Pantech Discover Review: Budget Never Looked So Good
Pantech's line hasn't always been impressive, but the Discover is impressive. It's an affordable, feature-packed smartphone with a roomy screen and powerhouse camera.
If you're on AT&T and you want an Android smartphone for $50 -- look no further. Even if you want a fancier phone like the Galaxy S3, you're still better off with the Discover, since it boasts a similar set of features -- except you're stuck with Ice Cream Sandwich software.
The boring design fails to hint at interior features worth treasuring. Slim, with a gently curved back, it's not sexy -- but it's not bad either. The rubbery back makes it easy to hold, but it does help the design. It's function over form here.
The mid-size 4.8-inch screen packs a high-quality 720-by-1,280 pixel resolution for a sharp and pristine picture. Sound familiar? It should. That's the same size and resolution as the S3 -- and it's just as good. Now, it's worse than the display on the iPhone 5 and DNA, but bear in mind, you get this screen for $50 rather than $150.
Surround-sound speakers flank either side, but you won't notice it because they're subtly added into the design. Even though they look like the small slot-style speakers, they give a much fuller 3D-quality sound. Have an impromptu dance party? It'll blast the beats for your friends. Want to annoy subway riders? The Discover can do that too.
A walloping 12.6-megapixel camera takes predictably detailed and vibrant photos. The lens is fast, taking a split second to snap, but light colors tend to wash out in daylight. Overall though, it's hard to go wrong with 12-megapixels. The editing options are sparse compared to rival devices. The front-facing 2-megapixel, meanwhile, is considerably less effective. You can record 1080p clips at a standard 30 frames per second, but everything comes out with shaky quality that a steady-cam can't fix. It's fine for video chat. Just don't expect to be the next Spielberg.
You get a lot of hardware for such a low price, but the software isn't that great -- ICS is a bit dated. If you yearn for Jelly Bean, you'll be disappointed. But if you've never used it, you'll be blissfully unaware. Updates are supposedly on the way, but those are notoriously iffy.
If you're new to smartphones, the Discover is made for you. It comes with "Easy Mode," which configures the software to a stripped-down version. Icons and text is larger, and menus are less cluttered. If you're new to smartphones, the Discover provides a gentle way to test the waters. But really, it's just a waste of space. The learning curve, while intimidating, is easy to pick up. And after a week or two, you'll want to jump to full Android. Then you won't look back, except to wish you had the free space taken up by Easy Mode.
AT&T also includes "DriveMode," an innovative app designed to curb distracted driving. If you're in a car moving faster than 25 miles per hour, it automatically blocks calls and texts and replies with an "unavailable" message to let people know you're preoccupied. Emergency numbers can bypass the feature, but it's a nice feature if you have kids that just picked up their license.
Under the hood, a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip keeps everything running smoothly, while AT&T's fast 4G LTE network serves as a solid backbone for streaming movies, music and Web browsing. A long-lasting 2,100 mAh battery keeps powers through the day -- and it's removable too, so you can pick up another battery if you need a few days' worth of juice. Unfortunately, the microSD slot is located beneath, so you'll have a harder time getting to it. Be sure to buy a 32- or 16-gigabyte card, the paltry 12-gigabytes of internal memory will run out quickly.
Discover the Discover. The remarkable camera, sound system and solid hardware won't disappoint you -- at least not at this price. ♦
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TFT (Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
January 20, 2013
Great Features at a Low Price
You get so much for so little. I wouldn't call the Discover a budget phone, but it's priced like one. But don't let that fool you; it has all the elements of a more expensive device.
Silver lines along the sides and a blue circle around the 12-megapixel camera -- the highlight of the phone -- gives it a touch of aesthetic flair. The size is fairly light and easy to use with either hand. And a rubberized back ensures it fits your hand nicely, and you don't let it slip.
The 4.8-inch screen is bright and clear and runs from edge to edge. When you watch the Iron Man 3 trailer, included on the phone, it seems like you're watching it on a smaller version of an HD TV. You can see the details in Tony Stark's suit, from the scratches to the dents. And browsing webpages is clear and easy on the eyes. It's just as good indoors as out, and you can see everything from a wide range of angles -- a pro or a con depending if you want privacy on the subway.
The 12-megapixel camera is amazing. On paper, it's a top-notch lens, and in real-life, it performs well. Photos and videos are sharp, but the color accuracy is a bit dull. If you're a stickler for photographs, expect to turn up the saturation in post-editing. The camera works without lag, but the lens had a hard time capturing fast-moving objects, resulting in some blurring. Interestingly, the video tends to oversaturate the colors.
Not enough people mention the great speakers located along the side. Pantech included 3D surround sound, so if you watch videos or listen to music that supports it, you'll hear a fuller range of trebles and bass. As I watched Iron Man, the speakers blasted out all the explosions so clearly that I had to turn it down so the person next to me wouldn't be surprised.
The Discover runs on ICS, rather than JB, which means you won't have new features like Google Now. Pantech promises to push out a release soon -- without pegging a date. If you're used to Android, this will be old news. You can add shortcuts to three customizable home screens, but there's an Easy Mode that trims it to the bare minimum. Buttons for the browser and other features are larger too, so it's easier for people with bad eyesight to tap and open.
