The new Pantech C820 Matrix Pro is an update to Pantech’s Matrix Duo, a Windows Mobile smartphone that sports both a numeric and QWERTY keypad. For those looking for a Windows Mobile device that packs in just about everything – the Pantech Matrix Pro C820 runs on AT&T’s speedy 3G network, it sports GPS, a 2 megapixel camera, and a solid feature set overall. Before I delve in to the device itself, here is a little background about my personal experience with Windows Mobile Smartphones. I’ve been using Windows on a handheld since way back – when there were no such things as smartphones at all, but instead there was just Windows CE and monochrome displays. I was extremely proud of my Compaq Aero at a time when Palm pilots were all the rage. Over the years I’ve owned a crazy assortment of Windows based smartphones, my most recent one being the Treo 750V. After that, the iPhone came out and I betrayed my longtime love of Windows Mobile. However, there will always be a part of me that still is a Windows Mobile girl at heart.
The Pantech Matrix Pro’s hardware is solid and feels sturdy. The Matrix Pro sports a metallic finish and curvy top and bottom. Unfortunately the Matrix Pro’s screen tends to attract fingerprints and smudges, so you might want to keep a wipe handy. Overall, it is not the most attractive phone in the world, but definitely pleasant looking, especially considering that many phones which manage to fit in two keypads end up being pretty fuggly.
The Pantech Matrix Pro is on the small size for a smart phone, width and height wise (4.17 x 2.0 x 0.85 inches) – so it will fit in your pocket easily. However, it will also bulge out of your pocket a bit because the inclusion of two keypads end up making it pretty thick. Though the Matrix Pro weighs 5.3 ounces, which isn’t all that much, for some reason the handset also feels a bit hefty in your hand. It’s also got a 2.4” screen with a 240×320 resolution. The screen is clear and pretty bright, and is pretty much on par with other similar Windows Mobile smartphones.
The keyboard on the Matrix Pro feels good to type on and key presses feel slightly stiff but comfortable. The keyboard surface area is smaller though then lets say the T-mobile G1, and is made up of just 3 rows, and as a result it is a bit more cramped. However I still found it comfortable to use. The numeric dial pad is made up of totally flat keys, sort of RAZR style, but they are also comfortable to dial with. The sides of the phone sport dedicated volume controls, a camera button and a record button. Its front face holds dial and end keys as well as a circular navigation key that looks like it’s ready to be a scroll wheel, but it’s unfortunately not one.
In the box you get a sync cable, software CD, charger, 3.5mm headphone adapter, a case and a manual.
Interface / Home screen:
One of the strongest aspects of Windows Mobile 6.1 over its predecessors are the slick updates to the home screen layout which includes a new slide panel layout that now lets you easily access things like recent calls, get access to your voicemail, text messages, mms, email, appointments, AT&T services (xpress mail, instant messenger, media net, media mail) and settings (profile wireless manager, ringtones, background image and task manager) without leaving the home screen. You can now also scroll through, and play music from your Windows Media playlist. The slide panel home screen can even show off the album art associated with the track you’re playing. While this new home screen option is very welcome, the rest of the Windows Mobile 6.1 interface is starting to look old.
Overall, navigating through the OS didn’t feel sluggish and overall the phone had good pep, though there were pretty minor delays, like a second or so delay when switching between landscape / QWERTY and portrait views. The handset comes ships with just 256MB of ROM and 128 megs of RAM, but it sports an SDHC slot for up to 32GB expandable memory.
For those of you looking for a touch screen, the Matrix Pro does not have one, however between both keypads you don’t feel like you’re missing one. Also, the OS is designed well for phones without touchscreens. That said, we do wish that the circular navigation button on the front face doubled as a scroll wheel.
Call Quality was very good on the Matrix Pro, testing in New York City, I could hear callers clearly and vice versa. I generally had full bars as well, but then again I only have gotten a chance to test in an area which is known to have good coverage. The speakerphone worked ok, but often callers on the other end said they had some difficulty hearing me when talking to them on speakerphone. Also the speakerphone does not get quite loud enough for noisier environments. Overall, the phone’s battery can manage to last a few days with light use and even over a day with moderate use. In contrast, most smartphone I’ve worked with tank out after a day of even moderate use.
