Pantech Renue (AT&T)
Pantech & Curitel
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.0 / 5
The good: The Pantech Renue has an appealing design, a touch-friendly interface, and a quite decent slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
The bad: Poor speakerphone, mediocre camera, and shorter battery life are the Renue's biggest deterrents.
The bottom line: Heavy texters will find much to like in the cute, compact Pantech Renue, but its shorter battery life and underdeveloped camera are setbacks.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
I always look forward to reviewing Pantech phones, in part because the lesser-known brand is often undersung, and in part, because you never know what you're going to get. It might be something like the sleeker, sophisticated Pantech Burst Android phone, the Sidekick-style Swift, or the overgrown Pocket. In this case, AT&T's eco-friendly Pantech Renue continues the carrier's staunch support for the phone-maker in a compact messaging phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that's more in the style of U.S. Cellular's slide-up Verse than the other three designs.
In typical Pantech fashion, the design and interface are high points, and the tools are fairly filled out for a feature phone. However, there are some technical problems when it comes to capturing good quality photo and video, and elements like speakerphone. However, the $69.99 price tag -- with a two-year contract -- and the lack of a recurring data fee will attract those who just aren't ready or interested in a smartphone, so long as they can look past detractions like a medium-life battery and iffy photos.
Every phone-maker has a signature style, and for Pantech, it's "cute." As a lover of many things cute, I say that's a good thing. It lets Pantech inject some youthful character that can help its handsets stand out from more industrial or generic designs. Oftentimes, "cute" means small, as with the Renue. (But not always; the Pantech Pocket was actually the size of my pocket.) In Pantech's case, it's also synonymous with a more polished design that pays attention to visual details like texture and shape.
Like many of Pantech's phones, the Renue is a compact rectangle with rounded-off corners. It has a glossy, all black face, but the battery cover is a rubbery material etched with diagonal grooves. At only 3.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by about 0.47 inch thick, the compact Renue folds easily into the palm of a hand, tucks into a pocket or purse, and excels at one-handed touch-screen operation. It's snug on the ear as well. At 4.5 ounces, it's heavy for its size, but make it much lighter and it would start feeling cheap and breakable. The weight gives an impression of sturdiness.
Fitting to its petite dimension, the Renue has only a 3.2 inch TFT screen with a 320x240-pixel resolution and support for 260,000 colors. Hues look bright, but the display resolution isn't very sharp or detailed, and text looks jagged around the edges. Responsiveness, however, is high, which makes the act of navigating fairly easy.
When you firmly slide out the four-row QWERTY keyboard, you're greeted with oblong plastic keyboard buttons accented in aquamarine. The keys look bubbly, but are actually pretty flat to the surface. They feel good underhand, but keys that rise higher would make it easier to type like the wind. As it is, the flatness stalled me a couple of times. Otherwise, I found the placement spacious despite the more compact width (I also have smaller fingers.) Smart predictive suggestion boxes help keep spelling in check, and a couple of dedicated punctuation buttons on the keyboard will keep grammarians happy.
Below the display are three touch-sensitive buttons for talk, back, and end. The left spine houses the Micro-USB charging port and the right spine has the volume rocker. Up top are the 3.5 millimeter headset jack and the power button. On the back you'll find the 3-megapixel camera lens with no flash. Behind the back cover are slots for the micro-SIM card and for the microSD card. The Renue accepts up to XYZGB in expandable memory.
Features and OS
As a feature phone, the Renue runs on Pantech's proprietary operating system, based on BREW. There's a lock screen with shortcuts to open to the camera app, message composition screen, call log, or voice mail if you'd rather skip the home screens.
Speaking of home screens, you'll find five of them. They're semi-customizable. In addition to the main screen (which has your clock,) Pantech has designated one screen each for photos, contacts, favorites, and the Web. You're able to add what you'd like within that framework, but you'll hit your head against a wall if you're trying to add bookmarks where your contacts live. Pantech may restrict your customizing freedom, but they got it right with large, tap-friendly widgets and icons. At the bottom of the touch screen are four static icons for the dialer, contacts, messages, and the application tray.
The app tray fits 12 large, finger-friendly icons on each "page." Rearranging them is easy by pressing and holding, then moving the icons around once they're activated. You can also add shortcuts to specific files, settings, and tools by pressing and holding, or create folders.
The Renue has Bluetooth and Internet access over AT&T's 3G network, but you won't find Wi-Fi, unfortunately, so anything you do will eat up data. You'll also notice a toll with the mobile e-mail app, which lets you sign into various accounts, including Gmail, AT&T Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, and AIM. There are GPS and mapping apps, like the optional AT&T Navigator with turn-by-turn directions. The first 30 days are free; you can also buy a day pass for $1.99 or subscribe monthly for $9.99. Other applications include AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Maps, and the Where apps.
