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Pantech Laser (AT&T) review: Pantech Laser (AT&T)

Pantech Laser (AT&T)

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
8 min read


Pantech Laser (AT&T)

The Good

The Pantech Laser is a slim and attractive slider phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, a 3-megapixel camera, 3G, GPS, and plenty of multimedia features.

The Bad

The resistive touch screen is not as smooth as we would like, photo quality was disappointing, and call quality was average.

The Bottom Line

The Pantech Laser's generous features and stylish good looks make it one of the better messaging phones in AT&T's lineup.

Just when we thought the skinny phone trend was over, Pantech introduces the Pantech Laser, which it claims is the thinnest slider messaging phone AT&T has to offer. While we doubt it will retain this title for long, we do appreciate the effort, as most slider messaging phones tend to be a bit bulky. But the Laser's svelte figure is not its only attribute; it also has a nice 3.1-inch AMOLED touch screen, a 3-megapixel camera, 3G, GPS, stereo Bluetooth, and a music player. The Pantech Laser is available for $99.99 with a new two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate from AT&T Wireless.

The Pantech Laser is indeed a very slim phone. Measuring 4.45 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick, the Laser almost looks like the Pantech Ease on a diet. Indeed, the Laser is thinner than most candy bar phones, much less slider handsets. Aside from rounded corners, the phone has straight sides and back that are clad in a textured surface so you don't have to worry about losing hold of the phone. The Laser is also relatively lightweight at 4.59 ounces.

The Pantech Laser is the thinnest sliding messaging phone we've seen.

We were pleasantly surprised by the stunning 3.1-inch AMOLED display on the Laser. It's wonderfully vibrant, colorful, and sharp, with 262,000 color support and a 480x800-pixel resolution. Graphics look great and though the default text is a little on the small side, we found it legible enough. You can change the wallpaper and clock format on the home screen, the background picture on the lock screen, the menu theme, the font style, and the backlight time.

The Laser has three different home screens: the main welcome screen, a screen for your favorite apps, and another for your favorite contacts. The screens transition from one to another with a three-dimensional swivel effect as you swipe from left to right or vice versa. You can populate the favorite apps and favorite contacts screens by selecting the "Add" button at the bottom. Along the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging in-box, and the main menu. The default menu interface is quite extensive, with up to three pages of applications.

We usually tend to prefer capacitive displays over resistive ones, so we were a little disappointed to find the Laser has the latter. With resistive displays, we need to apply a bit more pressure for our touch to register. We also found that transitioning between screens takes a little longer than expected. Still, you can go through a touch-calibration wizard to improve your accuracy, and the Laser offers vibration and sound feedback so we know when the phone has recognized our taps. We do think it's one of the more responsive resistive displays we've tried, but we warn you that it won't be as smooth as the touch screen on an iPhone or an Android smartphone.

The Laser's phone dialer is similar to other touch-screen phones--it has a large virtual keypad, with shortcuts to your recent call history, the contacts list, and a list of speed dial numbers. If you decide not to use the physical keyboard for entering text, you can opt for a virtual alphanumeric keypad or Graffiti-like handwriting recognition. Like on the Pantech Pursuit, the Laser also has a Drawing Commander application that lets you launch applications based on certain Graffiti-like finger doodles. For example, if you draw the letter "a," you can launch the Address Book, "m" to launch the music player, and so forth. You can pair any letter with any application in the Drawing Commander settings. We found the Drawing Commander feature to be rather gimmicky and not too helpful, but your mileage may vary.

Underneath the display are three physical keys: Send, Clear, and End/Power. A screen lock key sits on the left spine, a volume rocker is on the right, and the Micro-USB charging port is on top. The camera lens is on the back.

The Pantech Laser has a full sliding QWERTY keyboard.

Slide the display to the right and you'll reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard, which is quite the achievement on a thin phone like the Laser. When you slide it open, the display will shift to landscape mode, and you get a special home screen with eight predetermined shortcuts that lead to your text message conversations, AT&T Social Net, Mobile e-mail, the Web browser, the contacts list, Facebook, Twitter, and the main menu. The sliding mechanism feels solid yet smooth, and locks securely into place either open or closed.

As you might imagine on such a slim handset, the keyboard is on the flat and skinny side. But the keys are rubberized, separated, and raised enough above the surface that we could still easily type out text messages by feel. The keyboard is quite roomy overall, and we like the center position of the space bar. We also appreciate the dedicated .com key and that the number keys are highlighted in blue.

The Pantech Laser has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for six numbers, three e-mail addresses, a company name, a messenger user name, a Web address, three street addresses, a birth date, an anniversary date, and a note. As usual, you can assign a caller to a group, add a photo for caller ID, and pair him or her with a customized ringtone--you have eight ringtones and eight alert tones to choose from by default.

Like most phones, the Laser comes equipped with vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and tools like an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a sketch pad, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a stop watch, a timer, and the aforementioned Drawing Commander. It also has a voice memo recorder and voice command support. More advanced users will appreciate the presence of stereo Bluetooth, GPS with AT&T Navigator support (though it requires a $10-a-month subscription), and the att.net wireless Web browser. Based on Opera, the browser will render HTML pages, though it'll usually default to the mobile version of most Web sites. You can read more about the browser in our review of the Pantech Reveal.

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.


Pantech Laser (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7