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Pantech Laser Mobile Phone Review

on April 9, 2011 12:30 pm

The last several years have seen an explosion of mobile phones, more and more of which are able to access features and apps via wireless broadband.  Most of the attention has been on the big players with their “smartphones,” such as Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and the many Google Android-based devices from various hardware makers.  However, there is another whole group of phones known as “feature phones” or “quick messaging phones” that, while they may not command the horsepower or notoriety of the big boys, are nonetheless loaded with features.  One such device is the Pantech Laser, a super-slim, touchscreen mobile phone with slide-out QWERTY keyboard available through AT&T.  Let’s have a look!

NOTE: All images in this review are clickably enlargeable for your viewing pleasure.

Background

To set the stage here, my perspective is shaped by currently being a very happy iPhone 3GS user.  I am also a former BlackBerry Curve user and was happy with that device as well prior to getting the iPhone 3GS.  However, though I doubt I’ll ever go back to a BlackBerry-style device (I like my full touchscreen a lot), never say never.  I also reviewed the Pantech Link from AT&T, which is currently serving quite nicely as the “spare” phone in our household.  I will make references to the iPhone 3GS and the Link throughout this review as a frame of comparison.  Also, my 10-year-old daughter, who has been the most frequent user of the Link, checked out the Laser and helped give me another perspective on it.

Inside the Box

As with the Link, the Laser’s box is small and compact, with little wasted space.  Box contents:

  • Pantech Laser mobile phone
  • AC wall charging adapter “brick”
  • Micro-USB cable
  • Quick-start guide
  • Tutorial CDROM

Hardware Specs

  • Display – 3.1 inch resistive touchscreen, 480 x 800 pixel, 262K AMOLED
  • Input – touchscreen with predictive text, slide-out full QWERTY keyboard with backlit keys
  • Weight – 4.06 ounces
  • Dimensions – 4.45 x 2.28 x 0.39 inches
  • Color – Blue
  • Battery – removable Lithium Ion; up to 1000 mAH; up to 5 hrs talk , up to 14 days standby time
  • Operating Frequency – GSM/GPRS/EDGE = 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; 3G = UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900 MHz
  • Memory – Internal = 150 MB; Expandable = up to 32 GB via microSD card
  • Camera – 3 megapixel (2048 x 1536) still, MPEG4 video, 8x zoom
  • Worldphone capable – 190+ countries for phone, 130+ for data
  • Bluetooth 2.0, USB port, speakerphone
  • Ringtones: polyphonic, MIDI, MP3

Software and Apps

  • Mobile email – through Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, Hotmail, AT&T Mail, Gmail
  • Messaging – text; IM through AOL®, Windows Live, Yahoo Messenger; video share
  • Address Book – 1000 contacts
  • Mobile Browser
  • AT&T Mobile Music Player – supporting MP3, MIDI, iMelody, WAV, QCP, M4A, AAC, 3GP audio formats, streaming radio, music subscription services, MusicID and playlist creation
  • Multitasking – voice and data simultaneously
  • AT&T Navigator – with turn-by-turn directions
  • AT&T Social Net
  • Ypmobile
  • AT&T Social Net
  • Voice memo recording
  • PC suite for PC to phone file sync
  • Drawing Commander – access apps with the trace of a finger

The Hardware

First Impressions

The Laser is touted by Pantech as the “thinnest sliding full keyboard device ever offered by AT&T,” and at less than 1cm thin, it seems to live up to this billing.  It is very thin and I almost didn’t believe it had a slide-out QWERTY keyboard until I actually tried it for myself for the first time.

Front/Face

The Laser’s face has a simple, understated look.  First, the shape.  The Laser’s footprint is rectangular with flat sides, slightly rounded along the top and bottom, and with rounded edges and corners.  Shape and size feel good in the hand.  Framing the face is a very deep blue (so deep you’ll only be able to distinguish that it’s blue and not black while in the right light), glossy metallic bezel.   Three dedicated keys (hang-up, escape and answer) line the bottom of the face.

Sides

As mentioned above, the Laser is quite thin, especially for a having a full-keyboard slider.  Around the outer perimeter is an iPhone 4-esque matte silver band, textured with a checked pattern to provide some gripability.  Along the upper right side is a volume rocker key and along the upper left side is a device lock key.

Top

Along the top is a pop-out cover for the charge/headphone jack port.  Though I like the idea of built-in port protection, I’m not a big fan of these pop-off covers, because they are typically time-consuming to use, can be difficult to open and close, and they eventually break off and get lost anyway.  However, this is a micro-USB connection, which I think is more versatile than some type of proprietary connector (which the Pantech Link has).

Back

The back is a matte, slightly metallic blue with a textured pattern.  The camera, situated in an oval-shaped silver bezel, is located in the upper left corner of the back.  The speakerphone grille is located in the lower left of the back.

