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Despite being far from a major smartphone player in the West, Pantech is a worthy competitor for the likes of Apple, Samsung or LG over in South Korea, where the company is headquartered.

However, being a competitor seems to not be enough for Pantech anymore, who is looking to push for the leadership position in the Korean smartphone market with a new quad-core beast. The Vega R3 is the name of this new “monster”, one who has already been proclaimed as the “best existing quad-core smartphone” by its makers.

And while we’re unsure about it being the best, the Vega R3 looks really great on paper. The 5.3-incher might even technically get the honor of being the first ever smartphone powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor to actually start selling, though the LG Optimus G is itself set to see the light of day in Korea this week.

The CPU inside the R3 is the same model as the one powering the Optimus G (an APQ8064 clocked at 1.5GHz), and the similarities between the two powerhouses continue, as both of them feature 2GB of RAM and 13MP rear-facing cams.

The R3’s display however is much larger than Optimus G’s panel, measuring 5.3-inches in diagonal while coming with the same winning resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. Pantech calls its screen “Natural IPS Pro LCD”, one marketing term that we haven’t heard before, but we’re guessing the “naturally colored, bright and clear images” displayed by the R3 will be on-par with the ones on the Optimus G (though that extra panel real estate might just pay off).

The 2,600mAh battery powering the Pantech Vega R3 is larger than the 2,100mAh unit inside the LG Optimus G, but it’s obvious that the new phone will need that extra “juice” to withstand the pressures of the large display. That said, we’re still curious to see how much power will the new S4 Pro CPU drain, considering it’s coupled with the Adreno 320 GPU and it also comes with a separate LTE modem.

Besides LTE, the R3 comes with the usual connectivity works, including Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, a microSD card slot, microUSB 2.0, and GPS. There’s also NFC support, but unfortunately Pantech wasn’t able to up the ante that much in software terms, so this big guy will run Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. A Jelly Bean update should hit the “phablet” soon after its launch, although there is no mention about anything like that in Pantech’s press release.

The Vega R3 weighs in at 169 grams (11 grams less than the 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2 and 24 more than the 4.7-inch Optimus G), and measures 9.95 mm in thickness which is a bit off the 8.45 mm “waist” of the G and the 9.4 mm profile of the second-gen Note. Still, this is no ugly “phoneblet”, with sharp edges, a clear industrial look and black and white availability.

Pantech is yet to announce pricing details for the Vega R3, although the beast is expected to start selling tomorrow in Korea via all three major carriers (SK Telecom, KT and LG U+). There’s also no word on the R3 ever making it to American or European shores, which is a bit disappointing, but could change soon.

Could the “best quad-core smartphone” actually come from someone like Pantech? Do you want to see the Vega R3 enjoy a global release? If so, how do you think it should be priced?

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