Pantech pioneered the dual-slider handset design in North America with the Helio Ocean, which could slide vertically to reveal a number keypad and slide horizontally to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. The company also introduced the Pantech Duo, a Windows Mobile smartphone, with the same design. Now Pantech has introduced another version of the dual-slider handset, dubbed the Pantech Matrix. It has plenty of high-end features like HSDPA and GPS support, but we weren't thrilled with the keypad design. It'll cost you $79.99 each with a two-year service agreement.
Measuring 4.02 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.78 inch thick, the Matrix is certainly on the bulky side because of the two sliding layers. Otherwise, the Matrix has an attractive glossy coat and soft curves all around, making it feel comfortable in the hand. It also has a striped silver border around the edge of the phone. The Matrix is available in blue, red, and black with green trim.
Unlike the slider mechanism on the Pantech Duo, we found the Matrix's slider to be sturdy and solid, with a nice satisfying snap when opening and closing. We also really liked the 2.0-inch display--it supports 260,000 TFT colors, and it shows. Images appeared bright and vibrant with rich color. The menu interface was also quite easy to navigate. You can adjust the display's menu layout, the color theme (black or white), the font style (Gothic or Free style), the brightness, and the backlight timer.
Underneath the display is a rather unusual navigation array. There's a circular navigation toggle in the middle, with the surrounding keys arranged an outer ring--three on the left and three on the right. The keys on the left are the left soft key, the dedicated music player key, and the Send key, while the keys on the right are the right soft key, the Clear key, and the End/Power key. We found these keys to be skinny, small, and hard to press. The circular toggle was easy enough to use, however. The middle OK key acts as a shortcut to the browser, while the four directional presses correspond to four shortcuts--a new message, the instant messenger, the contacts list, and mobile e-mail.
Slide the phone up and you'll reveal the number keypad. There are curved delineations separating each line, as well as two tiny nubs around the number 5, but aside from that the keypad is quite flat. It also felt quite small and narrow. Slide the phone to the side, and you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard--at this point, the screen orientation will shift to landscape mode and you'll need to turn the phone 90 degrees to the right. Do note that you can't slide the phone vertically and horizontally at the same time. We found the overall keyboard to be small and crowded, though we appreciate the bubblelike texture of the keys that make for easier typing. The number keys on the keyboard are highlighted in blue, and can be used to dial numbers.
On the left spine is the volume rocker, while the dedicated camera key and charger jack are on the right. The microSD card slot is at the top of the device, while the camera lens and external speaker are on the back. There is no self-portrait mirror, however.