The battery was easy to access, just get a fingernail in the small groove and give a small push.  To access the microSD card and SIM card, the battery itself must be removed.  Not much of an issue with the SIM, since you probably won’t need to remove it much.  However, having to remove the battery before popping out the microSD might be an issue, depending on how often you access it.

Touchscreen

The touchscreen’s display is quite nice, with the colors and resolution being visually appealing.  The touchscreen’s performance, however, leaves a bit to be desired.  I am accustomed to the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen interface, which, after having sampled multiple devices, I have to say I still feel is best.  The Laser’s resistive touchscreen often requires some finessing to get it to do what you want.  Multiple pokes, hesitations and mis-selections were fairly common, as well as inadvertently launching an app while page-swiping.  A bit frustrating.  This in fact was one of the things that my daughter noticed and commented on right away.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Laser equipped with touch feedback vibration, I feature wish I had on my iPhone.  If I get sick of it, I can turn it off, but for now I kinda dig it.

Keyboard

The Laser’s keyboard is full QWERTY with four rows of keys.  The layout and spacing are fine, at least for my hands, but the keys, which are a soft rather than hard plastic, have a bit too much compliance for my linking.  I had to press on them harder than I’d have liked in order to get them to register.

Battery Life

The Laser’s battery has a decent life.  At full charge, it had no problems going several days in a combination of standby and active use.  I suspect that were I to utilize the data connection heavily, the battery life would decline sharply.

Camera

The Laser’s camera performance, while not quite up to par with many of the higher-end smartpones, is nonetheless not bad.  As shown below, it can produce still images up to 3 megapixel (2048 x 1536) and videos in MPEG4 format.

As is typical with phone cameras, no flash means interior images will usually only turn out when the subject is well-lit.  See the sample pic above of my desk at work.  Keep in mind that my work area has the prototypically harsh industrial overhead fluorescent lighting found in most corporate cubicle farms, which actually made it turn out quite well, though with some graininess.

On the other hand, exterior images turn out quite decent, as seen above.  One item of note here: the camera hesitates quite a bit when snapping a pic.  If you’re trying to snap something quickly, forget it.  Daisy, one of our pugs in the photo above, had been patiently staring at me for a photo, but in the time between me hitting the button and the camera actually snapping the pic, she’d turned her head to check out a “Squirrel!” (Doug the Dog reference for you Up fans out there).

Voice and Data Performance

Voice performance is on par with other AT&T phones—not terrible, but not outstanding.  Data performance was so-so, even on the 3G network.  It appeared slower than the iPhone 3GS.  Not sure if this was a function of the speed of the device, or the actual data connection.  The Laser’s data connection performance is acceptable.  Although it is capable of utilizing AT&T’s 3G data network, I found its performance on 3G to be a bit choppy.  It occasionally hesitated when launching web-based apps and frequently hung for several seconds when refreshing the screen on a web page.

Software

The Laser’s OS layout appears borrowed from style elements of iOS, but a bit more from Android with its swipe-left/right page feel and some limited capabilities of adding widgets and favorites.  The Laser has a suite of factory-provided software and has the capability of downloading additional apps via the mobile web.  Here is where I got really irriated with this phone.  For nearly every on-board app that I launched, the Laser would go out to the web, then come back with a message telling me that I would need to pay to use the app.  This was in addition to the data rate I was already paying.  I don’t really know if this is an AT&T thing, or a non-smartphone thing, but it seemed very “bait-and-switch”-ish, or at the least, very “nickel-and-dime”-ish.  If the phone already has an app installed (or appears installed), why then make the owner pay to use it?  That said, between the pre-installed apps and what is available through the AT&T AppCenter, you can find Laser-compatible versions of most, if not all, of today’s more popular apps.  Facebook, Twitter, a mobile mail client and web browser, and so forth are on-board, with more available in the AppCenter.

Final Thoughts

OK, so maybe you’re not into all the smartphone hoopla.  But maybe you are really into texting, and occasional mobile web use.  And yeah, you wouldn’t mind having some of the hardware and software features on those shmancy smartphones.  If this even kinda describes you, then have a look at the Pantech Laser.  No, it’s not a smartphone, but I’m not sure it’s actually trying to be one.  Its hardware (super thinness, form factor and slider keyboard) are all very nice and its software and performance are fair to good.  It’s a pretty decent step in the smartphone direction from its cousin, the Pantech Link.

 

Product Information

Price:$99.99 w/ 2yr AT&T contract and online discount ($249.99 no commitment price)
Manufacturer:PanTech
Retailer:AT&T
Pros:
  • + Very slim profile
Cons:
  • - Touchscreen is frustratingly inconsistent in responsiveness

Comments

  1. 1
    YzPlayr says:

    Do you think it’s possible to get the Laser to work with Exchange or Zimbra e-mail accounts? I don’t need all the bells and whistles of a full-blown smartphone – just the occasional web search, calls, texts and definitely e-mail.

