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JCB Pro-talk Touchscreen Toughphone review

Gordon Kelly



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JCB Pro-talk Touchscreen Toughphone
  • JCB Pro-talk Touchscreen Toughphone
  • JCB Pro-talk Touchscreen Toughphone
  • JCB Pro-talk Touchscreen Toughphone


Our Score:


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.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Brian ONeill

December 1, 2010, 3:55 pm

I need to sort out a phone for the brother in law for christmas. He is a builder and needs something sturdy. I looked at the JCB phone, but i also came across the samsung solid:


Its waterproof, dustproof etc and £79. Anyone any experience of it? I was think samsung might be a more reliable make.


December 1, 2010, 5:25 pm

Hey Brian, Samsung Solid is an excellent phone and really cheap now. Tradesman is even cheaper at £69.99. Solid is fractionally tougher, Tradesman floats. Defy is the best tough smartphone and - as mentioned - Pro-talk is fairly unique in its feature set.

If you simply want toughest of the tough check out Sonim (which used to make JCB's handsets). Its phones can literally be run over by cars, but start from over £150:



December 1, 2010, 9:08 pm

Gordon you are nearly selling me on the JCB phones, throwing my mobile at passing traffic or a stampede of Rick Waller's (a forgotten star)is a tempting sales pitch.


December 1, 2010, 11:11 pm

@hank - as I say, each handset has its pros and cons. Sonim is the toughest of the tough, the Tradesman and Solid great value buys.


December 1, 2010, 11:53 pm

Gordon, you mention that Sonim "used to" make JCB's phones. Does this mean that JCB managed to produce the current range entirely in-house, or is it simply another unnamed manufacturer? If the latter, do we know who? Obviously they won't make this information easy to find, but brand snobs like me might be interested ;)


December 2, 2010, 3:50 am

@Gordon - just wondering, how is the torch on the Tradesman? Is it a separate LED at the top of the phone? Did it seem quite effective or more of a gimmick? The last phone i had with a decent torch was the SE W800i, it was a really useful feature. Inbuilt torches seem to be overlooked both by phone makers and reviewers!


December 2, 2010, 5:12 am

@MrGodfrey. They are built by foxconn for Data Select (run by Peter Jones of Dragon's Den), contracted to JCB.


December 2, 2010, 6:47 am

@Mattj - you're spot on. JCB moved from Sonim to Data Select - no major reason, just buainess. It may also be JCB wishing to widen it's range as Sonim doesn't make toughphones as affordable as the Tradesman.

Alan Edwards47c

December 7, 2010, 6:58 pm

The Nokia C3-01 has a torch function - a long press of the '*' key turns the LED flash on.

Easily enough to see where you're going in a dark room, but you're not going to be lighting up any aircraft with it.

My Ericsson K700 had a light too, but you had to go into the camera function menus to turn it on.

jay nic

January 6, 2011, 3:30 am

had jcb pro talk for two weeks have to download user manual

had trouble with two way radio website not showing same phone screen as mine

customer services takes upto 50 mins to make contact never return your calls

touchscreen stopped responding

battery was better in my last phone a 5 year old nokia

at present trying to get contract cancelled dont want this phone

ps hasnt left the house yet back on site with my trusted nokia best £20 ive ever spent

daryl lee

January 7, 2011, 1:16 am

Hi Gordon....my boyfriend works for a Tech mag and gave me a reviewed JCB Toughphone for me to go camping with. Got all the goodies inside and a nice wind-up power thingy - but the box has no paperwork for the telephone number, can I find one on the inside where the card is? Does it even have one there? Numberless at the moment and would love advice to get me up and running. Best: Fiona


May 17, 2011, 6:28 pm

I got 3 of these a couple of weeks ago. No manual in the box whihc is odd compared to the normal multi-language encyclopedias - are they trying to say something about the target user I wonder? You can download from www.jcbtoughphone.com.

Walkie-talkies really handy around the fields/woods and unlike jaynic we've had no probs.

They are big clunky bricks compared to pretty much anything else, and the menu can be confusing and not completely intuitive (e.g. own number display in Phonebook>Extra Numbers) but usable.

The only real issue I have with it is the really frustrating text editor interface. I often text clients and this is a bit of a pig compared either to my old (very) Nokia 6300 or soft-keypad smartphone (Galaxy S).

One thing I would love though, is a way of sync-ing contacts on the PC - if anyone has any ideas on that would love to know.


June 1, 2011, 7:33 pm

Pretty sure Data Select were always involved with the JCB toughphones, even when Sonim made them


November 6, 2011, 2:07 am

i have a samsung b2100 and as far as grinding bumps and the usuall the torch is the best i have come across and i cannot complain about the phone trying to upgrade but yet to better the samsung.

Oh look its me

December 21, 2011, 12:24 am

Hello all, I have had the TP851 for about 6 months now and all is well. I am in the building construction and maintenance industry, so need a phone like this. Dual sim and good battery life were two key drivers for my purchase. The PMR radio is useful and works with any standard PMR radio. I will post a review soon but I have already bounced it and drowned but it lives on!


November 14, 2012, 3:46 pm

this is the worst phone i ever had the misfortune to buy .

please read before you make a mistake [sorry for long winded first post ]
i an a joiner and a part time engineer

i only joined this site to stop any person getting a crap phone .

i got this phone on contact after 2 weeks the earpiece started to rattle it got so worse i could hardly hear calls .
then the back started to fall off i would tighten it i would fall off in my pocket if i dropped it from the arm chair onto carpet .
the build quality is appalling plastic screw with plastic tabs into plastic holder [you cannot get in to stay on ]
the solid is a 1/4 of the price and has a metal screw to hold the back on .
then it started to drop call and /or never received them [this is my business phone it is no good getting 20 messages at night telling you you have missed calls ] this is a dual sim phone i had 2 different networks in it full signal and still no one could get hold of me .


November 14, 2012, 3:51 pm

this a a pile o crap phone i totally agree
see my review it in 2 bit it was to long

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