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HTC Desire S - Screen and Interface

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

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HTC Desire S

Summary

Our Score:

8

Smartphone screens really have stepped up a gear as of late and the Desire S doesn't buck that trend. The 800 x 480 pixel panel is incredibly bright when needs be, produces strong vivid colours, has a very high contrast ratio ensuring whites are white and blacks are black rather than shades of grey, is pin sharp and its viewing angles are excellent – there's almost no colour or contrast shift when viewed from even the most acute angle. Some may lament that this is an LCD panel rather than AMOLED, which pumps the colour saturation and black levels up even further, but we certainly aren't among them. The only issue we did have was that the automatic screen brightness setting (the mean level of which can't be adjusted) was too bright when sat in a dimly lit living room.

The touch sensing of the display is also excellent with the glass providing an effortlessly smooth surface for your fingers to glide over. Helping it feel so responsive is the phone's processor, which is a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255. This is a second generation Snapdragon that features the improved Adreno 205 graphics processor, which helps keep all the phone's interface animations super slick. Comparing to an older generation Snapdragon powered phone, the difference is clear with the older device having what was almost a signature Android sluggishness to interface elements as compared to the latest iPhones. The faster GPU will also help keep 3D games and other 3D apps running smoothly.

The CPU itself is only single-core so inevitably is trumped by the raft of dual-core phones that will be hitting shelves soon. However, the true advantage of these two-chip phones isn't yet known. While some apps will be developed to utilise the extra power, the general phone interface doesn't see any benefit. When playing with the likes of the Motorola Atrix, LG Optmus 2X and Samsung Galaxy S II at various trade shows in the last few months we didn't find them noticeably faster than single-core 1GHz phones for day to day tasks. Indeed we're sure some of the credit must go to HTC for optimising the phone's firmware to run super fast. Something that's demonstrated by the fact this phone can boot up in around 7 seconds compared to the 30+ of most Android devices. That said, we'd still recommend you wait and get our full verdict on the dual-core wonders before deciding.

As we've come to expect of HTC phones, the Desire S has a heavily customised version of Android running on it. Sadly it's based on the 2.2 version so lacks the few most recent interface tweaks, support for NFC, and improved copy/paste features of Android 2.3. However, not only will an update arrive eventually but in the interim this phone doesn't really feel like it's lacking any.

Seven homescreens are what you have to choose from, with three either side of the default central one. As ever you can fill these with widgets, app shortcuts and app folders and HTC makes this process particularly easy by having a dedicated button in the bottom left for personalising your homescreen styling.

HTC also has some of the most stylish and useful widgets going, with its signature clock and weather viewer and FriendStream social network feed. In truth, we're not ones for using many gadgets as they tend to suck up battery life, affect performance and offer limited functionality compared to the full app but we're always happy to keep the HTC weather and clock app, it's just that good.

Other changes include the redesigned button layout along the foot of the screen. We've mentioned the personalisation button and to the left are buttons for the dialler and the main menu/app launcher. Tap on the dialler and as well as being presented with a set of buttons for tapping out a number you can also see your contacts list hidden behind. Simply grab the list and start scrolling and the dialler will disappear leaving you to effortlessly scroll through your contacts. You'll also find, once you've logged into your myriad email and social networking accounts that your contacts have been populated with profile pictures and info from those accounts.

One annoyance we did have with this interface is that it's all too easy to accidentally start calling a contact, rather than simply opening the contact to have a look at their information.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Coe62

March 25, 2011, 10:04 pm

So no extended batteries then with the new back design ?? 1450Mha is too little for power users

mudslide

March 25, 2011, 10:25 pm

What I'd like to know is how the display of Desire S compare to the one in Incredible S?

AHYL88

March 25, 2011, 10:28 pm

Ooh that's a surprise; I thought this would come with 2.3 Gingerbread. It doesn't seem so greatly different to say the Incredible or the Desire HD; except for its size they are nearly all the same. Choice is certainly gonna be tricky nowadays as the original Desire is getting cheaper and other new powerhouse phones like the Atrix and Optimus 2X are coming soon. Particularly the giant-killing (on paper and hopefully price) ZTE Skate.

myst

March 25, 2011, 10:34 pm

Does this device has the HTCsense.com website feature with it?

Francis Phillips

March 25, 2011, 11:02 pm

Android 2.2?? All the advance publicity said 2.3. I also note that the HTC website now classes all its new phones as just running Android whereas slightly older phones state the version. Are they having problems with 2.3??

I know its a different size phone but in pure spec terms, including processor, this phone doesnt seem to have gained anything over the Desire HD which was launched 6 months ago.

Zero 1

March 25, 2011, 11:05 pm

Why does HTC keep making same phones and then re-naming it.... yawn!!!! Btw before anything trying to bash me, I don't use iphone either.

rav

March 26, 2011, 4:25 am

2.3 is supposed to be coming for a lot of HTC phones around June. I think the Desire/HD/S/Incredible should all be getting it.

jingyeow

March 26, 2011, 4:47 am

It's called refinement. They could reinvent the wheel, but how do you update a fantastic product? You make it a little bit better. It's testament to the brilliant design team that few changes need to be made. Radical changes would lead to a new HTC series. (Note how they sell more than just one type of phone?)

