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Review of GSM handset Pantech PG-8000
The model PG-8000 was presented by Pantech during “SvyazExpoComm 2005”, in August there was official announcement, the model was scheduled to hit the shelves in September. As time went on, PG-8000 was nowhere to be seen, and a lot of people started forgetting what this model was all about, phone’s specifications were no longer astonishing, as they were before. Finally, in 2006 Pantech announced that the model will be released in February or March. What was the cause of delay? Everything is pretty simple. The phone has QVGA display, meanwhile the platform comes from previous PG series handsets (PG3500, PG3600, PG6100). The processor is not dealing well enough with information processing. The first samples had very slow menu, it was almost impossible to use the phone at all. The company decided that installing new processor for this model is not such a good idea, so they decided to optimize the software part of the phone before releasing it. This was the actual reason for these delays.
The model is presented in candybar form-factor, with one notice: it is used in horizontal mode, instead of the oh-so-used-to vertical. While you are speaking, it gets more common since the position still remains vertical, speaker and microphone are located in common positions. But when you are going to enter the menu, you will have to put the phone into horizontal position.
The phone’s dimensions are rather small (99.8x51.8x16.1 mm), the weight is slightly heavier than 100 grams (106.5 grams). The phone fits nicely into one’s hand, it is convenient to work with, partly due to slightly bigger portion of weight located on the phone’s lower side (in case it’s used in vertical position). It will fit pockets of your jeans nicely. The design is pleasant, those who had seen the phone live liked the outlooks. The phone’s edges are slightly rounded. The model will be sold in two color solutions: black with silver and completely silver. The first edition looks more interesting than the second one, upper panel is made of black varnished plastic, and the lower part is silver. Despite the fact that the upper panel is varnished and easily soiled, the fingerprints are not that obvious. The case is made of qualitative plastic, all details are nicely matched to each other, there’s no backlash at all.
Button for activating the camera is located on the right side. Window of fully-functional IrDA port is located on the left side, as well as joined volume control and Hold (blocking of all buttons), and the final detail is slot for RS-MMC memory cards which is covered by plastic cork, fixed to the case. The fixation of slot cover is rather tight, and most problems will be encountered when you are trying to close the slot. The most important aspect – try to do it as much accurate as possible, in that case you will avoid breaking it. I would also like to point your attention to buttons located on the sides, they are sticking out of the case pretty much, which allows working with them by touch. The buttons are very tight, this excludes faulty key-presses.
2.5mm jack is located on the top, it is used for connecting the headset, it is also covered with plastic cork which is fixed to the case. The interface connector is located on the bottom, surprise-surprise, it is covered with plastic cork that is fixed to the case as well, hole for the strap is located on the corner.
Quite big TFT-display with QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels; 40x29.5 mm), which is capable of showing up to 262000 colors is located on the front panel. This is the first phone by Pantech that supports QVGA. The display’s quality is good; when compared to D600 we can see that it’s not as bright as Samsung, but it is certainly sharper. The screen turns pale when it encounters sunlight, but the information remains readable.
As we already mentioned, you will have to work with the phone in horizontal mode, that’s why the display itself, and the information shown on it is placed horizontally. This solution allows browsing messages and web-sites through Opera mini with great deal of comfort. More information can fit the screen, and it’s nicely readable.
The buttons are made of plastic, the layout is made the way so you could work with the phone horizontally. On the right side nearby the display you can see two small round keys (call/end call), four-positional horizontal key is located nearby, the button OK is placed inside it. The size of navigation key is satisfying, so are the call and end call buttons, despite their tiny size. One of the reasons for that is because every button is in the right place.
Four instead of two soft-keys are located under the display. The first and the third are used for accessing the menu, meanwhile the second is used for confirming the action, and the fourth, on the contrary, is used for canceling the action. At first it feels rather unusual, but it takes very little time to get used to this unusual layout.
The keypad is formed in terrace style, buttons are close to each other. Their size isn’t big, that’s why people who have large fingers will find it hard to operate with the keyboard. Another thing should be noted as well: dialing the number or writing a message can be done only with right hand, and some users might find this being problematic too. The backlight color is lilac, it is equally spread among the surface.
