So, let's just get this out of the way: "Marauder" is probably one of the worst names for a cell phone I've heard. Samsung might have topped it with its ":)" (yes, that was the name of the phone), but I'm not too sure I want a phone that's nicknamed as a thief. "Am I being robbed or am I robbing….someone/something?" I don't know, it's just bad. But all of that aside, the Marauder has a lot going for it - a low price, a high-end dual-core processor, Verizon 4G LTE speeds, and a physical QWERTY (if you're into that). With inexpensive phones, there's only so many areas where you can afford to splurge on parts, and then there's some areas where you have to cut back. The smart manufacturers are the ones that splurge in the right areas and hold back on the not-so-important areas. Pantech has always done a great job of that and their mid-range offerings have always been impressive, relatively speaking, of course. The Marauder continues that legacy. It has all the right things in all the right places.
Design & Features
There's not really anything to brag about in terms of the hardware design. It's plain and simple with a monochrome color scheme and the usual rounded corners and textured back cover. It's actually pretty thin for a smartphone with a physical keyboard (it's .46-inches thick), but it's also rather heavy, weighing 6.07 ounces. Overall, the Marauder is neither ugly or attractive and there's nothing wrong with a simple design.
Around the front of the phone, you've got a 3.8-inch WVGA (that's 480x800) display. There's no Super AMOLED or Super LCD technology though, just plain LCD. Considering that, it's actually a pretty good-looking display. The small size means you get a decent pixel density (246 ppi) so text and graphics look great. The display is bright and clear, very impressive considering its on-paper shortcomings. If you're worried about the small size, don't sweat it too much. Remember, you have a physical keyboard for all of your typing.
Below the display are the standard Android buttons. As a note, the Marauder is probably one of the only Android 4.0 phones you'll see with a hardware Menu button. Most manufacturers leave that button out; therefore, whenever that button is needed, it randomly pops up in a thick black bar. Since Pantech included a hardware Menu button, this is no longer an issue. Problem solved. (That being said, there wouldn't even BE a problem if manufacturers would stop including these hardware buttons and just let Android do its job of automatically rendering all of the buttons needed on-screen.)
Other than that, everything is pretty normal. The microUSB port and volume rocker buttons are on the left side of the phone and the 3.5mm headphone jack and Power button are on the top of the phone. The Marauder's microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover above the battery. The phone does not ship with a card. It has 4GB of internal storage, most of which is taken up by system files and pre-loaded apps that cannot be uninstalled, leaving you with a little over 1GB of available storage.
Usability & Performance
As I mentioned earlier, the Marauder ships with Android 4.0. This is terrific since most inexpensive phones ship with older versions of Android. On top of Android, Pantech has included its own UI, or skin, and it is definitely noticeable. Everything is customized - the icons, the app drawer, the dock, the notification panel, the Messaging and Phone apps, the interface for adding widgets, all of it. I typically like manufacturer skins, and Pantech's UI is nice, but get a good look at it to see if it suits you before buying the phone. There are a lot of nifty features in Pantech's UI: the dock is scrollable, more than one icon set is available, the toggles in the notification panel are scrollable, it comes with the Swiftkey virtual keyboard (a paid app), and more. On top of that, the UI is customizable for the customer and it doesn't take anything away from the performance of the phone. The only downside is that it strips the phone of any semblance of Android 4.0 and makes it look more like Android 2.3. Android 2.3 wasn't bad, but version 4.0 is so much better. Why change that?
Speaking of the UI, there's one big feature that I should mention here, and that is the two Modes available. There is Starter Mode and Standard Mode. Standard Mode is what it sounds like - the basic Android experience. Starter Mode is for those who are new to smartphones or Android. It creates a simplified user experience and actually makes the phone look and function more like a featurephone, just with smartphone features. There are preset widgets and shortcuts that can be slightly modified. The Favorites page can be customized with certain shortcuts, but you can't move them around at will as you would with a normal page of shortcuts in Android. The clock and weather widget cannot be removed or moved. There's also a preset place for your favorite contacts, a dialer widget, and a page for browser bookmarks. The organization of the app drawer also closely mirrors that of a featurephone - features or organized into categories like People, Media, Tools, More Apps, and so on. Aesthetically, it's not nearly as robust as Android, but it's certainly helpful for those who are used to a featurephone. All of the same apps are still available, as is the Google Play Store, and your settings are saved when you switch between modes.
