Pantech is known for making relatively basic feature phones. Some have touch screens, like the Pantech Laser, and some don't, like the Pantech Jest. However, almost all of them have keypads or full keyboards--we had yet to see a touch-screen-only handset from Pantech. That is, until the Pantech Crux came along. The Crux is a slim slab of a phone, with external media keys, a unique screen-lock sliding mechanism, three home screens, a 3-megapixel camera, EV-DO Rev. 0, preinstalled social networking apps, and more. Though it wasn't as responsive as we would like, the Crux does work as a decent multimedia handset for those who aren't quite ready for a smartphone. The Pantech Crux is available for $49.99 after a two-year service agreement with Verizon Wireless.
Much like the Laser, the Pantech Crux is slim and slender at 4.3 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick. The Crux has slightly rounded corners and a textured back for a more comfortable grip. While the back is matte black, the rest of the phone is clad in a glossy finish. The front surface is so shiny you can use it as a handheld mirror.
An unusual aspect of the Crux's design is that the entire front display actually slides vertically--you slide it down to activate the screen lock and slide it up to turn it off. The sliding mechanism feels solid and works as intended, and we have to admit it's a far easier way to unlock a phone than to press a couple of buttons.
Underneath that reflective surface is the 3-inch touch-screen display. It supports 262,000 colors and a 240x400-pixel resolution which results in a very sharp-looking screen. Graphics are vibrant, and text looks clean and legible. You can adjust the menu layout, the backlight timer, the brightness, the wallpaper, the display theme, the font type, the dial font size, the menu font size, and the clock format.
The Crux has three different home screens--one for the main menu, one for social-networking apps, and one for your favorite media files. The social-networking screen is made of two "layers" and you can swipe vertically to flip between the two. One layer is just for Gmail, a news feed, Google Talk, and YouTube, while the other layer is for Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and Verizon's own Social Beat app that houses all those social networks in one interface. You can't add or remove apps from this screen, but you can customize the favorite media screen with videos, images, or music files.
You can flip between these screens either by swiping the display horizontally or by pressing the home button. By default, the home button leads to the main menu page. If you press it another time, you'll be presented with a three-dimensional graphic that you can rotate to get to the desired home screen. We thought the graphic was a bit gimmicky and would've preferred an easier way to switch screens. We also thought that switching between the different screens felt a little sluggish.
The Crux has a capacitive touch display, so we didn't need to apply as much pressure as with a resistive display for it to respond. Unfortunately, we had some issues with the touch sensitivity. For example, we sometimes launched an application when we wanted to swipe the screen. You can toggle the vibration feedback and adjust the vibration level, but not the sensitivity. As we mentioned above, we felt the phone was a little sluggish when switching screens, and when launching apps as well.
At the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to voice mail, recent call history, the phone dialer, and the contacts list. The phone dialer app has a roomy virtual number keypad, with a generous number input area. As for text input, you can either type with the alphanumeric keypad via T9 or you can rotate the phone sideways to activate the landscape QWERTY keyboard. The virtual QWERTY keyboard is roomy enough, but we still found it a bit difficult to type with speed due to the finicky touch screen. We had to slow ourselves down to make sure we weren't making mistakes. The Crux does have automatic word completion, which helped make typing a bit easier.
Underneath the display is the aforementioned touch-sensitive home button. The volume rocker and charger jack are on the left spine, while the right spine is home to the 3.5mm headset jack, microSD card slot, power key, voice command key, and camera key. On top of the phone are three external media keys. They are substantially raised above the surface with an angle and shape that remind us of old-school Walkman buttons. On the back are the camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and external speaker.
The Pantech Crux has a 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an IM username, two street addresses, a job title, a company name, a birthday, and notes. You can also associate each contact with speed-dial numbers, caller groups, a picture for caller ID, and one of 28 ringtones or alarm sounds. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice commands and dialing, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, a unit converter, and a notepad.
The Crux also has text and multimedia messaging with threaded conversations, mobile IM (Windows Live messenger, AIM, and Yahoo), mobile Web mail, and mobile e-mail. Mobile Web mail simply redirects you to a browser window with links to popular Web mail services; mobile e-mail actually lets you send and receive e-mail directly to a dedicated app. You can access accounts from Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL Mail, or use your own POP3 account. Bear in mind that the mobile e-mail app costs $5 unless you signed up for a monthly data package that already includes monthly e-mail charges.
