HTC Desire HD (Alternative)
Review of HTC Desire HD
Thanks to Shaun of PDA247 for another outstanding review. Click here to see the review with images and video.
The HTC Desire HD is probably HTC’s flagship smartphone of the moment, and without doubt its flagship Android phone. The specifications below show why-
Google Android 2.2 with HTC Sense Interface
4.3 inch touch screen 480 x 800 resolution
8.0 Megapixel Camera with auto focus and 2 x LED flashlight
1.5GB Internal Storage
Bluetooth 2.1 with FTP/OPP, A2DP, PBAP
WiFi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Dolby Mobile and SRS Surround Sound
The numbers above are highly impressive, but specifications alone do not always make a great smartphone. There are countless devices on the market that boast considerable specifications, but which fail to match the numbers, and others with lower specs often punch above their weight and offer a more usable experience. The Desire HD is designed to offer all of the numbers serious smartphone people want and to bring with it usability enhancements that only some phones on the market currently enjoy; the iPhone 4 and Galaxy S are good examples.
In the box
It is all pretty standard, as you can see from the list below, and is typically HTC from the box design to every single accessory. You get what you need, but no extras like a screen protector or case.
HTC Desire HD
8GB MicroSD Card
The battery capacity, at 1230mAh, is a cause for concern when the large 4.3” screen is considered, but let’s not jump the gun just yet. It would also be nice to see a 16GB card bundled because 8GB cards are quite cheap these days, but maybe I am just being greedy now…
Design / Build Quality
Wow! The screen dominates this phone unlike any other I have used. It is gargantuan at 4.3” and brings many benefits with it besides just being bigger than most competing phones. Typing is easier and so is navigating around the operating system, and this on top of the enhanced media experience. The screen is housed in a metal body which is deceptively shallow with a curved shape designed to make the phone feel slimmer in the hand. It isn’t deep at all at just 11.8mm, but each edge must be approximately 7mm so it really does feel like you are holding a huge screen rather than a powerful smartphone- the surround is minimal and the fact that there are no physical buttons on the front adds to this effect, and it truly works from a design, and practicality, point of view.
The quality of the materials used is better than I have seen before from HTC and the subtle buttons and ports make barely a dent in the overall look of the phone. The MicroUSB port is on the bottom which is useful for the future development of desktop cradles, but so is the headphone jack which is unusual. However, it really is the best place for it because you are much less likely to have the headphone wire drooping over the screen when on a call or watching a video. I hadn’t even considered such a placement previously, but it really does work. The on/off button is on the top over to the left which is slightly tricky for one-handed use and the volume buttons are on the left. Sadly there is no camera key which I presume to be part of trying to keep the outer design as simple as possible.
The back is, as I said earlier, curved and is only broken up by the extended lens of the camera. The dual LED flash sits in its own panel next to the lens and the only other part is the removable section at the bottom which houses the MicroSD and SIM card slots- you have to remove the whole of the bottom section to allow for the MicroUSB and headphone jacks to also be positioned on the outer bottom edge. The battery is, unusually, accessible from the side and simply requires the lifting of one small section of the back cover. It looks and works great, but more than likely will preclude the production of more powerful batteries in the future because the bulk of the back cover is not removable.
That’s about it for the design except to mention that slim silver speaker above the screen and the flush buttons below it. These buttons are larger than normal thanks to the big footprint of the HD and are extremely easy to use once you are familiar enough with them to tap without thinking.
The Desire HD is a quality piece of hardware and it manages to feel good in the hand despite its size- the only quirk I found was that the removable bottom section was not as flush as I would have liked against the top half of the outer cover. I suspect that it is just this phone, but it will be interesting to see if this is repeated on other HD’s.
This is a pretty good screen and any of you who have played with the original HTC HD2 will know the emotions it inspires. Some say that it is too big for a smartphone, but I have to disagree. It has a large footprint, but a quick comparison to three other popular smartphones highlights how efficiently the screen is implemented-
HTC Desire HD- 120.5 X 67 X 11 mm / 157 grams / 4.3″ screen
LG Optimus 7- 125 x 59.8 x 11.5mm / 157 grams / 3.8″ screen
Acer Liquid e- 115 x 62.5 x 12.5mm / 135 grams / 3.5″ screen
Samsung Galaxy S- 122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm / 119 grams / 4.0″ screen
The fact that it is viewable in most conditions and that it is perfectly sensitive when selecting apps, browsing the web and with almost any other activity only helps push it further up in my estimation. In bright sunlight it suffers somewhat and this is where the TFT technology is highlighted- the coating is prone to fingerprints and glare in bright sun which is a shame. The WVGA resolution does not compete with the Retina display on the iPhone 4, but it is still very crisp and the entire interface looks great. I have to say that I would take a larger crisp screen over the smaller super crisp Retina display purely because it offers much more space with which to work and play. The Desire HD screen is one of the best HTC has produced yet. It hits the limit of screen size on a mobile phone and HTC has cleverly built the phone around the screen to make the whole unit as small as is technically possible. It isn’t perfect by any means, but is much better than some other sites would have you believe.
