The Pantech Matrix Pro, recently released by AT&T, is a unique dual slider phone with both a QWERTY keyboard and a full number keypad.
It has a 2.0 megapixel camera, Bluetooth 2.0, a microSD card slot, and 128 MB of RAM. It comes with a nice protective pouch that also doubles as a polishing cloth, a very small AC adapter, and a headphone adapter dongle.
In some ways it's the best of both worlds, but there are a quite a few tradeoffs which make it hard for me to recommend this device wholeheartedly.
Design and Build
The Pantech Matrix Pro is a dual slider phone, so it's somewhat "fat" but still pocketable and comfortable to hold in the hand. It is very solidly built, and when I manipulate the sliders I find that they work smoothly and strongly "snap" into the appropriate position whether they are being opened or closed.
The phone has a two-tone color scheme, with the display and the QWERTY slider done in a metallic pewter-gray plastic with a very shiny mirror finish. I think it's very sharp looking and attractive, so I was slightly disappointed when I turned the phone over and found that the back was a muted blue that clashes just a bit with the front of the phone. It isn't ugly by any means, but I would like to have seen better coordination as far as color and finish are concerned.
The buttons on the front are rather small and fairly hard for me to hit consistently. The five-way navigator is large enough to work well, but that comes at the cost of making the other six buttons too small. My biggest problem is with the two soft menu keys, as I tend to hit either the Home (left) or back/recent programs (right) button instead since they stick up a bit. I don't seem to have as much of a problem with the call and disconnect keys, but this is still an annoying issue for me. I've had the phone for almost three weeks now, and I still have to look down at it to make sure I'm pressing the correct key.
My other issue is the missing headphone jack; you have to plug the included dongle adapter into the sync/charge port. Not only do I hate dongles (they're so easy to lose!), but that also means that there's no way to plug the phone in and listen to music while it's charging. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but it is disappointing when you consider that this phone is definitely on the larger side of the current form factor spectrum. There should be room for a headset jack.
Display: The Matrix Pro's 2.4-inch, 240-by-320-pixel Touchscreen is bright, sharp, and very easy on the eyes. I found that colors were bright and clear. Even when I was watching the two mobile TV applications I was impressed with the video quality and didn't experience any ghosting or pixelation effects.
The display is just about as large as it can be, considering the fairly narrow form factor of this device, and it performs well indoors and out.
Keyboard and Numberpad: Slide the screen to the right to reveal the full QWERTY keyboard, which features large, clearly-defined, illuminated keys. In other words, it's a winner.
I didn't need much practice at all to become proficient with this keyboard, and now the only time I really need to look at my thumbs is when I am using punctuation marks. Otherwise I just zip right along, messaging or taking notes to my heart's content.
Aside from the standard QWERTY keys, the keyboard includes soft menu keys, a function key for accessing the punctuation marks on each letter key, a caps lock/shift key, a double-size space bar, a delete button, back button, and Enter. Press the function key twice in order to "lock" yourself into using the printed number pad on the right side of the keyboard.
Slide the screen up to reveal the numberpad. This is smooth, so it is somewhat more difficult to know where my fingers are when dialing. I would have preferred a bit more separation and definition, or at least a little "nub" on the number five key to help locate my finger without looking. It's very easy to hit the wrong number, which is puzzling considering just how good the QWERTY keyboard really is.
This device is snappy, and I'm very pleased with its responsiveness. It has a wide range of included applications, though in a couple of cases launching an icon would take me to either an extremely limited trial (MobiTV) or to a link that asked if I wanted to purchase and/or download an application, as was the case with AT&T Navigator.
Wireless/Call Quality: This device is a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS/EDGE and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA. Network coverage was good, but especially spotty in certain areas, like the basement of the building where my office is located. I could sometimes receive notification of a new voice mail or text message, but I was never able to get any service there as I sometimes can with other devices. Most tellingly, the network strength dropped off precipitously as soon as I walked in the front door of my building, which was somewhat disappointing.
Test calls received mixed results, with one of my callers saying that "you can certainly tell you're on a cell phone." I was able to hear him just fine, but he had some difficulty hearing me. Oddly enough the phone also deserves some praise, because my callers could not hear any wind noise or any construction noise, even though I was calling from a spot less than twenty yards from an area where heavy machinery was in use.
Productivity: The Pantech Matrix Pro is a Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone and comes with the typical applications, such as Pocket Outlook Calculator, Notepad, and Tasks, which are included in the Organizer folder along with tools such as an alarm clock, voice notes, and world time applications. Microsoft Office Mobile (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) are also present, as usual.
I found all this software to perform exactly as I would expect, with an overall good level of responsiveness I hadn't expected considering the other shortcomings of this device. Internet Explorer in particular performed like a champ, so it's obvious that the processor is up to the challenge, and AT&T's 3G network is super-fast indeed.
Entertainment: This phone includes both Cellular Video and a trial of MobiTV, and I found both services to be both fun and useful. Cellular Video is the more "bare bones" of the two, offering a very limited selection of options, but it performed the best thanks to its integration with Windows Media Player.
MobiTV has 99 "channels" from which to choose, with everything from short clips to entire episodes of hit shows, but its performance was average, at best. I got "network errors" several times, and it's hard to tell if it was truly a network problem, a symptom of poor network coverage in a particular location, or something worse.
One considerable problem with both applications was the particularly poor sound quality. If you use the speakers, the sound will be so loud that it will be distorted, but if you use headphones you can't get the sound loud enough to make out everything that is being said, which is rather frustrating.
Camera: The Matrix Pro's camera takes fairly decent photos, but the quality just isn't up to the standard that I have seen with the other phones I've reviewed in the last year. The photos come out somewhat blurry and indistinct, almost as if they are slightly out of focus.
The camera application is very slow, taking a surprising amount of time to save each photo to the phone before you can take another shot. The available settings are minimal, and I can't really recommend this device as one that has a good camera. The photos it takes are acceptable, but pretty far below average.
Battery Life: The Pantech Matrix Pro absolutely shines in this category. I found that I was able to go almost an entire week without charging under fairly light use conditions that include about 20-30 minutes of talk time per day, plus light calendar and web browsing use.
The 1329 mAh battery certainly delivers, and road warriors shouldn't have too many worries in the power department.
The dual sliders on the Matrix Pro are nice, and let you have the best of both worlds--you have a full keyboard for texting but also separate number keys, which is a nice feature. The rounded edges and mirror finish are appealing and attractive, and the overall performance of the device (aside from the camera) is very good.
Most of this smartphone's shortcomings relate to specific aspects of the hardware; most notably these are the thick overall form factor, the proprietary charge/sync port, the missing headphone jack, the too-smooth number pad, the slightly lower than average phone quality, and the slightly distorted external speakers. All of these annoyances are small, but they do add up.
All in all, the Pantech Matrix Pro is a nicely designed device, but it isn't for everyone. It's considerably larger than many other phones, and the call quality isn't as good as I expected. It would make a good choice for someone who is more interested in texting than talking or who isn't concerned about having the slimmest, sleekest phone. Taken another way, you could say that it is the jack of all trades, but the master of few--or none.
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