Other apps include a Web browser, your MyAT&T account, Yellow Pages Mobile, and an app manager to delete or update your downloads. Multimedia plays a role as well, with a basic music player and video player, plus an online music store. Shortcuts to Facebook and Twitter's mobile sites are loaded by default. A hearty helping of essential tools all get their own bucket, where you'll find an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a sketch pad, a voice recorder, and a world clock. There's also a calculator and tip calculator, a unit converter, a stop watch, and a timer.
If you're looking for more, there's a link to AT&T's online storefront where you'll be able to buy and download items like additional apps and games.
In addition to apps, there's an array of settings you can apply to customize the phone. The Renue will let you set up profiles for certain scenarios, like flight mode and outdoor. It isn't exactly clear what each setting means, but I assume the outdoor profile boosts the audio alerts and ringtone volume. On the display front, you're able to swap out the home screen and menu screen wallpaper. You're also able to select your clock type, change the lock screen image, choose the font, and select backlight times for the screen and keypad. Battery is a scarce resource on the Renue, but power-saving mode can help prolong it.
If a camera is your most important phone feature, you may want to keep looking. The Renue's 3-megapixel camera/camcorder lacks a flash, which is already one limitation. Unfortunately, mediocre image quality is another. Photos are set to medium quality by default, but they also go one notch higher and one lower. Even at high quality, the image isn't very sharp or saturated, and the camera seems to struggle with correctly lighting a scene.
There's a lot you can do in the settings to tweak the image setup. If you really want, you can drop the resolution down four levels, from the 3-megapixel setting of 2,048x1,536 pixels down to 320x240 pixels, the QVGA resolution of the screen. There are also five white balance settings, four effects, and brightness controls. You can turn on the self-timer and turn off the irritatingly loud shutter sound. (Get a sampling of cell phone camera quality here in our comparative photo gallery.)
Videos you take on the Renue will also be basic. The handset can capture and play back in the MPEG-4 format. A 15f/s, QVGA size is the maximum; it'll also record in 176x144 and a smaller size specifically for MMS. You'll still get brightness settings, a self timer, white balance presets, and three quality options. In addition, you can manually zoom in.
Unsurprisingly, video quality isn't a strong suit. Clips, which are clearly envisioned as multimedia messaging content, cut off at the 30-second mark and are extremely blocky on playback. Volume on the subject is low and colors look dull and drained.
I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900) Pantech Renue in San Francisco on AT&T's network. Call quality was acceptable, but there were apparent weak spots. Volume was a tad low, and voices sounded thick and muffled. On the plus side, background noise was undetectable and there weren't any interruptions in the line. While my callers always sounded natural, sometimes their voices flared in a "hot" flash.
On their end of the line, callers agreed that my voice sounded thick and muffled, but exceptionally clear. No interruptions bothered my test partner, but my chief partner did hear clipping at the higher voice frequencies.
Pantech Renue call quality sample Listen now:
I tested the speakerphone at waist level. Volume dropped in the switch from standard to speakerphone, and my caller sounded rather unintelligible -- fuzzy, hollow, and more robotic, with a lot of distortion at the higher registers. Listening to it was very uncomfortable and I had to ask my caller to repeat himself more than once. On his end, my test companion said I sounded good over speakerphone, but perhaps a bit quieter. There's a little echo, but nothing beyond the normal amount.
Data speeds are strictly 3G on this feature phone, and that's OK since texting and making calls will probably trump data usage as your primary focus. If you're moving up from a simple phone or are a new phone owner, it may be just fine, but compare speeds to today's high-speed 4G networks and you may get some data envy. You also won't break any land speed records navigating around on the phone's Qualcomm QSC6270 processor, but again, communication is the name of the game here, not speed. Just so you know.
Unfortunately, the Renue's battery life may hinder marathon communication. It has a rated battery life of 5.2 hours talk time and 17.7 days of standby time on the 1,000mAh battery. During our battery test for talk time, it lasted 6.92 hours.
People who want to text and make calls and do little else besides should keep the Pantech Renue in the ring when picking out a new feature phone. The price is fair for a handset of this type that isn't being subsidized to abnormally deflated levels, and the compact shape and size let it offer different dimensions than what we typically find on store displays. Its flat keyboard may slow you down at time and being a slave to the charger is always a drag, but my overall impression is of a likable phone that gets other things right, like predictive texting and large screen icons. I really do wish the camera were better at rendering images, even for the megapixel size, but if you're not buying a phone to double as a camera, the shooter still beats that of a flip phone for capturing the moment when no other cameras are around. Because of its shape and interface, the Renue seems geared toward teens or to the young at heart, and its eco certification through AT&T's new program gives it a few bonus points for reduced packaging and recycled materials.
|Band / mode||GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband)|
|Talk time||Up to 180 min|
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Combined with||With digital camera / digital player|
Average User Rating: 3.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 0
4 Star: 2
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 5
This device performs poorly on nearly every feature.