The speaker which is used for playing the ring tone is located on the back cover. Slightly above that you can see 2mpx camera, and a small mirror nearby for making self-shots together with LED. The flash is very bright and can be used instead of flashlight, you just have to press and hold the UP button in order to activate it. Camera’s lens is not protected by anything, it is not even drowned into the case, that’s why scratched may appear on that, so be careful.
The remaining part of back side is occupied by Li-Ion battery with 950 mAh capacity. The battery’s fixation is reliable, there’s no backlash and I don’t believe that it will appear any time after. According to manufacturer, the phone can work up to 200 hours in stand by mode and up to 3.5 hours while talking. We were testing this unit in Moscow, and it worked for ~ 3 days with 30 minutes of phone calls daily, and up to 2 hours of listening to radio, 30 minutes spent for other functions. This is a pretty good result, since not every phone especially with QVGA can last that long. It takes around 3 hours for the phone to charge-up completely.
As we said, the phone is using the same platform as previous models of PG series. The software changes are mostly related to optimizing the menu for bigger resolution and horizontal layout, as well as with slightly redesigned navigation style. The main menu is presented as 3x3 matrix. Unlike previous phones, the icons are no longer big, they are located on the right side of the screen, meanwhile the big thumbnail of highlighted menu item is shown on the left side. The sub-menu is presented in the style of vertical lists, there’s fast number navigation on board.
Despite the fact that it took almost a year for the company to improve software part of the phone, the work with one cannot be described as ideal. Sometimes you can see visible freezing, while browsing the phone’s menu, sometimes the phone gets frozen for quite a while performing relatively easy operation. For example, if charge-up your phone, and you want to activate the alarm clock, it will take more than a minute for the operation to be completed.
The phone’s localization is made nicely, there are no acronyms or shortenings. Predictive T9 text input supports both English and Russian.
Internal memory is 19.7mb, it is spread dynamically between applications. You can enlarge the capacity with the help of RS-MMC memory card.
Phone book. The phone can store up to 800 numbers. Entries from phone’s memory and the SIM-card can be displayed separately or together. You can add up to 4 phone numbers for one entry, as well as e-mail address, custom ring tone, add a photo or a video clip, that will be displayed when the person is calling you. The name can be assigned to one of 10 groups. The user can create custom groups or choose one of the 4 preinstalled. Each group can have custom title (up to 19 symbols) and ring tone.
The phone supports quick dialing (up to 8 numbers). The phone book can be searched by name (by letters) or by groups.
Messages. Up to 100 messages can be stored in the phone’s memory. Handset supports EMS standard, this leads to ability to add small pictures, animations and short ring tones into the message’s body. You can create custom templates. Mass-message sending (up to 5 contacts) is supported as well.
For the first time in Pantech’s history, Text to Speech function was introduced (pronouncing text information). Although its realization so far is a little disappointing. The function can be either enabled or displayed, this operation can be done from the Message Settings menu. It would have been more interesting if you could activate it for each message separately, for each message, cause I don’t think that you will need this function while you’re in public, perhaps only for public’s amusement. Ideal solution in my opinion would be activating the function when the headset is connected, and the message would be pronounced automatically or, for example, after long key-press of headset’s button. I mean it would be very handy to find out what message you received without pulling the phone out of your pocket.
Another problem with this function is that only messages typed without mistakes will be read correctly. In case if the message has shortenings, acronyms, or the words written with mistakes, the message will be read as sputter, which will be hard to understand. This means that at this stage of evolution, reading messages looks like entertaining function and that’s it.
MMS editor is simple and easy to work with. You can create several slides, the maximum size of outgoing message cannot exceed 100kb. Up to 30 MMS messages can be stored in the phone’s memory.
An integrated POP3/IMAP/SMTP mail client supports several accounts and has an attachment constraint of 300 KB. At that any file can act as an attachment, even the one from the MMC-card memory. Reading Russian codings may be hard, since the device understands only Unicode. Just like in case with MMS messages, only 30 mails can be stored in the phone’s memory, despite their size.
