Tuesday, July 26, 2011

HTC Touch HD Review

In a nutshell: The HTC Touch HD has the biggest screen on any phone. With a brilliant touchscreen user interface and the Windows Mobile operating system, this is very powerful but easy to use device. Equipped with a 5 megapixel camera, video calling, a superb web browsing experience, GPS with Google Maps, a media player and an FM radio, it's an all-in-one device that does simply everything. The battery life and memory are also good, so there's very little to fault on this phone, except perhaps for its size.
HTC Touch HD
We've become big fans of the Windows Mobile operating system during 2008. Gone are the days when Windows Mobile was slow and bug-ridden. Microsoft have zapped the bugs and we think that it's a smoother and more robust OS than Symbian these days. It's starting to feature in more and more of the latest generation of touchscreen phones, and it's here in the HTC Touch HD. The Touch HD runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional.

The Touch HD is an upgraded version of the HTC Touch Diamond. It's a very sleek-looking minimalist slab of black plastic, that looks very futuristic. It isn't a small phone, but its slim minimalist design makes it appear not too big. The first thing that strikes you about the Touch HD is the size of the screen. It's very, very big! In fact, at a ginormous 3.8 inches across, it's probably the biggest screen ever seen on a mobile (the iPhone 3G S has a 3.5 inch screen.) Unlike many touchscreen phones, there are no push buttons on the phone at all - just a row of touch-sensitive buttons below the main screen. This makes it very, very sleek and sexy in appearance.

The screen isn't just physically big, it also has an ultra-high resolution: 480 x 800 pixels. Only a handful or other phones can match this resolution. To put it into context, the Touch HD has 2.5 times as many pixels as the iPhone 3G S! It's this ultra-high resolution that gives the HD its name. Now, as we've commented many times before at Mobile Phones UK, when it comes to touchscreen phones, big is better! The huge expanse of screen real estate means that you can see more options, more virtual buttons, more menus on screen at once, and the whole system becomes much easier to use. The triple combination of Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro plus the TouchFLO 3D user interface plus the HD screen makes the Touch HD one of the best touchscreen phones that we've reviewed. It's a joy to use. HTC are also quick to point out that the HD screen makes the phone great for watching videos too. The built-in accelerometer lets you easily switch between portrait and widescreen landscape modes, just by turning the phone.

The Touch HD is equipped with many features and applications that make best use of the big screen. But the weakest of these is probably the camera. At 5 megapixels, it's an improvement on the 3.2 megapixel camera of the HTC Touch Diamond, but it isn't the best camera around. With the autofocus we find that the results are adequate, and certainly good enough for taking print quality snaps in good lighting. In poor lighting though, the camera suffers from a lack of a flash. The video recording quality is on a par, with results that are adequate but not exceptional. A secondary camera is available for making video calls at up to VGA resolution.

A feature that works rather better is the web browsing capability of the phone. With a choice of WiFi or HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, you can be guaranteed the fastest mobile broadband connection speeds currently possible. Flip the display into landscape mode and you have a full 800 pixel width available for displaying web pages. This makes it feasible to display many web pages in full resolution, without the need to constantly zoom in and out. The web browser is fast to display pages, and overall this is possibly the best implementation of the mobile web that we've ever seen. Top marks to HTC!

Another good feature is the GPS implementation that uses Google Maps. This is another case where bigger is better. The large screen simply lets you see more of the map at any time, so you can get a clearer picture of where you are and where you need to go. The touchscreen navigation works extremely well with this application, letting you scroll and zoom just by tapping or sliding your finger.

The audio capabilities of the Touch HD are brilliant. Equipped with a music player and an FM radio, and with a 3.5mm headphone jack, the audio credentials of the device are impeccable. The music player is capable of playing all the main digital formats - MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+ and WMA - and because it uses Windows Mobile, it's easy as pie to synch the device with Windows Media Player on a PC.

A device this powerful needs lots of memory, and we would have preferred to see more built-in memory. The phone has plenty of RAM available and can handle microSD cards up to a whopping 32 GB however. The battery life figures quoted by HTC are impressive - up to 8 hours talktime and 680 hours standby. But in the real world we don't think that you'll get anything like these. We haven't tested the battery life scientifically, so we're reluctant to stick our neck on the block here, but our feeling is that most users will need to recharge every couple of days. Besides, with such a feature packed phone, you'll probably want to use it to its full potential all day long!

This is a brilliant all-round device, and we initially rated the Touch HD at a full 5 stars. One year on, we've taken another look, and downgraded the rating to 4 stars to reflect the fact that mobile technology continues to move forward and the HD now has a few weaknesses, particularly the camera. It's also large and heavy, but you can't have a large screen unless you have a large phone to put it on! We love the big screen, we love the user interface, we love the GPS and the internet. Whether you use your phone for emailing, finding your way around, checking the stock market or weather, or simply making old fashioned phone calls, you'll find most things that you need here in one very smart device. It's still expensive though!


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