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printed October 24, 2014
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Review: Pantech Ocean 2

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I am just going to get this out of the way right at the get go. The Ocean 2 (O2), much like the original, is a huge phone. It is thinner, but not by enough to be really noticeable. Part of that is to blame on the O2's form factor. Making thin dual sliders is just not an easy task. Pressing three distinct layers together with moving parts and keeping the structure strong is not accomplished without giving something up. In this case, the O2 forgoes the heroin chic thinness of other phones and proudly says "I have two keypads." Not only is the O2 big, it is industrial-class heavy. Please, don't pull a Russel Crowe and hurl the O2 at anyone. If you do, it's going to leave a mark for sure.

Size and weight aside, the O2 has a lot going for it. Its soap-bar smooth edges are very comfortable to grip. The back plate has a nice soft touch paint job that gives it just the right amount of grip. With no antenna or other protrusions, it won't jab your leg if you choose to store it in your pocket.

The large display - which is somewhat smudge-prone - is surrounded by buttons. There are two above the display that are for gaming. They have good travel and feedback, though they aren't super easy to find. The only real indication you have is by feeling the seam between the button and the display casing itself. Same goes for the two soft keys just below the display. The soft keys and the send/end keys each share the same piece of plastic, with a small groove separating them. These four buttons have good travel and feedback and surround the D-pad. Below the D-pad is the back/clear key. Truthfully, it stinks. It is very small, and the ridge of the D-pad above it is so high, that it's all too easy to accidentally hit the D-pad when you mean to hit the back key.

Ah, the D-pad. The D-pad is about the size of a nickel. The circular edge is very well defined, easy to find, and has good travel and feedback. Inside the ring is an optical mouse pad / button. It was sort of maddening to figure out at first, but once you get the hang of it, it works pretty well for navigating the phone's menu. You can swipe across or up and down to move the cursor around, and then just press in to make your selection. You'd think that with Helio's circular main menu that the mouse would let you scroll around it. It doesn't. Up and down, and back and forth are your only motions.

For dialing numbers, you slide the phone up from the portrait orientation. The slider feels solid, and isn't too spring-y. The 12-key keypad is large enough to use easily. The numbers are covered in a soft touch material and each is ever-so-slightly dome shaped, making them stand out well. One thing the O2 does right is that the top row of keys is not crammed up against the top part of the phone. There is plenty of room to reach the top row with your thumb. All of the buttons had equal travel and feedback.

If you want to access the QWERTY keyboard for messaging, rotate the phone sideways and pop up the slider (you have to close up the number pad first). Opening the phone sideways automatically rotates the screen to landscape mode and you have access to a huge three-row QWERTY. Similar to the dial pad, the QWERTY is covered in one solid sheet of soft touch material. The original Ocean had separate buttons. This surface feels very good under your thumbs. The QWERTY is very wide, and feels a little cramped in the top-to-bottom dimension. I like that there is a dedicated button for smileys/emoticons. The buttons all have good travel and feedback.

The left side of the O2 houses the proprietary cable port, volume toggle and sliding mute switch. The volume toggle is placed a little bit too close to the back edge of the phone for my tastes. I found my thumb wanted to slide off of it, but the travel and feedback was good. The mute switch slides down to silence the phone completely, and up to enable sound. It chimes to let you know sound is enabled, and vibrates to let you know when it isn't.

On the right side is a dedicated camera key and a dedicated music key. I thought the music key was a little mushy, but the camera key felt good. Above both of these is a 3.5mm headset jack in the corner of the phone. The jack is slightly recessed. If you have headphones with a jack that bend 90 degrees, you may have difficulty connecting with the O2.

The back plate comes off easily if you want to get at the battery and microSD slot. I am very disappointed that the microSD slot is under the battery. No hot swapping for you.

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