capsule review

Pantech Matrix Pro (AT&T)

At a Glance
  • Pantech Matrix Pro

    PCWorld Rating

When it came out more than a year ago, the Pantech Duo (C810) won some fans with its dual slider/candy-bar design. Enter the Pantech Matrix Pro. Costing $180 (with a two-year agreement from AT&T), the new handset is a more polished take, but its lackluster camera--and lack of Wi-Fi connectivity--may disappoint.

The Matrix Pro retains the same dimensions as the Duo (approximately 4 inches by 2 inches and 0.75-inch thick), but feels sturdier and sports a sleeker look. It is a little chunky compared with other phones that have slide-out keyboards, but at 5.3 ounces, it certainly won't weigh you down. The mirror finish, while attractive, is prone to smudging by fingerprints and isn't exactly glare-resistant.

A 2.4-inch screen (240 by 320 pixels) takes up most of the phone's glossy face. One of our biggest issues with the Duo was that its 2.2-inch screen felt a bit cramped for viewing long messages or watching a video clip. But the extra real estate on the Matrix Pro, though not a particularly big jump in size, does make a difference: Its screen is roomy enough for comfortable viewing and messaging.

Below the display lie Talk/End keys, two soft keys, a navigation key, a home key and a back key. The navigation key resembles a touch wheel, but in actuality, you can only press it in four directions (a Select key also sits in its center). On the handset's left spine is a volume rocker and a dedicated voice command key. On the right spine is a dedicated camera key and a proprietary headphone jack.

The vertical slide-out numeric pad has shiny, flushed keys, which are a bit difficult to press. Fortunately, they are nicely backlit and work well enough for dialing in dim light and quick messaging. The keys on the full horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard were spacious and large, but not raised enough to my liking. Nevertheless, typing long messages was easy enough for me--but big-handed coworkers found the Matrix Pro cramped.

Two soft keys are located on the far right and far left on the top row of the keyboard. These keys correspond with options on the bottom right and left of the screen. For example, to select the Windows Mobile Start menu, you hit the left soft key. Oddly, the soft keys don't line up with the screen, and they are not clearly marked. At least one competitor, Samsung's Rant, does a much more capable job with its horizontal slide-out keyboard. The Rant has silvery soft keys that stand out directly below the options on the screen.

Call quality over AT&T's 3G network was consistently very good. Voices sounded clear and loud enough, and I did not hear any hiss or static. On a few calls, voices sounded a bit tinny, but it didn't distract from the conversation. Parties on the other end of the line were equally pleased with the quality, though one of my contacts heard a faint hiss in the background.

The Matrix Pro runs the Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system. There's no overlay, like HTC's TouchFLO interface, so customization is limited and aesthetics are scant. You navigate through the panels by scrolling up and down using the main navigation and other keys. Some of the panels include your calendar, your e-mail, a music player, and your photo album. Since the panels aren't customizable, you can't add a shortcut to your favorite app. All other apps can be accessed via the Start Menu key. I noted some sluggishness (typical for Windows Mobile 6.1 phones), particularly in changing from landscape to portrait modes. Overall, I didn't find the OS too taxing, but I wish Pantech had added a branded overlay. It would have given its product some differentiation from the dozens of other Windows Mobile 6.1 handsets out there.

Like other Windows Mobile phones, the Matrix Pro uses Windows Media Player for video and music playback. The music player supports album art, shuffle and repeat modes, and custom skins. You can't build a playlist, unfortunately. Customers also have access to AT&T music features like Shop Music, XM Radio, and free trials of Music ID and Pandora. Audio quality through the Matrix Pro's built-in speakers is decent. The Matrix Pro lacks a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack. Luckily, the included adapter is small and not too troublesome to use. One thing I found odd: Although you can stream audio (or surf the Web) over AT&T's 3G network, you won't find Wi-Fi connectivity on this phone.

Another letdown: The Matrix Pro's mediocre 2.0-megapixel camera. While a dedicated photo key is always a welcome feature, I had to press the button a few times to get to camera mode. Oh, it has a few advanced options, such as 7X digital zoom, four shooting modes (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent), four effects (Normal, Gray, Sepia, and Negative), and resolution settings. However, partly due to the lack of a flash, image quality suffered. Indoor shots were dark and blurry, but outdoor shots in bright sunlight faired a bit better.

Setting up personal e-mail via Xpress Mail requires some installation and a couple of steps, but it is fairly straightforward. For corporate e-mail, the Matrix Pro also supports Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and IMAP. In addition, the Matrix Pro has built-in Bluetooth capabilities and integrated GPS through AT&T Navigation. You can also sync the Matrix Pro with your PC using the included ActiveSync software.

I expected to see some better specs on the Matrix Pro. The low-grade camera and the lack of support for Wi-Fi is disappointing in any smart phone--even one selling for $180. But the Matrix Pro is otherwise a solid, feature-rich phone with great messaging and e-mail capabilities.

--Ginny Mies

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The sleek Matrix Pro has excellent messaging features, but the lack of Wi-Fi and a mediocre camera is disappointing.

    Pros

    • Slick dual-slider design
    • Great messaging and e-mail capabilities

    Cons

    • No integrated Wi-Fi
    • Mediocre camera
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