I need to personally and publicly apologize to the Pantech's marketing group for the delay in posting this review. The phone was kindly sent to us for review in November when my personal life began zig-zagging to the point that I didn't have time to post. I apologize but it couldn't be helped!
At first glance and touch, the Pantech Matrix is a beautifully crafted phone. This dual slider phone is tiny, though maybe a tad on the thick side. It's well made and feels sturdy in the hand. The spring assisted slide mechanism(s) are smooth and quick without any looseness nor any wiggle.
The upgraded looks to that of it's Windows Mobile predecessor, the Pantech Duo, are a great improvement. (The Duo was "U-G-L-Y...it ain't got no alibi", in my humble opinion). The phone is now smooth and untextured. It just looks and feels sleeker. We were sent the Black/Green version to review, which in photos seems the coolest to me. It also comes in a red combo, and blue combo that look quite appealing as well.
But I'm a Smartphone guy. Why did Pantech remove WindowsMobile from the phone and replace it with their proprietary standard phone OS? I'm sure they have their reasons, the simplest being appealing to a different audience. After all, why should Smartphones get all of the good hardware? What about the folks who don't want all of the bells and whistles or complications that come with a "Smarter" phone? After all, there are plenty of people out there who dont use their WinMo, iPhone, etc devices to their fullest capabilities.
- If you're after a Smartphone that has EVERYTHING...move on. This isn't the phone for you.
- If the basics are what you need...basic messaging/phone functions and a couple of cool extras like web browsing, music, and a small camera for those quickie shots...then please read on. This could be your next device!
As I wrote earlier, the phone is really well made. Though the exterior is plastic, it doesn't feel like a cheap phone. It feels heavy in the hand (thanks to the internal mechanisms and battery). And there is a coolness (temperature) to it that you find in metal exterior phones. Specifications list the phone at 4.02" x 1.92" x .78"/4.66oz. The D-Pad and six function buttons are comfortable and well spaced....with a dedicated music button that brings you right to the music menu. The Pantech uses rubber covers to protect the MicroSD slot and Charge/Headset slot. I'm normally not a big fan of these since my original Blackjack's broke off. These don't feel as cheap and ready to break after a few week's use...but I may just be more protective given past experience.
The MicroSD slot at the top is for extra music/photos/videos, listed as maxing out at 32MB...for adding on over the built in 45MB memory. On the left are well placed volume keys. Nothing on the bottom of the phone except for the mic. On the right side of the phone is the camera button and a peel-back-and-swing cover for the proprietary charger/headset port combo. (Note to Pantech and all other manufacturers: Standard Ports ALWAYS!)
I know this isn't pushed solely as a music phone, but the phone does have a decent music player with expandable memory. Pantech/ATT could have included a basic set of headphones along with the device. I know, I know..."just use Bluetooth headphones". But I don't have any to test with! Pantech lists the BT Audio with the following supported Profiles: headset, hands-free, dial-up networking, advanced audio distribution (stereo).
The screen is a bit small at 2.2" (262L TFT) but standard for a regular phone. AT&T's Website incorrectly lists the resolution at 1280 x 960 (That's actually the camera resolution) but I'm sure it is 176 x 220. The response when flipping from portrait to landscape is immediate with no lag at all. (My biggest complaint about many sliders I've tried in the past. Windows Mobile or not!). It's not the crispest screen out there, as it seems a bit pixelated, noticeable on some photographic screens. But the darker messaging screens look great.
The 16-Key numeric keyboard is spaced nicely and gives good tactical feedback. But on the flip side, the 35-Key QWERTY keyboard, though well spaced out and easy to thumb-type with, doesn't provide good feedback. Each key makes a standard beep and the number-pad portion makes the appropriate, though contrasting, DTMF tones. Even clicks would have been less distracting. They keys are also a bit too flush with the body. If they had raised them up a hair, with a bit more of a physical "click", it would get better marks. Not the greatest keyboard...but certainly not the worst.
The camera is a mere 1.3 megapixel with a max resolution of 1280 x 960 and max video of 176 x 144 (Mpeg4-QCIF size). Standard for a standard phone. A bit short is these days of HighRes cameras and cameraphones. At least a 2MP camera would have been nice. Photos seemed a tiny bit grainy but expected for the resolution. In the end...nothing worth complaining too much about in such an economical camera-phone.
There's a good segway into the software starting with Bluetooth Connectivity (Which is technically hardware, I guess). I connected to my mac easily and was able to transfer photos, videos and music without adding additional software or needing any sync cables for that matter. Thanks to Pantech for not requiring additional & overpriced software to do this simple task (cough, cough...Motorola...cough!)
Surprisingly, there is a decent Music Player built into the phone with iPod-esque sorting of music by Artist, Song, Genre. Sound quality thru the built in speaker is decent with a good volume. Expandable memory via MicroSD max's out at 32MB, which is a decent amount of music! Headphone use couldnt be tested as a headset is not included in the box and the connection is Pantech's proprietary connection that plugs into the same side port as the power cable. If they HAD to have a proprietary connection, they should have at least included the headset as a standard accessory with the device.
CALENDAR, CONTACTS, MESSAGING
Calendar and email are the standard Java apps found on most phones with similar basic functionality. The calendar app is built in with minimal features, but the email requires an online connection just to be used and doesnt download email to the phone. Email accounts are limited to Yahoo!, AOL, Windows Live, & BellSouth and there is no way to add accounts other than these. (Hey Pantech...ever heard of Gmail?).
An AIM, Yahoo, & WLM Java app is also included for Instant Messaging, though you can't run it constantly in the background.
The phone has a good sound quality with a decent volume in the headset and speakerphone. Voice and ring volume controls are on the side where you'd expect and comfortable to use. The Matrix is a Quad band world phone with US 3G data speeds. My iPhone SIM wouldn't allow connecting to the web via the browser on this phone for some reason, but apps like XM and TeleNav opened and ran very quickly.
I swear I used the phone for texts and voice for two days and the and only lost two bars. In the Pantech's defense...I could never do that on ANY smartphone I've ever used! Excellent!
Yellow Pages, XM Radio, TeleNav....and the ability to add additional Java apps from the AT&T store. Other tools built-in (but not tested) include an alarm clock, notepad, voice memo, calculator, tasks, stop watch, unit converter.
IN THE BOX...
Phone, AC Adapter, Battery, Manual and QuickStart Guide. (Wish there was a headset for music and handsfree calls).
As said earlier, Smartphone users will want to look elsewhere as there's not much excitement here for you. Especially if you were a fan of the Windows Mobile Pantech Duo, which this would have been a good upgrade of. But if a small, simple, easy-to-use, phone with basic features is what you're looking for....a simple messaging device with keyboard....a phone for mom, grandmom, or the pre-teen kids...The Matrix is a nice phone that gets the simple jobs done.
VALUE FOR THE MONEY...
Though $279 may be a little steep for a standard phone, if buying off-contract....on a new contract, you can pick one up for $80 bucks! At that price you can buy two, throw one against the wall and have yourself a spare battery and AC cable! (Or to be less destructive: To simply have two different color combos!)