Just when we thought the skinny phone trend was over, Pantech introduces the Pantech Laser, which it claims is the thinnest slider messaging phone AT&T has to offer. While we doubt it will retain this title for long, we do appreciate the effort, as most slider messaging phones tend to be a bit bulky. But the Laser's svelte figure is not its only attribute; it also has a nice 3.1-inch AMOLED touch screen, a 3-megapixel camera, 3G, GPS, stereo Bluetooth, and a music player. The Pantech Laser is available for $99.99 with a new two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate from AT&T Wireless.
The Pantech Laser is indeed a very slim phone. Measuring 4.45 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick, the Laser almost looks like the Pantech Ease on a diet. Indeed, the Laser is thinner than most candy bar phones, much less slider handsets. Aside from rounded corners, the phone has straight sides and back that are clad in a textured surface so you don't have to worry about losing hold of the phone. The Laser is also relatively lightweight at 4.59 ounces.
We were pleasantly surprised by the stunning 3.1-inch AMOLED display on the Laser. It's wonderfully vibrant, colorful, and sharp, with 262,000 color support and a 480x800-pixel resolution. Graphics look great and though the default text is a little on the small side, we found it legible enough. You can change the wallpaper and clock format on the home screen, the background picture on the lock screen, the menu theme, the font style, and the backlight time.
The Laser has three different home screens: the main welcome screen, a screen for your favorite apps, and another for your favorite contacts. The screens transition from one to another with a three-dimensional swivel effect as you swipe from left to right or vice versa. You can populate the favorite apps and favorite contacts screens by selecting the "Add" button at the bottom. Along the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging in-box, and the main menu. The default menu interface is quite extensive, with up to three pages of applications.
We usually tend to prefer capacitive displays over resistive ones, so we were a little disappointed to find the Laser has the latter. With resistive displays, we need to apply a bit more pressure for our touch to register. We also found that transitioning between screens takes a little longer than expected. Still, you can go through a touch-calibration wizard to improve your accuracy, and the Laser offers vibration and sound feedback so we know when the phone has recognized our taps. We do think it's one of the more responsive resistive displays we've tried, but we warn you that it won't be as smooth as the touch screen on an iPhone or an Android smartphone.
The Laser's phone dialer is similar to other touch-screen phones--it has a large virtual keypad, with shortcuts to your recent call history, the contacts list, and a list of speed dial numbers. If you decide not to use the physical keyboard for entering text, you can opt for a virtual alphanumeric keypad or Graffiti-like handwriting recognition. Like on the Pantech Pursuit, the Laser also has a Drawing Commander application that lets you launch applications based on certain Graffiti-like finger doodles. For example, if you draw the letter "a," you can launch the Address Book, "m" to launch the music player, and so forth. You can pair any letter with any application in the Drawing Commander settings. We found the Drawing Commander feature to be rather gimmicky and not too helpful, but your mileage may vary.
Underneath the display are three physical keys: Send, Clear, and End/Power. A screen lock key sits on the left spine, a volume rocker is on the right, and the Micro-USB charging port is on top. The camera lens is on the back.
Slide the display to the right and you'll reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard, which is quite the achievement on a thin phone like the Laser. When you slide it open, the display will shift to landscape mode, and you get a special home screen with eight predetermined shortcuts that lead to your text message conversations, AT&T Social Net, Mobile e-mail, the Web browser, the contacts list, Facebook, Twitter, and the main menu. The sliding mechanism feels solid yet smooth, and locks securely into place either open or closed.
As you might imagine on such a slim handset, the keyboard is on the flat and skinny side. But the keys are rubberized, separated, and raised enough above the surface that we could still easily type out text messages by feel. The keyboard is quite roomy overall, and we like the center position of the space bar. We also appreciate the dedicated .com key and that the number keys are highlighted in blue.
The Pantech Laser has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for six numbers, three e-mail addresses, a company name, a messenger user name, a Web address, three street addresses, a birth date, an anniversary date, and a note. As usual, you can assign a caller to a group, add a photo for caller ID, and pair him or her with a customized ringtone--you have eight ringtones and eight alert tones to choose from by default.