The Pantech Duo was Pantech's first-ever Windows Mobile smartphone for AT&T, released two years ago in November 2007. The Duo was named for its dual-slider design, which is fitting since Pantech was also the manufacturer behind the dual-sliding Helio Ocean, one of the headline phones of that same year. However, Pantech couldn't quite replicate the Ocean's success with the Duo, which disappointed us with its flimsy sliding mechanism and cheap plastic casing.
A year later, and Pantech surfaced with the dual-sliding Pantech Matrix. More of a mid-tier messaging phone than a smartphone, Pantech tapped into the text-messaging craze with the slide-out QWERTY keyboard design, and appears to have latched on to the Matrix name as a result. So when the company debuted its second-ever Windows Mobile smartphone in February 2009, it did not call it the Pantech Duo 2 as was originally thought. Instead, it was dubbed the Pantech Matrix Pro.
Indeed, the Matrix Pro is leaps and bounds better than the original Duo. The design is much improved, the camera got an upgrade to a 2.0-megapixel lens, and even the call quality is just that much better. Still, the design isn't perfect, and the lack of Wi-Fi is disappointing. It still has all the features of Windows Mobile smartphones, but we just wanted something more for the money. The Pantech Matrix Pro is available for $180 after a two-year service agreement and a $50 mail-in rebate.
Just like the Matrix and the Duo, the Pantech Matrix Pro has the company's trademark dual-slider design. Sliding the phone vertically will reveal the number keypad, while sliding it sideways will reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. These two sliders are on separate layers, and you can't keep both open at the same time. The dual-slider design also results in quite a bulky design; it measures 4.2 inches long by 2.0 inches wide by 0.9 inch thick. It also weighs at 5.34 ounces, which is considerably heavier than both the Matrix and the Duo, though it's slightly lighter than the Helio Ocean 2. Due to its size, it probably won't fit comfortably in a jeans pocket.
As for the overall design, we have to say we much prefer the Matrix Pro to the Duo. It has a nice mirror finish on the front, and the slider mechanism is very sturdy, closing and opening with a satisfying snap. The blue-gray color scheme gives it a professional look and the rounded edges give it a comfortable feel in the hand.
The Matrix Pro's display is quite lovely, measuring 2.4 inches diagonally with support for 260,000 colors and 240x320 pixel resolutions. Images look sharp and colorful, and we had no problems reading the text. Sliding the QWERTY keyboard out will change the display from portrait mode to landscape mode. The menu interface on the Matrix Pro is fairly vanilla as far as Windows Mobile 6.1 goes; you won't get the fancy TouchFlo 3D interface like the HTC Touch, for example. Like all Windows Mobile phones, the default home screen shows you all of your latest calls and appointments, offers quick access to information and applications, plus you can customize it with different themes and background images. The display is not a touch screen, if that's a concern.
When held in portrait mode, underneath the display is the navigation array. It consists of two soft keys, a circular five-way toggle with middle confirmation key, a Home button, a Back button, plus the Talk and End/Power keys. We thought the navigation array felt rather cramped. All the keys, with the exception of the middle toggle, felt small. Only the Home and Back buttons are raised above the surface; the rest are flat and flush to the surface.
As we mentioned earlier, you can slide the phone up to reveal a number keypad. The keypad is mostly well-spaced, but it's almost completely flat, with only a few delineations between each row of keys. We definitely wouldn't recommend dialing by feel as the keys are slippery with hardly any texture at all. Also, the bottom row of keys (consisting of the asterisk, zero, and pound) are a bit narrower than the rest of the keypad.
Turn the Matrix Pro 90 degrees counter-clockwise, slide up the phone, and you'll reveal the full QWERTY keyboard. It's certainly bigger than the one on the Duo, and the keys are less crowded. The keys are not as tactile as we would like, but they are still raised enough above the surface so we could thumb type easily. The QWERTY keyboard has two soft keys on either end, to be used when the screen is in landscape mode. We would've liked arrow keys on the QWERTY keyboard so we didn't have to use the toggle while in landscape mode.
On the left side are the volume rocker and Record key, which you can use to record your voice, or to bring up the voice command menu. It also doubles as the Quick List key, which brings up a menu of different power and sound profiles plus the task manager. Press it for the Quick List function and hold it down for the voice feature. The microSD card slot is on the bottom, while the dedicated camera button and charger jack are on the right side. The camera lens is on the back, but there's no flash or self-portrait mirror.
The Pantech Matrix Pro comes with a case, a charger cable, a USB cable, and a Getting Started CD that includes Microsoft ActiveSync and a trial copy of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.
