Review compliments of Shaun at PDA247.
There is little doubt that the Legend is the direct successor to the Hero and the specifications appear to be near the high-end in the smartphone world today. The 600Mhz processor may alarm some of you because 1Ghz is the number that grabs the headlines now, but consider the efficiency of Android and battery life. In my view Android does not require a 1Ghz processor, but does need good battery power, as all smartphones, do and so one of the tests over the next few days will be to see how quick and power efficient the Legend is in normal use.
Following the Hero is not an easy task. It was the phone that brought Android to the masses and showed us what can be done on the platform, but it was not without its problems. The outer coating is great for grip, but not great to look at. The trackball will succumb to problems one day (they almost always do) and the screen is not the best in direct sunlight. Battery life is good, but not good enough for serious power users who are using their phone all of the time for emails and media.
One notable inclusion in the Legend is the Android 2.1 which brings a raft of changes that have the potential to become daily features in your smartphone usage.
The outer covering is of course designed to look smart and it certainly does, but the inclusion of two rubber panels makes grip much easier. This is more noticeable when you hold the phone in landscape mode because the grip is substantially less and an all aluminium setup would make it almost impossible to hold.
The buttons are as you would expect with a volume key on the left, on/off key on the top and a micro-USB port on the bottom. A 3.5mm headphone jack rounds off what is a sparse, yet elegant side button setup that does not protrude into the design too much. The front mounted buttons are as you would expect in an Android phones and consist of home, menu, back and search with a beautiful looking optical trackball in the centre below them. The ‘Bruce Forsyth’ jaw is still there, but does not feel as pronounced as on the Hero and screams Hero 2 to anyone wanting to upgrade from the phone that kick started Android for the masses. If you think of the Legend as an update to the Hero you won’t be far wrong, but does it manage to fix the niggles that came with the original? Well, for a start the trackball is gone and replaced with an optical trackpad which is never a bad thing. Trackballs are notoriously unreliable and even if you are happy with yours, things could well start to go wrong one day. The build quality is better, mainly because of the materials used, and it just feels and looks right to me.
The speaker on the back is quite loud, but placed in a position that means you will naturally cover it with your hand when playing music or a video. It is very tinny though and does not show off the sound quality available through headphones, which is astonishingly good. I plugged my iPhone headphones in and the sound is noticeably fuller than the iPhone with a deep bass and a depth of sound that is way ahead of other smartphones I have used to date.
The hardware is truly lovely to use and to hold, and I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t help but show it off a little when I was in town. To call a smartphone beautiful is a little weird, but it is easily the nicest smartphone I have seen from an aesthetic point of view and sure to turn heads wherever you are.
HTC has always struggled with cameras and up until recently they were barely more than a passing add-on to a smartphone which was designed to everything else better. The Legend, however, is different.
The quality is impressive and way ahead of what I have seen from HTC in the past- focusing is quick and it takes no time to snap a quick picture when you are in a hurry. The optical trackpad is used to take a picture so you don’t have to worry about an onscreen button which can be fiddly.
Video capture is also very good, but the sound could be better. It picks up voices and noise that are close, but the further away they are the more strange they sound. All in all this is a good camera setup though and much better than I expected.
As I said in part one, music quality is superb through the headphones. It is the ‘best’ I have heard from a phone to date and is ideal for those who treasure their music on the move. The speaker quality is not great though and lacks any depth. However, speaker use tends to be only used to show someone a video so it is not the end of the world.
Movie playback is also very good indeed and I had no problems watching long films- there were no sound sync issues and the frame rate was perfectly acceptable. Using YouTube brought back some poor quality videos so maybe some work needs to be done to define what the Legend is capable of before playing online media. I must say though that the speed of connection to YouTube over Wi-Fi was extremely quick and better than what I have seen elsewhere.
Call quality has also been improved and I would rate it is better than average now. To offer a comparison, I would put it somewhere between the iPhone and a BlackBerry with it being nearer the BlackBerry which is a good thing. The speaker phone again suffers from the tinny output, but is loud enough to work in a car with much background noise. All in all, I would give it the thumbs up on the voice side.
