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HTC Desire Z review

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HTC Desire Z front
  • HTC Desire Z front
  • HTC Desire Z keyboard
  • HTC Desire Z side
  • HTC Desire Z side angle
  • HTC Desire Z in hand
  • HTC Desire Z
  • HTC Desire Z Qwerty
  • HTC Desire Z GPS
  • HTC Desire Z UI
  • HTC Desire Z phone finder
  • HTC Desire Z back
  • HTC Desire Z camera
  • HTC Desire Z front angle
  • HTC Desire Z test photo
  • HTC Desire Z test photo
  • HTC Desire Z test photo
  • HTC Desire Z test photo
  • HTC Desire Z specs
  • Desire Z Silver Smartphone  Unlocked (GSM, Bluetooth, 5MP, 512 RAM, 1.5GB, microSD Slot)

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Excellent screen
  • Physical keyboard
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Awkward video interface
  • Slow Flash playback

Key Features

  • 5 megapixel camera
  • Full pop-out keyboard
  • Physical shutter button
  • Integrated sat-nav and Sense
  • 3.7in screen
  • Manufacturer: HTC
  • Review Price: £359.95

By now you should know that HTC is on a bit of a role with its smartphones. The Desire and Legend that launched in the summer of this year were excellent phones and the former only narrowly missed out on being in out top three phones of the year. And what's more, the phone that did win top spot was the Desire's bigger brother, the Desire HD. The latest addition to this stellar lineup is the Desire Z, which adds a pop-out keyboard (don't call it slide-out!) to the mix.

The HTC Desire Z makes an impressive entrance thanks to its smooth and stylish aluminium and soft-touch, grey plastic chassis. Particular highlights include the battery cover that's a single slab of brushed aluminium that is held securely in place by a proper clasp, rather than some push in plastic tabs. The overall result is a phone that looks and feels exceptionally well made.

This does also result in it being mighty heavy at a whopping 180g, which is nearly 20g heavier than the Desire HD and over 40g heavier than the iPhone 4. In fairness, other phones with slideout keyboards do close the gap but it's still a pretty hefty device. Despite this, it's actually quite nice to handle as, thanks to its 3.7in screen, it’s a bit smaller than some rivals with dimensions of 119 x 60.4 x 14.2 mm and has nice rounded corners and edges.

HTC Desire Z keyboard

Open the keyboard and you see there's ingenuity on show as well. Instead of a slide mechanism it uses a double pivot device. This isn't totally new but what it has allowed HTC to do is add extra height to the keyboard, and as a result it sits closer to the level of the screen making it easier to type on than more recessed alternatives.

The only thing letting the side down on first glance is the presence of the optical trackpad that sits below the screen. While Android smartphones have a long tradition of having trackballs or D-pads (for when touchscreen navigation doesn't quite cut it), we've long had a suspicion that they're not really needed. This suspicion was confirmed when we looked at the HTC Desire HD, which does away with any such device and instead relies wholly on the touchscreen. As a by-product of this, more of the front can be given up to the screen and the four touch sensitive buttons that sit beneath it, while also giving the whole device a cleaner look. With that precedent set we were disappointed to see the trackpad on the Desire Z, despite it actually working very well.

HTC Desire Z side

Looking round the device there's an entirely typical 5-megapixel camera and LED flash on the back. However, typical though the camera maybe, the addition of a shutter button for it certainly isn't – though we wish it were – and it's a very welcome addition.

HTC Desire Z side angle

One other minor annoyance that we could also level at most other Android phones is the power/screen lock button being on the top edge where it's rather difficult to reach one-handed. Either we'd want to see it on the side or we'd want an additional button that activates the screen near the bottom where it can be reached easily (like the Home button on the iPhone).

Alongside the power button is a headphone jack while the left edge is home to a volume rocker and microUSB socket. The headphone jack produces great quality audio and thankfully the volume rocker doesn't suffer the same slightly mushy indistinct feedback as that on the Desire HD.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

PoisonJam

November 5, 2010, 5:15 pm

THIS is the form factor the Blackberry Torch should have taken!

