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printed October 1, 2014
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Review: Pantech Renue for AT&T

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The Renue is a cute little thing, though it would be cuter if it came in some hip colors or designs. The Renue is the latest QMD (quick messaging device) from Pantech for AT&T, and hopes to bridge the divide between those who love touch screens, but also require a real, physical keyboard.

The Renue's footprint is pleasingly small. At 3.9 inches tall, it's perhaps two-thirds the height of today's standard bar phones and yet it still manages to avoid looking squat or awkwardly disproportionate. It's so thin and light that you might be surprised to learn it hides a slide-out keyboard.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The rounded side surfaces and the battery cover have a soft-touch finish, giving the Renue some much-needed grip. The battery cover, in particular, has a ribbed pattern to it that makes the Renue easy to keep hold of. The materials and build quality feel decent, but not fantastic. Most people won't be able to tell the Renue is made partially from recycled materials, but they'll certainly know it's no high-end smartphone. Its small size makes it an easy pocket companion, but the soft-touch finish is sticky enough that you might pull your jeans pocket inside out along with the Renue.

The front of the phone is mostly the touch display. There are three capacitive buttons below the screen, which offer Call, Back, and End functions. These buttons were responsive, but I would have liked them more if they offered haptic feedback. They don't. The left side of the phone holds only the microUSB port, and the right side holds only the volume toggle. The volume toggle has an excellent feel to it. It’s easy to find and has pleasing travel and feedback. The same can be said of the lock button, which is on the top edge of the Renue. It's quite an excellent little button. The 3.5mm headset jack is also up top.

The slider mechanism is decent, but not the best I've used. In my experience, it’s easier to open the Renue with one hand than it is with two. Since so there's little to the Renue, when you attempt to push the top half of the phone up with your two thumbs, it’s easy to lose your grip on the phone. The mechanism is spring-assisted and pops open and shut with authority.

The Renue feels well balanced when held with the screen open. The overall shape was comfortable to use for typing messages and browse the web for extended periods of time without causing any hand fatigue. I wasn't super impressed with the keyboard. As is often the case with sideways sliders, Pantech had to keep the profile of the individual buttons to a minimum; they're a bit too flat. They travel of the keys is excellent, but the feedback is a bit cheap.

The keyboard has three rows for the letters and numbers, and a fourth row for the space bar and some function keys. The numbers keys require you to hit the ALT button, as there is no dedicated row for numbers. Some of the useful functions of the keyboard include a key that automatically sets the phone to vibrate, as well as dedicated ".com" and " ? " keys. The Renue also has three of the oddest key selections I've ever seen. There's a dedicated key for "…" and dedicated keys for the < and > angle brackets. Does Pantech expect that Renue users are going to be punching out HTML code from their phones? They don't even move the cursor around. Worse, the "@" symbol, which is a vital internet character, requires extra key presses to insert. At least Pantech included period and comma buttons.

The battery cover is one of the easiest to remove. It pops right off. You have to pull the battery to access both the SIM card and the microSD card. Of note, the Renue uses the newer, smaller micro SIM card (similar to the iPhone or HTC One X) and not a standard old SIM card. That means if you're coming from another feature phone, you're going to need to get a new SIM card.

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