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Thanks to its slide-out QWERTY keyboard HTC's S710 was something of a revelation when it first appeared and even managed to bag an Editor's Choice award in its SPV E650 guise. Since then plenty of other manufacturers have tried their hands at the format, but the results have been mixed with even HTC's own S730 follow up being a bit of a disappointment. Now the company is back for another try with the new S740. Naturally the slide-out keypad is still there, but the rest of the design owes much to HTC's recent Touch Diamond, rather than its spiritual predecessors the S730 and S710.
The phone certainly looks very stylish with the hard edges and flat keypad giving it a suitably upmarket feel, but it's the angular stealth-like rear that really provides the design with its unique signature. Unfortunately, it also creates a slight problem with the phone's ergonomics, but more on that later.
The front of the handset is split pretty evenly between the bright and crisp screen at the top and that flat numerical keypad beneath. The 2.4inch screen is not of the touch variety, but it's reasonably large considering the smallish form factor and with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels looks pretty sharp and renders text and pictures beautifully.
The S740's slide-out keyboard naturally does add somewhat to the phone's girth. The handset is not exactly massive, but it's definitely larger than most of the candy bar phones around at the moment and feels quite heavy and chunky in your hand. Sliding the keyboard out from under the main body of the phone switches the handset's screen into landscape model. This is where the uneven rear surface of the phone works against it. Try laying it flat on a table to type on with more than your thumbs and it starts jumping around wildly as it rocks back and forth on the various angels of the battery cover. This means that you can basically only really type on the keyboard with your thumbs while holding it in your hands.
Despite this, the keyboard is one of the phone's best features. It's backlit and includes Caps Lock and Function lights just like a standard PC keyboard. And while the keys are not exactly huge, they're reasonably easy to type on with your thumbs. However, we did find that the space bar was a little bit too short and as a result was a bit difficult to hit when typing at speed.
However, once you get used to it the keyboard is very handy not just for tapping out emails or text messages, but also for making quick edits to Word, Excel or Powerpoint files using the Pocket Office suite or taking short notes with the One Note application.