Wayne Harris

November 5, 2010, 5:29 pm

@Ed - does the speaker distort when you turn it up to the loudest volume? either through the loudspeaker itself, or the earpiece when listening to a call and speaking to someone on it? HTC are renown for garbage quality speakers, like the Desire model, horrible tinny speakers normally, if its good quality.... i will be getting one ASAP

coderkind

November 5, 2010, 5:45 pm

Got mine today; love everything about it so far. I was initially concerned about the hinge and the way the screen can flop back down onto the keys if the phone is held upside down, but the way you'd hold the phone with the keyboard out also holds the screen in place.





There are various videos on YouTube discussing the T-Mobile G2 hinge (US version of this phone), but after a few hours of play I don't think it's an issue.





The screen is amazing alright. I liked the HD when I tried it in a shop but the Z's is much better; very colourful and rich, with great angles.

LetsGo

November 5, 2010, 5:57 pm

Nice review,





Personally I want a physical keyboard not so much as to type fast but not to lose screen space when entering text and using Emulators etc.





I pre-ordered this phone a while back but the release date keeps getting put back, but if it's as good as this review the wait will have been well worth it.

Neil Richardson

November 5, 2010, 6:54 pm

Maybe I'm blind but I can't see a reference to how robust the hinge is with the review? It's the only thing holding me back now after that review.





Any chance of a heads up on whether you think the hinge will survive the perilous lifestyle of a mobile phone?

Ed

November 5, 2010, 7:00 pm

@ShiverinEskimo: There is an issue with the mechanism being a bit loose - the screen will fall back onto the keyboard when held vertically - but any notion that this is a problem would be a complete overreaction in my opinion. The only thing I would concede is that if you dropped it, the hinge could come out worse off but then most of these premium smarpthones would end up with cracked screens and such like were this to happen.

rav

November 5, 2010, 7:29 pm

Few points.





"HTC is on a bit of a role" eh? Can't believe no one has spotted that one yet since it's in the first sentence. But definitely agree with you.





You mentioned the trackpad wasting space and then compared it to the iPhone with one button and biggest bezel of any phone. I know you guys have an aversion to buttons but even with them HTC generally keep bezels to the minimum.





Most modded Desire ROMs allow for trackpad wake and I'm not sure why HTC haven't implemented this officially. Having to reach up to the top is definitely annoying.





Good to see HTC upping the quality of their screens and adding shutter buttons. Would love to see them try to reach iPhone 4 standard though.





I really think Google/HTC need to look at what MS have done with WP7 in terms of GPU accelleration. The smoothness and fluidity was pretty amazing. Better even than iOS IMHO. Making heavy use of the GPU has allowed for a beautiful interface while not maxing out the CPU.

Neil Richardson

November 5, 2010, 7:36 pm

Not a deal breaker so. Down to my local phone shop I go to see if there's any chance of stock coming in. Availability in Ireland is not looking good though. :(

GoldenGuy

November 5, 2010, 8:01 pm

I second the concerns demonstrated elsewhere about the phone having no real way of snapping shut when one half is held upside down. True you'd find a limited number of times you'd end up grabbing the phone that way, but I'm not sure I want to get into another round of a manufacturer screaming, "You're holding it wrong!" I'd worry it would tumble around and open up inside a big pocket or bag, and if that hinge makes the phone as extra sensitive to dropping on its side as the glass front.

Malderon

November 6, 2010, 1:29 am

Thanks for this! Contract is up at start of December and I really want a physical keyboard.





It's either this or the Milestone 2 (Droid 2), apparently the Milestone 2 has the better keyboard, any chance of a review incoming on that? Most reviews werent as positive as you were about the Desire-Z's keyboard.

Ijster

November 6, 2010, 4:01 pm

@Ed: Hmm I was all set to get myself the Desire HD.. would it be a fair to say that while the HD is the better phone technically of the two (apart from the screen), the Desire Z although slightly slower could appeal to people more because of it's smaller size, real keyboard, and lower price?

Midnight-Alchemist

November 8, 2010, 11:33 am

@Ed that 'pop-out' style of keyboard is REALLY well implemented on my Nokia N97 Mini actually - the screen sits at an angle facing the user when it pops 'up'...and I've found this to be really handy and user-friendly. HOWEVER, the keyboard on this HTC seems a lot better though, with nicer sized keys. I just wish Android had a Nokia Messaging equivalent (is there an app out there?).

jamie hancox

November 8, 2010, 3:49 pm

I can't believe that in 2010 I'll be making a decision about a new handset based upon battery life! How dare the Desire HD have such shocking battery life? even the iphone4 has not enough battery to last a day out working.





