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HTC Hero (G2 Touch) review

Niall Magennis

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Androids may dream of electric sheep, but HTC dreams of producing a touch-powered phone that can really give the iPhone something to worry about. With the Hero it pretty much manages to turn that dream into a reality.

We know you've probably looked at the photos of the Hero (or G2 Touch as T-mobile calls it) and thought that it'd be a good looking phone if it's wasn't for the jutting jaw line. However, when you actually see it in the flesh the jaw line isn't anywhere near as offensive to the eye as it looks in the snaps and certainly not as bad as it was on the original G1. This is because the Hero has a more refined styling than HTC's previous two Android efforts. Whereas the G1 and Magic looked quite industrial, the Hero has what we can only describe as a sort of retro sci-fi look, especially in the way the rear of the handset curves around to match the profile of the jaw line. Think hardware in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and you'll get an idea of the sort of design feel that it conjures up when you hold it in your hand.

HTC has also rejigged the layout of the buttons on the front of the phone. Now the call/answer and end buttons are laid out in a line with the home and menu ones. The search and back buttons sit beneath these to the right of the mini trackball that glows white when you have an incoming call or text message. Sensibly, HTC has added a standard headphone jack on the top, so there's no more messing around with headphone to miniUSB adaptors when you want to use your own cans.

As well as the styling, the screen has also been substantially improved. Although it has the same resolution as the HTC Magic at 480 x 320 pixels, it's a capacitive screen and is much more accurate when it comes to registering finger presses. In fact, it's so good we'd say it's on a par with the iPhone which, let's face it, has set a pretty high benchmark. The increased accuracy makes every day tasks like hitting the right link among a group of tightly packed links in the web browser much easier, but also vastly improves the usability of the updated onscreen keyboard. These updates combined with the Hero's strong predictive text engine mean you can now happily tap away on messages or emails without having to worry about correcting every single mis-typed letter.

Elsewhere the spec is similar to previous HTC Android devices. The phone's Qualcomm processor runs at 528MHz and is paired with 512MB of ROM and 288MB of RAM. There's HSDPA support for download speeds of up to 7.2Mbit/s on the 900 and 2100Mhz bands and you also get quad-band GSM support with GPRS and EDGE for when you're out of the range of a 3G signal. Connectivity is rounded out by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. As with most of today's smartphones there's also onboard GPS plus a digital compass. The pre-launch version of the handset shown at the preview event suffered from slow downs, but that's not the case with this final, retail version. Except for the odd moment here and there (listening to music while viewing a Flash-heavy web page, for example), it feels fast and responsive.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Greg17b

August 5, 2009, 5:18 pm

Is there still no bluetooth file transfer on the Hero?

rav

August 5, 2009, 5:44 pm

@Greg


I've tried to on mine and no luck. Couldn't send files from my computer to it either.

TheBoneMachine

August 5, 2009, 5:46 pm

No Bluetooth file transfer unfortunely but I've heard theres an app on the android marketplace that let's you do it.





I received my hero on Monday and so far I'm really Impressed. One thing to say is that if you are someone who can stand the occasional bit of sluggishness then the hero may not be for you. As long as you don't go crazy with the widgets you'll be fine though.

Hamish Campbell

August 5, 2009, 5:47 pm

Cool. There has been a lot of bitchin about slow downs/lag on line but was this only with preview models?





Not out here in Denmark, though the Magic is and its hardly cheaper (over the 6 month contract) than the Iphone 3GS. I'd be very interested in the Hero if it's a significant saving over the Iphone, but if not I'm gonna have to spring for the current champ.

Gordon394

August 5, 2009, 6:00 pm

@haim - no it is there. The Hero uses the Qualcomm MSM7200A chipset and an ARM11 based CPU which is much slower than the Cortex A8 seen inside the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS which makes it laggy by comparison. That said, the Hero is much cheaper than the 3GS and the lag isn't much worse than on an iPhone 3G.

Ed

August 5, 2009, 6:05 pm

One thing to add here is that while the iPhone may be the best user experience, the more open platform of the Hero is a significant boon - the addition of a MicroSD slot alone is a huge bonus.

Gordon394

August 5, 2009, 6:08 pm

@Ed - agreed though I'd counter argue that given the vastly superior array of third party applications in the iPhone App Store it may be a more closed system but it offers far greater variety. Horses for courses...

Hamish Campbell

August 5, 2009, 6:15 pm

Is the sluggishness only really noticable when having many applications open?





Perhaps we are seeing why Apple has not allowed background tasks?


Of course the CPU differences will show up so its not the whole story.





I'm keen to see the pricing here, could well be the phone for me.

morsch

August 5, 2009, 6:31 pm

Huh. I just ordered a Nokia 5800, but I can still return it for about a week. I'll have to think hard about whether this is worth it. It's still a LOT more expensive than the Nokia, though, about EUR 450 versus about EUR 200. And the 5800 also has the trifecta of features -- UMTS, Wifi and GPS.

xbrumster

August 5, 2009, 6:57 pm

have to pop into shops to have a feel. looks slightly thicker than my liking.





