HTC Radar in-depth review -

Look and feel

Hewn from a single sheet of aluminium, the Radar feels quality.  Gorilla Glass protects 3.8 inches of beautifully crisp, high-contrast S-LCD display

Ease of use

Once familiarised with the WP7 Mango OS, the handset is very intuitive. Deep integration negates the need for third party apps, meaning you can do just about everything from within the user interface itself

Features

Excellent connectivity and a feature-rich camera win points for the Radar, but the woeful Marketplace means that if you're an app addict, you're going to suffer. Synching with your media is simple, whether wired or wireless, and of course you've got access to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage

Performance

The 1GHz processor keeps everything ticking along just nicely with glitch-free navigation and media playback. With no card slot, the 8GB internal memory is something to be aware of.  Fast, seamless integration with Bing offers a wealth of information in the palm of your hand

Battery life

The beefy 1520mAh battery should see you good for a couple of days. Set up wireless synchronisation and it automatically kicks in after 10 minutes charging, ensuring your media library is up to date

 HTC Radar Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:02:15 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Excellent app integration, top-notch build quality, feature-packed camera

Cons:

Shortage of apps, no card slot

Hot on the heels of the HTC Titan we reviewed a couple of weeks ago comes the HTC Radar, a more pocket-friendly handset packing the latest Mango-flavoured Windows Phone OS (7.5).  A mid-range smartphone with excellent build quality and a slick user interface, the Radar makes a pretty good case for Windows Phone as an alternative to the raft of 'droids available.

Brilliantly built

While it won't win any beauty contests for jaw-dropping loveliness, the Radar certainly isn't a handset you'll feel the need to hide away.  Pressed from a single sheet of aluminium, you'd expect to find the chassis on most high-end phones than something in this bracket. There are two rubberised areas on the back, one housing the SIM card and the other surrounding the camera lens and speaker, both offering welcome grip to the otherwise silky smooth casing. The lack of a removable battery negates the need for a removable back cover, so it's a big solid lump.

The front of the handset is taken up by the 3.8-inch touch-screen with the usual Windows shortcuts below it - Back, Home and Search.  These are all touch-sensitive, so the only hard keys on the Radar are the power button on the top edge and a volume rocker and dedicated camera button on the right side.  There's a USB connector on the left edge and a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside the power button.

High contrast

Under the Gorilla Glass screen lies 480x800 pixels of glorious S-LCD display, which equates to 246 pixels-per-inch (ppi). That's a long way short of Apple Retina quality but better than its bigger brother, the Titan. This is due to Windows phones all being WVGA - the differing screen sizes just stretch the display. Regardless, the image quality on the Radar is top-notch with excellent contrast.
 
The power behind the Radar comes from a 1GHz single-core processor with 512MB of RAM. That's more than enough to keep it motoring along without any notable glitches or crashes. The massive amount of scrolling around you'll do is smooth and music and video playback is stumble free. The 8GB of internal storage is impressive but what you don't get here is a card slot. Adding media to the device is done via Zune software and is very quick and easy. You can even set up wireless synchronisation that will make sure your libraries are up to date while the handset is on charge overnight.
 
Unlike its competitors at Apple and Android, WP7 uses  'Live Tiles' rather than icons.  Spread over only two home screens, the tiles are highly customisable, allowing you to group items and making frequently used actions readily available. If you've never used Windows Phone before, the thing that'll take most getting used to is its integration. The depth of integration between your contacts and social networking is something that can only leave you thinking there's some kind of witchcraft at work. Setting up the handset is straightforward enough, especially if you have a Windows Live ID. Add to that a Google and Facebook account and the OS harvests more data than an FBI investigator. It does get slightly confusing, especially if you're used to having separate contact lists. We had some issues with unrecognised fields in Google contacts with multiple phone numbers, but nothing insurmountable with some editing.

