Pantech Breakout Review – Verizon Wireless

The Pantech Breakout was Verizon Wireless’s fifth 4G LTE phone. Unlike the 4G phones that preceded it such as the HTC Thunderbolt, Droid Charge, LG Revolution, and Motorola Droid Bionic, the Pantech Breakout stood apart from the crowd due to its low $100 price tag (with a 2-year contract). Despite its low price tag, does the Pantech Breakout have what it takes to compete with the higher-end 4G phones that sell for 3 times as much? Find out in our review of the Pantech Breakout on Verizon Wireless.

The Good

  • Price – At $100 with a 2-year contract, you can’t beat that price, especially when other 4G phones sell for $299 when they are released.
  • 4G LTE – With access to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, you can browse the web, upload/download data at fast 4G LTE speeds.
  • Great to hold – Holding the Breakout feels great. It’s large and very gripable.

The Bad

  • Battery life – Although it doesn’t have a dual-core processor, the battery life is still sub-par.
  • Internal storage – With 8 and 16GB being the standard, the Breakout’s 390MB simply doesn’t cut it.
  • Bloatware – This phone comes with lots of unwanted applications.
  • No capacitive touch buttons – Pantech decided to go with physical buttons instead of capacitive touch.
  • Performance – The device would have benefited from a dual-core processor.
  • Screen – be ready to wipe the screen down after every use because the screen is a major fingerprint magnet.
  • No LED notification light – I don’t understand why manufacturers leave out this small but very useful feature

Hardware / Design

Although the Pantech Breakout is Verizon’s cheapest 4G LTE phone, you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at its design. When held, the phone feels pretty good in your hands. It may not be as thin as the 4G LTE phones, such as the Motorola Droid Bionic, but overall, it feels just as good holding it. The textured back cover on the phone allows you to properly grip it, unlike the Samsung Droid Charge’s back. With its 4-inch display, the breakout is right on the border of large screens; it’s not too big, and it’s definitely not too small.

The Pantech Breakout features the following specs:

  • Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread
  • 1GHz single-core processor
  • 4-inch display with 480 x 800 resolution
  • 379MB of internal storage
  • 8GB microSD card
  • 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with 720P video recording
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • Swype keyboard

On the front of the breakout, you have your 4-inch capacitive touch display. It’s nice that Pantech decided to go with a 4-inch display instead of a lower one. On the top of the front, you have you front-facing VGA camera that I barely used due to the lack of Google Talk with Video (the breakout still runs Android 2.3.3. Google Talk with Video requires at least Android 2.3.4). Towards the bottom, you have your 4 typical Android buttons: menu, home, back, and search. Instead of using capacitive touch buttons, Pantech decided to go with physical buttons.

Personally, I like my phones to be at least 4.3-inches, but the Breakout’s 4-inch display didn’t feel that small. One thing that I absolutely hated about the phone’s display is the fact that it is a fingerprint magnet! I found myself wiping the screen down many times during the day to get rid of all the smudges, something I didn’t have to do with my other phones.

On the back of the phone, you have your 5-megapixel camera, a speaker, and a noise reducing microphone. The back cover of the phone is made out of a grippable textured plastic that makes the phone feel good when being held. The bottom half of the back cover slips off to reveal the 1,500mAh battery and your 4G LTE SIM card and 8GB microSD card. The back cover easily slips on and off, so you won’t be struggling like with some other phones.

You will definitely enjoy the sound that is emitted from the rear speakers. Listening to music and using the speaker phone was a pleasant experience. Reminded me of the speakers on Motorola phones, very powerful.

On the right side of the phone, you have you have your micro USB port, power button, and dedicated camera button. As a Motorola Droid X fan, I liked the fact that the phone had a dedicated camera button. I feel like taking pictures with a dedicated button is always easier than taping on the screen to take pictures. The micro USB port is covered by a little plastic cover that seems pretty durable, so you won’t have to worry about it breaking or falling off anytime soon.

The location of the power button is a little bit strange. Instead of putting it towards the top on the right side, it has been placed dead in the middle. As a right handed person, that placement felt a little weird, but I quickly got used to it. If you’re left-handed, I’m sure that having the power button dead-center will be great for you.

On the left hand side, you have your 3.5mm headphone jack towards the top, volume rocker, and a dedicated voice control button. I didn’t end up using the dedicated voice button much often. As a matter of fact, the only time I pressed it was when I did so by accident as I took the phone out of my pocket. It would have been nice to be able to program that button to do something else.

Internally, the Breakout features a single-core processor clocked at 1GHz. Memory wise, it features 512MB of RAM and only 376MB of internal storage for apps and downloads. To compensate for the low internal storage, an 8GB microSD card is included with the phone. I think that the phone could have definitely benefited from added RAM. After using it for a while, you quickly see how the performance is affected.

The phone measures 5.00 x 2.53 x 0.47 (127 x 64 x 12 mm) and weighs only 4.86 oz (138 g).

Display

The Pantech Breakout features a 4-inch TFT LCD display with 480 x 800 resolution. Overall, the display is decent. It’s not something as super sharp as a Super Amoled Plus; it’s decent and it gets the job done at displaying colors. I found viewing angles to be very good. Depending on your display settings, you might have to increase the brightness when you’re outside.

It’s nice that Pantech decided to go with a 4-inch display instead of a smaller one. Although it’s not as big as a 4.3-inch display, it still felt nice when being held.

The only major issue that I had with the phone’s display was that it was a major fingerprint magnet. If your fingers are even slightly oily, expect smudges all over the screen. You will find yourself constantly cleaning the screen in order to better see. I found myself wiping the screen down each time I removed the phone from my pocket.

