Pantech Burst review:

Pantech Burst

The Burst's 5-megapixel camera took excellent photos.

Pantech's camera app involves icons for toggling between the front and back cameras and switching between camera and video modes. Tap the screen to pull up other options and the settings menus. The Burst will take photos in a range of resolutions from 5 megapixels down to VGA. It also has flash, three focus modes, and a slew of white-balance presets, filters, and shot modes. There's a fun setting called Instant that acts like a Polaroid you can annotate.

This photo of CNET senior copy editor Karyne Levy could be more detailed, but the color is true under the artificial glow.

Thanks to the Burst's Super AMOLED screen, photos on the phone look pretty good. The true test, however, is how they look full-size on a larger screen. It's no surprise that photo quality is crisper and more vibrant when photos are taken with abundant ambient light, but what did surprise me is how excellent they were when taken indoors, too, even beneath artificial light sources. The color reproduction and the level of detail were high for the camera's image size when taken during the day. Shutter speed was average.

Another indoor shot, this one taken from about 20 feet above.

The front-facing camera took decent photos as well, with decent color reproduction. Unsurprisingly, they're riddled with digital noise, so try not to look too closely.

An unattractive brownish cast in our studio shot was a disappointing outlier.

Video taken with the camera shows impressive 720p HD quality. Playback was smooth, volume capture was strong, and there was great detailing. As with the camera settings, you get white-balance and filter presets. You can also set a video timer to cap the duration of a recording--the scale goes from 10 seconds up to an hour. This is useful for limiting video size when sending an MMS, to name one scenario. In addition, you can record video through the front-facing camera.

I tested the quad-band Pantech Burst (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; LTE 700/1700) in San Francisco using AT&T's network. Call quality was good on my end and disappointing for callers. Most of the time I could hear soft, persistent white noise. Voices sounded a little muffled and a little hollow, but I didn't hear distortions or bleeps, and volume was good. On their end, callers said I sounded flat, distant, and a little unnatural. My voice was muffled, but loud enough. There wasn't any background noise, but I did sound slightly distorted at higher volumes. In one call, my companion said that the audio symptoms flared at first, but settled down somewhat as we kept talking.

Pantech Burst call quality sample Listen now:

Try not to count on the Burst's speakerphone and you'll be better off. I tested it at waist level, and had to raise the volume to hear. Voices sounded thin and jangly to my ears, a bad experience overall. On their end, callers heard more echo than usual, and said my words sounded garbled. Speakerphone distorted badly on high volume. One caller also mentioned that the phone transmitted a "Whoooooo" sound when I spoke.

While the calling experience may have struck a sour note, internal performance didn't. The 1.5GHz dual-core processor made navigation fast and seamless. Unfortunately, I'll have to get back to you on 4G LTE speeds for the Burst. The microSIM I have for review seems to be provisioned for 4G HSPA+, but not LTE. Pantech and AT&T are working on this, so stay tuned. However, if AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Note is any indication, LTE will be impressive.

The Burst has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours of talk time and 10 days standby on its 1,680mAh battery, a poorer result. We'll continue testing the battery drain in our own labs, and will update this review with our results.

I was impressed by the Pantech Burst's design, feature set, and price when I first learned of the phone at CES. When the highest-end phones sail in at $200 dollars or more, a $50 Android phones seems like it's too good to be true. If you value call quality and long battery life above all else, the fairy tale ends. Yet if you plan to make phone calls sparingly, you'll enjoy a beautiful screen of practical size, a very solid camera with nice color reproduction and impressive detail, and a dual-core processor that moves it all along.

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