GeekTest: The HTC Desire HD Review
I was recently sent one of the new HTC Desire HD mobile phones for review, but i’ve been putting off writing it. Not because I’m not sure what to say about it, or because I dislike it. But mainly because, once I write this, i’ll have to send it back to the PR company. As someone who’s an avid iPhone user, and who’s current phone is the iPhone 3GS, the Android driven Desire HD rather took me by surprise. Every time i review a smart phone for the site, i’m obviously going to compare it to the iPhone, and nothing has really come close enough for me to want to switch from Apple’s cool designery grasp. Until now…
The 164g HTC Desire HD comes with a 4.3 inches (480 x 800 WVGA) touchscreen, in a 123 x 68 x 11.8 mm case. Some might say that’s a little on the large size, but it actually feels fine in your hand. The screen takes up most of the front of the phone which is great for watching movies or tv shows on. Across the bottom are 4 touch-sensitive buttons that go to home, back, bring up the menu, or search.
It has a nice high spec 8 megapixel camera with auto focus and dual LED flash, and can record video in 720p HD quality. Inside there’s a 1 GHz Scorpion processor, with 1.5 GB (expandable to 32 GB via SD cards) and 768 MB of RAM.
For connectivity, the HTC Desire HD has a micro USB socket, and runs Bluetooth, EDGE, WiFi, and 3G. But this is no ordinary 3G… This is the enhanced HSDPA 3G, and frankly, it’s incredible. It’s effectively like having WiFi access from anywhere with a normal phone signal. It’s completely capable of streaming 480p video from YouTube without so much as a small stutter.
The HTC Desire HD is running Android 2.2, which has been enhanced even more by HTC’s Sense UI. This allows more widgets and screens to play with, and more customisation to your home screen. One of the things that has always bugged me on non-Apple smartphones is the unresponsiveness of the interface. Thankfully there’s none of that on the Desire HD. The touch sensitive and animation is as fluid as anything Apple produces, and is a joy to use. The interface is also highly customisable, with you no only being able to change ringtones, but whole soundsets, giving you complete control over every little bleep and chirp the phone makes. One more feature which really impressed was the boot time from the phone having been totally switched off, which comes in at 7 or 8 seconds. It’s a small thing, but just adds to the slickness of the experience.
Of course, it’s all very well it being slick and a great mini computer, but what about it’s primary function – actually contacting people. One handy little feature is the ability to sync your phone contacts with your mail and social network accounts. This allows you to use any contact info from their facebook or your gmail account directly in your phones contact list. This also allows you to pull pics from those accounts to use as the contact’s icon if you want to.
The sound quality of the phone itself is perfectly fine when talking. There’s also a rather nice feature if you choose to use the phone in your car, where it’ll give you a screen of nice chunky buttons for key functions, making answering hands free calls much easier.
Email (via POP3, IMAP or Exchange server) and social networking accounts are easy to set up, and typing out messages on email or SMS is straightforward on the iPhone-like virtual keyboard.
As i mentioned earlier, the 3G on steroids (HSDPA) makes browsing ridiculously quick for a mobile device. The in-built browser is also fast and responsive, and supports HTML 5, and Flash. This means video can actually run on the page without jumping out to a separate media player like it does in certain fruit based mobile devices. Having said that, videos do still run better if you use the separate media player which bypass the appalling Flash code (which is a problem with Flash/Adobe, and not the Desire).
Media & Camera
The 8 megapixel camera gives decent enough still photos. Good enough for any quick snaps you wish to take, and the LED flash is perfectly acceptable, and can double as a flashlight if needed.
The sound quality for the music has been enhanced from previous models with Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound. It’s a little tinny, but good for a phone. Music can be browsed through using the Apple-esque cover art mode, and also has a link to the Amazon MP3 store allowing you to download music direct to the phone.
Video playback on the 4.3 inch screen is great to watch. I could be a little picky about the contrast or the colour, but really it’s fine. It also has this nifty little trick which allows you to wirelessly stream video from the phone to a DLNA enabled TV. It also means you can stream media from DLNA enabled devices such as a PS3.
So this is my only real negative of the phone. The battery life sucks. From my experience of the testing model I had, it would be very easy to drain the life out of it with a reasonable day’s use. It’s the one part of the phone that really lets the whole thing down. Of course, using less video or music playback on it would expand that life, but it’s slightly annoying to have a great device somewhat crippled by sucky power usage. It will usually last the day, but you’ll find yourself leaving it charging every night.
Since it’s running Android, the HTC Desire HD gives you access to all the apps on the Android store. It also comes with a few of it’s own, such as news & weather, or the Shazam style SoundHound which will try to recognise any songs you play to it (that includes you singing/humming to it!). It comes with a google maps app, but also HTC’s own Locations app, which is built in association with TomTom. The basic set up is free, but there are a bunch of premium addons (like speed camera locations, traffic etc…) which you can buy if you so wish.
The HTC Desire HD is a fantastic mobile device, which really made me look at the iPhone and think very hard about which one i’d want. The only thing that really lets it down is the battery life. In all other areas it really gives the iPhone some serious competition.