Software

The Pantech Breakout runs on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread. To differentiate itself from the army of Android devices that are currently available, Pantech decided to lay their custom UI (which is nameless at the moment) on top of Gingerbread. Pantech’s UI has features that you’ve seen elsewhere. For instance, to unlock the phone, you have to slide the lock to the right; sliding the sound icon to the left toggles the sound on and off.


      
Pantech Breakout’s unlock screen

Pantech also borrowed some features from HTC’s Sense UI. On the lock screen, you have the ability to unlock directly to an application. The three applications are phone, messages, and email. Simply drag one of those three icons to the circle, and when the phone unlocks, you are brought directly to those apps. Unfortunately, you can’t customize those lock-screen applications. It would have been great if we were able to select which applications we place there.

Once the phone is unlocked, you are presented with your home screen. The UI looks very colorful and cartoonish. Along the bottom of the home screen are, once again, shortcuts for apps that you cannot change. You’re stuck with the phone, contacts, messaging, and the app drawer button. The good thing is that if you’re not a fan of this home screen, you can always try out a different one from the Android Market, one of the many customizable things available on Android.

      
Main screen, Pantech Widget selection, and list of available widgets

Included in Pantech’s UI is a set of custom widgets (in addition to the standard Android widgets that you’re used to). Holding down an empty space on the home screen and selecting the Pantech Widgets options brings up a wheel of widgets on the bottom of the screen that allows you to choose from 13 custom widgets created by Pantech. If can’t find the widget you’re looking for, you can always view the Android widgets by clicking on the Android button on the wheel. The custom Pantech widgets include the following:

  • Task Manager
  • Memo
  • Event Notification
  • Weather
  • Music
  • Social Net
  • Integrated Clock
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Bookmark
  • Clock
  • Web Space

Notification Bar


   
Notification panel on the Pantech Breakout

The Breakout’s notification bar features quick toggles to some of your most used settings. Directly from the notification bar, you have the option to toggle on and off the ringer, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and data. Right above the data option, there is a little arrow that reveals even more options. After expanding the notification bar, you then have the option to view the sound, Bluetooth, display, and mobile hotspot settings. An option to enable/disable airplane mode is also available.

Bloatware

If you hate bloatware, then you’re going to have the amount that comes on the Breakout. As soon as you hit the app drawer button, you are presented with so many apps, all pre-installed on a brand new phone. And guess what; lucky for you, none of those apps can be uninstalled. Fortunately, you do have an option to hide them. To hide all of those unwanted apps, just bring up the applications and hit the menu button, then edit. You then have the option to drag things into the hid folder. It really sucks that with such limited amount of internal storage, so much unnecessary things are preloaded into the phone.

Performance and Battery Life

The Breakout sports a single-core processor clocked at 1GHz with 512MB of RAM. I think that the phone could have gotten a performance boost if it had more RAM. On most occasions, the phone is speedy and responsive. Moving between screens is nice and smooth. But as time passes, and more apps are used, you can clearly see and feel the performance take a hit. Moving between screens, pulling the notification bar down, and opening applications all become laggy as you use your phone throughout the day. Besides occasionally getting laggy during the day, the phone never crashed or reset itself during my time testing it, which is always a good thing.

When it comes to battery life, the Breakout’s 1,500mAh battery doesn’t do it much justice. Like other 4G LTE phones, you should probably carry your charger with you or have a second one available at work. I consider myself a heavy user. I have multiple email accounts, constantly surf the web, and I’m always keeping up with what’s new on my favorite sites. During my testing, I averaged about 11-13 hours of usage time before requiring a recharge. If you’re not a heavy user, expect to gain way more usage time. On average, I use about 3-4GB of data every month.

Cameras

The Pantech Breakout features two cameras: a front-facing VGA camera that’s useful for video chat and self-portraits, and a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera that is also capable of recording videos at 720P HD. I personally thought that the cameras were simply ok. They aren’t the best phone cameras (you’re not going to get Samsung Galaxy S II quality pictures with these), but you will get pictures that you will be happy with. On occasion, I did experience terrible shutter lag, sort of like on the Motorola Droid Bionic, and yes, it was that bad. Besides the shutter lag, the camera is alright. Also, I liked the fact that the phone featured a dedicated camera button, a feature that I enjoy in phones. Unfortunately, more manufactures are neglecting the dedicated camera button and are moving towards on-screen shutters.

The camera app is pretty basic and minimalist. When first opened, the only options you have in the camera app are to switch cameras, take a picture, or switch to video mode. Up on the top right corner, you also have a battery indicator, and the GPS indicator to remind you that geo location tagging is enabled. If you tap anywhere on the screen, a menu appears on the left that gives you more options for improving and manipulating your pictures.

Sample pictures from the Pantech Breakout


      

      

Pantech Breakout 720P Video Sample



Mobile viewing link

Conclusion

Overall, I think that the Pantech Breakout is a great 4G phone if you’re on a budget. It may not the best fastest, or the most powerful, but for $100 on a 2-year contract; it’s a good phone for the price you have to pay. Pantech could have made the Breakout a better device by giving it more internal storage and RAM, better battery life, and less bloatware. If you’re in the market for a cheap 4G LTE phone from Verizon, then yes, I recommend the Pantech Breakout. If your budget isn’t limited to $100, I recommend that you go for a faster, more powerful 4G phone such as the Motorola Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or Motorola Droid Bionic.

You can buy the Pantech Breakout directly from Verizon Wireless or from other online retailers such as Amazon Wireless.

Jonathan converted to the Android platform from Blackberry with the original Motorola Droid. He currently has a Samsung Galaxy Nexus complete with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on Verizon Wireless, a Motorola Xoom, and a Kindle Fire. Besides keeping up with Android news, he enjoys spending time with his family, gaming, reading, and computers. Google+

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