HTC HD2 in-depth review -

Look and feel

The massive 4.3-inch TFT capacitive touch-screen is certainly attractive, and we’re a fan of the simplistic design.

Ease of use

Browsing was excellent, and the embedded social networking functionality is efficient at keeping you up to speed with all your friends. The HD2 is the best Windows Mobile device we’ve seen and its very straight-forward to get to grips with.

Features

Functionality and features are where the HD2 particularly excels, with everything you might need on a phone and more.

Performance

Considering the criticism that Windows Mobiles devices have come under in the past, this phone performs so slickly that we think it will win over even the most cynical of you.

Battery life

Battery life was above average.

 HTC HD2 Review -
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:56:45 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

The largest mobile screen to date, the 4.3-inch high definition display simply sparkles and enhances the web, media and mapping experience.

Cons:

HTC should hold its heads in shame at not including a memory card of any description to make up for the miserly 448MB of on-board memory.

We were a tad worried about the HTC and Windows Mobile union. This cosy twosome seemed destined to grow old together creating numerous offspring along the way. Up to about a year ago, nearly every HTC handset ran on Microsoft’s operating system and though the results were mixed HTC didn’t look like changing their allegiance. Then came Google Android and all of a sudden HTC seemed to drop Windows Mobile in favour of this new kid on the block. However, rather than being a lady scorned, Windows Mobile went away had a makeover and came back in the guise of Windows Mobile 6.5 under the umbrella term Windows Phone.

The HTC HD2 is the first HTC handset to come with Windows Mobile 6.5 pre-installed on it (though all previous models that ran on 6.1 can now be upgraded and will be sold with 6.5 on it) as well as Qualcomm’s new 1Ghz Snapdragon mobile processor that promises a lightening quick experience even when using multiple applications simultaneously. Now we have to admit to not being the world’s greatest fan of Windows Mobile phones, what with the fiddly menus and uninspiring icons and while we concede that Windows 6.5 has addressed some of these concerns we were expecting a little bit more when it was first announced at the beginning of October. However, even with this clouded judgment after just five minutes with the HTC HD2 we were blown away.

Look and feel

Big can most certainly be beautiful as the HTC HD2’s giant 4.3-inch TFT capacitive display shows. It’s massive, with HTC encompassing nearly every last millimetre of the front fascia. In fact there’s only just enough space for (from left to right); a call key, home button, Windows key, back button and call end key to be squeezed in. These along with the volume keys found on the left hand side of the phone are the only hard keys you’ll find on the whole of the device. It’s a minimalist approach and though we bemoan the lack of a dedicated camera key (more of which later) as with the song, we’re fans of the bare necessities.

Impressively svelte at just 11mm thin, the back of the handset has a two tone style with the battery cover a concrete grey sandwiched between a darker shade of black. Due to the sheer size of the screen, unless you have particularly long thumbs you may struggle to reach every corner of the display without adjusting you hand position. Yet for the majority it felt great in the palm of our hand. One thing we do need to mention however, though a common gripe with touch-screen phones, the HTC HD2 was a magnet for fingerprints and required more than the occasional wipe. That said, aesthetically the HTC HD2 is far more beauty than beast even taking into account the grubby paw prints.

As mentioned the touch-screen is capacitive rather than resistive. We far prefer capacitive screens that enable feather like swipe of the fingers rather than the pressure-sensitive resistive variety, and the HTC HD2 is no exception. It’s hugely tactile with a short vibrating pulse greeting each key press. In fact the first time you fire up your HTC HD2 you’ll be asked to calibrate the screen. Though many handsets ask you to do this, the HD2 actually works out your movement when entering text and thus if you have a habit of hitting the ‘F’ key on the virtual QWERTY keyboard when in fact you mean the ‘D’ key it will recognise this and adjust it accordingly.

People-centric

Although Windows Mobile 6.5 is at the heart of the HTC HD2, HTC Sense is very much at the front of the device, the same people-centric skin we first witnessed on the HTC Hero. The idea of HTC Sense is that it brings all your contacts from your phonebook and social networks and groups them together in one list. Each time you then look up “Joe Bloggs” you will see his name, address, mobile number, email address, latest Facebook and Twitter updates and pretty much any other type of info you can think of. On the HTC HD2 you can even view your friends Facebook albums from the contacts page, well in theory at least. Each time we tried to do so with our review sample the icons where the pictures were supposed to appear came up as empty. We hope this is just an early software issue and will be resolved soon because it really is a nice feature.