The camera is rated at 8 Megapixels and includes 720p video recording. I believe that a software tweak is needed on the video side because the focus changes were often times so harsh it effected the output.
The stills side is much better and I had little trouble in quickly capturing decent shots, but a closer inspection on my desktop revealed the small tweaks that would be needed to make the pictures acceptable for blowing up. Having said that, it is by some distance the best camera HTC has produced to date and 99% of users will be more than happy with it. The range of effects within the camera app are useful too and the software is extremely easy to use.
General Performance (9/10)
If you are going to pit Android 2.2 against a second generation Snapdragon 1GHz processor and 768MB of RAM the experience is likely to be fluid and incredibly fast. It is.
The performance is very smooth and rivals the iPhone and Windows Phone units for sheer delight when tapping and swiping through the OS. Android does not have the same level of human interaction as these operating systems, but this is the best it has felt so far.
HTC boasts about the the integrated Dolby Mobile and SRS Surround Sound for video playback, but in all honesty I wouldn’t have noticed the technology when I first played a film through headphones. However, the sound quality is excellent and on a par with any other smartphones I have used in terms of being able to recreate the layers good music deserves. In movies, the marriage of sound and the immersive screen is breathtaking at times.
The only reason it loses a point is because the external speaker is slightly tinny. It is nowhere near as bad as the one on the Desire Z, but it could be deeper in the bass area. I am presuming that this is down to the shallow depth of the design and thus a smaller speaker housing has had to be employed.
Call / Signal Quality (8/10)
Call quality to the ear is very good indeed and I was more than impressed by the loudness and the deep quality in reproducing voices. On the external speaker it is not so loud and suffers slightly from the aforementioned point surrounding the external speaker.
Signal quality is excellent on the phone side and I achieved a consistent HSDPA signal in places that I could not even grab with Desire Z. Strangely, the Wi-Fi signal seems to be quite weak and the signal bars dropped quickly as I moved more than 20 feet from my router. I need to do some more testing, but I haven’t experienced this with other smartphones which all tend to keep a full signal anywhere in my house.
This is a difficult one because the Desire HD will get through a whole day if you are not using the power hungry features. However, start using that screen to its fullest and a charge will be needed at some point during the afternoon. The marriage of a 4.3” screen and a 1230mAh battery don’t sound good on paper, and the reality is that it does struggle at times. As I said earlier you won’t be seeing larger replacement batteries available so a spare would be a good option to take up. Most very large screened devices suffer in this area, but HTC has also managed to limit the battery options as well which is not the best idea.
Further testing has revealed that it is better than I first thought, but will still struggle for power users. I now believe that I could get a day out of this phone under my normal usage patterns.
Data Input (8/10)
The large screen helps a lot in terms of quick data entry on a touch screen and the spell correction is on the whole quite accurate. It is flaky at times, but then so are all touch screen smartphone correctors so all in all the experience is positive. In landscape it is very good and the extra size of the HD works better for me because I have long fingers and this makes it feel more natural than a smaller phone in landscape mode.
I have complained before about the vast number of apps and features that are bundled with Android, and in many way this phone is no different, but it comes back to the screen again. Somehow it all feels less crowded and HTC has included useful apps that the users will genuinely need on a day to day basis. None of the basics are missing and everything from turn-by-turn navigation to eBook reading is included. eBooks look great on the Kindle app and the eReading experience is yet again greatly enhanced by the larger screen.
Quick Lookup is an excellent app which offers the ability to search once and see the results in Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, Google Translate and Google Dictionary- it quickly became my default app for research.
Car Panel is just a fancy looking shortcut windows to various GPS related features, but the Nearby feature is especially useful. You can also get to Footprints through it which remains one of the most pleasing apps that HTC has implemented to date- it doesn’t do a great deal, but could come in handy time and time again.
The Android Market gets better every time I look at it and a quick search through the free and paid for titles shows that many of the mainstays of the iTunes App Store are now present. It isn’t quite as polished as the App Store, but a small amount of familiarity will soon make it an easy to navigate and complete resource to you.
At times it felt like I was typing on a mini tablet and the simple Calculator app highlighted that more than anything else. The keys are huge and it was all so easy to use for when the time comes (back to the screen size again).
There is so much to cover in terms of the operating system and the apps that I would be here all day if I attempted to do so. What I can say is that Android is growing on me and that it feels more complete as time goes by. I cannot think of another smartphone platform that offers so much out of the box and as the third party offerings improve, it will start to compete with the very best.
This is a truly excellent smartphone that proves that a 4.3” screen is possible on a phone that is still portable enough to use every day. The build quality and design are exceptional and the entire experience is only slightly marred by the battery performance. It seems that every smartphone has a flaw, and the battery is the weak area, but I am still convinced that most people will get though a day’s use quite happily.