I like the way they decided to take the excellent touch based keys of the wildfire and put them on the desire. I used a desire and did not get on well with the physical buttons. They were incredibly stiff and slow to navigate with.

Roll on HTC.

Tony Young

March 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

I had the original Desire until I left it in a million pieces on the A1009 (don't ask).

I've used HTC phones since the original Touch Dual (my current 'replacement with Win6 - yuk!) and including the original HD.

I have a Desire S on pre-order with Orange and having read your review I'm not minding waiting for dual-core as I'm not a gamer (apart from Angry Birds and Flight Control).

It's clear that there are some useful improvements, even though it must have been tough to do that AND reduce the price of the original. Strange that 2.3 isn't present, but can't wait to get the new one, aly body and all!

Randy

March 26, 2011, 11:41 pm

Sorry, but why do Nokia C2-01 deserve a video review and this phone don't?

Ed

March 27, 2011, 12:37 am

@Randy: Dont worry there's one coming.

Philip Angell

March 28, 2011, 1:58 am

Can I ask what the sound quality is like using a pair of in-ear monitors? I have an HTC Hero at the moment which is so awful (very loud background hiss) that I can't use it at all to listen to music on - I've got a Sansa Clip + for that. I'd really like to get rid of the extra gadget though (even if it is tiny). I previously had a Nokia E52 which sounded fantastic, but its firmware was so full of problems that it put me right off Nokias.

Michael McG

March 28, 2011, 12:05 pm

what i'd like to see is a comparison of this to last years HTC desire.. i have the desire and from this review there wouldnt seem to be a compelling reason to upgrade..

Jayboy

March 28, 2011, 3:50 pm

Seems like a good phone but dont think id upgrade if i already had a Desire. Maybe the Incredible S would be the better option.. Oh and i agree about not that much improvement with these phones. Why didn't HTC use dual core CPU and NFC for these? Surely the original Desire, HD and Z would have kept people happy for a few more weeks/months till the dual core models roll out?

Wedge

March 28, 2011, 8:31 pm

I'm glad this isn't dual core. The price of the Galaxy S II is pretty steep in comparison. Under £400 for a unibody phone with great build quality and screen is a relative bargain, not to mention the cost of the iPhone 4 which is also single core.

Ed

March 28, 2011, 8:42 pm

@Philip79: Sound quality is fine with no obvious hiss like you mention. It's not the most refined performance as compared to a dedicated mp3 player but is a perfectly satisfactory listen.

@Michael McG: Better screen, faster graphics processor for smoother interface and better looking 3D games, slightly better battery life.

@JayBoy: There's an argument for making the new Desire a more convincing upgrade to the original but in terms of delivering what the market needs/wants, the Desire S does pretty well. After all, as the Desire has proved, we're already at the point where day to day performance is perfectly adequate. The S simply tweaks things and is cheaper. Sounds good to me.

StephenW

March 28, 2011, 11:14 pm

I wondered if anyone had any news about the release of the Desire S with Three? I know 'April' was suggested on a previous article...but anything firmer than that? Also - anyone have any opinions on what the price is likely to be? Will they up the prices they're charging for a standard Desire, or will they simply replace it with the upgrade and keep the price the same? No idea how phone companies go about dealing with this sort of incremental upgrade.

David Walker

March 29, 2011, 1:18 am

How come CNet's review model had Android 2.3?

DanielNB

March 29, 2011, 1:54 pm

The review for the Incredible S lacks a specs page so could I ask what the headline differences between the Desire S and Incredible S are please?
Thanks

PGrGr

March 29, 2011, 2:16 pm

I have the original Desire, and I have also noticed the background hiss on the audio when listening with headphones. Not bad enough to make me carry another device for music, but slightly annoying anyway.

For those wondering about dual core goodies, rumours from other sites are that HTC will have some out later in the year.

Ed

March 29, 2011, 2:21 pm

@David Walker: Because I misread an email and was lead to believe it was 2.2. With HTC having modified things so much I didn't have cause to double check. Our unit is in fact 2.3.3 as well. I shall update the review accordingly. Many apologies - a careless mistake.

@DanielNB: I shall add a specs page. Headline differences: Incredible has a larger 4in screen, an 8megapixel camera with dual flash, funky twisting touch buttons and that's about it, aside from the design. It's also more expensive of course.

Ed

March 29, 2011, 2:23 pm

@DanielNB: Oh, and does in fact run Android 2.2 currently.

Ed

March 29, 2011, 3:20 pm

@All: I've updated the article to reflect our further thoughts on battery life as well as correct the Android version. I've also added more pictures. A video review will be shot tomorrow so hopefully should be up on Thursday.

I've also added a specs table to the Incredible S review.

Francis Phillips

March 30, 2011, 12:36 am

Does this phone have noise cancelling microphones as I wonder what the 2 holes are in the plastic cover that houses the camera. Also you say it has NFC support or are you talking about Andoid 2.3.3 generically and not about this phone?

Alexa08

March 30, 2011, 3:59 pm

@StevenW: I was told that the phone would be available on three either this or next weekend, but this comes from an instore drone so no idea if that's official or not.

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