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Pantech PN-820 (Verizon Wireless) review: Pantech PN-820 (Verizon Wireless)

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The Good The Verizon Wireless PN-820 brings the capabilities of a Windows Mobile smart phone into a practical clamshell design. It also offers integrated Bluetooth, EV-DO support, and a 1.3-megapixel camera.

The Bad The PN-820 doesn't support Verizon's V Cast services and lacks integrated Wi-Fi. Call quality was also mixed and the smart phone doesn't come preloaded with a document viewer like the Cingular 3125.

The Bottom Line Though not the flashiest handset on the market, the Verizon Wireless PN-820 offers mobile professionals a decent-performing Windows Mobile smart phone in a functional flip phone design.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Verizon Wireless PN-820

Smart phones have come a long way in design. Nowadays, they come in all shapes and sizes--from the sleek to the small--and not just the bricklike variety. Yet there's one form factor that the phone manufacturers have yet to conquer--flip phones. The Cingular 3125 was a good effort, but its Trekkie look isn't for everyone. Enter the Verizon Wireless PN-820. It's certainly not sexy--some might call it dull even--but the design is practical and more important, functional. Plus, the Windows Mobile 5 smart phone packs in Bluetooth, EV-DO support, and good performance. Of course, we have our share of complaints. For example, we wish the PN-820 supported Verizon's V Cast services, and call quality was somewhat mixed. Also, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard doesn't make the device ideal for e-mail fanatics and power users. That said, for mobile professionals who want to be able to check their messages on the go, the PN-820 is a good choice. The Verizon Wireless PN-820 is available now for a reasonable $149.99 with a two-year contract.

Sexy, flashy, cutting-edge--these are all words we wouldn't use to describe the design of the Verizon Wireless PN-820, but we don't think this a bad thing. Unlike the futuristic Cingular 3125, which I still find completely odd-looking, the PN-820 looks like a run-of-the-mill flip phone. Yes, the black-and-silver color scheme is basic, but it's completely appropriate for the intended audience of mobile professionals. And sure, at 3.8x2.0x0.7 inches and 3.9 ounces, the PN-820 is on the bigger side (especially with its protruding external antenna) compared to today's lot of skinny cell phones; however, the larger size allows the PN-820 to have a spacious internal screen and keypad, which come in handy for the smart phone capabilities. In addition, it feels solid in the hand and comfortable to hold while on a phone call.

The Verizon Wireless PN-820 comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera and flash.
On the front cover, there is a 1.07-inch diagonal external color screen that shows all the basic information, such as the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). You can also use it as a viewfinder for self-portraits, as the camera lens and flash are located above the display. To activate the camera, there is a quick-launch button on the right side of the PN-820 as well as a voice recorder button. Meanwhile, the left spine holds a miniSD card slot and a volume rocker. Just to nitpick, we wish the volume controls were higher up on the phone, since such a placement would make it easier to adjust the volume while on a call. As it is, we have to slide our thumb down quite a bit to access those buttons, but again, this is really a minor issue.

For storing photos and other multimedia files, invest in a miniSD card.
The inside of the Verizon Wireless PN-820 holds a vibrant 2.2-inch diagonal, 65,536-color screen with a 320x240 pixel resolution. Text and images look sharp, but as with all Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone devices, the PN-820 does not have a touch screen. Fortunately, there is a set of large and easy-to-use navigation controls below the display to operate the handset. You get two soft keys, a shortcut to the Home screen, Talk and End keys, a clear button, and a four-way toggle with a center OK button. The layout is nice and spacious, so most users shouldn't have any problems with pressing the wrong button. The numeric dial pad also features ample-sized keys and adequate spacing for easy dialing and text messaging. Clearly, the lack of a full QWERTY keyboard doesn't make the Verizon Wireless PN-820 a full-on e-mail machine, which means the PN-820 is best-suited for those who just want the ability to check their messages and perform mobile triage when absolutely necessary. If you need full e-mail capabilities, take a look at devices like the Samsung BlackJack and T-Mobile Dash instead.

Finally, rounding out the PN-820's design elements, is a 2.5mm headset jack on top of the phone and a power-USB connector port on the bottom. Verizon packages the PN-820 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, desktop software, and reference material.

