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.
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.
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.
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.