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Gigaset GX290 and Cat S52 in the test: Runterfall smartphones in chic or cheap

Gigaset GX290 und Cat S52 im Test: Runterfall-Smart­phones in schick oder günstig

tl; dr: While Cat Phones makes the design of outdoor smartphones with the Cat S52 with an aluminum frame and a thickness of less than 1 cm suitable for everyday use, Gigaset's first Rugged smartphone for 300 Euros convinces with enormous battery life – at the expense of thickness and weight.

With the Gigaset GX290 and the Cat S52, two new, robust outdoor smartphones, alias “ruggedized”, have recently come on the market, pursuing different approaches. If the GX290, Gigaset's first Rugged smartphone ever, with an attractive price of € 299, would like to find buyers far below existing representatives of this category, the Cat S52 is ready to fight the thick, lumpy-looking design of previous models. This is intended to make the smartphone attractive to the masses, who are looking for a robust but visually appealing mobile device with a good camera.

In the test both Android 9 models compete directly against each other and have to prove who has the nose and in the end is the better choice. While the Gigaset GX290 must first prove that the manufacturer is at all an alternative to the established Cat Phones rugged smartphones in this area, the Cat S52 must show whether design and robustness are still not mutually exclusive.

Gigaset GX290 and Cat S52 in comparison

The technical specifications show differences that go beyond the design. However, the GX290 with a thickness of 15.3 mm is significantly thicker than the 9.69 mm Cat S52. The 200 euro surcharge from the GX290 to the S52, however, are noticeable elsewhere. While the difference in the displays primarily relates to the size and aspect ratio, and both do not shine with a high resolution and pixel density, the contrasts in the other specifications are more pronounced.

While the Gigaset GX290 relies on a 6.1-inch IPS display with Notch and 19.5: 9 aspect ratio, which offers a resolution of 1,560 × 720 pixels and according to the manufacturer a typical brightness of 580 cd / m² and a contrast of 1,000: 1, the Cat S52 uses a 5.65-inch IPS display with an 18: 9 aspect ratio. Its resolution is 1,440 × 720 pixels. The pixel density is comparable with 283 ppi for the GX290 and 285 ppi for the S52. While the GX290 is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, the S52 features Gorilla Glass 6.

Both smartphones are factory-fitted with a screen protector. However, the GX290's review sample shows unsightly air marks around the front camera and sensors where the film is not firmly attached to the display. These could not be crossed out.

SoC middle class of MediaTek

In the main processor, both rely on a mid-range model of MediaTek. In the Cat S52, however, the Helio P35 incorporates the newer 12 nm model, which uses two clusters of Cortex-A53 cores of different speeds. The Helio P23 in the GX290 is manufactured in 16 nm and has eight identical Cortex-A53 cores. The S52 with 4 to 3 gigabytes also offers a bit more memory, the internal memory is twice as large with 64 to 32 gigabytes, but can be extended with a microSD card for both subjects. While this shares the slot with the second SIM on the GX290, the S52 can use two SIM cards and one microSD card at the same time.


Cat S52
Cat S52

Gigaset GX290
Gigaset GX290

Cat S52
Cat S52

The S52 offers the faster standards

Even with the connection standards, the S52 offers a bit more than the GX290. Although both smartphones support LTE with 300 Mbit / s downstream, in the upstream the S52 with 100 Mbit / s is faster than the maximum 50 Mbit / s of the GX290. When Wi-Fi is only the S52 with Wi-Fi 5, so Wi-Fi to 802.11ac, while the GX290 already with Wi-Fi 4, ie 802.11n, is over. Wi-Fi 6 does not offer either. Both models have NFC, a fingerprint sensor and a USB-C port, the latter being limited to USB 2.0 on the GX290.

Plastic bumper against aluminum frame

With dimensions of 162.4 × 79 × 15.3 mm, the Gigaset GX290 comes to a weight of 279 g and relies on the design known from outdoor smartphones with a lot of plastic around the hardware to protect them from falls. The user only partially sees the reinforced metal frame on the edge, the rest is generously surrounded by the two-component TPU injection-molded housing.

With a weight of 210 g and dimensions of 76.6 × 158.1 × 9.69 mm, the Cat S52 is significantly thinner and has an aluminum frame. Instead of glass, Cat also uses rubberized, non-slip TPU on the back. The design of the S52 is much more elegant and more fit for everyday use than the GX290's and continues the design line of the Cat S61 (test), but is even less trimmed to “rugged”.

The fingerprint sensor of the GX290 sits on the back of the smartphone below the dual camera and offers, for example, with the scrolling through screen pages more functions, so that with a secure grip even with one hand is possible. On the S52, the camera is in the upper left corner of the back, but the fingerprint sensor is also centered. He is easy to reach in both, but with the S52 feel better, as he is set deeper into the housing and less slippery. Both fingerprint sensors do their job in everyday life easily and quickly.

Battery with 6,200 mAh against 3,100 mAh

However, the larger volume and with 279 to 210 g higher weight of the Gigaset GX290 are clearly noticeable in one point: the battery. If its capacity on the GX290 is 6,200 mAh, the S52 only has 3,100 mAh.

In addition, only the GX290 wirelessly to Qi standard with up to 15 watts are charged, the S52, however, must always s.Cable. With the included AC adapter, both smartphones use an 18-watt model to quickly charge the battery.