Looks fab, well donw HTC

rav

August 5, 2009, 6:59 pm

Ok so just read the review. Firstly, well done on the real photos!





Had mine for two week and really love it. There is a little lag here and there but then that's the price of multitasking, which I'd rather have than not. Also noticed that a lot of it seems due to the apps/widgets you install as after a hard reset mine was once again flying. Having come from WinMo the whole OS seems lightning fast in comparison!





I know the app store has loads more choice but the market's been fine for me so far. The apps not being restricted in their functionality is what wins it for me. Really lets you tweak the phone just the way you like it.





Great review!

Gnormie

August 5, 2009, 7:00 pm

@ haim


It only really shows that being able to have 7+ widgets updating live really needs more power then the Qualcomm processor it uses, but for such a cheap contract phone it really does look very good :)

HarryGlass

August 5, 2009, 7:32 pm

Why do HTC have the Sense UI as a customisation and not as an application? Free or otherwise, surely if people with the G1, Magic or whatever other Android phones come out then they could also taken advantage of the new features this brings. I know people have ported Sense to those phones, but it'd be nicer to go an official way - plus it'd also be more 'open' as Android should be. Is there a technical reason they've not gone this route?





I'm still going with the Samsung i7500 which is out this week on 02. Better camera, 8GB internal memory and AMOLED screen.

BballTom

August 5, 2009, 7:35 pm

Mine is coming tomorrow, can't wait!

rav

August 5, 2009, 8:15 pm

@HK


I think sense refers to the whole UI and not just the homescreen and widgets. They've customised a lot of other things in the OS like the dialler, contacts apps, mail client, facebook and flickr intergration. I assume the widgets could be released on the market like any others but all the other customisations are way more than just skin deep and probably involve a lot of under the hood changes. Although obviously I'm no expert.

lukealexander

August 5, 2009, 8:35 pm

I inferred from your review text that you think the HTC Magic has a resistive touchscreen. In fact it also has a capacitive model.

Martin Leventon

August 5, 2009, 9:00 pm

@HK I agree its annoying that the additions HTC have added are unavailable for other android phones but as it isnt a google experience phone they are free to do as they wish. I am personally hoping that someone like Samsung will have a android phone released by the time my contract with the G1 ends.

Simon

August 5, 2009, 9:55 pm

Any chance of a video review? I'd like to see some of the UI in action.

m memmory

August 5, 2009, 10:28 pm

Been awaiting this phone for ages. Having read the reviews online from other sites have all said some nasty things which I reckoned was just down to the not having final hardware.





Just put in my upgrade order with Orange and, thanks to T-Mobile, got a nice deal too :)

Chris Beach

August 5, 2009, 11:27 pm

Some of the other reviews mentioned that the Hero didn't have enough memory to run the multiple widgets comfortably? Did you find it slowed down at all when you 'used' them all?

Geek in Training

August 6, 2009, 12:15 am

Is it just me but is that chin looking more and more attractive! Great review, guys. Is there going to be a video review as well? Also, any word on the difference between the Orange and T-mobile offerings? What about the quality of music and video playback? Rather than just taking aim at the 3GS, HTC has stolen a march on the Samsung i7500. Distinctive styling and more reasonable contract options make the better specced i7500 look a bit bland and expensive if the rumoured O2 pricing of free with a £44 per month 18 month contract proves true. I hope O2 and Samsung haven't priced themselves too highly as the i7500 seems to tick all my boxes but the wait is killing me. As I'm also on Orange I might follow m-memmory's lead and haggle for an even better deal.

HarryGlass

August 6, 2009, 12:22 am

@ramania


Yes I suppose they have done more than just skin it. It probably digs under the hood of Android; though that in a way is a worry. It could make things unstable & some apps might not work at all. Some people have also said it slows it down.





@Martin Leventon


You mean like the Samsung i7500 I mentioned... :-)

Greg17b

August 6, 2009, 1:52 am

I had the Hero on pre-order, and then cancelled when it was delayed yet again, as it no longer coincided with me going on holiday.





I'm glad I did now, as it seems this phone really needs Snapdragon. To my absolute horror, today I went out and got a 3GS instead. I'm currently updating it as I speak, but it will be interesting to see how it compares with my overall expectations of what a smart phone should be.

Runadumb

August 6, 2009, 2:23 am

In person this phone is no where near as ugly as I thought it was, actually looks nice.


I just cant get past the fact that Touchflo does most of this in a similar way and the hardware is last years tech. Signing on for 18 months only to watch snapdragoon and tegra devices come out in a few months/weeks would break my little geeky heart.





Good work HTC you have gained alot of attention with this, now release the real version before christmas.





Cheers

Keithe6e

August 6, 2009, 10:32 pm

Looks nice, even as an IPhone3g user I'm tempted. Only issue I have with HTC is how there hardware becomes obsolete, eg. The original HTC came out after the first IPhone, but even if you've got the original IPhone your still getting Apps & Upgrades. With HTC it's more of, what you see if what you get, next year we'll have a newer model, so tough.

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