Talking of Facebook, as with so many handsets these days there is a Facebook application pre-embedded on the device. It’s been custom built for the mobile platform and as a result is a cinch to navigate and as an additional bonus you can also view photos in its full 4.3-inch capacity. However, it’s still not the full PC web experience, for example it’s irksome that you can’t search for people who aren’t your friends.

If Twitter is more your bag then you’ll be pleased to hear that HTC’s Twitter client ‘Peep’ is also onboard. Peep enables you to keep in the loop with as many or as few Tweeterings as you wish as they are pushed to your device at regular intervals. For example, should you wish to be alerted to every tweet any of the people you follow then you can. However, as you’re alerted by a virtual bird tweeting this could become somewhat irritating and therefore you may wish to limit it to a select number, or even just your direct messages. In addition, you can of course post your own tweets or re-tweet ones that you think may interest the masses.

It’s not just your Twitter feed that can be pushed to your device. The HTC HD2 is an emailing demon and can have up to 10 email accounts simultaneously synced to the device. When we first started the HTC HD2 we were guided through a step by step process of setting up any Outlook or Google Mail accounts we had. To sync our Hotmail account we had to do this manually through the settings menu though this was still a straightforward process. You can skim through all your emails at a glance as they appear in a note like form, one on top of each other. However, for the HD2 to actually acknowledge that you have ‘read’ them you will have to click on that specific email. Another nice touch from HTC is that when scrolling through your contacts, any unread emails from a particular person will be signified by an unopened envelope next to their name.

Surfing the net

Browsing with the HTC HD2 is an excellent experience. Firstly all your connectivity needs are met with HSDPA and Wi-Fi both onboard and it goes without saying that due to the sheer size of the display, a vast amount of content can be displayed at one time. There’s also a choice of browsers. Opera is onboard with users now able to download the latest 10.10 version. Opera is our mobile browser of choice due to the sheer speed in which it resizes the webpages into the correct mobile format as well as the ability to save pages and read them when offline – particularly useful for any London Underground commuters. A double tap of the screen will zoom into your page, while maintaining a perfect fit in the screen, while the same action will then reverse the action. However, if you like the ability to play flash video content on websites then you’ll have to revert to Internet Explorer which gives you this option whereas Opera does not. There’s also a copy and paste function that we’ve seen on other high-end phones, such as the Apple iPhone 3GS and the BlackBerry Storm2, the latter failing in this aspect miserably. Thankfully the HTC HD2 is more iPhone than Storm. Hold your finger down on the screen and you’ll be asked whether you want to turn the “text selection on”. Once done you can highlight specific text with one finger before pasting directly into an SMS or email.

The high definition screen also makes for a marvellous video experience. Watching video, be it content we loaded ourselves or via YouTube was near flawless. The addition of a 3.5mm headset port also pleased us though as it is at the bottom of the device, when listening to music you will have to insert the phone into your pocket upside down so as to not get in a tangle or damage your headphones. We also scathe HTC for the miserly 448MB of onboard memory, which means if you intend to store anything more than a bare minimum of media content you will need to invest in a memory card.

Five-megapixel camera

We’re still waiting for HTC to really blow us away with an above than competent camera and while the HD2 is far more than a token gesture, we did have a couple of reservations. Firstly there’s no dedicated camera button so you can forget about those spontaneous shots as by the time you have navigated your way through the menu systems a good ten seconds will have passed. In fact it’s solely controlled via the screen, even the volume keys don’t substitute for zooming controls. Secondly although it’s five-megapixels, houses a nice panoramic feature and HTC has this time included a dual LED flash (this was omitted with the original HTC HD) there’s just not that much to its camera credentials. That said amateur movie makers will be please to discover that you can record high definition footage of up to 30 frames per second (said to be DVD-like quality).

Conclusion

HTC has done a brilliant job of masking some of the still existing Windows Mobile 6.5 anomalies – dig deeper into the menu systems and you’ll still find those tedious fiddly icons. In fact we’d go as far to say that it is the best Windows Mobile phone we’ve ever encountered. It looks fantastic, feels great and has more features than Katie Price has had tabloid headlines. Existing Windows Mobile fans will absolutely love it, and we think its good enough to win over some of their even harshest of critics.

 

Reviewed by Danny Brogan