Overview

The Good: Super-thin, stylish form-factor; AMOLED display; excellent physical keyboard; fresh and fun UI; threaded text messaging.

The Bad: Resistive touchscreen; camera lacks flash and autofocus; no headphone jack; sometimes laggy.

The Verdict: The Laser may not be perfect, but it is certainly the best messaging phone from AT&T.

Introduction

The Pantech Laser is the thinnest full-sliding keyboard phone ever offered on AT&T. You've probably heard that a million times. Well, it's true, and that alone is something worth talking about. However, not only is the device super-thin, less than .4-inches thick actually, it also has an AMOLED display and one of the best QWERTY keyboards around. Is this enough to make up for the imperfections?

Design and Features

The Laser boasts a very sleek and stylish design. Though it is mostly plastic, it doesn't feel hollow or cheap, probably because the phone is so thin so there isn't a lot of empty space inside. The phone measures 4.45-inches by 2.28-inches by .39-inches and it weighs 4.06 ounces. Because the phone is so thin, there isn't a lot going on as far as ports and slots. You have a volume rocker on the right side, a microUSB charging port on the top, and a screen lock/unlock button on the left side. There is no headphone jack or dedicated camera button. The microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover.

The 3.1-inch AMOLED display isn't as bright and stunning as other AMOLED displays I've seen, but it is still nice to look at and shows colors very well. The display has a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels.

Usability and Performance

I originally thought the Laser had a capacitive touchscreen, but unfortunately that's not true. It has a resistive touchscreen. In testing and with normal use, the touchscreen worked just fine. There were times that I had to perform the same motion a couple of times before I got the desired response, but this may have been a combination of the resistive touchscreen and the more-than-likely slow processor. Overall, I was pleased with the touchscreen.

I'm really digging the Laser's UI. It brings together features from Samsung's TouchWiz UI and LG's custom UI, and then adds a few neat features. You're given three homescreens: one for a clock (there are some pretty cool and different clock designs), one for widgets and shortcuts, and one for your favorite contacts. The nice thing about the Widgets and Contacts pages is that they are actually scrollable, so you have more space than just what you see on the screen. Also, at the bottom of each screen, you have four docked shortcuts for Dial, Contacts, Messages, and Menu. The Menu takes you to the Main Menu where you can reach any program or app you'd like. This UI is clean, fresh, interesting, and easy to use.

The Laser's 3 megapixel camera took less-than-stellar photos. There is no flash or autofocus, so there's not much it can do, but I found the pictures to be exceptionally sub-par. Bright colors didn't show up very well and, while the clarity of multiple small items or features in the background was impressive, large objects came out blurry and undefined.

Admittedly, the physical keyboard took a couple of days to get used to, but I soon learned to appreciate it. The keys are pretty flat, but they have a nice grip to them. They aren't the rubbery mushy kind that we see on a lot of Samsung devices. They are more firm, but still easy to press. Overall, I felt the keyboard but very well designed. It features a double-wide Spacebar, dedicated keys for the period, comma, and question mark, and a .com key. Typing became very quick and easy. The phone also has threaded text messaging.

The Laser ships with a 1000 mAh battery. In testing, it lasted a little over two days with standard use. This isn't excellent and I've seen better, but I would assume for most people it would be good enough. It will get you through a full day so you can charge it at night.

Conclusion

The Pantech Laser is simply the best messaging phone on AT&T and probably the best messaging phone from the four major U.S. carriers. It's not perfect, but I felt that the pros definitely outweighed the cons. It is available now from AT&T for $99.99 with a new two-year contract and after rebates.


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