CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
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.
The Pantech Matrix has a generous 1,000-entry phonebook with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a Web URL, a street address, and a memo. You can save contacts to groups, and pair them with a photo and one of 16 polyphonic ringtones and alert tones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a voice memo recorder, a world clock, a calculator, a unit converter, and a stopwatch. On the higher end, you get a wireless Web browser, mobile e-mail, instant messenger support (AIM, Windows Live, Yahoo! Messenger), and stereo Bluetooth as well. The Matrix also comes with A-GPS along with AT&T Navigator support for voice-guided turn-by-turn directions.
The Matrix comes with HSDPA support, meaning it has access to AT&T#38;'s array of 3G services. These include AT&T's Cellular Video, which lets you stream video from content partners such as CNN and NBC, and AT&T Mobile Music, which lets you stream and download music from Napster and eMusic. As part of the AT&T Mobile Music service, you'll also get access to music services like MusicID, which helps you to identify songs by holding the music source up to the phone, XM radio, and streaming music videos. The Matrix also supports AT&T Video Share, live video-sharing service that lets you stream video to someone on the other line, as long as that someone is also using a Video Share-compatible phone.
Also under the AT&T Music umbrella is the Matrix's built-in music player. It supports MP3, MIDI, iMelody, MMF, WAV, SMAF, and AAC+ file formats, with a pretty generic interface. You can play, pause, and skip tracks like usual, as well as set tracks on repeat or shuffle. There are also six preset equalizer settings. The Matrix comes with 45 MB of internal memory, but you can always add more storage via a microSD card.
The 1.3-megapixel camera on the Matrix can take pictures in four different resolutions (1,280x960, 1,024x768, 640x480, and 320x240), four white-balance settings, four color effects, and three quality settings. Other camera settings include a self-timer and a shutter-sound toggle. Photo quality was very good--bright, vibrant, and sharp. There's also a built-in camcorder, which can record in three resolutions (96x64, 128x96, and 176x144) in either MMS mode or for whichever amount of storage is available.
You can personalize the Pantech Matrix with a variety of graphics and sounds for wallpaper, alert tones, and more. If you want more options, you can download them via AT&T's Media Mall store. The Matrix comes with the games Tetris, Bubble Bash demo version, and Ms. Pac-Man, and you can download more games as well.
We tested the quad-band GSM and dual-band UMTS/HSDPA Pantech Matrix with AT&T in San Francisco. Call quality was decent. Though there was the occasional static, we could still hear each other loud and clear. Voices did sound rather robotic and not very natural, however. Speakerphone calls did not fare so well--callers could hear us just fine, but we thought they sounded rather tinny. That's pretty normal for speakerphones, though.
HSDPA speeds on the Matrix were quite impressive--we managed to download a game in about 40 seconds, while we had no problems streaming video.
The Pantech Matrix has a rated battery life of 3 hours and 10 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 18 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Matrix has a digital SAR rating of 1.52 watts per kilogram.