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AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro (C820) Smartphone Review

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The latest smartphone to show up on my doorstep is the Pantech Matrix Pro (C820). It’s been a year since I reviewed the Pantech Duo (C810), which I enjoyed despite some faults. Today Judie of Gear Diary and I are going to give you our impressions of the latest model of this phone in a dual review. My comments are in blue italics, Judie’s are in Black.

Julie and I have been using the AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro for a while, and it is time to share our experiences with this Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition smartphone. This review will be appearing on Gear Diary and The Gadgeteer; before reading further, you might want to start with my First Impressions of the AT&T Pantech Matrix Pro.

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The Pantech Matrix Pro is a chunky little brick measuring 4.17″ tall x 2.0″ wide x 0.85″ thick and 5.34 ounces, but I have to say that it is so nicely curved and solidly built that I never felt its size to be a problem.

Me neither. The size is almost perfect for me. I can easily hold it in my hand (I don’t do belt clips…) while I walk around at my day job. If I don’t want to carry it, it isn’t difficult to stow it in my jeans pocket. It is a bit thick, but it has two keyboards – so I can overlook that.

Technical Specifications

Operating system: Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
Internal Memory: 256MB
Expandable Memory: Supports up to 32GB microSD™ card
Display: 2.4″ 260K TFT (240×320 pixels)
Camera: 2.0 megapixels with digital 4x zoom
Connectivity: GPRS/EDGE quad-band, UMTS/HSDPA tri-band (850/1900/2100MHz), Bluetooth 2.0 and EDR, USB 2.0 HS
Audio: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, RealAudio®
Video: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264, RealMedia, Windows Media,® 15 fps QCIF, MobiTV, Cellular Video, Video Sharing
Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion: 1320 mAh; Talk time: Up to 6 hours; Standby time: Up to 12 days

I’ll admit that when I first got it, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Unlike Julie, I thought that the original Pantech Duo was gimmicky, underpowered, ugly, and cheap…and I didn’t expect this one be much different. How’s that for bias going into a review?

Awwww, I liked it! :) It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I had issues with it, but I really liked the form factor. I just went back and re-read my closing paragraph and in there, I said I hoped Pantech would come out with a better version. My wish was granted. But is it better?

Julie can tell you that I dragged my feet even opening the box. When I finally did open it, I felt a twinge of guilt for how prejudiced I had been. Don’t get me wrong: the Matrix Pro is far from perfect, and for various reasons it is not what I would necessarily label a “Pro” device, but it turned out to be a very good smartphone which should appeal to heavy texters and those who appreciate the wide variety of programs available on the Windows Mobile Standard platform, but who don’t necessarily want to pay an arm and leg for the experience.

Right, the “Pro” descriptor for this phone is definitely a bit of a mis-nomer. It’s missing some key features in order to earn that designation.

As I mentioned in my first impressions post, the Matrix Pro has an attractive form factor; its buttons and other controls are nicely laid out and with the exception of the fake scroll wheel, everything works exactly as expected. Perhaps my greatest complaint about the Pro’s appearance is the use of all that awful shiny plastic. I am trying to remember who it was that told me that shiny surfaces are considered “posh” on mobile phones in Asia, but honestly? I hate them. If I thought I was compulsive about rubbing the HTC S740‘s shiny face, I can tell you that the Matrix Pro made me totally OCD. Not only is its face shiny, so are its sides and back. “Fingerprint magnet” does not even begin to describe this thing – it is a fingerprint and face grease wasteland. I realize this isn’t a big deal to everyone, but it annoys the heck out of me.

I agree with you there. Heck, on occasion, I’ve even used it as a mirror to check my hair! That said, after the initial shiny shock, I have really not noticed it being any more fingerprinty than my iPhone. Polishing it on my jeans has become an absentminded habit.

Other than my obvious negative fixation with the device’s shininess, I have very few real complaints. I expected to think it was too fat, but it isn’t. The Matrix Pro fits very nicely in my hand, and the weight is appropriate , in fact I think that the weight makes the device feel more expensive than it really is. The rounded shape is caressable – and it begs to be held.

I think it has a good balance and is comfortable to hold and use. It doesn’t feel cheap or fragile and does not exhibit any creaking or cracking when squeezed.

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I really like the way that Pantech tried to keep the shape of the device streamlined by putting covers over the microSD slot and the sync/charge port…but oh man. More on the sync/charge port cover in a moment.

Hehehe… I hate covers over sync ports too. Grrrrrr…

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I know that among hardcore mobility people, the non-standard and proprietary sync/charge cable is going to cause some rolled eyes. “Not another cable to carry…revolt!