Another surprise. It is not stellar, but outperforms the Hero and iPhone quite easily. In the few days I have been using the Legend I have been able to get through whole days of extended use without recharging. Of course Wi-Fi, video streaming and constant Android Market downloads have an effect, but this is one of the better batteries I have seen on Android so far. With sparse use I am guessing that you could get through 2-3 days without a problem, but the Legend does not lend itself to sparse use.
The 320×480 pixel AMOLED display is simply wonderful indoors and produces an image quality which belies its size. Photos jump from the screen and video playback is even better. AMOLED lives up to its promise when implemented properly. And then you take it outside on a sunny day. The screen is quite reflective and you can see what you are doing, but the contract between indoor and outdoor use is stark. Finger tapping is accurate and a pleasure to undertake, but some work still needs to be done to make it a phone for all conditions.
The speed is blisteringly fast all of the time. I have had multiple apps running at once and it never missed a beat which is encouraging. The 600Mhz processor appears to be more than capable of powering Android 2.1 and I do wonder why some devices need 1Ghz if the Legend is an example of speed without excessive battery drain.
The onscreen keyboard is haptic which helps somewhat when typing, but it is also quite cramped width-wise. The phone itself is quite slim and this obviously has an effect, but landscape will pop up when needed. I would say that typing landscape is similar to the iPhone, but portrait is slightly less efficient.
The use of hardware buttons has an impact here as well- it feels odd to tap out an email and to then have to press the menu hardware button and then send on the screen. Too much jumping between hardware and software for my liking.
One surprising aspect was how quickly I got used to the touch keyboard and I quickly found myself typing quite smoothly. The auto-correction works efficiently without getting in the way and I am sure that if I gave myself enough time I could live with it, just.
Safe to say that the Legend is ticking many of the boxes I want to see ticked in a smartphone so far and is much more fun to use than I expected.
I would love to go into every little detail about the OS and the included applications, but that won’t tell you much about what the actual experience is like. I will start by saying that everything is blazingly fast on this phone, and I mean everything. No matter what I throw at it things just trundle along at a pace few other smartphones can live with. I can’t imagine a 1Ghz processor in the Legend because there are simply no delays at all in daily use. It is so smooth in operation and this alongside the Android 2.1 platform makes you feel right at home from the start.
Most will not notice the subtle differences in Android 2.1, but they do enhance the experience a lot. The Android Market is vastly improved and now feels like a proper attached app store rather than a mere add-on. The live wallpapers are useful and help you bring more personalisation to the experience and there are countless other changes designed to make the OS play more efficiently with the hardware it is running on. What I can say is that the Legend feels more complete than the previous Android devices I have tested including the Milestone. The Milestone was quite clean and did not include Sense and the other treats HTC bundles into its Android and Windows Mobile smartphones. As the revisions to the OS continue it feels like it is all falling into place and I can now use Android without thinking of it as ‘new’.
Little touches like the ability to pinch in on the home screen and bring up the main panels are more useful than you may expect at first. It looks like a gimmick, but is genuinely useful and a worthy inclusion. In fact the finger friendly nature of Android in 2.1 makes the optical trackpad almost redundant for most uses. On the subject of hardware navigation, the buttons below the screen are not too difficult to use, but remain an annoyance for some. Such a finger friendly system should not require four buttons to get around and it is a minor flaw in the current setup.
I didn’t expect to like the Legend as much as I do, but time tells and after 4 days I am struggling to find any significant defects with the phone. Apart from the lack of screen clarity outdoors everything else is close to spot on. The battery surprises me more each day and in my experience is more than capable of 1.5 days and likely 2 days for most people. The camera has grown on me and feels natural to use- this is an area that is often forgotten, but ease of use in a camera is very important when you consider how a smartphone camera will tend to be used.
The Legend is a superb smartphone which is capable of ‘everything’ the rest are and is right there at the top of the pile. The Desire may turn more heads in technical circles, but the Legend is capable of almost everything you will need it for. Without doubt this handset is not just a pretty face- it is a powerhouse of a smartphone wrapped up in a gorgeous exterior and as such I have to give it a top recommendation. Simply superb!