapped in it as well. Between the rubber of the back and sides is a sloping, hard plastic edge. The back is completely flat and the glass in front of the camera is a little sunken.

Cat S41 front

The angles of the device are bevelled to further increase the fall resistance. Nevertheless, it is only guaranteed up to 1.8 metres. Although this is slightly higher than the height at which an average Dutchman holds his aircraft when he or she is standing. This should therefore be sufficient for most falls.

That screen-to-body ratio was not a priority for this phone may be clear. There is a lot of space to see around the screen. The front is completely covered with scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 5 and it is also sandwiched by a large raised plastic edge that should provide some extra protection. A notification light has been concealed on the right above the screen.

Cat S41 backside

The physical buttons underneath the screen are made of hard plastic and take quite a lot of force to press. Moreover, they also crack slightly. That may be a negligible detail, but it will annoy you. Fortunately, the buttons follow the standard orientation and functionality of Android.

Apart from the loudspeaker at the bottom, the unit has no openings. The headset and microUSB connections are located on the top and bottom of the unit respectively. There is a thick rubber cover for both. This surprises us because many other manufacturers are able to produce waterproof devices with the same IP-68 certification without such drastic measures.

Cat S41 sim slot

On the left is a large flap with space for two nanoSIM cards and a microSD card. Underneath is an orange button and fortunately this is not for your own virtual assistant *kuch* Bixby *kuch*. This button can be set by the user for shortcuts. The physical power and volume buttons can be found on the right side of the device. The power button is not really in an easily accessible place. Fortunately, you can also activate the screen by pressing the home button twice quickly. However, to turn off the screen, you will still have to use the power button.

The S41 is large and thick, more than one centimeter to be precise, and you hardly see that with smartphones these days. Nevertheless, it still fits reasonably well in a pocket. All the rubber gives the S41 a lot of grip, but the device is so thick and bulky that it is not really easy to handle with one hand. On top of that, the heavy battery also makes it quite heavy.

Performance

The thickness of the S41 is partly due to the size of the battery. It has a capacity of 5000 mAh and not many other phones can match that. To reach the by Cat specified standby time of 44 days, you will hardly have to use the phone, but nevertheless you can expect a good endurance with normal or heavy use. With a screen on time of over 10 hours, we came up with a usage time of three days. The S41 comes with a quick charger which takes 2 to 2.5 hours to fully charge the device while it is on but hardly used.

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In the battery section of the settings there is an option for performance and energy saving at the top. This is set to the balanced mode by default, but with such a large battery as in the S41 you can easily set it to the performance mode as far as we are concerned. There is also a function for so-called standby intelligent energy saving. It is unclear what this means exactly, but it doesn't seem to do any harm to turn it on. Finally, there is the standard battery saving function of Android. This is especially useful for automatically turning it on in order to be able to use the last bit of battery charge as long as possible.

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Because of its very large battery, the S41 can be used to charge other devices. For this purpose, a special cable and an app are included. When connecting this cable, the app opens and standard or fast charging must be chosen. In the latter case the S41 will be switched off. Next, a remaining battery percentage must be selected for the S41 at which point charging is terminated.

Despite the, on paper, quite reasonable processor and processing power, the S41 doesn't feel really smooth for a single moment. Apps don't open right away and animations often take a while.

Screen

The S41 is equipped with a 5.0 inch screen and the physical buttons underneath the screen give you access to the entire screen at all times for the interface and display of apps. The fact that the screen has a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels ensures that everything looks detailed. The screen has a bit of a yellowish tone and colors are displayed vividly above average. Contrast, saturation, image brightness, sharpness and color temperature can also be set manually.

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The S41 is equipped with MiraVision, which can be used to adjust the image quality. The menu in the settings for this is a bit odd, but you can choose between standard, vivid or user mode. There is also an option for dynamic contrast for video and a blue light filter. The latter, however, cannot be switched on automatically at an adjustable time.

There is a glove mode for the screen which, in combination with the physical keys, should make the operation of the device more accessible. Wet fingers are also no obstacle to still being able to operate the touch screen. Unfortunately, the screen does not turn on automatically when new messages arrive. This is strange because this is normally a standard feature of Android that also works very well.

