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Pantech is no stranger to the sliding QWERTY phone, from the dual-slider Helio Ocean to the recent single-slider Pantech Reveal. But with its latest messaging handset, Pantech went for a flip shape similar to that of the LG enV3. It has an external keypad, dual displays, and a full QWERTY keyboard. Unlike the enV3, though, the Impact has a very impressive OLED touch-sensitive exterior. Aside from its unique style, the Impact has a good feature set that includes 3G, GPS, and an HTML mobile browser based on Opera. The Pantech Impact is available for $99.99, after a mail-in rebate and a two-year agreement, from AT&T Wireless.
Though the Pantech Impact has a flip shape much like the LG enV3, it has a style all its own. Measuring 4.19 inches long by 2.04 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Impact is much thicker and rounder. It weighs 4.49 ounces, so it's quite a bit heavier, as well. The Impact's patterned border and a silver chrome edge gives the phone a jewel-like look, especially when the OLED display is brought to life. When left idle, the front of the phone goes dark, leaving only a shiny black surface that's prone to fingerprint smudges.
When awakened however, it looks quite stunning. The tiny 1.5-inch external display lights up, showing the signal strength, battery life, and date and time information. Even though it is monochrome, the white and gray text stands out and is positively luminous against the black background. The same goes for the touch-sensitive keypad, which glows pink or blue depending on the color of the phone.
You only have limited access to the menu from the external display. You can get to your address book, the messaging menu, the recent calls list, and the music player, and, of course, you can make and receive calls, but that's about it. There's no camera viewfinder or photo caller ID, because of the monochrome display.
Even though the keys are completely flat, they do have haptic feedback when pressed. You can adjust the sensitivity level and vibration strength of the keys. The navigation controls consist of two soft keys, an up-and-down toggle, the Talk and End keys, and the alphanumeric keypad. In standby mode, the up arrow is a shortcut to a new text message, while the down arrow is a shortcut to the address book. We found the keys to be quite responsive, but we did find the keypad a bit too cramped for our taste. You can type out text messages with the keypad if you wish, but we much prefer using the QWERTY keyboard for that.
The phone flips open from the right to reveal the aforementioned keyboard and a 2.6-inch internal display. It supports 262,000 colors and 240x400 pixels, which results in sharp and colorful graphics. You can adjust the menu style, the color theme, the style and size of the font, the brightness, the backlight timer, and the fade transition effect between the home screen and the menu. On either side of the display are stereo speakers hidden beneath a mirrored surface.
Underneath the display are a camera button, two soft keys, the Talk button, a middle Select key, and the End/Power button. The Select key also doubles as a Web browser shortcut on standby. On the far right of the keyboard is a circular toggle with a middle OK key. In standby mode, the toggle acts as shortcuts to a new text message, instant messaging, the address book, and mobile e-mail.
The QWERTY keyboard is raised above the surface and the keys are well-spaced, but it does feel a little crowded when typing. It also feels off-balance because the circular toggle on the right aligns the keyboard to the left. We did like the dedicated instant-messaging key, the .com key, and the big middle space bar.
On top of the phone is the headset/charger jack; the microSD card slot is on the bottom; and on the right spine are the keypad hold key and the volume rocker. On the back is the camera lens. We found it a little difficult to take photos due to the position of the lens; our fingers kept covering it up while trying to take a picture. Also, you can only take pictures with the phone open.
The Pantech Impact has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, a Web URL, and a memo. You can categorize your contacts into caller groups, pair a photo for caller ID (though bear in mind the external display won't show it), one of eight polyphonic ringtones, or one of eight alert tones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a voice memo recorder, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a stop watch, and a timer. There's also a speakerphone, which automatically turns on when you flip open the phone while on a call.
If you're a bit more tech savvy, you'll appreciate the GPS with AT&T Navigator's turn-by-turn directions, stereo Bluetooth, and an array of messaging options. You get text and multimedia messaging, plus instant messaging (AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, and Windows Live), and mobile e-mail with support for a variety of Web e-mail services like Gmail and Yahoo, plus any provider with POP and IMAP access.
A particularly noteworthy feature is the HTML Web browser, which is based on Opera. You get three welcome screens (there's a main one as well as two just for Local and Popular links), the capability to view the mobile or full desktop version of a Web page, a full-screen view, and the capability to zoom in and out of Web pages easily with the volume rocker. You can even log on to your AT&T account and send bookmarks to your phone via the "Send to Mobile" feature. However, you do need to keep going back to a dedicated screen just to enter a URL, and you only get two zoom settings. You can read our review of the Pantech Reveal to get a more detailed description of the browser.
Since the Impact has 3G support, it also has access to AT&T's array of broadband services like AT&T Cellular Video, AT&T Video Share, and AT&T Mobile Music. Included with the Mobile Music application is a song ID service, XM Radio Mobile, and a music fan forum. There's also a store from which you can purchase and download songs from Napster and eMusic directly to the phone. Each song is $1.99, and that price includes a download to the PC.
The music player on the Impact is nothing we haven't seen before. The Interface is very simple and the songs are arranged by artists, albums, and genres. Settings include repeat and shuffle, and you can create and edit your own playlists. The player interface has the album art in the middle and the player controls along the bottom. The Impact supports MP3, AAC, eAAC+, AMR, and MIDI files. There's an internal memory of 80MB, but the Impact is capable of storing up to 32GB of additional storage in the form of a microSD card.
The 2.0-megapixel camera can take pictures in five resolutions (1600x1200, 1,280x1024, 1024x768, 640x480, 320x240), and three quality settings. Other settings include a self-timer, four white balance presets, four color effects, and options for a shutter sound and a timer sound. Photo quality was mediocre. Even though pictures looked quite sharp, the colors looked dull and overcast. You get a video camera, which can record in three resolutions (176x144 (MMS), 176x144, and 320x240). There's also the aforementioned Video Share mode, which you can use to send one-way live video to anyone with a compatible phone.
You can personalize the Impact with wallpaper, graphics, and alert tones. You can use your own pictures or sounds, or you can download more from AT&T's MediaMall store. The Impact also comes with a few games and applications, like MobiTV, My-Cast Weather, WikiMobile, Mobile Banking, AT&T Social Net, Loopt, Tetris, Uno, Ms. Pac-Man, and Diner Dash 2. You can get more of those from AT&T's AppStore.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900Mhz) Pantech Impact in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. Call quality was quite good on the whole. On our end, we heard our callers very clearly without any distortion. There was a bit of background noise, but it wasn't distracting. Voice quality was good and natural.
On their end, callers reported similarly good call quality. They did report some background noise especially when we were outside, but it was minimal. They said our voice sounded natural and volume was loud enough. Speakerphone calls were good, as well, though callers said our voice did have a bit more echo in that mode.
The stereo speakers on the Impact sounded better than the mono speakers found on most phones, but the sound was still rather tinny. We definitely would use a headset for better audio quality.
We were pleased with the 3G speeds on the Impact. We managed to load a full HTML Web page like CNET's home page in around 20 seconds, and we downloaded a 1.5MB song in just 40 seconds. We streamed video from AT&T's Cellular Video with little buffering time. Video quality did seem a bit pixelated.
The Pantech Impact has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 14 days standby time. We had a rather disappointing talk time of 3 hours and 40 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 0.72 watt per kilogram.