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Hammer Axe Pro, first take: An Android for all seasons

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With top-end handset makers now routinely adding dust resistance and waterproofing to their phones, specialist vendors of ruggedised handsets need to put in a bit more effort to justify their offerings to a general market.

The Hammer Axe Pro, which tops the Hammer lineup from Polish company myPhone, is hardly premium priced at £449 (inc. VAT) -- it's less than half the price of the new iPhone X, while Samsung's Galaxy S8, which like the Hammer Axe Pro has an IP68 rating, costs around £690 SIM free. Available for a similar price is the highly regarded OnePlus 5, which makes for an instructive spec comparison.

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The Hammer Axe Pro is a ruggedised 5.5-inch Android smartphone with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

Of course, the Hammer Axe Pro wins easily when we look at the rugged features of the two phones. The OnePlus 5 doesn't have an IP rating, while the Hammer Axe Pro meets IP68 certification, meaning that it's 'dust tight' and should withstand a dunking in three meters of water. It also has a protected headset jack and the microUSB connector sits behind a hinged rubber cover.

That's only the start, though. Gorilla Glass 3 protects the screen, and there's a rubberised band round the short edges and on the four corners. The angles at the corners not only look distinctive, but should help prevent the phone from landing on a point if it's dropped, spreading effect of impact. The long edges have an industrialised silver finish, which is also pretty tough, and the back is very solid.

The dual SIM slots and a microSD card slot sit under a cover on the back of the chassis. I found the cover hard to tease off, and the SIM caddy a little on the fiddly side, but there's rubber sealing around the slots that provides additional protection against water.

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Dual SIM and MicroSD card slots live behind a rear-mounted cover. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

These protective features mean that the Hammer Axe Pro isn't a sleek handset. It's heavy at 256g, and considering its 5.5-inch screen, it's also on the large side, measuring 83mm wide by 162mm deep by 12.85mm thick. By contrast, the OnePlus 5, which also has a 5.5-inch screen, measures 74.1mm by 154.2mm by 7.35mm and weighs 153g. The Hammer Axe Pro's extra size and weight are all about making it a more rugged phone -- and helping it last longer away from a power source.

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Because it's intended for outdoor use in extreme conditions, the Hammer Axe Pro has a large-capacity 5,000mAh battery -- compare that to the OnePlus 5's 3,300mAh. There ought to be enough juice here for a couple of days of away from the mains if you're frugal, although you'll need to be careful which features you use: GPS for route-finding, for example, will hit the battery hard. The handset supports fast charging, so when mains power is available you should be able to top up quickly.

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The left-hand side has a configurable 'SOS' button. (Image: myPhone/Hammer)

There's an SOS button on the left edge of the phone, which can be set to send a text and make a call to a predefined number. Alternatively, this button can be used as an app shortcut.

The core specifications are pretty sound. There processor is an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10, supported by 4GB of RAM. There's 64GB of internal storage, of which 52.8GB was available for use on our review unit. The MicroSD card slot is on hand for adding external storage if required. The Hammer Axe Pro runs on Android 7, and apart from a skin designed to make the handset look tough, there's no bloatware on board. The 5.5-inch IPS screen has full HD resolution (1,080x1,920 pixels).

There are some issues with the software. For example, when I went to set up the SOS feature, I was offered a multitude of unnecessary menus. Hopefully these will be addressed, as they make for a less than an ideal user experience.

As rugged handsets go, the Hammer Axe Pro does a good job. It's tough where it needs to be, dual SIM support will be handy, the battery is large and it has decent technical specifications. Just don't expect it to slip neatly into a small pocket.

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Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Processor
Clock Speed 2.0 GHz
Manufacturer Helio
Processor Core Qty Octa-core
Display
Diagonal Size 5.5 in