GX290 and S52 become the power bank

However, the USB-C ports on the GX290 and S52 can also be used to charge other devices. If, for example, another smartphone is connected with a suitable USB-C cable, it will be charged via the GX290 and S52 – thus becoming a power bank. This is especially useful for the GX290's large battery. However, it can not be charged by wireless charging.

IP68 at both, military standard only for the S52

In terms of resilience, both smartphones rely on IP68 certification. Both are thus dustproof and allowed to submerge for 30 minutes at a depth of at least 1.5 m under water. Only the S52 from Cat Phones is also certified to MIL-STD-810G. Behind the name hides a technical military standard from the USA. It includes tests on extreme temperatures, humidity, air pressure, salt spray and vibration. However, the standard as such does not require the manufacturer that the tests are actually all performed and that the device must also pass these tests. In practice, it is therefore primarily a clue that a smartphone survives not only water and dust density but also large temperature fluctuations and does not spontaneously switch off in winter, for example. Cat states that the S52 can stay in 1.5m of deep water for up to 35 minutes and withstand drops from 1.5m without technical damage – but clear marks on the housing remain. Temperature differences between -30 and +65 degrees Celsius (thermal shock) should also not harm the S52. The freezer in the test both survived. The GX290 could be thawed until thawing then no more buttons and the smartphone had already turned off. The S52 turned off with an indication of too low a temperature of the battery, but could be immediately switched on again and use.

The GX290 puts on covers on the connections

The GX290 and S52 also differ in terms of protection of the connections. Although both are certified to IP68, the GX290 must be made to ensure that the cover of the USB-C and headphone jack is always closed well, so that the smartphone is actually waterproof. With the Cat S52, this is only necessary in the area of ​​the SIM and the microSD card, which are accessed much less often. The USB-C connector in the lower frame and the jack connector on the upper end of the S52 are both waterproof and dustproof even without covers. If you always charge the GX290 wirelessly and use Bluetooth headphones, the cover plays a minor role.

Dual and single camera with Sony sensors

The GX290's dual main camera uses Sony's IMX214 13-megapixel sensor with a 2-megapixel depth sensor to provide a bokeh effect on photos. The Cat S52 also relies on a sensor from Sony, the IMX363, which, for example, is also used in the Google Pixel 3 (test). This offers 12.2 megapixels at 1.4 μm pixel size. The f / 1.8 lens comes to a focal length of 27 mm small-screen equivalent. By contrast, the IMX214 has a pixel size of 1.12 μm and a f / 2.0 aperture. Cat promises to deliver the best camera in a Rugged smartphone, which is yet to be proved.

Cat S52
Cat S52
Gigaset GX290
Gigaset GX290

The S52 delivers the better but supersaturated photos

In practice, the S52 delivers good pictures, but they are clearly oversaturated. In particular, the green share is unnaturally high. The GX290 is much fussier on the subject, rendering the surroundings far too dark in a bright sky. Colors, sharpness and details are completely lost. The S52 delivers in these cases, a much better result, although sharpness and details also can not keep up with high-end smartphones. For other images like the tree bark, the GX290 remains pale and colorless.

Camera comparison Gigaset GX290 and Cat S52

The bokeh effect of the Gigaset GX290 is very different. Depending on the distance to the object, the smartphone quickly struggles with clear demarcation difficulties of the object and the background. The portrait mode can thus provide good results – to examine each image accurately, but does not stay out. The S52 produces a similar bokeh effect without a second camera, sometimes providing the better result, as shown in Figs. 28 and 29.

The GX290's 8 MP front camera also supports easy face recognition to unlock the smartphone, which relies on the image and does not use an extensive 3D model. The display light as a flash is too dark, however, to provide good selfies in low light.

Displays under the magnifying glass

Gigaset promises the GX290 a typical brightness of 580 cd / m² and a contrast of 1,000: 1. In the test, the maximum brightness of 671 cd / m² is significantly higher and is not dependent on direct sunlight, but can be retrieved at any time via the controller. Black shines comparatively light at 0.491 cd / m², but the contrast at 1367: 1 is still above the figures given by Gigaset, even though it is not among the best among the IPS displays in the test field. With a white point of 9,800 Kelvin, however, the GX290 is tuned very cool.

The S52 from CAT is clearly darker at 553 cd / m² in the top, but still performs comparatively well in the test field and at the level of a OnePlus 7 Pro, Huawei P30 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S10e. Due to a lower black value with maximum brightness of only 0.32 cd / m², the S52 with 1,728: 1 offers the better contrast, which does not have to hide from other smartphones without an OLED display.

The minimum brightness in the representation of white is also very different. If the 4 cd / m² of the GX290 are still in order, the S52 with 21 cd / m² is too bright.

In addition, there is another difference in the test: The Gigaset GX290 achieves 200 cd / m² with a setting of around 28 percent display brightness. The remaining 70 percent are thus distributed over the remaining 571 cd / m², which gives the controller a fairly good uniform distribution over the entire interval. On the Cat S52, however, the 200 cd / m² are only reached at 79 percent of the set maximum brightness. The remaining 21 percent thus regulate 353 cd / m², which makes a purposeful manual control of the brightness much less accurate.

On the next page: Performance, battery life and conclusion

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