Pantech Impact: Good Features, Clumsy Design
At a Glance
Though the Pantech Impact has some solid features, the phone's awkward design makes the simplest of tasks downright tedious.
The Pantech Impact (available for $50 with a two-year AT&T contract; price as of January 25, 2010) provides a solid camera and a full-QWERTY keyboard, but its sensitive touchpad, oddly placed keys, and complicated phone-call mechanics keep it from being a top messaging phone.
The flip phone, which measures 4.2 by 2 by 0.5 inches, is a bit bulky. At 4.5 ounces, it doesn't seem to weigh much in the hand, but it definitely can sag in a pocket. The 240-by-400-pixel display measures just over 2.6 inches--somewhat small compared with the screens of other phones, but about the same size as a BlackBerry's display. The screen and the QWERTY keyboard hide on the inside of the flip top. The exterior of the phone has a number pad and a small, inch-wide OLED display that goes dormant when the device is inactive. Included with the Impact are a thick instruction booklet and a wall plug.
Like the Pantech Reveal, the Impact maintains a clean start-up screen and hides all of its apps and other items under two tabs: Shortcuts and Menu. The main screen shows the time and date, carrier, and battery power. The Shortcuts section is empty until you place shortcuts to your favorite apps in it. The screen's clean front is admirable, but having to press an additional button from the main screen to access everything you need on the phone seems tedious. The Menu has ten items: Address Book, Messaging, Mobile Email, Mobile Web, AppCenter, AT&T GPS, YPmobile (Yellow Pages), My Stuff, AT&T Music, and Settings.
Strangely, making phone calls on the Impact is more difficult than it should be. To make a call, you must press the Hold button on the phone's spine to activate a dialer menu on the front display. This setup causes a few problems: First, you have to keep pressing the Hold button in order to dial, and it's easy to release the button accidentally and cause the keys to stop responding. Second, the phone's smooth shell means that the number keys have no physical separation, so hitting the wrong key is a strong possibility.
The key layout on the inside of the phone is a challenge to use, too. The slippery touchpad is located on the upper-right corner--immediately above the back/delete button. While maneuvering around the touchpad, expect to leave a Website or close an application by mistake--a lot. The keyboard is a bit better however, as the keys are responsive and have slight separations between them
Call quality on the Pantech Impact is about average. A quad-band GSM/GPRS phone using AT&T's 3G network, the Impact has so-so clarity. The phone is also Bluetooth 2.0 compatible.
Despite the 3G connectivity, the phone's online multimedia performance isn't great. In our tests, complex media-driven sites such as PCWorld.com and ESPN.com loaded fine, though the Impact's browser doesn't support Flash. YouTube and other video sites had fair visuals, probably as a result of the phone's own fuzzy resolution; video downloads seemed to chug along at lesser, EDGE-quality speeds, too.
Offline, however, the Pantech Impact shines in the video department. Though it lacks a flash, the 2-megapixel camera and camcorder seems to absorb nearby brightness well. You can capture shots and video with several different buttons on the Impact--all according to your preference--and serious photogs can adjust brightness levels, composition, and other settings within the device. The sound in videos could be a little higher, but the Impact is quite functional for a feature phone.
The Impact's other multimedia features are pretty lackluster. The included AT&T Music app has the usual rewind, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons, and a couple other details. Unfortunately the Impact doesn't come with a USB cable, an accessory that has become commonplace for feature phones. Want to listen to music? You have to buy an additional cord, or purchase tunes exclusively through the AT&T Music store. Once you're set up, though, the phone has good external speakers.
The Pantech Impact sits awkwardly between text-friendly phones, many of which offer a better design for messaging, and touchscreen powerhouses, all of which are more capable of handling multimedia. Unfortunately, the Impact doesn't quite succeed at either task. If you're looking for an inexpensive but full-featured phone on AT&T, you might consider the LG Neon (which has a slightly better keyboard) or the Sony Ericsson Walkman W518a (which has stronger multimedia features).