In November we took a look at the JCB Tradesman TP121, a bargain buy £69.99 tough phone which could not only take a kicking and keep on texting, but even float on water. If you have more money to spend JCB also has a top of the line tough phone, the Pro-talk. The big question, however, is just because you have the extra money should you spend it?
The most obvious place to start answer such a question is the spec sheet. Exactly what is JCB offering with the Pro-talk that warrants an extra £190 leaving your bank account? On the surface quite a lot.
The obvious standout feature is a 2.2in QVGA touchscreen. Truly tough touchscreen handsets are few and far between and the larger screen is welcome over the tiny 1.44in display in the Tradesmen. On top of this you'll find a 2MP camera, GPS, dual sim functionality and an eight channel two-way radio. For a tough phone this is positively plush.
So how does it all come together? In fairness in a fairly perfunctory way. The Pro-talk may have a few smartphone elements, but it remains a dumbphone with a navigation experience similar to what you'll find on the cheapest of budget Nokias. You won't get lost in the menu system any time soon, but similarly you won't be downloading apps or even sending email. This didn't matter with the £69.99 Tradesman, but for £259.99 the bar is set higher.
On the plus side it is hard to deny the convenience of a dual sim setup with the unlocked handset capable of swallowing sims from different networks and taking or making calls from either. Reception is also excellent since – like the Tradesman – the Pro-talk's signal isn't disrupted by numerous antennas for the likes of WiFi and 3G (GPS appeared to have no detrimental affects).
More frustrating was the two-way radio, not because it wasn't any good, but because since we only had one review sample and aren't partial to carrying around two-way radios we weren't able to test it. Research tells me a conventional (non trunked) two-way radio is a fairly standard thing, but I suspect there are many better qualified who can fill me in on the detail. On the plus side, with eight different channels it should be possible to find a clear channel wherever you are.
Furthermore it isn’t the only clever touch JCB has introduced with the Pro-talk. Another which brought a smile to our faces is the bundled wind-up charger. Much like a wind-up radio, the charger has a handle which can be wound either clockwise or anti-clockwise to generate a current and in this case start the Pro-talk charging. This is extremely handy if you get caught short in the middle of nowhere – just the kind of place the Pro-talk is meant to be. That said it should remain a last option because (as anyone who has used a wind-up charger will tell you) it takes a lot of arm work to get a modest amount of charge. 10 minutes winding got us enough for about 3-5 minutes of call time, only really good enough for an emergency.