Pantech is perhaps most well known for the dual-slider handset design it pioneered with the Helio Ocean, which slides vertically to reveal a number keypad, and sideways to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. Pantech has subsequently followed the Ocean with the Helio Ocean 2, the Pantech Duo, the Pantech Matrix Pro, and the Pantech Matrix, all of which have the same dual-slider form factor.
Now Pantech has announced yet another messaging phone, but it has a completely different design. In fact, it's a style we haven't seen before. It looks like a normal candy bar phone from the front, but if you slide it up vertically, you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard underneath the number keypad. Most slider messaging phones have the QWERTY keyboard on the side instead, so this is definitely a different take on it. Aside from that, the Reveal is one of the first AT&T phones to offer a new att.net mobile browser that is based on the Opera browser. It also has a 1.3-megapixel camera, GPS, 3G, and a music player. The Reveal costs $79 with a two-year service agreement with AT&T.
The Pantech Reveal has quite a short and squat appearance due to its wide girth. Measuring 3.9 inches long by 2.36 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick and weighing 4.66 ounces, the Reveal has curved corners all around and a solid construction that feels good in the hand. The back is clad in a smooth faux steel finish, which we quite like. The slider mechanism feels sturdy and requires a bit of pressure to engage; it definitely does not feel loose or flimsy.
On the face of it is a 2.2-inch display with 260,000 colors and 320x240 pixels. It's bright, colorful, and images and text look sharp. It even looks good under direct sunlight. You can adjust the brightness, the backlight timer, the font style, the color theme, the menu type, and customize the home screen with different clock types plus a greeting text.
Underneath the display are the navigation keys, which consist of two soft keys and a circular toggle with a middle OK key. Below that is the number keypad, which is flanked by the messaging menu shortcut key and the Talk key on the left and the Clear key and End/Power key on the right. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to a new text message, instant messaging, the contacts list, and mobile e-mail. The middle OK key is also a shortcut to the browser and the Clear key doubles as a calendar shortcut key. The keypad is very roomy overall, and we love that the soft keys and the number keys are curved upward to form raised bumps. It's very easy to dial by feel. You can also type out text messages with the number keypad when the phone is closed.
But if you want to make it easier on yourself, the phone does slide up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. Both the number keypad and the QWERTY keyboard remain active when it is open, so you can easily type out both numbers and letters. The keyboard itself is a bit cramped for our taste, and the letters are quite tiny as well. Still, the keys are all raised above the surface, so we could still type out texts easily.
On the left of the phone is the volume rocker and headset/charger jack, while the right spine is home to the microSD card slot and the camera key. On the back is the camera lens and external speaker.
The Pantech Reveal 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 organize contacts into caller groups, add a photo for caller ID, and assign one of eight polyphonic ringtones or one of eight alert tones. Other basic features include an alarm clock, a world time clock, a unit converter, a stopwatch, a timer, calculator, a calendar, a notepad, a tip calculator, voice command, vibrate mode, and a speakerphone. You also get GPS with AT&T Navigator's turn-by-turn directions and stereo Bluetooth.
Since the Reveal is a messaging phone, it's fitting that it comes with not only text and multimedia messaging, but also instant messaging and mobile e-mail. Mobile e-mail lets you get e-mail from a variety of sources like Yahoo and Hotmail, as well as any e-mail provider with POP or IMAP access.
One of the most noteworthy features of the Reveal is its full HTML Web browser, which is based on the Opera browser. When you first start it up, you'll see that you can get three different welcoming screens. One is for just browsing the Web, as usual: there's a URL field, a Yahoo search box, and a visual tile array of your Internet bookmarks. Another is just for local sites, like any local restaurants or shops, local traffic, local movie show times, local weather, and also local news headlines. Finally there's also a Popular screen, which simply lists the hottest stories from Sports, News & Finance, Entertainment, Travel, and more. It also provides quick access to shopping sites.
You can zoom in and out of Web pages, but there are only two zoom settings; you either zoom in really close, or you pull back out to see the whole page; there doesn't seem to be a middle ground. Also, since the screen size is so small, there's a lot of scrolling around. Another downside is that you have to keep going back to the Web home screen to enter in a URL. Still, we're pleased with the Web browser overall; it's certainly the best mobile browser we've seen for a midrange phone like this. Browser settings include the capability to set the image quality, the font size, and whether or not you prefer to load the mobile or full desktop version of a Web page..
The Reveal also has 3G, which lets you have AT&T's array of broadband services. They include AT&T Cellular Video, which lets you view streaming video clips from content providers like CBS and CNN, AT&T Video Share, which lets you stream one-way video calls to anyone with a compatible phone, and AT&T Mobile Music. The latter is a music portal of sorts, with apps like Song ID (a song identification service), XM Radio Mobile, and a music community forum. You also get to purchase and download songs from Napster and eMusic directly to the phone. A song is $1.99 each, which includes a free download to the PC as well. (CNET Reviews is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)
The music player on the Reveal is quite good. The interface is clean and simple, and the songs are arranged by artists, albums, and genres. You can create and edit your own playlists and you can set songs on repeat or shuffle. The player displays the album art in the middle and the playback controls along the bottom. It can support MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AAC+V2, and Real Audio formats. There's also a video player that can support MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats. The Reveal has a microSD card slot that can take up to 8GB of additional storage in case you want more capacity.
The 1.3-megapixel camera was rather disappointing. It can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x1,024, 1024x768, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, four white balance settings, and four color effects. Other camera settings include brightness, a self-timer, a timer sound toggle, and a shutter sound toggle. Photo quality was quite poor. Images were blurry and overcast, and colors looked darker than usual. There's also a video camera mode that can record videos in three resolutions (176x144 (MMS), 176x144, and 320x240). From here you can access Video Share, which we mentioned earlier. You can record with or without audio. Other settings are similar to the still camera. Video quality was disappointing as well, with a lot of pixelation and blur.
You can personalize the Reveal with a variety of graphics and sounds. If you don't like what's in the phone, you can purchase and download more from AT&T's MediaMall store. The same goes for any games or applications. The Reveal comes with four games: The Sims 3, Uno, Ms. Pac-Man, and Diner Dash 2. It also has several applications preloaded: MobiTV, My-Cast Weather, WikiMobile, Mobile Banking, and Notifier.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/900; GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSDPA tri-band 850/1900/2100Mhz) Pantech Reveal in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. Call quality was a bit mixed. We heard our callers just fine, without a lot of static or crackle. Their voices did sound slightly on the harsh side, but it wasn't too bad.
Our callers experienced more problems however. They reported some crackle and background noise, and said they thought we were mumbling at times. They even missed a few words we said. We experienced this even when we supposedly had four full bars. However, there were moments when we did come through loud and clear, so the problem seems to be intermittent.
As for the speakerphone, we thought there was plenty of volume and clarity on our end. The voice did sound a bit harsh, but that's to be expected. On their end, callers reported a lot more echo and said our voice sounded more machinelike and less natural with the speakerphone on.
Though the speakers provided great volume, they didn't do music playback justice. The songs sounded tinny and harsh, without much bass. We would recommend using a headset for the best experience.
We were pleased with the 3G speeds on the Reveal. A full HTML Web page, like CNET's home page, loaded in just 15 seconds, and we downloaded a 1.1MB song in 30 seconds. Streaming video had little-to-no buffering time, as well. Still, the video seemed jerky and pixelated, especially when there were a lot of action sequences.
The Pantech Reveal has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours talk time and 11 days standby time. It only reached a talk time of 3 hours and 31 minutes in our tests. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR rating of 1.04 watts per kilogram.