When looking for a new cell phone, one of the first things you need to decide is between the more traditional 12 key number pad that makes dialling a number so easy, or a full QWERTY keyboard for fast and easy messaging. If you want the traditional 12 key number pad, then you’ll enjoy a more narrow phone that fits nicely into your pocket and provides the ability to quickly place a call. However, you are pretty limited in the selection of smartphones to pick from. On the other hand, if you pick the QWERTY keyboard, then you have a significantly improved experience in terms of messaging and a much wider selection of phones to pick from. The trade off is a bigger, wider phone that’s not as easy to dial numbers on. With advantages on both sides, it can be difficult to pick, so don’t. Enter Pantech’s Matrix Pro – this device offers the best of both worlds by combining a full QWERTY keyboard with a 12 key number pad and a powerful Smartphone operating system.
The Matrix Pro offers a full QWERTY keyboard with a 12 key number pad in a unique dual slider format. Slide the phone up to expose the number pad, or slide it to the right to expose the QWERTY keyboard. And when closed, the Matrix Pro is an attractive and easily pocketable smartphone.
The Matrix Pro is the follow-up to last years Pantech Duo smartphone that featured the same unique design. This updated version has a much improved sliding mechanism – both sliders are spring loaded and easily pop open or close. The Matric Pro also boasts UMTS/HSDPA Tri-band (850, 1900, 2100 MHz), Quad-band GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz), 256MBROM, 128 MB RAM, support for MicroSD expansion card, 2.4 inch QVGA non-touch screen, 1300 mAh battery, 2 Megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and aGPS. All of which is packed into a 4.17 x 2 x 0.85 inch (L x W x D) footprint.
The device has a high-gloss finish to it with a mirror-like finish on the screen, which brings out the fingerprints on the device. I’ve found that I am always pulling out the micro-fibre cloth and cleaning it off. The top of the device is dark grey and the back of the device is a rich blue color.
When closed, the front of the device has a Home, Back, Call, Hang-up (power) and D-pad exposed. The d-pad looks like it should have scroll wheel functionality. Sadly, there is no scroll wheel on the device. Down the right side of the device you’ll find the sync/charge door and the camera button. The charge door can be difficult to open if you’re finger nails are trimmed. On the left side, there’s volume up/down buttons and a “Rec” button. A short press on the record button and a press and hold brings up the voice command software. The top is clean of any buttons or doors, and the bottom sports the MicroSD slot.
When people first see the Matrix Pro, their reaction starts off with a “Wow” and then after a little more examination they usually mention that it’s thicker than they would like. The truth is that the phone is no different than the HTC Tilt or the Touch Pro. And the Matrix Pro offers 2 slide out keyboards compared to the single slider of the Tilt and Touch Pro. After showing the device along side these devices, the thickness issue tends to be forgotten about.
The QWERTY keyboard is well spaced and has a good solid feel to the keys. The keys are flush with the surface, but there’s a hard plastic edge separating each key. The keyboard is a typically 3 row design with the number keys set off to the right side and access by using the function key. The left and right soft keys are located on the top corners of the keyboard. At first, I found these hard to use locate while working on the device because they are not located under the screen as they are on other devices. Further, when you have the keyboard extended, the left and right soft keys on the face of the device no longer function. I find this really breaks the user experience as I often want to triage email with the keyboard open so I can quickly reply or purge the emails. However, you’ll have some issues navigating or purging old emails if you’ve used your left hand to grab your soda or coffee. The buttons on the face of the device are there and I don’t see any reason to de-activate them just because the keyboard is open.
Sliding the top up on the phone will expose the 12 key number pad. These keys are fairly large and easy to press. At first, it appears that the top row of keys are going to be too close to the upper part of the phone, making them hard to press. This is not the case. They may appear close, but since the keys are a fair size, I had no problems pressing any key on the phone.
There’s one thing on this phone that caused me problems every time I attempted to use it – the camera. More often than not, I would find myself typing an email or tweet and jumping into the camera to snap a quick picture of something. Because of where the camera is located on the backside of the device and with the keyboard open, you’re left hand will almost always be in the way. Countless pictures were taken with part of my fingers covering the lens. I’m sure that with time, you will grow accustom to this and instinctively know to keep their fingers back.
