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.