TCAT Review: Pantech Element tablet
Along with the low-end smartphone Burst, Pantech has released the Element, a waterproof tablet priced at $449.99 off contract and $299.99 with a two-year commitment. Will the Element be the next must-have tablet on AT&T’s network? Or is it just a bigger version of the Burst? These questions are solved below.
The Element’s design is sleek. With an eight-inch screen and rounded edges, the Element will not stand out in the crowd of other tablets. But somehow that works to its advantage.
Around the top of the device (assuming you hold it in a landscape view) you will find the power/hold button as well as the volume rocker. On the left, there is the 3.5mm headphone jack covered by a hard plastic material that’s meant to keep out water (remember, this tablet is waterproof). Along the bottom is the SIM card slot, microSD slot and micro USB and HDMI port. All of these are covered with the same hard plastic material. On the back, you will find the five-megapixel camera with autofocus. All in all, the Element took decent photos and recorded in 720p, but I still don’t know what situation we could be in where we would rather take a picture or record a video with a tablet instead of our phone.
The eight-inch screen left me wanting more. What you see is not terrible, but it’s not amazing. Pantech has put a mediocre screen on its tablet. Although the viewing angles are good and the screen is readable, I feel like Pantech could have done a little bit more.
On the waterproof aspect of the tablet, I tested it out under my faucet (one of my most gut-wrenching experiences) and I can proudly say that it survived. With all the ports covered, there is no way for water to enter the device. But that alone can’t be enough to warrant a purchase.
Remember when the iPad first came out and everyone said that it was just an oversized iPhone? When thinking back on my time with the Element, I can only think about how much it’s just a Burst with four extra inches of screen and a different operating system. The internals of the Element are the exact same as the Burst.
The Element can access AT&T’s 4G data speeds, if you’re so inclined to pay for the extra plan. The network speeds are fast, as long as you are in an AT&T covered area. I was getting 30 Mbps download speeds and 12 Mbps upload speeds. Throughout the day, I was able to use the Element on the 4G network without having to charge it. But as always with these 4G devices, heavy usage will quickly drain the battery.
I mentioned that one of the differences between the Element and the Burst is the fact that it runs a different operating system. What you will find on the Element is Android Honeycomb (3.2) with all of its issues in tow. The Element is due to receive an update to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) at some point in time, but Pantech is not ready to confirm any date.
While the Honeycomb operating system looks amazing (it’s like living in “Tron”), the beauty does not hide its biggest flaws.
None of the applications outside of the ones that Google made look good with the bigger screen. You are essentially enlarging the phone version of your games and other apps to fit the bigger screen. This leaves apps looking like a pixilated mess. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is supposed to be part of the solution for this problem, but alas the Element does not have it yet.
Besides that glaring issue, Honeycomb was made with tablets purely in mind, and it looks good. The way that it suspends applications that you have open needs fixing, because right now it leaves a cluttered mess when you attempt to switch back.
But from what I have seen, Google took the initiative to fix it in Android 4.0. If you are willing to wait for the hopeful short time it takes Pantech to get Ice Cream Sandwich ready for the Element, Honeycomb should not be that much of a hindrance to you.
At the end of the day, the Element is sadly a bigger version of the Burst. From the internals to the design, the only real difference is the change in operating system.
I would recommend the Element for those looking for an entry level tablet, much like I recommend the Burst to those who wanted an entry level phone. The Element is a good device. Just don’t expect it to be an iPad competitor.