  2. 2
    Sarah Jameison says:

    Do not get this phone. I had this phone since December 2010. Even though i lost it after 6 months let me tell you something, IT DOESN’T HOLD A CHARGE! and i had a 2 year contract. even though its an awesome phone i still had a lot of troubles. also at points it would just turn off and turn on. the sim card would randomly fall out and i would have to place it back in several times a day. i recommend you do not get this phone

  3. 3
    Ryan says:

    I also must say to not get the Pantech Laser. I am on my third one, they stop working very easily. The touchscreen has started having issues after a few months of use on the first two. I cancelled my insurance on the phone because when it breaks again, my next phone will not be a Pantech.

  4. 4
    Eileen says:

    How do I turn off my pan tech laser?

  5. 5
    warren porter says:

    I just recieved a laser three days ago as a replacement phone. In that short time the speaker broke and I could not be heard during phone calls. The customer service rep took a half hour at a ATT store before she agreed that yea it is broke and they needed to replace the phone again.
    This is the third phone to be replaced with this two year contract. Warren

  6. 6
    Debbie says:

    how to turn off mobile email alert signal on my pantech laser?

  7. 7
    connie piole says:

    I just noticed that the phone In the box is not the pantech lazer. I got it 8 months ago, at the at&t store on MCknight rd. pgh,pa. and I have been having problems the last 6months. the phone gets some what hot on both sides….. but the problem is both my ears are burnt…. on both ear lobs, and I cannot be on the phone more than 10mins, this is complete bullshit…… I diff want pantech to call me asap, to decuss this issue. I am in so much pain……

  8. 8
    Julie says:

    @connie you say the phone you bought isn’t a pan tech lazer, but you’re still complaining about it on a laser review. It sounds like to me that I would go complain to the store where you purchased it.

  9. 9
    Andy Jacobs says:

    @connie – In addition to Julie’s suggestion of contacting the store, I would also point out that The Gadgeteer is an independent gadget and technology blog. We are not affiliated with Pantech nor any of the companies whose products we may review. Although it would be somewhat gratifying for us to have these companies reading our reviews of their products, I suspect that in the vast majority of situations, this is not the case. Therefore, Julie’s suggestion of contacting the store where you purchased the phone is likely to be more effective than posting a complaint about Pantech here, as it is not likely to be seen by Pantech.

  10. 10
    Dewayne says:

    I have a Pantech Laser P9050. Is it possible to use audio player through my car or home audio system? If so, what adapters are needed?

  11. 11
    Michaela says:

    smh, i got this phone for new years and my contacts won’t view. it say’s sim loading? very upset. it always turns on and off on its own and on top of that the battery sucks! i hate this phonee!

  12. 12
    Brookyn says:

    I got this phone a couple months ago and I did some research before I got it, and read a lot of people saying it’s a great phone but afetr a couple months the screen stops working.. I ignored that.. But now here my screen stopped working and At&t won’t replace it because they say it is damanged but i really think their is something wrong. I loved the phone until now but beside the screen it’s a awesome phone just be careful if you buy it with the screen and make sure you have very good coverage on the phone

  13. 13
    Brian says:

    I purchased (the first) Pantech Laser for my daughter Christmas of 2010. So far we are on the 4th one for the same issue and now this one is also doing it. After a while apparently the inside of the mini USB/Power plug gets out-a-whack and the prevents the phone from charging. The first time it happened I got upset at my daughter and accused her of rough handling it and trying to use it while it was plugged in, (which she should be able to do anyway). However after she got the second one she was extremely careful and it had the same problem, then the third and now the fourth. I HIGHLY recommend staying far away from this phone. It is nothing but a cheaply made phone that really isn’t all that good even when it does work.

  14. 14
    kiana says:

    i liked this phone when I first got it but Ive had it for a year and a half and the back doesn’t stay on, the touch screen doesnt work at times, the battery can’t hold a charge anymore and the keys are hard to press.

  15. 15
    Ryuzaki says:

    Listen guys. dont buy. the touchscreen will drive you nuts. 5 months into this phone, and problems left and right. ugh. i hate att.

  16. 16
    lauren says:

    i recomand not to get this phone im on my 6th one in a year! the screen shut off turn colors and wont charge! I HATE IT!

  17. 17
    faren says:

    I had the laser for about a year. Unhappy with the battery life and phone. The touch screen was a pain in the neck and the Camera stunk. It also lacked a camera flash.The best thing about this phone was it’s durability. I dropped it so many times, spilled liquids on it, got sand stuck in it and it still worked. Otherwise, this phone really frustrated me and I would not get it again.

  18. 18
    youreyes says:

    I have the pantech laser p9050 for over a year. The two biggest problems I have had is reception/not always phone’s fault(this I know). Second I have to charge it every time I use it, even if it is only to text for a bit.. Was sent a picture and said a few things and now it needs to be charged from a full charge.. From what I have read here, feeling kind of blessed.. Thanks all for your input too.

    Still would like a charge and reception.. Oh and I don’t use the internet at all.. it would just eat that battery.. Just sayin is all…

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