Proceed with caution, big Snapdroids ahead. We guess that sign is due wherever someone mentions Desire HD. It’s big and bad and it takes no prisoners. HTC certainly took their time with releasing a bad-ass Android handset on our side of the pond but their timing is perfect now. We’re about to enter the holiday shopping spree and HTC Desire HD is in for the kill.
Powered by the latest Android 2.2 Froyo hand in hand with the latest HTC Sense, the HTC Desire HD is what the HD2 was to HTC Windows Mobile portfolio. With an 8-megapixel camera and HD video it may as well unsettle quite a few of the top smartphones out there. The innovative fast boot, the complete connectivity set and solid multimedia capabilities round off a great package. HTC might just have a natural bestseller on their hands.
You might want to have a closer look:
* Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G support
* 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
* 4.3″ 16M-color capacitive LCD touchscreen of WVGA resolution (480 x 800 pixels)
* Android OS v2.2 Froyo with HTC Sense UI
* Unibody design
* Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8255 1 GHz processor
* 768 MB RAM and 1.5 GB ROM
* 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geotagging
* 720p video recording @ 25fps
* Wi-Fi b/g/n and DLNA
* GPS with A-GPS
* microSD slot up to 32GB (8GB card included)
* Accelerometer and proximity sensor
* Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
* Stereo FM radio with RDS
* microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1
* Smart dialing, voice dialing
* DivX/XviD video support
* Dolby Mobile and SRS sound enhancement
* HTC Locations app
* HTCSense.com integration
* Ultra-fast boot times (if you don’t remove battery)
* LCD isn’t quite as impressive as Retina or Super AMOLED (lower contrast, more reflective)
* No dedicated camera key and no lens cover
* No front facing camera
* Quite heavy at 164 g (not that we mind)
* The two lids at the rear have questionable aesthetics and usability
* Disappointing audio reproduction quality
But there’s more to it. The HTC Desire HD is a mongrel. It doesn’t even warrant a name of its own. Desire is cheesy and HD is worn-out. And they both are OLD phones’ names. Alright, don’t take it literally. It’s not as simple as saying HTC got themselves a brand new phone out of two older ones. The HTC Desire HD goes beyond the massive screen and powerful hardware that we’ve already seen elsewhere.
Sense UI stretches in legs on a 4.3” screen
The latest HTC Sense UI for Android is debuting on two new Desire phones – the Desire HD and the Desire Z. The UI customization goes deep as usual and there’s a fair amount of new stuff from HTC too (like the HTCSense.com integration).
The HTC Desire HD is the first in the pipeline so we’ll take the opportunity to get into the details of what has changed.
On the outside, it is very familiar to previous iterations but there is some fine tuning that has gone into the latest version.
At the bottom of the screen there are three virtual keys and an arched scrollbar. The left key launches the main menu. The middle key is a shortcut to the Phone app and the right key brings up the “Personalize” menu. The way to place stuff on the screen has slightly changed but more on that later.
Phonebook loves to socialize
The Desire HD features HTC’s all-knowing phonebook with heavy social networking integration. It manages to keep things neatly in order, even though it’s juggling everything from SMS to Facebook photo albums.
Selecting a contact displays the basic details: name and photo, numbers, emails and such. That’s just he first tab – the other tabs hold other categories of info and communication methods, like emails or a call log.
Telephony has many features, including Smart Dialing
The in-call sound quality of the HTC Desire HD is crisp and loud and the signal reception was strong and trouble free.
The on-screen dialer features a keypad, a shortcut to the call log and a list of contacts beneath (you can hide the keypad).
The HTC Desire HD has Smart Dialing. Voice dialing is here too – just press and hold the search key and say, for example, “Call Dexter”.
The alphabet scroll is an alternative as well and has an interesting change: it puts the Recent calls and Favorite contacts just before the contacts starting with A. This has consequences on contact ordering – if you’ve recently called Dexter, he won’t show up under “D”.
Thanks to the built-in accelerometer, turn-to-mute also works like a charm. You can mute the ringer by simply turning the phone face down – if you do that during a call, the phone will switch into loudspeaker mode instead.
Another feature that works thanks to the accelerometer is Quiet ring on pickup – once you move the phone, the ringer will quiet down (but not cancel the call). Yet another option is pocket mode – the ringer volume will increase if the phone is in your pocket (the proximity sensor takes care of detecting that).
The HTC Desire HD is well equipped for all kinds of text messaging – it can handle all standard types of messages like SMS, MMS and email. Social networking is covered by several apps and widgets, and there’s Gtalk, which can connect you to Google’s chat network and compatible networks too (like Ovi Chat).
Like on other Android phones, if you only have one SMS message, a line in the notification area displays the sender and part of the message itself. If you have two or more messages, you are simply informed of the number and the messaging menu is opened once you hit the icon.
