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Pantech Swift - purple (AT&T) review:

Pantech Swift - purple (AT&T)

Given how entry-level the camera's specs are, the photo quality was understandably poor. Images were grainy, especially when we zoomed in on the pictures, and colors definitely didn't appear as rich as they did in real life. Edges were ill-defined and bled together. Overall, however, objects were easy to make out and in focus.

In this outdoor shot, the edges of the tables are blurred. Lynn La/CNET

The camera itself, however, is exceedingly slow. After we clicked the shutter, we had to wait a long time in order for the photo to turn out clearly. There would be heavy motion blur if we made any slight movement a few seconds after we clicked the button. Furthermore, changing the exposure meter was difficult because the touch screen is not very sensitive; it took several swipes of our finger to adjust it.

In this sunny indoor shot, images are pixelated, and text isn't crisp. Lynn La/CNET

Video recording is below par. The playback frame takes up only a small fraction of the total screen. It didn't pick up noise very well, either; voices blended together and were muddled, and audio would cut in and out for less than a second here and there. Moving objects were heavily pixelated and grainy, and colors appeared washed out in semi-bright light.

In our standard studio shot, you can see the graininess in the white wall. Josh Miller/CNET

We tested the dual-band (800, 1900) Pantech Swift in San Francisco using AT&T's services. Call quality wasn't so stellar. Voices were audible, but they sounded a bit muddled, and the maximum volume level was low. Callers said our voices sounded fine, however, and there were no extraneous noises or static on either end. Putting the call on speaker yielded similar results; voices from calls we made weren't very loud and our friends sounded stifled.

Listen now: Pantech Swift call quality sample

You shouldn't expect blazing data speeds on this handset. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 8 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took 13 seconds on average, and ESPN's loaded in 6 seconds. Keep in mind, however, that the mobile sites that loaded on the handset are not the regular versions you would see on other smartphones. A lot of coding is stripped away, so the site is modified to show only some of the graphics and images.

We dug the tabbed Web browsing (even though the entire pages reloaded whenever we switched tabs), but that's pretty much it. Watching YouTube wasn't very pleasant since videos came off as extremely pixelated and grainy. Sounds on max volume were extremely harsh and tinny, and, on average, it'd take about 15 seconds for YouTube's page to load.

The Swift is (under)powered by a sluggish 600MHz Qualcomm QSX 6270 processor that struggles to chug along. Opening apps like the camera takes seconds to execute, there is a delay when swiping through home screen pages, and transitioning back to the home screen took longer than it really should have.

During our battery drain tests, the device lasted 7.27 hours. Anecdotally, the handset did not have an impressive battery life. After we spent just a handful of hours browsing the Web, talking on the phone, and taking pictures, the battery would lose about a third to two-thirds of its charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.38W/kg.

The Pantech Swift is a phone we really wanted to like. It has the fresh-faced appeal of an archetypal messenger phone, but, sadly, is somewhat lacking in chops. We were certainly able to text reasonably quickly and mostly comfortably, and enjoyed the Swift's navigation. True, there was one large gaffe with the e-mail service, but we're guessing most future Swift owners won't attempt to be as verbose as we were. Since the Pantech Swift never promises to deliver data faster than 3G, we can't hold its data speeds against it; however, we did spend more time than we wanted to waiting for the processor do its thing. At $70, it seems pricey for its low specs when you compare it with highly subsidized smartphones, but it's fitting for its sub-$100 messaging cohort.

Though we definitely think it's the best Pantech device with a physical keyboard on AT&T, if you can make do without a QWERTY and would consider a monthly data plan, we prefer AT&T's Pantech Burst instead. The Burst runs on 4G LTE speeds, has a great AMOLED screen, and sells for a deeply discounted price that comes in $20 under the Swift. Of course, if you're trying to avoid a phone with a data plan, then the Swift, while it has some problems, isn't the worst of your limited options.

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