Call lists. Up to 20 entries in each list, everything is rather customary. There is a combines list of 30 numbers. Equal numbers are not summed up, but are shown one after another. If you keep a corresponding image for a caller, then an icon is shown in the list. You can see information about a call duration, call counters and GPRS-traffic.
Media Gallery. Simple file-manager, here you can see the contents of your phone, they are sorted by type. You can see data of the external memory card. The files can be transferred via Bluetooth or IrDA to other devices, as for photos and pictures, they can be transferred via MMS messages, as well as sent to printer directly.
Organizer. Alarm Clock. You can set up to 5 alarm clocks, each of them can be activated single time, or daily, from Monday to Friday, or from Monday to Saturday, or by selected days of the week. Each Alarm Clock can have its own ring tone.
Calendar. You can only use Monthly view or all events all together. For every event you can select the type (birthday, meeting, trip, etc), time, make a small text note, select the alarm tone, time when alarm goes off (in time, or in interval from 15 minutes to 1 day prior to the event). You can also setup single time or monthly, annual reoccurrence of the event. There can be up to 50 entries made in total. Voice memo with up to 3 minutes length can be attached to any of them.
Notes are either text (up to 255 characters) or voice (up to 3 minutes).
World time, calculator, unit converter, stopwatch with 4 intermediate values, countdown timer are also gathered here.
Settings. Everything related to handset and network settings, display and sound is located here. You can select one of preinstalled photos or animations as wallpaper, as well as install any other picture that you had downloaded or taken with the camera. You can choose one of the styles for displaying the clock and calendar. Backlight timer can be setup as well: from 5 seconds to 10 minutes range. Brightness can be adjusted too.
The phone has 5 profiles, that are fully customized by user, any ring tone can be selected (including mp3 file), the size is not limited. As ring type you can select one of the following options: ring tone only, only vibra, vibrating alert followed by ring tone, or ascending tone.
“Bookmarks” menu allows user to select six most accessed functions of the phone. The menu can be activated by pressing left on the navigation key in stand by mode.
The last option is answering machine. The user can choose one of the three greetings or record them manually (he length cannot exceed 15 seconds). Here you can also choose the time, after which the answering machine will be activated (in the range from 3 to 20 seconds). This menu can be quickly accessed by holding down the volume button in the stand by mode.
Connections. WAP-browser v2.0 is located here. Besides you can enable “USB Mass Storage” option for connecting to PC with the help of data cable, this way when connected to PC you will see contents of internal and external memory without installing additional drivers. IrDA is activated here as well, it can operate in three modes Internet Connection, PC Sync Connection and Object Exchanging.
Bluetooth version 1.2 is integrated, the following profiles are supported GAP, SDAP, Serial-Device A, Serial-Device B, OBEX, Headset-AG, Dun-GW, OPP-Client, OPP-Server, FT-Server, FT-Client, Handsfree-AG, BIP-Image Push. It rouses no cavils, everything is quite plain. A pleasant thing is you can set the type of memory where to store the files received via Bluetooth by default.
Multimedia. MP3-player allows playing songs with various bitrates, but they can stored only in custom folder on the memory card. The songs that are located on the phone’s internal memory are not displayed, which is pretty much logical, since the internal memory size is extremely low. Search is not available, you should note that when copying the information. Playlists allow the user to group songs the way he likes. There are preinstalled equalizers for different genres, you can also select skins for the player. Player’s quality is average, it does not have FF option, only switch to next song. Player cannot work as minimized application, though it is possible to use it even if the headset is not connected.
Stereo headset can be found in the package, it has Answer Call button and volume control jog. The headphones are average
Radio. Radio can be activated only when you connect the headset, since the wire acts as antenna. Once the headset is connected, you can select weather the sound be transferred to headphones or the speaker. Up to 10 stations can be stored in the phone’s memory, each of them can have its custom name. The reception quality is okay, the disappointing thing is same as in case with the player, it cannot work minimized.
Java. The phone supports MIDP 2.0. There are two preinstalled games - Run (arcade) and AquaPangPang (arcade). Even preinstalled games that are supposed to be optimized for the headset are unplayable because of the speed, the game reminds more of a slide-show. Additional Java-applications can be installed only via WAP.
