What's not: No 3.5mm stereo audio jack, no voice command.
Reviewed May 27, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
In a sea of QWERTY messaging feature phones on AT&T, the Pantech Link looks more expensive than its price tag. This QWERTY bar phone has a slim body, a nice keyboard and it supports most AT&T multimedia and location based services. In addition to all the messaging services that AT&T has to offer, you get video sharing, CV, AT&T music, AT&T Navigator and a lot more. The Pantech Link has Bluetooth with A2DP, a microSD card slot with SDHC support, a GPS and a 1.3 megapixel camera with video capturing. It’s not as smart as the Nokia E71x and other QWERTY bar smartphones, but for almost free with a contract, the Pantech Link is a nice catch for texting fans. AT&T requires their $20 Messaging Unlimited as a minimum with this phone. You can also get it with the Messaging and Data Unlimited for $30 and a variety of other data/messaging plans.
Design and Ergonomics
The Pantech Link looks similar look to the Nokia E71x, minus the metal casing. The Pantech Link is slim measuring 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.39 inches and it’s light at 3.2 ounces. The phone has a textured plastic back that feels good in hand. The Pantech has a 2.4” display that’s 320 x 240 QVGA resolution. The screen isn’t a touch screen, but it’s visible even in sunlight. The plastic display is easily scratched. Below the display the phone has large buttons and a comfortable D-pad. The shoulder keys along with speaker launcher and back button sit above the long call send and call end buttons. The circular d-pad works smoothly when navigating menus and in applications as well as in games.
The Pantech Link has domed keys that are slippery but quite easy to use. The keyboards on the Nokia E71/E72 are still a bit better, but the Pantech’s keys are decently sized and have nice feedback when they are pressed. The 4-row keyboard has a standard layout with number keys embedded in the letters left of center. The backlight is faint but effective in the dark. Side buttons and ports include volume buttons and a camera launcher along with a microSD card slot and the charging/accessory port. There isn’t a 3.5mm stereo audio out jack but there is a mount for a phone lanyard.
Phone Features and Reception
The Pantech Link has very good reception in well-covered areas and has not dropped a call. Voice quality is good but not exceptional. Incoming voice is clear and loud and outgoing voice is reasonably sharp with some digital distortion. The phone has a weak DSP; as a result calls made in noisy environments let background noises through. The Pantech Link has an address book that holds 1,000 contacts; each entry can have 5 numbers, 2 emails and a photo ID. The phone has 8 speed dials and you can assign 8 unique ringtones. The Pantech Link works with Video Sharing but it doesn’t have voice command software. Additional software includes alarm clock, calendar, notepad, voice memo, calculator, tasks, stopwatch and unit converter.
The Pantech Link is a good messaging phone thanks to the very functional keyboard and support for text messaging, multimedia messaging as well web-based email and IM. The Pantech shows your text messages in different Conversations, and has some basic integration with your address book. Mobile email includes most services including Yahoo! AOL, AIM, Hotmail and Gmail.
The Pantech Link comes with a web browser that can load full HTML pages. Though the page loading speed over AT&T 3G isn’t all that impressive, the page layout looks decent. The web browser can display pages in zoomed view for reading and full-page view for navigating around the page. It offers bookmarks, history, cookies and more.
The Pantech Link has a GPS that works smoothly with AT&T Navigator. Position fixes are quick and route navigation is also speedy. The phone takes a little time in the beginning of a driving trip to catch up with your current position, but once it’s got you on the map, it provides accurate positions and turn-by-turn directions. Voice guidance is loud via the phone’s speaker, and it has a very slight lag in giving turning directions (it waits until you are a bit too close to the turn before warning you of the upcoming turn). Re-routing takes no time and maps load quite fast over AT&T 3G. AT&T Navigator, powered by TeleNav, has a good POI database and search speed is fast. In addition to AT&T Navigator, the Pantech also has Where, AllSports GPS, Loopt and AT&T FamilyMaps onboard.
The Pantech Link is a decent music phone with a built-in music player and support for AT&T’s music store as well as AT&T’s slew of music services, streaming radio and music applications. The music player works with MP3 and AAC files, which means you can play your non-DRM iTunes songs. The interface of the music player is an outdated list view without any album art, but it’s simple to use. Audio quality through the built-in speaker is actually quite good though not very loud. The Pantech Link doesn’t have a 3.5mm stereo audio jack, only a microUSB style port that works with audio headsets but no headset is included with the phone. You can load all your music onto a microSD card and play them on the Pantech Link. We tested some SDHC cards and they worked well with the phone.
The Pantech Link also works with AT&T’s CV streaming video services. Video playback quality is not bad; running at about 15-18 fps when playing TV shows in full screen mode. AT&T’s CV is included with their unlimited data plans and it offers a wide variety of TV programs including news, sports, weather and clips and full episodes of TV shows from major networks. Videos stream over AT&T’s 3G HSDPA with good speed. The large d-pad makes the Pantech Link also a decent gaming phone. Games run smoothly on the Pantech and controls are smooth and easy for most games.
The Pantech Link has a 1.3 megapixel camera with MP4 video capturing capability. You can launch the camera using the Shortcut menu. Though the camera spec is low, the quality of still images taken with the phone is not bad. Pictures taken in good lighting conditions look reasonably sharp with saturated and balanced colors. Indoor shots have some noise but have enough details and look pretty good. The camera software has all essential settings including white balance, brightness, color effects, quality and more. It also has self-timer. The video clips in H.263 look decent at QVGA resolution. They play back smoothly and audio is in sync with video.
The Pantech Link has average battery life by feature phone standards for phone calls, messaging and music playback. The phone comes with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that’s 930 mAh (model: PBR-C530) in capacity. The battery lasts for about 3 hours for phone calls, messaging and music playback; and it lasts for about 2-2.5 continuous hours for video watching and real time navigation. The claimed standby time is ten days, but we only reached 7 in our tests.
Sure, you don’t get easy PIM syncing or a high-end camera, but the Pantech Link is a solid QWERTY bar phone for someone who wants a cheap texting phone that also feels nice in the hand and looks good. The phone has support for an amazing number of services on AT&T, though not all are free. Music and CV run reasonably well and AT&T Navigator is a joy to use on the Pantech. Even the low-end 1.3 megapixel doesn’t take crappy images, and the phone has support for many messaging and IM services including MS Outlook and Lotus Notes. For the price, the Pantech Link is a good buy for texting users on a budget.
Pro: Good GPS performance, nice keyboard.
Con: No 3.5mm stereo audio jack, no voice command.
Price: $9.99 with 2-year contract after online discount. $159.99 without contract.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera with 4x zoom and self-timer. Resolution up to 1280 x 1024 pixels. Can take video with audio up to 15 fps in QVGA.
Audio: Supports Polyphonic ringers and MP3 music tones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MP3, WMA, Unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0. Profiles supported: Headset, Handsfree, Dial Up Networking, Stereo, Phonebook Access, Basic Printing, Basic Imaging, Object Push for vCard and vCal, File Transfer & Serial Port Profiles.
Software: AT&T icon-based menu. Messaging and full HTML web browser on board. PIM tools include Contacts, alarm clock, calendar, notepad, voice memo, calculator, tasks, stopwatch and unit converter.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot. Supports SDHC cards up to 32GB cards.
In the Box: The Pantech Link phone with standard battery, AC charger and printed guides.