Pantech Reveal: Great Call Quality, Substandard Multimedia
By Damon Brown
At a Glance
Light, compact phone
Intuitive to use
Poor camera and video quality
No multimedia cables
The Pantech Reveal is a light and spry phone, but its multimedia capabilities are substandard.
The Pantech Reveal ($80 with a two-year service contract from AT&T) is a compact, light, Bluetooth-compatible, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone that uses AT&T’s 3G network. The Reveal delivered great call quality; but its muddy camera, so-so Web browser, and lack of multimedia peripherals drop it a notch below competing models.
The Reveal measures 3 inches by 2.5 inches by 0.5 inch thick,but it weighs just 4 ounces. The 2.2-inch display has 320-by-240-pixel resolution (260,000 colors) and occupies the upper half of the phone. The lower half contains a touchpad, two softkeys, a number pad and four shortcut keys for opening e-mail, placing calls, ending calls, and canceling actions. A full QWERTY keyboard slides out from the bottom. The box comes with a decent-size instruction booklet and a wall plug.
The Reveal’s start-up screen doesn’t reveal much–a refreshing change in a sea of cluttered smartphone launch pages. After loading, the phone shows the date and time, a few tiny icons (such as one for battery power), and buttons for shortcuts and menu links above the two softkeys.
Oddly, the Shortcuts button and the Menu button do essentially the same thing. The Shortcuts button links to 12 primary applications/options, while the Menu button brings up a set of the 12 main applications/options as icons. Either way, the items are Address Book, Messaging, IM, Mobile Email, Mobile Web, AppCenter, AT&T GPS, YPmobile (Yellow Pages), My Stuff, AT&T Music, CV (video), and Settings.
In my hands-on testing, calls sounded crisp, and the phone’s ‘Talk’ and ‘End call’ keys were easy to reach. The number pad felt tight but responsive, and the Reveal’s design is sufficiently convex to keep individual keys separated.
The QWERTY keyboard is discreetly hidden from view and slides out easily from the bottom. The keys work well, and I appreciated the full QWERTY set, but the keys themselves are tiny, with spacious gaps between the keys. Pantech might have made better use of the available area by trading in some of the unused gap space for enlarged keys. Fortunately the letters are backlit, which makes seeing them in dark or poorly lit environments easier.
The phone’s browser power and viewing capabilities are limited as well. Instead of using a full version of HTML (as smartphones do), the Reveal sets up a stripped down, link-focused view comparable to what you’d see on older phones. The browser worked smoothly, but Websites didn’t resemble their traditional counterparts beyond the text. Videos from YouTube and other online sites–including through the CV link offered in the Reveal’s menu–looked strange and pixelated, not unlike content viewed on a maladjusted digital TV screen. Even within the AT&T 3G Network, download speeds were slow and required buffering every 5 seconds or so.
The camera/camcorder is probably the least impressive aspect of the Pantech Reveal. The 1.3-megapixel camera produced blurry, dark photos and equally mediocre video. Both the camera and camcorder are a snap to use, however, thanks to more than a dozen photo/video options, including four possible light settings–but the poor-quality output resisted all my efforts to improve it.
The Reveal uses a simple, stripped-down music organizer. AT&T Music shows the rewind, play/pause, and fast-forward button; the time elapsed; the album and artist; and if available, the album cover. It also handles playlists. Unfortunately, Pantech doesn’t include a USB cord–so before you can listen to music, you’ll have to buy an AT&T-specific mini-USB cord or purchase music through the included AT&T Music store. Audio quality is very good through the phones speaker, but the speaker is on the bottom of the phone, so you can’t lay it down without muffling the music.
The Pantech Reveal is easy to carry and feels smooth to the touch, but some unwise design decisions and inadequate Web capabilities make it a flawed phone. Despite its tempting price, it will probably frustrate anyone accustomed to using a full-featured phone.