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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Pantech Discover review:

Nearly flawless and only 50 bucks

The Discover's 12.6-megapixel camera has 4x zoom, continual autofocus, and an LED flash. Not every photo it's taken has blown me away, but I think that it will satisfy most people taking basic shots with it. I tested it indoors, and outdoors in bright sunlight. On the whole, I found that photos were colorful, mostly crisp, and perfectly useable.

Pantech Discover, Antuan
CNET Car Tech editor Antuan Goodwin could have come out more defined after I took his photo using autofocus. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

That said, I didn't think images had as much definition as I expected from a truly terrific 12.6-megapixel camera. For instance, at that resolution, I'd want to see far more strands of fur on a fuzzy blue desk toy, with more definition between the strands.

Pantech Discover, Keith Haring
San Francisco's iconic Keith Haring statue looked bright and colorful. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The camera seemed to struggle when I tried taking a close-up of the same fuzzy desk toy, choosing to select the flash, which then washed out the image. Luckily, in such a circumstance, changing the settings from auto to no-flash is pretty simple and usually solves the problem.

Pantech Discover, blue fuzzy
I shot this photo of a fuzzy blue desk toy indoors, but with natural ambient light. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Photos on the 2-megapixel front-facing camera are more than passable for what they are.

I took all my photos on automatic mode, but those who like to get in there and play with settings with find plenty. Beyond the usual choices to change resolution, white balance, metering, and other effects, there's also panorama, HDR mode, and best face, the latter of which algorithmically selects the most correct face taken from a group of photos. That is, open eyes and smiles. Just keep in mind that you can only use Best Face on the 8-megapixel resolution setting.

Pantech Discover, blue fuzzy in full resolution
here's the same toy, at full resolution. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

There's also a mode to take a photo so it looks like a cross between a Polaroid and Instagram. It'd be nice if you could control some options from the screen rather than from the menu, like cycling through flash modes.

In auto mode, the Discover turned on flash to shoot a close-up of this critter. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

You can take video up to a 1080p HD resolution, and you'll find several interesting effects if you like to play around with settings, including a time lapse feature. You can also turn voice recording off, which is an interesting feature that saves video editors from having to delete a voice track during postproduction.

Pantech Discover studio shot
Edges were fairly well-defined in this standard studio shot, but the Pantech Discover added a brown cast to the gray scene. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was smooth, crisp, and detailed when I shot indoors and outdoors with plenty of light. Thanks to the oversize surround sound speakers, audio played back very well.

The Discover has 16GB of internal memory, about 13GB of which is user-accessible. There's also the microSD card slot, which can take an additional 32GB in storage.

A 4G smartphone, the Discover took advantage of AT&T's LTE network performance. Using the diagnostic test,, I saw fast upload and download speeds in the double digits, with download highs in the 40Mbps range and uplink highs of 17Mbps., Quadrant results for Pantech Discover
Diagnostic results from and Quadrant show fast LTE and processor speeds, respectively. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

In real-world tests also produced rapid results, with Web sites and files downloading in a matter of seconds. Quadrant's diagnostic test for processor speed was also fast, though I should mention that Quadrant's comparison products aren't up-to-date.

Anecdotally, the 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 Plus processor felt nice and fast. It won't be as speedy as the quad-core version of the chipset, but videos will play back quickly and smoothly with fine detail, and games will run nicely. The Snapdragon S4 Plus is Qualcomm's second-fastest dual-core processor on the market, and was among the standard-bearers before its quad-core phone hit the scene.

Pantech Discover (AT&T)
Download CNET mobile app (3.8MB) 7 seconds
Load up CNET mobile app 4 seconds
CNET mobile site load 5 seconds
CNET desktop site load 6.5 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 29 seconds
Camera boot time 2.2 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 2.5 seconds, with auto-focus

I was fairly impressed with the Discover's battery life as well. The phone has a rated talk time of 10 hours, and 18 days of standby time. I was able to play back video in a continuous loop for about 11 hours running on the 2,100mAh battery.

Call quality

Call quality on the Pantech Discover was good in San Francisco when I tested in on AT&T's network (GSM: 850/900/1800/1900.) I called landlines, cell phones, and dialed into a remote conference meeting. My call with my usual testing partner sounded fuzzy and a little crackly -- enough so that I asked if he was on a landline or the portable phone. There wasn't any white noise when my caller fell silent. The fuzziness was noticeable and distracting enough that I asked about it, but it didn't impede the call's flow.

On his end, my tester sang only praises. He said I sounded extremely clear, with zero distortion and no noise. That's unusual, since my voice usually causes the audio to sound "hot" or distorted as it reaches higher frequencies. I also sounded strong and loud to my dedicated calling partner. "Whomever engineered the talk circuit did a really good job," he said. "This is a real phone." That's the highest praise I've ever heard from my tester.

Pantech Discover call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone was very good on both sides when I held the phone at hip level. Volume rose the right amount for me, and the audio sounded focused, clear, and strong. There wasn't any trace of an echo and only a tiny bit of tinniness to signal that the call was being pumped through speakers.

Volume did drop a tad on my call partner's end, but he also said that the speaker didn't enhance the room echo, which it usually does. With the Discover, Pantech has mastered many parts of the audio experience.

Should you buy the Pantech Discover?
If you're looking at high value for a good deal, you'd be silly to pass up the Discover. Although it's missing a few superpremium features, like Android 4.1, a quad-core processor, and a full-HD screen, there are very few flaws in the phone's performance, specs, and design. In fact, with its oversize speakers and ergonomic fit, the Discover does better than most. The Discover is a phone I would recommend to most AT&T customers; in fact, it's so solid, I'd buy it myself.

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