Pantech Burst Review: Speed on a Budget
If you're on a budget, the Burst is one of the best low-end phones on the market. You get a great package at a great price. But beware: the camera is pathetic, so avoid it if you plan to take pictures.
The Burst has a rounded, glossy body that's reminiscent of Samsung's Galaxy line. The plastic finish isn't elegant, but it's sturdy, and I found the simple and pragmatic design rather charming, especially the handsome chrome accents. At 5-inches tall and less than half an inch thick, everything is crammed into a compact package. Nothing is particularly exciting about the look, but it's a step up for Pantech, considering the Pocket is as ugly as it is cumbersome. The Burst, meanwhile, is one Pantech device that can actually pass for a Samsung -- and that's a good thing.
The broad 4-inch screen stretches across the front. The Super AMOLED technology is extremely bright and vivid -- thanks to its 500-lux rating -- even tilted at funny angles, but I had a bit of trouble in direct sunlight -- the glare makes it difficult to use. The 800-by-480 resolution, though, isn't very detailed -- the PenTile matrix makes the display seem pixilation. But, fortunately, the 233-ppi pixel density is high-enough to mask most of the jaggedness, so you won't miss out on the most important details. I noticed it during high-resolution movies like "Avatar," but on "30 Rock," it's less noticeable. I give it a "B" for detail, and an "A" for responsiveness. I didn't notice any lag between touches, and Swype and texting is fast, roomy and easy to use. Overall, you won't get a top-tier display, but for entry- level, I'm not complaining.
So where does the bubble burst? Pantech cut corners in the 5-megapixel camera: the lens takes atrocious photos in low light, and the LED flash is too weak to make much of a difference. If you take pictures in the day, or during aurora borealis, they'll turn out fine, but anything less is grainy and full of noise. You can use basic editing tools like white balance to touch things up, but frankly, it's not worth the effort -- you won't want to share these photos. The 720p video is even worse -- everything I tried to record looked like inscrutable blobs. Frankly, I wanted to throw it against a wall -- the staccato lag was so bad that clips were unwatchable.
The Burst runs on Gingerbread, and while it's not ICS, it's smooth. I didn't like Pantech's interface -- it looked cartoonish and juvenile. It brings nothing to the table, and I would have preferred vanilla Android. In addition, the customization is quite rigid -- you can't setup many shortcuts on the homescreen. Of course, then there's the problem of bloatware: Pantech and AT&T piled on over 50 pre-installed apps. You can uninstall seven of them -- just seven -- so the interface is clogged with crap you don't need. Am I really going to use the RSS reader? Not likely. There are a few tolerable ones, like Amazon Kindle, but still -- I prefer to choose which apps are on my phone.
Still, you get a lot for the price, and I understand why Pantech called it the Burst. The 1.5-megahertz dual-core chip and 1-gigabyte of RAM keeps everything zipping along -- gamging was fast, multitasking was smooth and I didn't notice any pauses or hiccups except in the camera shutter, which is inexplicably slow. In fact, it's faster than a few higher-end devices like the LG Nitro and Samsung Skyrocket. If you have the need for speed, this is it.
On AT&T's LTE service, I clocked around 45-megabits per second downloads, which is faster than some cable broadband, so you can stream multimedia without any waiting. And if you want to save it, you'll have 16-gigabytes of storage, which will suffice. If you need more, you can add a 32-gigabyte microSD card. But unless you're downloading movies and music, you won't need it. The 1,650 mAh battery, meanwhile, is long-lasting -- I got around eight hours with LTE on, and you'll have no problem squeezing out a day with 4G off.
The Burst is the king of budget Android phones. For the price, you won't find 4G LTE elsewhere, much less a speedy processor and ample storage. Of course, the camera is awful, and the bloatware is overwhelming, but if you want a bang for your buck, it's a smart choice. If you want a low-cost device with a solid camera, take a look at the Samsung Exhilarate. You won't get the speed or firepower, but it'll come with a better lens. ♦
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