The Marauder's trump card is its processor, a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor with Qualcomm's Krait CPU and 1GB of RAM. Considering this is the processor you'll typically get with a phone that costs $200+, for $49.99 on contract that's not a bad deal. Performance has been great. Everything is smooth and seamless. I've had very few problems. Pantech's heavy UI does slow down performance a tad, but honestly, it's not anything to complain about. It's a half-second here or there that you'll have to wait. Here's a few test results for those of you who are into that: On an AnTuTu Benchmark test, it scored a 6,630; on a Linpack Single Thread test, it recorded 88.995 MFLOPS in .94 seconds and on a Multi-Thread test, it recorded 166.997 MFLOPS in 1.01 seconds; on a Quadrant Standard test, it scored a 5,031.
Another of the Marauder's unique features is its physical QWERTY keyboard. You just don't see a lot of these nowadays. This a great keyboard. It's wide and spacious, the keys are rubbery so it's easy to feel your way around and get a grip on each one as you're typing, and there is a dedicated number row. The keys are extremely flat and flush with the surface, but this didn't cause too many problems when typing. There were a few times when it was difficult to tell if I had pressed a key or not, but I wouldn't cite this as a major problem. The Space Bar is double-wide and placed on a row with punctuations, instead of being squeezed in a row of letters. There are primary keys for comma and period, whereas punctuations like question mark, apostrophe, quotations, and exclamation mark can be accessed by first pressing the Alt key. The keyboard also includes four navigational arrows. All in all, I've enjoyed using this keyboard. It's well-designed and comfortable to use.
The Marauder is a 4G phone and runs on Verizon's LTE network. While testing the phone in the Dallas area, I've recorded great data speeds. Depending on the time of day, I can easily get download speeds of 20-25 Mbps. Average download speeds have been around 15 Mbps. Call quality has also been great. I typically have very few problems with Verizon phones when testing in the area where I live. Keep in mind though, that data speeds and call quality will depend on coverage in your area.
One feature of the Marauder that really disappoints me is the camera. I understand that inexpensive phones typically don't have the best cameras, and I'm okay with that. You have to makes some sacrifices at this price. However, Pantech didn't even include a flash with the camera. That, to me, is inexcusable. Other than that, it's a 5-megapixel shooter with autofocus that records 720p HD video. Picture quality was okay - details looked pretty good and there wasn't too much graininess. The problem was the color saturation. The pictures looked washed out and faded, as if there was some sort of filter effect on them. Also, not having a flash means you're limited with night-time shots. The HD video capture quality was horrible. Videos miserably lacked detail and the audio quality was horrendous. I would not recommend using the Marauder's camera for much more than simple shots here and there.
I was a bit surprised when I found out that the Marauder uses a 1680 mAh battery. Considering it's an LTE phone, I expected a somewhat larger battery. Still, battery life was okay. I was able to get through a full day with normal use of checking my email, checking Twitter, taking pictures, playing games, and so forth. I expect that you'll have to charge the battery every night, but battery performance may be different for you based on your usage habits.
Everything is relative. There's times when anything less than a Super AMOLED Plus display just won't cut it. There's time when you're fortunate to get 4G capabilities. For an on-contract price of $49.99, the Pantech Marauder is everything it needs to be and has all the features it should have. Sure, I'd like to have a larger display or more impressive display technology; I'd like for the camera to be better than it was. Honestly, though, it's tough to complain considering all of the pros the phone has. You get exactly what you pay for, and sometimes even a little more.
The Good: Android 4.0; dual-core Snadragon S4 processor; 4G LTE; terrific physical keyboard; Starter Mode for those who are new to Android or smartphones in general; inexpensive.
The Bad: Somewhat small display; poor camera quality and no flash; mediocre hardware design.
The Verdict:If you're looking for a great phone for under $100 on Verizon, the Marauder should be one of your top options.