Software

The S41 runs on a largely standard version of Android 7.0. During the test period we received two updates but this was not an update in Android version. The last security patch was that of August.

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CAT has added four of its own apps to the S41. The first one is App Toolbox and looks like its own app store but just links through to the Play Store. Catphones opens the support website with an overview of the Cat phones. Via registration you can register your device and with Share the S41 can be used to charge other devices. Unfortunately, only registration can be removed. Also AVG Antivirus, FK file commander, OfficeSuite are on the device. All three can be removed by the user.

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There is a special underwater mode on the unit. You can find this out by setting the aforementioned shortcut button or viewing the quick settings menu. In both cases you can turn it on, but then you don't have a clue what it means or what you can do with it. The only thing that happens is that the camera is turned on and the touchscreen is blocked. After a short search on the Cat support website it turns out that you first need to select photo or video in the camera and then use the volume buttons to take pictures. The FAQ also mentions the "waterproof depth switch" but what exactly that should be is a mystery to us.

The orange button on the side of the unit can be set under the rather crookedly translated heading "programmable key" in the settings. You have the choice of using Push to Talk or two different shortcuts by means of short and long presses. Setting it for underwater mode does not work because this is immediately undone as soon as you reactivate the touchscreen.

Hardware

Cat says the S41's waterproofing goes even further than IP68 certification. For example, it can be kept under water for up to two metres for up to an hour. On top of that, it also meets the requirements for MIL-STD-810. This is a quality mark of the U.S. Army and guarantees that the device is resistant to saltwater fog, sand, dust, dirt, shocks, vibrations and extreme temperatures. We didn't test these specifications to perfection, but we were a bit more careless than usual with the device and there was indeed no dent or scratch. In order to be able to make this happen, the valves must of course be in place. The aircraft does give a warning when a lid is not properly closed, but this happens very erratically and the warning is so short that it can hardly be read. In no time at all we could see that it is very poorly translated from English.

Cat S41 hardware

Water and dust proofing the earpiece seems to have been at the expense of sound quality. During a phone call, the sound is rather muted. This is not really convenient in a noisy environment such as a construction site. The normal speaker can be quite loud. The motor for the vibration function is fairly powerful but especially very noisy. Especially when the device is placed on a table it provides a clearly audible sound, but it can also be heard in a pocket.

Camera

The camera is the only standard app that has been replaced by Cat for a proprietary version. The interface has been solidly redesigned by Cat, but that hasn't resulted in much more functionality than the standard Android camera.

In the viewfinder window, HDR, flash and photo filter can be turned on. The HDR function cannot be set to auto mode and cannot be used in conjunction with the flash. In the settings, scene, self-timer, picture size, white balance, ISO, anti-flicker and image properties can be set. The picture-in-picture, auto, and panorama modes are available for taking a picture. With picture-in-picture, a picture is taken at the same time as the front and rear camera.

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The camera starts up smoothly but the results are rather disappointing for this price. Virtually no shot delivers a perfect picture. You have to do your best to take a sharp picture and even then the focus is often not right. Furthermore, the detail and contrast are also not good. Colors look very oversaturated on the screen of the S41, but on a computer screen they look better. Such a camera is practically difficult to use in a professional context, but mostly judge for yourself. Recording video can be done in FullHD and surprisingly, the quality of the video is reasonably good. Be it somewhat jerky.

Cat S41 camera examples
Click above for more pictures shot with the Cat S41

Conclusion

You get used to the thickness and strength of the S41 in a strange way and it's reassuring to be able to handle your phone a lot more carelessly. You don't have to be a builder to do that. Apart from its drop resistance and use as a power bank, the Cat S41 doesn't have much additional functionality. So it's important that the usability of the standard phone functions is maintained in this special shell. The bulky size doesn't really make it manageable with one hand, but you'll probably take that for granted when you need one. Unfortunately, the sound quality of telephone conversations seems to suffer from the waterproofing of the loudspeaker.

Its robustness and battery life also make the S41 an ideal phone for festivals and backpacking holidays. Unfortunately, however, its biggest flaw comes in handy. The camera is underperforming. Nowadays, we also consider a camera to be a not unimportant standard function of a smartphone. Its quality does not match a price tag like the S41. If Cat can't improve this thoroughly with a software update, then this is a serious letdown.


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