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3 smart phones that are standouts

Choosing from the many capable smart phones now on the market might feel like a job for King Solomon. But several new phones we tested recently are notably better than others for handling certain situations. Perhaps one from this trio is just right for you. (All prices are with a two-year contract.)

For the sharpshooter

The Nokia Lumia 1020  ($300, AT&T) is essentially a high-resolution camera fused to a very capable smart phone with a dazzling 4.5-inch display. Its 38.2-megapixel camera takes the sharpest still pictures of any smart-phone camera we've tested, producing very good-quality pictures at ISO settings up to 3200.

The camera has plenty of advanced features, including half a dozen individual controls for manipulating exposure levels and other adjustments. Video performance was not that impressive, but it's adequate for casual use such as uploading to the Web.

Find the right smart phone with the help of our cell phone buying guide and Ratings.

For the adventurer

With its rugged, weather-resistant case, the Casio G'zOne Commando 4G LTE ($100, Verizon) should be able to survive what nature—or a rambunctious user—throws at it. This latest model tops its predecessor with a larger display and a better rear-facing camera, while adding a front-facing camera, NFC for easy wireless connections, global roaming, and speedy 4G LTE.

Cold-weather users will appreciate a display sensitive enough to be used with gloves. And the G'zOne Commando is brimming with features you can use in the wild, including a compass, thermometer, pedometer, and other applications.

For those who value style and substance

The Sony Xperia Z (no money down, monthly installments; T-Mobile) is an attractive phone with compelling features such as a large, brilliant display and top-shelf hardware wrapped in a deceptively sleek yet water-resistant case. It will work after being immersed in up to 1 meter (3.28 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. We did just that and it continued to work, with no visible signs of water intrusion or damage.

Another feature we liked: The Smart Connect application lets you program the phone to launch or shut down apps or features under certain conditions, such as launching the music app when you plug in headphones, or turning off Bluetooth and the phone's ringer after 10 p.m.

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