If you're fans of big screen phones then the HTC HD7 could well be high on your list of potential future phones, assuming Windows Phone 7 turns out to be decent. Its 4.3in display is seriously big and seriously nice to look at as well. With a little kick stand and stereo speakers this really is the perfect portable video viewing device.
As with the HTC 7 Trophy and HTC 7 Mozart the HD7 has a very simple front design thanks to the three touch sensitive buttons below the display being incorporated into the same sheet of glass that covers the screen. It is broken up slightly, though, by the thin (3mm or so) gaps at the top and bottom. These house grilles for the stereo speakers. This does affect the aesthetics somewhat but not enough to be worth griping about.
The design of the back is likewise pretty simple with a soft touch black plastic draped over most of it. The large camera looks impressive but is is still only a 5 megapixel affair, which is the minimum required for Windows Phone 7 devices. The presence of twin LED flashes is quite a boon though. Moreover, the camera surround has a neat trick up its sleeve.
Pull on the brushed piece of aluminium and it hinges open to double as a stand. Deployed like this the stereo speakers on the front suddenly make sense - this is a proper all encompassing video viewing platform. HTC has also added to all its Windows Phone 7 devices support for Dolby SRS for top quality sound as well (something we couldn't really test on location).
One potential downside to this stand is it getting snagged on clothing and snapping off. While this is an unaviodable possibility - especially as it doesn't lock into place - the hinge seems stiff enough and the stand sits flush enough to resist most such punishment.
Round the sides you get the usual selection of buttons and sockets. Up top is the screen lock and power button, the right edge is home to the camera button and volume rocker, while the headphone jack and microUSB data transfer and charging socket nestle on the bottom.
All buttons feel responsive and easy to use and, we simply can't say it enough, the camera button is a really useful addition. The only caveat is the screen's size makes handling the device a tad awkward. It's something you'll just have to try but we'd be inclined to opt for a smaller device. Conversely, it's not quite big enough to take on the tablet fraternity either. For some people it will be the perfect middle ground while others like ourselves will probably look elsewhere.
The quality of the screen, however can't be faulted. It's bright, colourful, detailed, and has great viewing angles.
As for the software side of things, because Microsoft has stipulated that the Windows Phone 7 interface can't be messed with, our early impressions of the HD7 are basically those of Windows Phone 7 in general. It's slick and easy to use but limitations like the rather spartan and blocky new interface and no copy and paste may prove too restrictive with more use. We need more time with the device before deciding for definite, though.
HTC has added some individual features in the form of its Sense Hub. This brings together a selection of mini apps akin to the widgets seen on HTC's Windows Phone 6.5 and Android devices. They're things like an animated weather viewer, a stock ticker and something called simply Love. A nice addition though these are, they're unlikely to be enough to persuade you one way or the other.
The HTC HD7 is undoubtedly an impressive device on the hardware front with its large high quality screen, stereo speakers, and flip out stand. There is, however, one big problem. There's only 8GB of internal storage, which if you're planning on packing your phone full of video isn't very much, and with no microSD slot this can't be upgraded. Its the software that's the big unknown. however, and for our ultimate verdict you'll just have to wait until we've got one in for review.
The HD7 will be sold exclusively by O2 where you'll be able to get it for free on an extortionate £40-per-month, 24-month contract. Or you can pick it up for a much more sensible £379 on pay as you go.