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Pantech Laser (AT&T) review:

Pantech Laser (AT&T)

The Laser is billed as a quick messaging device from AT&T, so you'll find strong messaging features here. It has text and multimedia messaging with support for threaded messages so you can easily view back-and-forth conversations. There's also instant messaging (Windows Live, Yahoo, and AIM), and mobile e-mail support. AT&T's Mobile Email relies on a Web-connected app, though, so it's not terribly convenient. You can configure it to send and receive e-mail from several popular providers like Yahoo and Gmail, and you can enter in your own POP/IMAP server settings as well.

Aside from the core messaging features, the Laser offers access to popular social networks via dedicated apps like Facebook and Twitter. You can also use AT&T Social Net, an app that acts as a hub for those networks in addition to popular news feeds. Other AT&T services that come with the phone are AT&T Address Book, which lets you store your contacts in the cloud, and AT&T Online Locker, where you can store media like photos and videos on AT&T's servers as well. From there, you can transfer the photos to online sharing sites like Photobucket if you like.

The Laser's 3G support gives it access to AT&T's broadband services like Mobile Video, AT&T's video streaming service, and AT&T Music. Unlike the old AT&T Mobile Music app that relied on third-party services, AT&T Music is wholly operated by AT&T. This means you purchase and download songs directly from the carrier, costing around $1.29 each. You also get access to more than 40 commercial-free genre radio stations, unlimited personal radio stations, and song and lyric match services. However, the app itself costs $4.99 a month to run, and we don't like that the music player is connected to the Web. The player itself is pretty straightforward--you get the usual playlist creation features, repeat and shuffle mode, and it supports MP3, AAC, and WMA file formats.

The Pantech Laser has a 3-megapixel camera on the back.

We're happy to see a 3-megapixel camera on the Pantech Laser. You can take pictures in five resolutions, four color effects, five white balance presets, and three quality settings. Other camera settings include a self-timer, a shutter and timer sound toggle, and six special shot effects that include Smile detection, Self-portrait mode, Wink detection, Panorama mode, and six different "face effects" that alter the look of the subject's face (examples include Outfocus, Radialblur, and Mosaic). There's also a brightness setting and up to 8x zoom.

The Pantech Laser takes photos that look a little washed out.

Photo quality wasn't very good. Images weren't as sharp as we would like, and the colors seemed dim and washed out. The Laser also has a video camcorder that can record in three resolutions (176x144, 320x240, and 640x480) in either short MMS length or longer storage length. You can also stream the video via AT&T's Video Share service to another Video Share-compatible phone.

The Pantech Laser comes with a few apps and games, like Mobile Banking, MobiTV, MobiVJ, AT&T Radio, My-Cast Weather, PicDial, Star Tweets, Block Breaker, Collapse, Pac-Man Challenge, Tetris, and World Series of Poker. You can get more of them via AT&T AppCenter.

We tested the Pantech Laser in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. Call quality was average on the whole. We could hear our callers for the most part, but their voice quality was marred by hiss and static.

On their end, callers reported quite a bit of interference too. They also said our voice sounded overly processed and not very natural. Speakerphone calls did not fare much better, but at least we didn't get the echo effect that is common with most speakerphones. Audio quality is best heard via a headset, as the single tinny speaker didn't do justice to our songs.

3G coverage was rather choppy in our area in San Francisco. Still, when we did get it, the speeds were impressive. We loaded the CNET mobile page in just 8 seconds, and the BBC mobile page loaded in around 11 seconds. We downloaded a 1.9MB song in 34 seconds.

The Pantech Laser has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 14 days standby time. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 6 hours and 18 minutes. According to the FCC, the Pantech Laser has a digital SAR of 0.74 watt per kilogram.

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