What's Good: Great QWERTY keyboard, nice screen, good battery life, great price.
What's Bad: 1.3-megapixel camera offers mediocre pictures and video.
If you read tech-centric websites on a regular basis, the talk of the town is smartphones and tablets. Rarely is attention given to featurephones, which despite the non-coverage, still command an important role in the marketplace. The Pantech Link is a no-frills featurephone that does exactly what Pantech made it to do - calling, messaging, and occasional web browsing. The neutral colors and design are sure to appeal to all demographics, and the QWERTY keyboard will likely catch the eye of those who want to message without purchasing a smartphone.
Design & Features
The Pantech Link ships with the device, battery, a travel charger, and instruction manuals. Coming in at 4.37 inches long by 2.03 inches wide by 0.61 inch thick, the device weighs 3.2 ounces, making it thin and light - great for anyone's pocket. The Link offers a 2.4-inch display with 320 x 240 pixels and 242,000 colors. When using the Link for a long phone call, I found the unit to be quite comfortable against my ear and easy to hold, thanks to the lightweight nature of the phone.
The phone sports a clean and professional exterior. The left side of the device houses the volume rocker and microSD card slot, while the charging port that doubles as the headphone jack and a camera shortcut key can be found on the right side. The camera and external speaker can be found on the back of the device, while the QWERTY keyboard, navigation pad, send key, end key, speakerphone button, calendar/clear button, and two shortcut keys can be found on the front. The SIM card slot is located next to the battery (behind the battery door).
Usability & Performance
The Link's full QWERTY keyboard is excellent, and reminds me of something one would find on a BlackBerry. Arranged like a traditional QWERTY, it offers a good amount of tactile feedback thanks to the domed keys. After a few days of use, I was able to text message and e-mail with ease. As a featurephone, it's nice to see that Pantech put an emphasis on making the keyboard usable. Those that message on a regular basis will be very appreciative.
The device offers a 1.3-megapixel camera with a self-portrait mirror, and in my testing, picture quality was less than desirable. Due to the lack of a flash, the camera performed decently only in well-lit areas. Editing options include white balance (auto, daylight, tungsten, flourescent), effect (normal, sepia, negative, black and white), self-timer (off, five seconds, or ten seconds), picture size (from 320 x 240 to 1280 x 1024), and a few others. Video quality was equally poor. The camera will be decent for those looking to take a quick picture or record a video on the go, but it's not going to come anywhere close to replacing your existing camera.
The Pantech Link was tested in the Charlotte area using AT&T, and call quality was fantastic. Callers were able to hear me well, and there were no problems on my end. When visiting a known AT&T trouble spot in the Charlotte metropolitan area, there were no dropouts - the device consistently held one bar of service. When testing the speakerphone in a noisy department store, I was able to hear my callers without issue. Though they said that they could hear the shopping carts and loud people, it didn't prevent us from having a conversation. I successfully paired my Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset to the device, and callers were unable to tell that I was using a headset.
The Link offers 3G UMTS/HSDPA connectivity (850/1900/2100 MHz) on AT&T, so browsing speeds were snappy. The mobile CNN webpage loaded in about 11 seconds, and the PhoneDog homepage loaded in 31 seconds. Other data-intensive tasks such as the AT&T GPS and Mobile E-Mail performed well.
The device offers a 930mAh battery with a rated talk time of 7 hours with HSDPA (3G) connectivity, and about 18 days of standby time. In my testing, the battery life was quite good. With moderate use including calling, text messaging, browsing the internet, and use of AT&T GPS, I was able to use it for three days before the Link powered down. It's a trooper when it comes to battery life, and is perfect for those who are often away from the office or the car.
A device like the Pantech Link is perfect for the crowd seeking a professional featurephone without the frills and/or high costs of a smartphone. My father, who is an investment banker, has no interest in carrying a smartphone ("I check e-mail all day; why do it in my free time?" is the typical response I get when I ask why he doesn't use one). Thanks in part to the fact that featurephones are regularly targeted toward the youth demographic, he's been pigeonholed into carrying teenybopper-esque phones. The fact of the matter is he doesn't see the need to pay the additional monthly fees for a smartphone, particularly when he has no desire for the constant connectivity. As a result, the clean look and strong performance of the Link would appeal to someone like him. From A to Z, the Pantech Link excels at everything it's marketed to do, and it's a device that I would recommend to anyone seeking a well-equipped featurephone at a great price.