Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW review: tough choices

After releasing the tank-like $899.99 DuraForce Ultra 5G UW in April 2021, Kyocera is back with a more subtly rugged (and more affordable) phone — the $579.99 DuraSport 5G UW. If you want a sub-$600 rugged phone that works on Verizon’s millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network, the DuraSport 5G UW is really your only choice. Roughly the size of the Google Pixel 5A with 5G, the DuraSport is small but strong: it’s dust, sand, and waterproof in up to 6.5 ft of water for 30 minutes (IP68), as well as MIL 810H-certified to survive five-foot drops.

Underneath that toughness, the DuraSport is a sub-$300 phone at heart. It shares similar specs as the $239.99 OnePlus Nord N200 5G: they both use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. But the DuraSport has a smaller 4,500mAh battery and comes with some unique outdoor apps and camera features. This leads to the obvious question: is a budget rugged phone worth the premium, or are you better off getting a cheap 5G phone and adding a very protective case around it?

DuraSport 5G UW Design

At a time when every new budget phone seems to be over 6.5 inches tall, the DuraSport is surprisingly compact. It’s similar to the Google Pixel 5A with 5G but thicker and slightly more narrow (6.09 x 2.78 x 0.39-inch or 154.7 x 70.7 x 9.9mm). They even look alike, with the same rounded corners and fingerprint sensor on the back — handy for unlocking the phone when you’re wearing a mask. This phone fits nicely in my small hands, and I can stuff it into most pockets.

For a phone built to survive the rigorous military-grade tests for dust,…