Well, I wasn't going to leave Panasonic's claims untested. I can happily report that the KX-TG6481ET has survived both immersion in an enormous bag of dirty gravel, and a run under the tap afterwards to wash it off. It's also survived being dropped and tossed onto a selection of surfaces and floorings, including kichen vinyl, concrete, tarmac, parquet and pine decking.
More impressively, it's also survived over a week in the company of a three year-old tearaway, who showed no scruples about dropping the phone, letting it roll down the stairs or leaving it on the table during lunch before tipping a cup of water over in the near vicinity. At no point has the phone taken on anything more than the lightest of scratches. Nor has the battery cover flown off, spilling the rechargeable AA cells all over the floor. If only the same could be said of several other electronic devices that have suffered at the hands of the miniscule marauder over the last year or so.
Of course, there's no point in having a tough phone if it's hard to use or lacking standard features. Luckily, in both respects the KX-TG6481ET fares well. A d-pad and a trio of buttons at the top of the keypad handle most of the navigational duties, the three buttons changing function according to the current mode or menu, with reasonably straightforward icons explaining what the current functions are. Inputting numbers to the phonebook or setting up ringtones are simple, intuitive operations. The five line monochrome LCD display isn't too exciting to look at, but the menu options are clear enough and there's an amber backlight behind this and the keypad to make the phone usable in dark or gloomy conditions. A 3.5mm jack sits hidden beneath a rubberised flap on the left-hand side, allowing connection of a hands-free headset.
The feature-set is reasonably basic, with no advanced features like an SMS texting service, but there is a speakerphone option and a choice of 15 polyphonic ringtones, at least three of which won't drive you up the wall within the first day of use. The built-in phonebook handles 100 names and numbers, and you get an answerphone with 20 minutes of recording time. On that front, it's a little annoying that the maximum number of rings before the answerphone kicks in is seven, but at least you can quickly cut in while the answerphone message is playing with no audible negative effect.