Yeah, I feel the same way, but I also look at it like this: the average consumer who buys LGs, Nokias and certain other phones (smartphones as well as dumb) is used to having to carry a separate charging cable when they travel – assuming they even do that much of it. For them, this will be par for the course; I bet they won’t even give it a second thought.

We aren’t average though, so we can complain about it :) I hate the cable. Why didn’t Pantech use a mini or micro USB cable instead? Why oh why do designers pick proprietary connectors over more popular (probably even cheaper) choices?

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I mentioned before that I didn’t like the sync/charge port cover of doom, and in the end I did wind up ripping it off.

It does not bother me at all that the port is now exposed – instead I have immediate and easy access to a slot that I need to plug into at least every couple of days.

Port cover of doom? Ha! It’s not THAT bad ;) Ok, it annoys me too. But, the proprietary cable annoys me more. I’ll gladly not complain about the port cover if we could have a micro USB connector behind it.

Agreed!

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The 2 megapixel camera takes fairly decent pictures, but yeah, I am still hitting the Voice Recorder button when I have the Matrix Pro turned on its side.

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Me too! What a lousy decision to place those buttons directly across from one another. Also the shutter button isn’t the easiest to press all the way down. It makes taking a picture a little difficult at times. And then there’s the even more annoying fact that you can’t see a #$@% thing on the display when you’re outdoors – even on an overcast day.

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The camera actually doesn’t do that bad of a job. Even the macro shots are readable. Of course I wish there was a built in flash. You can click on the thumbnails to see the full-size images.

The 1320 mAh battery has proven to be quite robust during my testing. I could easily get through a day of regular use without needing a charge – even with several calls, heavy email pulling, light GPS usage and a bit of surfing. When on standby without much activity, the phone could last for several days without losing much juice. Perhaps the lack of WiFi (as in, one less battery draining radio to leave on and suck the life out of the device) contributed to my good results, but since I don’t usually use WiFi all that much anyway, who is to say?

I also had very good results with battery life while using this phone. I typically need to charge it every 3rd day when I’m only making calls and texting. Throw in some browsing, picture taking and game playing, and I’ll charge it every other day.

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Is the Matrix Pro perfect? Of course not. It comes loaded with AT&T bloatware (Cellular Video, AT&T Music, MEdia Net, MEdia Mall [no, those aren't typos], AT&T GPS, AT&T Navigator, Shop Music, etc.), and while you can obviously add WM programs to the phone, for some it is as locked down as Fort Knox. For instance, if you don’t want AT&T’s preloaded programs, you can’t delete them. But even worse: Twitter addicts will have to update though the web – the excellent WM application PocketTwit can’t be installed without hacking. Another program I couldn’t install was Google Mobile Apps, though I was able to easily install Google Maps…go figure. Google Mobile Apps and PockeTwit both return an error stating that the applications can’t be installed because they “lack sufficient system permissions.” Gah! FAIL.

I ran into the same issues Google Mobile Apps although I was able to install GMail and mobile Sync. I really like Google’s mobile sync now that I’m doing the cloud thing. No more worries about 3rd party sync apps for my Mac. Yay!

On the other hand, the Matrix Pro is an excellent and largely rock solid device for anyone who likes Windows Mobile Standard, who doesn’t need a touchscreen, who doesn’t mind the proprietary sync/charge cable, and who doesn’t expect to see a 3.5mm headset jack on their phone.

And who doesn’t mind not having WiFi. Although if you think about it, people probably use WiFi mostly for browsing the web on their mobile device. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m not going to want to do very much browsing on a tiny display like the one on the Matrix Pro. So I suppose the lack of WiFi isn’t a deal breaker (for me).

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The QWERTY keyboard on the Matrix Pro is very easy to thumb info onto; heavy texters will definitely appreciate it. As a matter of fact, I showed the phone to Sarah and was immediately informed she wanted one. Bear in mind that my 19 year old is a rabid texter (as I have mentioned numerous times), and she has been “making do” ever since killing her Treo 500v (also a WM Standard device) with a Nokia dumbphone that I got from AT&T when I added a line. That’ll teach her. ;-)

The dual keyboard is what attracted me to the Pantech Duo and now the Matrix Pro. The top of the phone slides to the right with a very satisfying kerchunk sound (yes, that’s a technical term). The sliding mechanism is spring assisted and is very easy to use.

I found the keyboard to be very comfortable to type on once I got used to the slightly odd layout, with the spacebar situated between the V and B keys. I do a fair amount of texting during the day, and this is the first phone in awhile that I enjoy texting on.

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I do not like the keypad though. Not that I use it very often, but I have never been a fan of the Razr style flat keyboard.