The Matrix Pro comes with plenty of software including an instant messaging app that gives you access to AIM, Yahoo and MSN messenger, a weather app, a PDF program, a Java VM app for running other Java based apps, a mobile banking app as well as AT&T’s optional specialized services like Xpress Mail and MobiTV, and AT&T’s Navigator application which takes advantage of the built-in GPS. Office Mobile is also included which contains Excel, OneNote, Powerpoint and Word Mobile. Oddly, there are some apps, like the Mobile Banking app which have icons in the menu system but aren’t actually installed on the device yet until you manually download them. The handset also comes with a great selection of games, including Guitar Hero 3 Mobile, Brain Challenge, Bubble Breaker, Jewel Quest II, Midnight Pool, Ms. Pac Man, Scrabble, Solitaire, and Tetris. Unfortunately many of these like Ms. Pac-man and Guitar Hero 3 are just demos, which is a bummer.
The Matrix Pro does not have Wi-Fi abilities, instead you have to rely on only 3G for surfing the net speedily. The Matrix Pro comes preloaded with Internet Explorer, of course. Using DSLReports’ Mobile speed test, the Matrix Pro came up with a 120kbit/sec result. Surfing the net with AT&T’s 3G network in NYC felt pretty fast, even when using bloated Internet Explorer. However, I would highly recommend downloading the free Skyfire browser which is a lot faster than I.E. and also emulates the closest desktop surfing experience possible on a Windows Mobile smartphone. Skyfire also renders web pages better than Internet Explorer and overall takes better advantage of AT&T’s 3G network. In order to understand just how much faster Skyfire is, check out the loading time comparisons below.
1:05 for ChipChick.com
8 Seconds for m.cnn.com
23 Seconds for ChipChick.com
5 Seconds for m.cnn.com
Windows Mobile of course integrates with Microsoft Exchange beautifully and does a good job of playing nicely with imap and pop3 accounts. However, the Matrix Pro also comes with support for AT&T’s Xpress mail which is a $4.99 a month push email service that lets you get your mail as soon as the email server receives a new one. It’s compatible with most personal email accounts including Yahoo! Mail, AOL, Windows Live Hotmail (MSN, Hotmail and Live), Comcast, EarthLink, and others. Xpress Mail also saves the devices from running scheduled sync if there is no mail and it enables you to to sync contacts and schedules with your phone.
A trial of MobiTV is included. MobiTV offers the ability to stream TV popular TV shows to your handset. I was able to watch streaming episodes of Lost without a hitch. Granted the screen isn’t big enough for watching video for serious lengths of time, but it was awesome being able to watch some TV while waiting for the train. Other notable preinstalled multimedia apps include Pandora for free music listening, a trial for XM radio Mobile and for MobiVJ which provides access to music videos, and there is also access to AT&T’s music shop.
As for audio and video playback, the device comes with the standard Windows Media Player which lets you access your music by artist, album, and genre. Album art and star ratings can also be viewed while listening to tracks. Unfortunately the Matrix Pro comes uses a proprietary headphone jack. The T-mobile G1 is guilty of the same offense. We can’t understand why companies would bother making a multimedia handset with anything but a 3.5mm jack. However, to their credit, at-least Pantech does ship the Matrix Pro with a 3.5mm adapter.
The Matrix Pro sports a 2 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom. Both the camera and video recording/camcorder function give you a nice amount of options such different choices for white balance settings including Auto, daylight, cloudy, and fluorescent. You also have options for special effects: Normal, gray, sepia, and negative, and a self timer. The video recording is nothing to write home about with just a 176×144 resolution. But it’s a nice feature to have regardless. The camera photos also were just mediocre and like most other average camera phones, photos taken in the daylight came out much better. And unfortunately, the camera sorely lacks a flash.
I have to be honest and admit that until now, I hadn’t paid all that much attention to Pantech’s handsets. But after spending time with the Pantech Matrix Pro, I have come away pleasantly surprised at what a solid phone it is overall. For those looking for the best of both worlds as far keypads, an affordable price tag, and a solid feature set for a business phone with decent multimedia capabilities, the Matrix Pro doesn’t disappoint. The Pantech Matrix Pro C820 retails for $179.99 with a 2 year contract from AT&T. Alternatively you can pick one up from Amazon for just $99 with a 2 year contract.
Dual keypad form factor is very cool, great messaging and email abilities, good overall performance, fast internet browsing and multimedia streaming, good call quality, solid feature set.
No Wi-Fi, lacks dedicated 3.5mm jack for audio, Windows Mobile isn’t the hot shot OS that it used to be, camera lacks flash and its photos are mediocre.