The Verizon Wireless PN-820's feature set is on par with a lot of today's Windows Mobile smart phones, and we're glad to see the carrier has lightened up on some of its Bluetooth restrictions. First, the PN-820 runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition rather than the latest Windows Mobile 6. As a result, you don't get the new Microsoft Office Mobile suite with native support for viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

The PN-820 does synchronize with Microsoft Outlook, with its always-on e-mail delivery via Verizon Wireless Sync. In addition, there is an e-mail attachment viewer, but unfortunately, the PN-820 doesn't come preinstalled with the ClearVue Suite like the Cingular 3125. Aside from Outlook, you can configure the PN-820 to receive e-mails from your personal accounts (POP3 or IMAP4). As we noted in the Design section, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard makes the PN-820 better for viewing e-mails rather than sending them. Other messaging options include text, multimedia, and instant messaging.

As a Windows Mobile smart phone, you also get Internet Explorer Mobile and Windows Media Player 10 Mobile so you can enjoy your favorite MP3, WMA, AAC, and AMR-NB music files and MPEG-4, WMV, AVI, and H.263 videos. The phone has 128MB RAM and 64MB of flash memory with about 48MB of user-accessible storage and 15MB for running programs. For larger multimedia files, we suggest storing them on a miniSD card. The Verizon Wireless PN-820 includes other PIM tools, such as a calendar, a task manager, a calculator, a download agent, and a voice recorder.

Wireless options on the smart phone include integrated Bluetooth 1.2 and EV-DO support. One of our biggest gripes about Verizon has been its annoying habit of crippling the Bluetooth capabilities on its phones, but we're glad to see they've loosened their grip with the PN-820. The smart phone supports a number of profiles, including wireless headsets, hands-free kits, OBEX, A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets, and dial-up networking. The latter allows you to use the PN-820 as a tethered modem (via a USB cable) for your laptop, and with the EV-DO speeds, you'll be able to connect and browse the Web using the included USB cable, but you will need to sign up for Verizon Wireless's BroadbandAccess Connect service in order to do so. If you already have an unlimited data plan with qualifying voice plan, you can get unlimited BroadbandAccess Connect for $15 a month, otherwise, it will cost $30 a month.

Now, while the PN-920 lacks integrated Wi-Fi, it does work on the carrier's EV-DO network, you'll be able to connect and browse the Web at almost broadband-like speeds. Theoretically, data speeds can reach up to 2Mbps, but you'll probably experience more in the 400Kbps to 700Kbps range. We're all about the 3G capabilities, but we're completely disappointed that you can't take full advantage of them, since you can't access any of Verizon's V Cast services.

As far as voice features, the Verizon Wireless PN-820's phone book is limited only by the available memory. Each entry can hold up to 12 numbers, several e-mail addresses and IM handles, street addresses, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a contact a group ID, a photo, or one of 14 ringtones. Other phone features include speed dialing, voice dialing, and a speakerphone.

Photo quality was decent, but you need to have a steady hand to get a good shot.
Finally, the PN-820 comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities, as well as a flash, self timer, and digital zoom. For still images, you get a number of options for adjusting brightness, white balance, and color effects in addition to various resolutions and quality settings. As usual, editing options are more limited when you switch to video mode, but you can choose from three quality settings. Picture quality was decent. Lines were a little blurred, but we were still able to make out the richness of the image and colors. We should note that you really have to hold your hand steady to get a decent shot.

We tested the dual-mode Verizon Wireless PN-820 in San Francisco, and call quality was mixed. Our callers said we sounded loud and clear, but we had a hard time hearing them (their voices were muffled). Activating the speakerphone returned similar results. Our friends said audio quality diminished just slightly, but we had to constantly ask them to repeat themselves as the conversation sounded garbled. On the bright side, we had no problem pairing the PN-820 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

General performance was decent. There were times where there was a slight lag when launching apps such as the camera, but overall we enjoyed snappy response. The Web browsing experience was also good thanks to the EV-DO support, as pages loaded fairly quickly. Multimedia performance was what we expected from a smart phone, which is to say that listening to music was bearable through the included earbuds, but songs sounded tinny and weak through the phone's speakers. Video was surprisingly watchable on the PN-820 as the picture was clear and smooth and audio matched up with the video, but we couldn't imagine watching more than a couple minutes of footage on the small screen.

The Verizon Wireless PN-820 is rated for 3.3 hours of talk time and up to 6 days of standby time. In our tests, we were able to get 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the PN-820 has a digital SAR rating of 1.23 watts per kilogram.

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