I have enjoyed using this phone quite a bit. I think I’m more sold on the form factor and sliding dual keyboard design first and foremost though. Once I get past those features, I find myself wishing it had a better display (one that would allow me to view it outdoors) and a camera with higher resolution and a flash. I will say what said at the end of my Duo review… that I hope Pantech comes out with an even better version in the future. Hey, they listened last time :)

It would be really easy for me to rag on the Matrix Pro for not being more of a “power user” phone, but if I keep myself from falling into “phone snob” mode, I can admit that it doesn’t have to be. This is a good device – both in specifications and in price – for anyone who wants a smartphone operating system combined with a form factor made for heavy texters.

The Pantech Matrix Pro is available from AT&T.

 

Product Information

Price:$379.99 without contract, $179.99 with 2 year contract and rebate
Manufacturer:Pantech
Pros:
  • Solid and weighty design that feels good in hand
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent signal
  • Great phone for heavy texters
  • Pocket friendly
  • Dual keyboards
Cons:
  • No WiFi
  • Uses a proprietary sync & charge cable
  • No 3.5mm headset jack
  • Inability to unlock the phone and install some programs
  • Impossible to delete the AT&T programs
  • Can't see the display outside even on a cloudy day

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • Jake March 28, 2009, 4:34 am

    all I can say is…WOO-HOO the good ‘ol gadgeteer is back

  • Julie March 28, 2009, 9:00 am

    @Jake I’m glad that you enjoyed the dual review. We plan to do more in the future, so stay tuned! :)

  • Brian March 28, 2009, 10:13 am

    I was very impressed at this collaborative effort. I missed these reviews from days gone by. Good job! (BTW-I own and use a tweaked C810 and by your review doesn’t appear to make me want to go out and get the C820.)

  • Jeremy March 28, 2009, 10:42 am

    I also have to agree, I really enjoyed the banter like format of the review. One thing that I am curious about was the signal quality in comparison to other phones. I live in a fringe ATT area, so thats something that is foremost in my mind.

  • Julie March 28, 2009, 11:42 am

    @Jeremy I would say that this phone holds a signal better than my iPhone and a few other phones that I own. It’s not as good as most Nokia phones that I’ve reviewed, but it comes close.

  • Greta German May 1, 2009, 11:51 am

    TWEETED! immissgg

  • ron July 22, 2009, 11:15 pm

    This phone is the biggest piece of crap I ever bought.Screen turns white,phone shuts off while talking and turns back on ,power cord hasnt worked since it was new,paint fading on side and peelling on top.This phone is 6 months old and pantech wont warranty it because the paint is fading and peeling.This phone has no water damage,no chips no cracks and has been well taken care of.Buy cheap get cheap

  • Julie July 23, 2009, 6:52 am

    @ron Wow, I’ve been using the same phone for quite a while now and it doesn’t have any of the problems you describe. I think you got a lemon.

  • Bryan G August 29, 2009, 2:05 pm

    WOW, nice review, just bought the phone and waiting for it to be shipped out. Hope it serves its purpose TEXTING MACHINE lol. Once again thnx for that awesome review!!

  • Jolanda G. November 9, 2009, 7:08 pm

    Im getting mine tomorrow delivered by Fed-X. I’ve been doing tons of research on this phone. It seems nice and I’ve finally made my choice of purchasing one. I hope it is a good phone. ( Im a heavy texter also.. Like 100 a day).

  • Julie November 10, 2009, 7:51 am

    @Jolanda Let us know what you think of it. :)

  • oday January 24, 2010, 4:26 pm

    please i have problem with it
    its need network PIN
    WHAT I DO?

  • Patti December 13, 2010, 11:42 pm

    I have had my Matrix Pro for 1 1/2 years. It started out taking great pictures, having a great battery life with routine use and great ease of use with the double slider. I have become very frustrated with this phone, more so over time. It has locked up and crashed 5 times. The only thing I can determine is that about the time I set all my preferences (pics, ring tones, alarm tones, etc.) where I want them the phone is so bloated it cannot function. There is wso much windows bloat wear there is no room for personalization.

    After the 5th crash, the camera ceased taking decent pictures. No matter the setting the pictures are washed out and have a blue hue. It doesn’t, however, take a great little video. The speakers now rattle and the audio is up and down on it’s own settings.

    This phone is so locked down, that even the searches for fixes are blocked on the web. I can load the pages but the text is not there.

    I began taking it to the ATT Store when it would lock up thinking, nay praying that enough complaining would get a new phone into my hands. No, that is not about to happen even with insurance.

    About the only thing this phone is good for is texting. I am looking forward to moving onto droid as soon as this contract is over.

  • Steve A. October 7, 2011, 1:54 am

    i have had my matrix pro only for a week but so far it has done everything i have asked of it. i do agree the screen fads out when you are outside. i am going to get into it more in the next couple of weeks but so far i really like mine !

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