Other features of the Crux include USB mass storage, Bluetooth with A2DP streaming, GPS with support for VZ Navigator, Bing search, and a full HTML Web browser. The browser is the same one that is on other feature phones on Verizon Wireless, like the LG Octane for example. There's a URL field plus a search bar, and you can add and view favorites, view browser history, send a URL via e-mail, zoom in and out of page views, and more. Our complaint about the browser echoes the one we have about the phone--the touch screen sensitivity is such that we're constantly tapping on links we didn't mean to tap. Opening and closing windows also felt too slow and sluggish for our tastes.
The Crux supports EV-DO Rev. 0, and with that comes support for Verizon's broadband services like V Cast Video, Verizon's streaming video service, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, Verizon's mobile music store. You can purchase and download songs over the air for $1.99, and if you have a Rhapsody subscription, you can transfer subscribed tracks over USB if you have the V Cast Music with Rhapsody app on your PC. The phone accepts up to 32GB removable memory for additional storage.
The music player on the Crux has a simple interface that is separate from V Cast, and it launches quickly without a long loading time. Songs are categorized by artist, genre, and album and you can set the phone to Airplane Mode when you're in the air and Music Only Mode when you want the phone to act solely as a music player. Settings include the usual repeat and shuffle modes, plus a few special sound effects that include SRS WOW HD, which promises wide stereo sound, and SRS CS Headphones, which promises a surround-sound experience via headphones.
The Crux has a 3-megapixel camera with a slew of settings. You can take pictures in six different resolutions, five white balance presets plus an auto mode, and four color effects. Other camera features include a self-timer, multishot, brightness, and three shutter sounds plus a silent mode. There's also Smile shot, which automatically takes a photo when someone smiles, and you can tag people's faces with Face tag and Face filter. The camcorder settings are similar, except for video-specific ones such as being able to record in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 176x144), three quality settings, and in either a longer storage mode or a shorter MMS mode.
Picture quality was decent for a 3-megapixel camera, but it wasn't anything spectacular. Images looked sharp enough, but we wished the colors were more vibrant.
Verizon is pushing the Crux as a youth-friendly phone, which explains the heavy emphasis on social networking. It comes packaged with SocialBeat, Verizon's app that acts as a hub for all the popular social networks--Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook--plus you can configure it to receive news updates and e-mail. The Crux doesn't come with any apps, but it does come with a Millionaire 2010 game. You can get more apps, games, wallpaper, and ringtones via the Verizon store.
We tested the Pantech Crux in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was mixed. On our end, we heard our callers well for the most part, but we did encounter some static and echo. We also thought their voices sounded a little digitized and not as natural as we would like.
Similarly, callers reported that our voice sounded overly processed. They also reported a bit of noise in the background. However, the Crux has a "Noise Free" button that you can tap to help remove the extra sound. We tried this out, and indeed, callers could no longer hear any background sound during "Noise Free" mode.
When we turned on the speakerphone, they said our voice sounded very soft at first, and as the conversation went along, our voice became increasingly distorted. Callers even said our voice would cut out occasionally. On the flip side, we thought our callers sounded loud and clear on the phone's speakers.
Speaking of audio quality, we were pleasantly surprised by the sound of the music player. The bass was a little weak, but the overall quality was quite good. The SRS technology did its job in enhancing the sound quality of both the speakers and the headphones. We definitely appreciate that we could use both a 3.5mm headset jack and stereo Bluetooth to listen to music. We also like the external media keys that let us control the music without having to unlock the phone.
We were pleased with the speeds of Verizon's EV-DO Rev. 0. We loaded the CNET mobile page in just 8 seconds and downloading a 1.9MB song took around 49 seconds. We had no problems loading YouTube videos, though the quality was rather choppy.
The Pantech Crux has a rated battery life of 5.2 hours talk time and 13.5 days. Our tests reveal a talk time of 5 hours and 24 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.25 watts per kilogram.