Something neat: you can control your phone through gestures. So if you want to pick up a call, jump to the next song or open the photo gallery -- just wave your hand across the lens. It works well, but the usefulness seems limited.
The Discover comes with a bunch of third-party apps -- some unwanted -- from Pantech and AT&T, including DriveMode, which can block texts and calls if you're in a car moving faster than 25 mph. I suppose that's a useful app if you're a parent, but otherwise you could just not pick up the phone. If you're concerned about security, there's some encryption features too.
Lastly, the battery is average. Depending on your usage habits, you should be able to last the day.
If you're not over 60, there's really no point in using Easy Experience mode. Even if you're not tech savvy, after a week or so, it'll seem too elementary for you and want to jump to Standard mode.
Overall, the Discover is a good phone at a great price. It's not without its flaws, but nothing is too serious. Easy Experience seems like a waste of space, considering how stripped down the features are. But the camera, audio and multimedia make it a great value for such an affordable phone.Was this review helpful to you?
61 out of 62 people found this review helpful.
January 06, 2013
Believe It -- It's Great
This is the most smartphone you'll get for your money. To a lot of people, including me, the price made it seem too good to be true. And I was skeptical. But after taking the plunge, I can say it's worth every penny.
The Discover is a slim and comfortable phone to hold. It's not flashy, but the chrome highlights and dark backplate give it a quality look -- despite its plastic materials. The top protrudes out to make room for the two speaker ports. And they're surprisingly loud. You won't need headphones -- the music pumps out clear, and without distortion, even at the highest volume. If you do a lot of business on your phone on conference calls, this will be a big plus.
The 4.8-inch display is bright, but not ridiculously vibrant, and the whopping 12-megapixel camera takes sharp photos -- comparable to the Galaxy S3. I won't go too much into it here, as there are others who describe it well. In short, they're both exceptional -- especially at this price.
The 1.5-gigahertz chip powers through apps with smooth ease. A note: it runs on Android's older ICS software, but Jelly Bean is on the way. A nice feature is the ability to "float" certain apps over the main window. So you can bring up the music player when you're writing an e-mail for easier multitasking.
Pantech seemed to aim this at an older audience, since it included an "Easy" mode, which increases the size of text, and removes some non-essential buttons from the interface. The streamline navigation is helpful if you're intimidated by technology.
AT&T, meanwhile, added "DriveMode," which blocks all messages and calls if you're in a moving vehicle. The nice thing is it'll automatically send a reply back telling them you're preoccupied.
If you're like me, you came across this phone because of its price. And the cheapness probably scared you a bit. But don't be. Sure, you can find better phones out there, but they'll often cost you an arm and a leg. The Discover is the only phone with high-end features at an affordable phone. Of course, you don't get a big brand name like Samsung or HTC, but Pantech has come a long way, and if can keep up the pace, you'll know if it in due time. The Discover is its best phone yet.Was this review helpful to you?
48 out of 50 people found this review helpful.
February 05, 2013
Great for Beginners
I went for the Discover because I'm not very comfortable with technology. I did a lot of research before taking the plunge, and the Starter Mode was very appealing to me. To give some background, I had the iPhone previously, but every time I had to upgrade via iTunes, I'd be pulling my hair out. After my contract expired, I decided to give Android a try -- so I bought the HTC Inspire... and got hooked on Android.
So that's what brought me to the Discover. Having gotten used to Google, I love being able to transfer photos, music, videos and files without having to install extra software. It's so much easier than iTunes. And after considering the LG Escape, Motorola Atrix HD and HTC One X, I went with the Discover... and couldn't be happier.
The Discover is light and compact. It's not the sexiest phone out there, but it's not the ugliest phone out there either. The display is bright and sharp and the speakers are loud and clear. The most important feature to me -- the 12-megapixl camera -- is fantastic. The lens is so quick too. One of my gripes about the Inspire was its annoyingly slow shutter. Taking a photo took seconds -- after a pause -- but it felt like a lifetime. I missed so many great photos because of the lag. The Discover, by contrast, is fast, and you can take one photo after another without any stalling.
The battery is above average. I know most smartphones are battery hogs, and the Discover is not going to beat out a feature phone. But I can get through the morning with about 90 percent power, and through the evening with more than 70 percent juice left. That's with moderate use -- a few texts, some gaming and a couple calls -- nothing too heavy.
I'm a bit disappointed it runs on ICS rather than Jelly Bean. But it doesn't matter much to me, since I'm not a techie. Either way, I'm very happy with the Discover. And if you're new to smartphones, you'll be satisfied too.Was this review helpful to you?
46 out of 48 people found this review helpful.
January 20, 2013
A Lot for a Little
After comparing the Discover to the One X and the Galaxy S3, I decided to go with Pantech. And I'm pretty glad I did. First, the display can rival any competitor. It's big and vibrant. The quad-core chip powers any apps or videos you throw at it.
The rubbery grip and the design are nice. It's a solid device with a great package of multimedia features like music with stereo speakers. But what I love best about it is the removable battery and the microSD slot.
The only issue is the bloatware, and it's really annoying. But it's not a serious enough issue to keep me from recommending this phone. I'm hoping Pantech upgrades the phone to Jelly Bean soon.Was this review helpful to you?
32 out of 35 people found this review helpful.
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