More compact than most Windows Mobile phones, the Pantech duo sports a dual-slider design, so you get both a QWERTY keyboard and numeric keypad. (It's actually kind of addictive.) Other highlights include high-speed HSDPA data and easy access to instant messaging. It's not nearly as innovative as the dual-slider Helio Ocean, and the keyboard could be better, but the duo still supplies messaging-savvy consumers and young professionals with a good all-purpose device that won't weigh them down.
The dark-gray body with textured metallic trim has a simple elegance suitable for the boardroom or a night on the town. At 4.6 ounces, the 4 x 2 x 0.8-inch-thick Pantech duo slips easily into a shirt pocket and is lighter and more streamlined than the 5.6-ounce, 0.9-inch thick Ocean. (On the other hand, the Ocean justifies its bulk with a sharper two-megapixel camera, more robust instant messaging, better MySpace integration, and GPS.) The duo's round corners felt good in the hand, providing a solid grip even for those with large mitts. On the right side of the phone are keys for launching the voice recorder and 1.3-MP camera. We appreciated the raised volume keys on the left side.
Sliding up the bright and colorful 2.2-inch (320 x 240-pixel resolution) display reveals a good-sized numeric keypad that makes for easy dialing. Flipping the duo horizontally and sliding out the QWERTY keyboard changes the orientation of the display to landscape mode (sometimes with a noticeable delay). We were able to thumb text messages, craft e-mail, and type URLs with decent accuracy. The duo's flat keys have a decent amount of depth, but the cramped layout takes some getting used to. Most frustrating is the placement of the soft menu keys in landscape mode; they're positioned on the extreme opposite ends of the keyboard instead of right underneath the menu options on the display.
Multimedia options abound, but none exactly wow on this device. Riding AT&T's 3G network, the duo offers Cellular Video, which features programming from Comedy Central, ESPN, HBO, and other content providers. We launched a clip of The Colbert Report, which buffered quickly, courtesy of the HSDPA connection. However, even though the video stayed in sync with the audio, the picture quality was less than stellar. On a few occasions we couldn't tune in and were greeted with a "We are temporarily experiencing technical difficulties" message. A free three-day trial to MobiTV ($9.99 per month) offers a smoother experience and adds shows from The Discovery Channel, Fox Sports, TLC, and more.
Users can sideload all sorts of music (MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA) and video (H.263, MPEG-4, WMV) files to the Pantech duo via the microSD Card slot (which is located on the top of the phone for easy access). For now, you can subscribe to Napster ($9.95 per month unlimited) and Yahoo Music ($8.99 per month unlimited) from the phone, but they're sent to your home PC for downloading. Unfortunately, over-the-air music download services, including Napster Mobile and eMusic Mobile, won't be available on the duo.If satellite radio is more your speed, we recommend XM Radio Mobile ($8.99 per month after a free three-day trial) which streamed smoothly on this device so long as we were in a 3G coverage area. Pairing the duo with our stereo Bluetooth headset for an untethered audio experience was simple; a 3.5mm adapter is in the box for using traditional earphones.
Web surfing was quite speedy. CNN.com Mobile loaded within 8 seconds; the mobile version of NYTimes.com took 13 seconds; and Gizmodo.com took 26 seconds. We found text generally easy to read despite the duo's small display, but some may prefer Opera Mobile 8.65 ($24 after free trial), because of its better page formatting and zooming options. Instant messaging clients from AIM, MSN, and Yahoo are included and performed adequately, and we like that they're easily accessible from the Today screen. However, it took the duo nearly a minute to log us in and display our contact list.
Like all Windows Mobile 6 Standard smart phones the duo includes Office Mobile, which let us swiftly download and read and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint e-mail attachments. Speaking of e-mail, the included Xpress Mail client allowed us to painlessly set up our POP3 Gmail and Yahoo accounts.
The camera implementation is a bit awkward. The live preview defaults to portrait mode, and it fills up only half the display. We'd prefer a full landscape view, and for the camera button to be positioned on the bottom part of the right spine instead of the top part. That would make it easier to hold and use the duo like a regular digicam. Image quality was fair for a 1.3-MP sensor, and we appreciated the quick shutter speed.
Call quality was good in our tests. Other callers said we came through fine, and a test voicemail message we left on a landline sounded louder and clearer than one left with the AT&T BlackBerry Curve 8300. With moderate use, the duo barely lasted a full day on a charge, so be sure to keep that charger handy.
The Pantech duo is a solid phone for staying productive and connected on the go, but there is plenty of smart phone competition at or below this price. We prefer the $199 AT&T BlackBerry Curve because of its ease of use and better keyboard; plus, the latest version adds GPS while staying under $200. If you're leaning toward Windows Mobile, the upcoming BlackJack II ($149) has more features than the duo, but this dual-slider is more pocket-friendly. Presuming you can get comfortable with the tiny keyboard and don't mind recharging often, you'll be satisfied with this device.
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