Camera. At first the company planned to install 2mpx CCD module, but in the end they decided to drop this idea and setup 2mpx CMOS module w/o autofocus. On the whole camera is similar to the one installed in Pantech PG6100, the algorithm was slightly improved, thanks to which the shots turn out slightly better. The following resolutions are supported – UXGA (1600x1200), SXGA (1280õ1024), XGA (1024x768), VGA (640õ480), QVGA (320õ240). You can setup the shots quality - Fine, Normal, Low. A series of shorts (from 4 to 15) with certain intervals can be made, you can choose the speed for that (slow, average, fast). White balance settings are as follows: daylight, daylight lamp, cloudy, incandescent lamp.
The flash can be either enabled or disabled. Nothing special can be said about that, it’s more of a bright flashlight, since it doesn't help much when making shots in darkness. The photos can be stored default folder, or in custom one. It takes around 15-20 seconds to save high-res photo. This is too much.
Mosaic style of shots can be made as well – from 2 to 9 shots. In this case photos are displayed as one shot. You can apply frames (10 preinstalled) and effects (warm, sepia, antique, clear, moonshine, negative, b&w, emboss). There’s 4x digital zoom, but it’s better not to use it.
The quality of shots is okay, especially if the lighting conditions are good. The worse lighting during the shots is, the worse the quality will be. Great portion of noise will appear if shot is taken during night. On the whole the shots quality is higher than Pantech PG6100, and it is around the level of Samsung D600.
The phone can record video in MPEG4 format (three resolutions are supported - SQCIF, QCIF and QVGA). You can also select four types of video – for MMS, low, average, high. When shooting video with SQCIF and QCIF resolution you can select frame rate (15 or 30), as for QVGA – only 15. The clip quality is below average, it turns out not smooth, you can see freezing in some places. The positive aspect that the clips are stored in MPEG4 format, since in previous models MJPEG codec was used instead, which made it impossible to use the clips outside the phone.
Unlike previous models, this time the settings that you had entered will be saved for future times, and default settings can be rested from the camera settings menu.
The phones in album can be viewed as list, as thumbnails (up to 6 photos displayed at once), or one by one, this way each photo will be shown in full-screen. You can edit the photos (including ability to cut part of the image and slightly improve it).
The clips in the video player can be played in window or in fullscreen mode, just press “*” key during playback.
Network reception quality is higher than average, handset provides good coverage in places where other phones are not good at that. Quality of 64-tone polyphonic ring tones is good, there’s a separate speaker, which provides good playback quality and high volume. You can use mp3 files as ring tone, there are no limitations in size or bitrate. Vibrating alert power is average, sometimes you may miss a call because you won’t feel it.
This handset has loudspeaker function, it is activated via menu during phone call. Realization is good, there are no concerns about that one.
This phone will be interesting due to its design in the first place, it just gathers everyone’s attention. Horizontal-style navigation is not a unique one, you could see that earlier (take Nokia N-Gage as example). You will have to get used to operating it, and people with large fingers will find keypad being uncomfortable to work with. And some users may find it completely unusable because keypad can be operated only with right hand. The display installed in this unit is good, high resolution and horizontally orientated picture display make the work comfortable and pleasant. Improved camera algorithm allows getting good shots, although only in case the lighting conditions are good.
There’s one question remaining: for whom this handset was made? It will not suit young people, because mp3 player lacks functions, and you cannot listen to it or radio in minimized mode; Java applications will be really slow. Grown-ups may be aware of the design, and some may not find horizontal navigation being that much useful. We can only suppose that it will be in demand for young people who will like the design, and use the phone mostly for calls and text messages, as well as built-in camera and radio, meanwhile other functions do not bother them that much. It can also be said that this model is a failure, and was released only in order to demonstrate that Pantech has handset with QVGA-display and 2mpx camera in its line-up. An integrated 3D hardware accelerator would have done the trick, but it seems that the company has neither will or ability to improve software part of PG8000.
The model is already for sale, its price is around 450 USD. This handset has enough competitors, although if you compare between those who have QVGA display and 2mpx camera, it will be hard to find any (design, horizontal orientation).
Published 25 April 2006
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