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on September 19, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: large screen, weighty-feels solid in hand. Black in color. "Cute" icons, full Qwery keyboard.
Cons: Does not perform as outlined in users manual-does not sync with Windows Media Player (or iTunes). Needs charging every 8-12 hrs. Very weak service (no service AT ALL in remote areas). No "missed call" notification. No flash on the camera.
Summary: After spending a week on on-line and on the phone with tech support trying to get this device to do what it says it does I finally sent it back. I ran into problem after problem just trying to set it up,ie. load music-customize ringtones. I live in a remote area with very low service where, with my old simple little flip-phone, I could sometimes get one bar but got: "NO SERVICE!" period with the Pantech Renue. Very disappointed with this device.
I purchased two - they stopped working within 8 months.
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on September 5, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Nothing comes to mind.
Cons: I purchased two of these phone in January of 2013. It is currently September 5, 2013. Both phones are completely defunct. Paperweights. They will not transmit or receive.
Summary: During the window in which these phones were operational, the call quality was mediocre. The battery life of the devices was terrible. I am currently in the process of replacing the 2nd phone. It is noteworthy that neither phone was operational beyond 8 months. Both phones were maintained in good condition and were charged regularly. They were not dropped in water or otherwise abused. Since we had two of the same kind, we were able to attempt a "trouble shoot" by using both chargers and batteries in the devices. No dice.
My personal recommendation would be to avoid this phone. There are much better phones available.
Avoid this phone.
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on May 8, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: -Long battery life (has lasted 2 or 3 days which is decent compared to today's smart phones)
-Feels light, not too bulky
Cons: -Slow processing/graphics
-Counter intuitive controls.
-Tiny storage space
-Poor mic (people have a hard time hearing me when I talk to them.
-The phone makes texting extremely difficult.
Summary: The graphics are slow. They barely keep up with my finger movements. The processor is slow. Things like even sending a simple text message take a long time.
The controls are counter-intuitive. For example, the button on the bottom which is either "Back" or "Return", is programmed very poorly. Let's say for example I'm in the phones settings then I set it down. I get a message from Bob later and I read it. I click the Back/Return button, and since I'm in Bob's message I assume it'll take me one level up to All Messages. Nope, it'll take my back to Settings. And if I hit it again it'll take me to wherever I was before that. I've never seen and probably never will see again a phone with such strange behavior. The feature is counter-intuitive, unnecessary, and frustrating.
There is absolutely no storage space on the phone. 300 messages? That will last the average person a few days before you have to delete everything. It's a cheap phone, sure, but I can buy a flash drive for $10 that would hold tens of thousands of messages. They seem a little behind the times on storage capacity.
Texting is a chore. Don't bother using the dictionary/prediction. As soon as you type something wrong, or capitalize a word, that will be set as the #1 entry for that word. The manual doesn't give a way to reset the dictionary, and try as I might, the #1 entry always seems to be the misspelled/wrongly capitalized/etc word. I had a phone 7 years ago with T9 prediction that worked better than this. How outdated can this phone possibly be?
Overall, AVOID THIS PHONE. I bought it because I was getting a new AT&T contract and I wanted something cheap, reliable, and easy to use. Cheap? Sure. Reliable? Reliably poor performance. Easy to use? Not very.
Please, do yourself a favor and get a different phone. It's cheap yes, but you WILL regret it. If you have any other option for phones PLEASE take them over this. You will be saving yourself from a lot of trouble.
Durable, but frustrating.
Rating: 1 / 5
on March 3, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: slide-out keyboard, touch screen, durable
Cons: battery life, butt dialing, service goes out
Summary: The phone works well enough on its basic features. It texts, it calls.
The problem is, the battery is horrible compared to other phones I've used of similar features, the phone doesn't lock well and I've "butt dialed" people several times while the phone was in my front pocket or lying on my bed. Service will randomly go out for hours at a time, even in areas where other AT&T users have full bars, including my family.
I do not recommend this phone at all if you'd actually like to call or text people.
The Best Quick Messaging Phone Currently Available
Rating: 4 / 5
on December 23, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Slide-out keyboard, touchscreen, touch-sensitive buttons, Powersaver, Sketchpad, and expandable memory
Cons: No photo editing, mediocre calculator.
Summary: The Pantech Renue is a fantastic quick messaging phone and a must-buy.