Every train I get on seems full of people recharging their smartphones from their laptops just to get through the day. Altogether now... Grrr.





Still - the Desire Z could be a good option... looks very well made, and the HD's 4.3" screen is definitely overkill.

Alvin

November 8, 2010, 5:27 pm

Is the on screen keyboard (sense UI keyboard) have multitouch? i.e. when you hit one letter, pressing another key whilst holding the first key inserts a new letter rather than taking an average of the two positions and hitting a letter in the middle.

jonhitch

November 9, 2010, 6:20 pm

I've had the Desire Z since last Thursday and have to say it's incredible! To answer a couple of questions raised here.





1) I was very worried about the hinge but I've not had one problem with it so far. It moves very well and the design means that as long as you don't hold it at an angle more than vertical it will never flop down.





2) The choice of input/control for this phone is great. Hardware keyboard, programmable buttons, software keyboard, touch pad etc. Some have questioned the inclusion of a trapad but I've actually found it very useful. The onscreen keyboard does have multitouch too!





3. Only negatives are the following, and as you can see they are very minor a) unit is a great size but perhaps slightly heavy (although feels solid) b)ebook reader currently not offered even though with Desire HD c) battery life isn't great - but apparantly much better than original Desire and the HD.

lensmann

November 9, 2010, 8:05 pm

@jonhitch: That's a bummer, I like the Desire HD's ebook reader. Is it available as a standalone download?

jonhitch

November 9, 2010, 9:03 pm

@lensmann - I agree and I'm not sure if it's available elsewhere. Hopefully they will release it as I was still hoping to read books on this. I notice there are a number of other ebook readers however including kindle for android!

rav

November 9, 2010, 11:49 pm

Pretty sure that the ebook reader is just Kobo, maybe with a few HTC customisations. You can get Kobo from the Market.

Stewart

November 10, 2010, 2:54 am

Will the lack of a 1Ghz processor prevent this phone from being upgraded to Android Gingerbread 3.0, with its (rumoured - stressed) requirements?





http://www.trustedreviews.com/...





Was about to pull the trigger on this - prefer it over the Desire HD for the smaller dimensions, screen quality and battery life, with a nice bonus of a physical keyboard, but now I'm inclined to wait until an official announcement on Gingerbread (probably early in the new year so as to not impact the Christmas market).

Stewart

November 10, 2010, 3:29 am

Sorry...wrong link. Here's the correct one.





http://www.trustedreviews.com/...





If this is true, it does seem strange to limit 3.0 to 1Ghz processors or better - will upset a lot of existing Android users including Desire Z owners.


More fragmentation of the Android market?

coderkind

November 10, 2010, 3:39 am

@Stewart The Desire Z is more powerful than the Nexus One/Desire. It's running a new processor and doesn't need to run as fast as 1Ghz.





I have one and it certainly doesn't feel slow.

Stewart

November 10, 2010, 4:16 am

@Coderkind





Thanks. I really like the Desire Z - more so than the Desire HD. I've spent some time with a friends, didn't consider its processor a limitation at all and was all ready to but one.





However, I wouldn't want to buy one and then find that Android Gingerbread 3.0 is officially announced a month or two later and the Desire Z is not capable of running it because Gingerbread has a minimum requirement of a 1GHz processor (still a rumour at the moment).


Hence me deciding to wait, at least until an official announcement of Android 3.0.





Frustrating for me, but hopefully that'll happen early in the New Year.


Maybe I should just bite the bullet and get one.....technology always moves on.

TinyCy

November 12, 2010, 8:12 pm

I've had mine since Wednesday and overall I'm really pleased with it. The only thing that's bummed me out is the battery. Charged it up fully last night,since 8am today I have sent 2 text, went on the internet twice and now at 3pm it's in the red!Just had to switch it off. I've even had the power saver on. A bit of a concern if I'm ever out away from a power source that I'll be caught out with a dead phone. Other than that I've got on well with the keypad and the touch screen so no problems there. It has had a mini crash a couple of times too.hmmm

stevewhshbdhs

December 22, 2011, 10:27 am

track pad is great - I need it to click an online qwertykeyboard to access my bankaccount....the pad is tiny on a mobile and my fingers are not, the trackpad is sensitive enough to navigate the buttons with relative ease. i'd likely get blocked from my account if I had to press the screen.

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