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PCD Chaser (Virgin Mobile) review:

PCD Chaser (Virgin Mobile)

Camera and video
The phone's 3-megapixel camera comes with a few editing features including a 4x digital zoom, geotagging, and five white balances. There are also two focus modes, five photo sizes, three photo qualities, four color effects, and an exposure range from -2 to +2.

The video recorder has similar offerings, such as the same color effects and white balances. There is no zooming or autofocus, but there are five different shooting modes (high, low, MMS for sending videos, YouTube mode for posting videos, and custom). Custom lets you pick from five video quality options, your choice of video and audio encoders, and three duration modes (ranging from 30 minutes to 30 seconds) for each video you shoot.

Photo quality was poor. Shutter speed was slow, and the time it took to save each photo after it was taken was a drag. Although I understand that, with so few megapixels, indoor photos can look grainy and incredibly dull (and believe me, they were), pictures taken outdoors hardly fared any better. Colors were dull and bled together, and the edges of objects were ill-defined. Even with lots of light and a steady hand, photos came out more like blotchy oil paintings.

PCD Chaser (indoor)
In this indoor shot, images are grainy and colors are muted. Josh Miller/CNET
PCD Chaser (outdoor)
Despite ample lighting, this picture resembles an oil painting. Josh Miller/CNET
PCD Chaser (SSI)
In our standard studio shot, a blue hue overlays the corners of the photo. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was also subpar. Feedback lagged behind my moving the camera. Objects were blurry and pixelated, even if I panned the camera as slowly as I could. Lighting was all over the place since it took a while for white balance to adjust. Audio, even with sounds near the device, also didn't pick up well and could hardly be heard in the recording.

I tested the PCD Chaser (CDMA 1900) in San Francisco. Call quality was disappointing. While none of my calls dropped and I could hear my friend clearly for the most part, there was a low but obvious buzzing sound throughout our entire call. Max volume on both the in-ear and output speakers could have been higher. In addition, audio clipped in and out when in speaker mode, and voices were tinny and harsh. My friend reported that he could hear me fine, but he too heard the static noise in the background.

Listen now: PCD Chaser call quality sample

The device runs on Sprint's 3G EV-DO technology and in my tests its data speed times were glacial. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 17 seconds, while loading our full site took a minute and 28 seconds. The New York Times' full site took less time than average, clocking in at 32 seconds, and its mobile site took 13 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 23 seconds on average, and its desktop site took 30 seconds. The 18.34MB game Fruit Ninja took a whopping 14 minutes and 28 seconds to download and install. Ookla's Speedtest showed me an average of 0.23Mbps down and 0.77Mbps up.

Although I haven't finished our battery drain tests, battery life was abysmal. The reserves would drain quickly even when the handset was on standby, and after an hour of charging, the battery reserve would have only increased about 10 percent. I had to constantly keep the Chaser tethered to its charger just to use it throughout the day. According to FCC radiation tests, the device has a digital SAR rating 1.0W/kg.

I'm a pretty forgiving person. I can look past the PCD Chaser's outdated Android version and even its low specs because not everyone wants a high-end device. However, I still wouldn't recommend the phone due to its mediocre call performance, slow CPU, and terrible battery life. Instead, consider other Virgin Mobile phones that perform better and have slightly more impressive specs, like the LG Optimus Elite or the Kyocera Rise (if you don't mind a sliding keyboard). Although they'll be a few dollars more, their solid performances will definitely make them more satisfying than the Chaser.

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