The camera quality was better than I expected. I took these two images on an over-cast day at a park near my house. The colors are pretty good for a 2 mega pixel camera. As with most any camera phone, it’s not fast in the capture, but I didn’t have any issues with blurry pictures, so it was quicker than some of the other camera phones out there.
In terms of network availability and speed, I never noticed any problems. When I was in Seattle and using this phone, the 3G speeds were notability faster and more reliable than the Fido network I use in Canada. Also, the external speaker volume is not as loud as I expected, but it should be enough for most people. The headphone jack is not the standard 2.5 or 3.5 mm that most media phones are using. Instead, you need to carry the Pantech proprietary connector around with you, just in case.
Inside the phone, you’ll find the familiar Windows Mobile Standard 6.1. When you browse the start menu on the device, you will find a large number of AT&T branded applications. These include their own GPS tool, an IM /email tool, Cellular Video, AT&T Music, MEdia Net, MEdia Mall, and more. There are also a number of pre-loaded games on the device – Brain Challenge 2, Guitar Hero 3, Jewel Quest II, Midnight Pool, Ms. PAc-Man, Scrabble, and Tetris. These games are just short trial versions but you can buy the full version if you find that you enjoy the game.
Among the programs pre-loaded on the device is Voice Commander from Cyberon. Voice Commander does not require you to train or tag your contacts prior to using it. You can simply say a command and Voice Commander will do the rest. I’ve been using Microsoft’s Voice Command program prior to switching to the Matrix Pro. Cyberon’s version is good, but the voice can be a little unclear at times when prompting you. I found myself having to look at the screen to try and see what the phone was saying in order to know if I should agree or not. I’m sure this is something that you would get a custom to over time. In terms of accuracy, Cyberon’s application was as good as Microsoft’s app. There is the odd mistake, but those could be more environmental noise than something you said or didn’t say when using the application.
Pantech has included Microsoft’s Remote Desktop utility. This is popular on some of the more enterprise focused touch screen devices. While the tool works fine on non-touch screen devices, it’s very hard to navigate the remote computer without the touch element. So it might not be something you want to do on a regular basis. However, it would be ideal in an emergency situation. It’s great to see Pantech provide you the option to use the utility if you need it. Other manufacturers have been removing it from the non-touch devices.
By default, you can slide the phone open to answer a call, but sliding the phone down does not hang up that call. To change this, you need to browse to Start / Settings / Phone / Slide Options. Here you can set the action of closing the handset to hang up on the current call. I like that they provided this ability for you to customize the functionality for this. I’m sure the users will be split on which configuration they prefer.
Another setting that I was surprise to see disabled by default is the automatic locking of the keys. Under Start / Settings / Phone / Auto Lock you can tell the device to automatically lock the keys once the slider has been closed and the screen has timed out. This should be enabled by default in my opinion.
The fast processor makes scrolling through contacts or web pages a breeze. It’s refreshing to see smartphones starting to ship with more powerful CPU’s. With the faster CPU comes greater consumption of power. During my usage, the phone was able to last about the same as my BlackJack II. It may have been a little shorter, but it’s hard to say. When you have a new phone you’re always playing with it and that tends to eat through the battery faster than normal.
In the end, the Matrix Pro is a great phone – it’s fast processor combined with 3G network speeds and dual sliding keyboards make it a powerful device to carry. I’ve been using this phone for the better part of the last month and I have been very pleased with how it’s performed.
See what others are saying about the Pantech Matrix Pro:
Review of Pantech Matrix Pro – ClintonFitch.com
QuickLook: Pantech Matrix Pro – JustAnotherMobileModay.com
Unboxing the Pantech Matrix Pro – SmartphoneThoughts.com
Pantech C820 Matrix Pro Review – ChipChick.com
2 Weeks with the Pantech Matrix Pro – AbsoluteVista.com
Pantech Matrix Pro Review Part I – GeeksRoom.com (Spanish)
Pantech Matrix Pro Review Part II – GeeksRoom.com (Spanish)
First Impressions of the AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro – GearDiary.com
Jueves Jugete: Pantech Matrix Pro – Vivirlatino.com
AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro C820 Smartphone Review – The-Gadgeteer.com
Review: AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro – ExperienceMobility.net
AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro – MobilitySite