What can you buy these days for $300? A possible answer to this question would have to be the Pantech Element which is a waterproof eight-inch tablet available at this price tag at AT&T. It is an Android-running tablet that can withstand spills and it offers support for those very fast 4G LTE speeds. For $449 you can buy it without having to sign a two-year contract.
The front of the Pantech Element is dominated by the generous glossy touchscreen display which is surrounded by an overly shiny black bezel, without any capacitive buttons to tap on. On top at opposite corners of the screen are the Pantech and AT&T logos, while in the center of the left bezel is the front-facing 2.0 megapixel camera. The front of the tablet is being framed by the shiny gray plastic band, while the sides are wrapped in a thick strip of matte black plastic.
Embedded in a hard black plastic panel which has a snakeskin pattern and sits on the tablet’s top are the black matte volume rocker and the chrome power button. At the bottom of the Pantech Element there’s a similar panel, but the later will open into two port covers, with the one on the left for the microSD card and SIM slots while the one on the right reveals the microHDMI and microUSB ports. On the left of the tablet you will have access to the headphone jack which also is protected by a port cover. These port covers can provide the necessary protection from water but you might want to know that accessing the ports underneath these covers is kind of hard.
There’s a smooth glossy plastic which has a herringbone pattern on the back of the tablet that will slightly change its pattern depending on the light that hits it. Since it adopts a glossy finish, this is a real fingerprint magnet. At the back Pantech has installed the five megapixel camera which comes with an LED flash. The tablet measures 8.4 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches and tips the scales at 1.1 pounds, which makes it a bit bigger and heavier than other 8-inch tablets available today.
One of the highlights of the Element would have to be that it is IP57 rated which means that it is protected against water and dust. Pantech says that the tablet can still continue to work after being submerged for half an hour in 3.28 feet (1 meter) of water. As you can imagine, you cannot operate the touchscreen display while the tablet is underwater.
The 8-inch capacitive touchscreen display has a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels and is capable of providing a sharp and clear detail, along with vivid and bright colors. It offers support for multitouch gestures that are fast and responsive at all times. Pantech has installed only one speaker on this tablet but even so it have enough power to fill a large room and it provides a crystal clear sound, while the level of bass is surprisingly high. However, if you turn the volume level all the way up you will notice a lot of distortion and brassiness.
Text input is done by using the regular Android keyboard which features big gray keys that have enough space between one another not only in landscape mode but also when holding the Element in portrait mode. Also on board is the popular Swype keyboard that also has large keys but there isn’t as much as space between them as there is on the Android keyboard.
The tablet runs on Android 3.2 Honeycomb and you can use up to five homescreens, while in the bottom system bar you will find the icons for Back, Home and Recent Activity. Also in this bottom system bar are the mini-notifications for battery, downloads, network and e-mail, along with the clock. In the system bar sitting at the top you’ll have access to the icons for Voice Search, Multitask page, Apps and Search.
The first homescreen is occupied by various widgets like the one from Accuweather.com or the e-mail and AT&T data usage. The right side holds the icons for camera, web, settings and Market, while on one of the other homescreens there’s a calendar widget along with a bunch of icons for Contacts, Google Talk, Qik Lite and AT&T Messages.
Under the hood of the Pantech Element there’s a Qualcomm APQ 8060 processor running at 1.50 GHz with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory. The tablet manages to be quite fast while switching between the homescreens and apps. If the onboard storage is not enough, you’re able to expand it via the microSD card slot which can take cards up to a capacity of 32GB.
When it comes down to the list of preloaded applications on the tablet, we have a lot to talk about as Pantech installed a whole bunch of apps. You get the company’s Net Media software for sharing content across DLNA devices. You will also find the PC Suite Connector application for synchronizing the tablet with a computer via USB or Wi-Fi. For taking a quick note you can use NotePad, while SketchPad is there for when you want to do a little bit of scribbling. Also on board is PhotoFrame for transforming the tablet into a digital photo frame. The game offerings include Enzo’s Pinball Lite and Bug Village, while on the GameWorld hub you will find a wide selection of games, including Fruit Ninja HD ($2.99).
The 5 mpx camera sitting at the back can also record 720p HD videos. This is a fast camera that takes a picture in less than a second while autofocus will need more than one second from time to time to kick in. Both pictures and videos have sharp details and vivid colors, while the photos grabbed with the front-facing 2 mpx camera are a bit grainy but still with a somewhat accurate color reproduction.
The Pantech Element will last for approximately five and a half hours during LAPTOP Battery Test which consist of doing web surfing from a 4G LTE network. This is an average performance coming from a tablet of this type.