Like all other Windows Mobile phones, the Pantech Matrix Pro has a wealth of features geared toward the mobile professional. Windows Mobile 6.1 has some marginal improvements over the 6.0 version, like an improved home screen that's easier to navigate, threaded text messaging, and the ability to select multiple e-mails at once. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 also now supports Flash Lite. You can read more about Windows Mobile 6.0 and Windows Mobile 6.1 for a more detailed rundown. We're happy that the Pantech Matrix Pro has 3G/HSDPA support, but the lack of Wi-Fi is disappointing, especially with a Windows Mobile smartphone.
Since it's a Windows Mobile device, the Matrix Pro has plenty of productivity applications. They include the full Microsoft Mobile Office Suite for creating and editing Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint documents. There's also OneNote, which is Microsoft's note-taking application. You can even access Remote Desktop if you want to check out your work computer on your phone. Instead of Adobe Reader, you get Jetcet PDF, which lets you view PDFs as well. Other PIMs include an alarm clock, a calculator, a notepad, task list, a voice recorder, and the world time clock.
For e-mail and messaging, you get support for Microsoft Direct Push, which syncs your work e-mail, contacts, calendar, and tasks, Xpress Mail for POP3 and IMAP e-mail access, instant-messaging support for AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger, and of course, the regular text and multimedia messaging. As we said above, a nice bonus with Windows Mobile 6.1 are threaded text messages so you can keep track of back-and-forth conversations. The Matrix Pro offers full Bluetooth capabilities; you can use it as a modem, use the stereo Bluetooth to stream music wirelessly, or use it to transfer files from your device to another. You can also use the built-in GPS for use with AT&T Navigator, AT&T's turn-by-turn location-based application.
Since the Matrix Pro is a 3G phone, it offers access to AT&T's full stable of broadband services. They include AT&T's Cellular Video, which offers streaming video content from partners like ESPN and CNN; MobiTV, which lets you watch live TV on your phone; and AT&T Video Share, which lets you make one-way video calls to someone with a Video Share compatible phone. Of course, you also get the AT&T Mobile Music portal, which not only offers the Windows Media Player for music playback, but the ability to buy music over-the-air from Napster and eMusic. Other music-related services include XM Radio Mobile if you're already an XM subscriber; Music ID, which is a song identification service; streaming music videos from MobiVJ; and Pandora, which lets you personalize your own Internet radio stream based on your music preferences. The Windows Media Player supports music formats like MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC. The microSD card slot allows for additional storage. It supports up to 32GB microSD cards, which are not even out yet.
The Matrix Pro comes with a 2.0-megapixel camera, which is an improvement over the Duo's 1.3-megapixel camera. Still, it's rather low when compared to most smartphones these days that have 3.0-megapixels and higher. Indeed, the photo quality was good, but not great. Colors look muted, and image isn't as sharp as we wanted. You can take photos in six resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x1,024, 800x600, 640x480, 320x240, and 176x144), four color effects, five white balance presets, three quality settings, and a self-timer. Other settings include brightness, 4x digital zoom, and a multishot mode. There's also a built-in camcorder for short videos. You can only record in 176x144 resolution, but the rest of the settings are the same as the still camera. The lack of flash and a self-portrait mirror is disappointing.
Of course, let us not forget the Matrix Pro is a phone as well. It's equipped with quad-band GSM support with world-roaming capabilities, a speakerphone, voice commands and dialing, and a vibrate mode. The phone book is limited by the available memory, but the SIM card holds around 250 additional contacts. You can store up to 12 numbers per entry plus e-mail, home addresses, instant-messaging and handles. You can pair up an entry with a caller group, a photo for caller ID, and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSDPA) Pantech Matrix Pro in San Francisco using AT&T's service. We were very impressed with the call quality overall. Callers said we sounded loud and clear with hardly any static, plus our voices sounded natural and not like we were talking out of a tin can. On our end, we could hear them crystal clear as well. The speakerphone did diminish call quality somewhat; callers reported echo in the background, and the speaker quality was rather tinny and hollow. The same goes for the audio quality for music playback. We would recommend using a headset instead if you want to listen to the music, or if you want to have hands-free calling.
We experienced the occasional sluggishness when using the menu interface. The display didn't always transition from portrait to landscape mode smoothly; sometimes it took a couple of seconds before it would change. The same goes for starting up applications; it lagged just a tiny bit when launching the media player, for example.
The 3G speeds on the Matrix Pro are impressive. Downloads took just under a minute, and streaming video required very little buffering time. Still, the Matrix Pro's screen size doesn't always make for the best video viewing experience. Also, the videos from AT&T Cellular Video are fairly pixelated, especially video clips with a lot of action.
The Pantech Matrix Pro has a rated battery life of 6 hours of talk time and up to 12 days of standby time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 6 hours and 2 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a SAR rating of 1.07 watts per kilogram.