Intuitive integration

We're using the term 'contacts' out of habit but WP7 refers to them as 'People' and you'll find them listed in the 'People Hub' on the start screen.  Hubs are something of a recurring theme on Mango, the term used for its grouping of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live and LinkedIn), music and video, games, Marketplace and Office. The tiles are all live-updating, so the People tile is a constantly changing mosaic of profile pictures from all your contacts. Click on it and you'll open a multi-directional scrolling screen with dozens of options. The first column allows you to scroll through a complete list of your contacts. Click on one of those and this is where the deep integration gets really scary. As well as the usual contact details, you can see all their social networking activity and photo albums. Depending on your connections to them, you can choose to call, text, email, write on their Facebook wall, tweet or visit their website. You can also view a log of your recent communication on all platforms or click their address to have Bing direct you there. Everything is done from within the OS, rather than with third party apps.
 
Jumping out of a single contact and back to the People Hub, a sideways swipe brings you to the 'What's New' screen.  This is where you'll find a live-updating social network feed that replaces the need for dedicated apps.  You get to choose which feeds you want to view (Facebook, Twitter, Live Messenger etc) and they integrate into one stream. Anything you want to do, such as leave a comment or like something, is done with a single tap on this screen.
 
Elsewhere on the Start screen you'll find tiles for Calls, Messaging, Email, Calendar as well as things like your camera and Internet Explorer. Your email addresses can be assigned separate tiles or united as one combined inbox. If you change your mind, you can split them again with one touch of the screen. Likewise, the calendar will display appointments from multiple sources, each one colour-coded so you can keep track of your diary. You'll find the same combined feeds in your messaging threads. As long as you've connected your accounts, SMS, Facebook and Windows Live messages all appear in one thread. It's a bit weird at first but once you get used to it, you don't miss anything.
 
Making those appointments, as with all your messaging, is done via a virtual keyboard we've come to expect on touch-screen phones. It's a decent size and works very well in either orientation, but there's a niggle. The stock keyboard has a traditional QWERTY layout but numbers and most punctuation necessitates are accessed via 'symbol' layout.  It's only a small thing but unless you text like a teenager, switching backwards and forwards is a pain.

Picture perfect

For every negative there's a positive, and one of the big strengths of the Radar is its camera. While it only has a five-megapixel resolution, it's feature-packed and has a LED flash that does a good job without washing out your subjects. Two of the most useful features are Panorama Shot and Burst Shots. When taking panoramic photos, the Radar displays a spirit level to ensure your shots match up. Just press the dedicated shutter release button, line up the dots on the screen and you'll end up with the perfect panoramic picture. Burst Shots takes five photos very close together - useful for capturing things at high-speed. The camera also has auto-focus, facial recognition technology and a very nice touch where you can manually focus on any part of the shot just by tapping the touch-screen. Windows Phone 7 integration comes into its own here, too. You can pull images directly into HTC's Photo Enhancer to add a range of effects before sharing it with any of your connected services or contacts with a single touch. Effortless.
 
As well as the rather spiffing rear-facing lens, the Radar comes equipped with a front-facing VGA camera. The Camera app allows you to switch between lenses but in reality, until Skype comes to WP7, it's fairly redundant.  There's also a video option, capable of shooting up to 720p at 30fps.
 
So it all sounds rather good then doesn't it? Now here's the bad news - Windows Marketplace. Quite frankly, it's terrible. There's currently about 40,000 apps available for WP7, compared with around 400,000 in the Android Market and over half a million for the iPhone.  In Microsoft's defence, WP7 is such a well-integrated OS that you won't need as many apps as you maybe would on Android or iOS.  You don't need social networking apps because they're all built-in. The 'Local Scout' tile works so seamlessly with Bing that you get a constant directory of local shops, restaurants and businesses. WP7 will also give you guides to local attractions, each with address, directions, opening hours and contact numbers, but that still doesn't alter the fact that the Marketplace is barren.

Conclusion

Amongst a sea of 'droids, HTC's Radar is a very welcome addition to the mid-range bracket. The excellent WP7 OS may seem quirky to begin with, but after a while it starts to makes real sense. The usual range of connectivity options allow for fast and seamless integration with the rest of the world while the 1GHz processor keeps things ticking over nicely. While everyone else has been gazing towards Apple and Android, HTC has rolled up its sleeves and delivered a real curve-ball.

Michael Wilson