SMS and MMS messages use the threaded layout – you see a list of all conversations, each one is listed with the contact’s photo, name and the time of the last message, including a part of the actual note. Tapping a conversation brings up another list – the entire message history with that contact.
It uses contact photos too (yours and the contact’s photo), so the whole thing looks almost the same as a chat app. When viewing a thread, the most recent message is placed at the bottom, just like on the iPhone.
Image gallery can read pics over DLNA too
The gallery has the usual list-with-thumbnail structure. The Albums app automatically locates images and videos, no matter where they are stored. Images and videos stored in different folders appear in different sub-galleries that automatically get the name of the folder – which is quite effective file management.
Right next to the folder’s name is a figure indicating the number of images stored. Each sub-album has a thumbnail of the latest image. The contextual menu of the main Album view has only one shortcut to the settings menu. There is also a camera shortcut, but it’s only available once you start browsing any of the sub-folders.
Music player has Dolby Mobile, SRS
The standard music library view is the Artists section, but you can easily switch to one of the other six tabs beneath, which are for Albums, All Songs, Playlists, Songs and Connected media (which handles DLNA).
8MP camera has its highs and lows
The HTC Desire HD packs a camera with specs to match the best the Android world has to offer. It snaps 8MP stills with resolution 3264×2448 pixels and 720p@25fps video and there’s a dual-LED flash / video light.
The camera interface is novel and has some fun options. Most of the controls are on the right side of the viewfinder, with the virtual shutter in the center. There’s a virtual zoom slider on the left. By default the viewfinder image is cropped so that it fills the entire screen, but you can switch that off.
The HTC Desire HD features touch focus and face detection; geo-tagging is enabled too.
The camera features continuous autofocus, which automatically adjusts the focus when you move the phone. This is very useful, since the Desire HD doesn’t really have a hardware shutter key to trigger the autofocus (you can’t do that with the virtual shutter key either). This way you just point the camera in the direction you want and take the photo – the HD will take care of the rest.
The effects button brings out a panel on the left with the usual set of color effects (sepia, solarize and so on).
There are other kinds of effects too. For example, Warp places a control point on the screen, which you can drag with your finger and see the result in real time.
Depth of field is another such effect – it adds a radius slider besides the control point and will blur everything in the photo that falls outside the circle.
Camera supports face detection too. It’s enabled in self-portrait mode too – you can set it to focus on 1 or 2 faces.
Our Desire HD unit (an off-the-shelf phone) did have an obvious lens issue, which smudges the left side of the photos. This issue aside, the amount of captured detail is decent and the noise reduction algorithms are well-tuned but there are some visible artifacts resulting from the aggressive sharpening stage (oversharpened noise).
Even without the lens issues, the Desire HD camera wouldn’t rank among the top 8MP Android shooters (or 8MP cameras in general).
You can judge the camera by the samples below.
Connectivity is well-geared
The HTC Desire HD is a connectivity master. Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE is a given, and the dual-band 3G is blazing fast – 14.4Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink thanks to HSPA.
The local wireless connectivity has Wi-Fi b/g/n and full DLNA support (both client and server, for images, videos and music) and Bluetooth 2.1.
A great Flash-enabled web browser
Solid web browsing has been an inherent part of the Android deal since day one. And version 2.2 Froyo is the fastest yet – and then there’s the Flash 10.1 capability, which really opens up the Web (which for better or for worse still relies heavily on Flash for video streaming and navigation).
The user interface is pretty much nonexistent at first sight. Once the page loads, all you see is the URL bar and the refresh button on a line at the top of the screen. Once you zoom in and pan around though even that line disappears (scroll to the top or press menu to bring it back).
This leaves the entire screen to the web page – and what a screen. It surely isn’t the first of its kind but the 4.3” WVGA screen gets as close as you can possibly get to desktop-level browsing on a mobile phone. A 5” tablet does fare a little better, but you’d never be able to put it in your pocket.
The Desire HD browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which make it extremely easy to read even longer texts on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.
The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up. There are back and forward buttons, adding and viewing bookmarks and managing the open tabs. Finally, the More button brings out yet more options – anything from finding on page and text selection (which works just like in the messaging app).
Once you select some text, you can launch the Quick lookup app (which offers Google Translate among other things) or share the text over a message or social networking.
A fine organizer on board, office doc editor included
The usual set of organizer apps are on board the HTC Desire HD but it does one better than most other phones – it’s got a mobile Office app that can both view and edit documents.
That’s the Quickoffice app, which has support for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, including the Office 2007 versions and it can create Office 2003 Word and Excel documents.
There is also a PDF viewer to handle PDF files. The faster CPU (compared to the Desire Z) does give it an edge in speed. The on-screen keyboard does cut down the available space in half but if you zoom out (using pinch zoom of course) you can still fit a reasonable amount of text.