Thanks to its large screen, watching video is that much more enjoyable than on smaller devices, though as we said earlier, it’s not that much better that we think the extra bulk is worth it. Format support seems to be par for the course with most of the files we tried playing back smoothly.
The extra audio features also help to make for a more immersive experience when watching movies though we can’t say it added enough that it alone would make us choose this handset over any other. It doesn’t add much to music either though the overall music listening experience is more than adequate and on par with any other smartphone.
One feature we really welcomed with the arrival of Windows Phone 7 was the mandated physical shutter button for the camera. Sadly HTC hasn’t taken the hint and added one to the Desire HD so taking photos is a slightly more awkward experience as you have to tap the screen to take a shot. Nonetheless, the application itself is really fast and easy to use. As photography enthusiasts we’d like to see smartphone camera modes that offer manual exposure controls as the automatic modes often can’t cope with challenging lighting situations, especially when using the flash, but this is a complaint against smartphones in general.
Results from the camera are par for the course in so much as they can offer up a fair amount of detail and accurate colours in well (and evenly) lit situations but shots in dark environments are very noisy and overall sharpness is nothing compared to even a basic compact camera. The twin LED flash certainly helps in close quarters but we’d still like to see more phones use proper Xenon flashes.
The 720p HD video footage is likewise about as good as we’d expect. The extra resolution over standard definition is certainly welcome and you’ll be happy filming the odd clip of your friends but motion and challenging lighting will be its downfall.
When it comes to actually making calls on the Desire HD, it holds up very well with no obvious problems coming to our attention. There isn’t active noise cancelling, though, so calling in noisy environments isn’t this phone’s forte. Neither is the speaker phone which isn’t all that loud and distorts at relatively low volumes.
Battery life was also alarmingly poor during our intensive testing with its 1230mAh unit lasting only 8 hours or so. This was with almost constant use and with all the widgets running, however. Turning things down and using it less intensively easily extended this to a more sensible level but nonetheless this is a phone you will almost certainly need to charge every night.
All of which brings us to our conclusion. What’s clear about the Desire HD is that it isn’t perfect. We feel its screen is unnecessarily large and though very good isn’t the best quality on the market, its battery life isn’t the best either, its still not quite as slick as the iPhone and there are a few other small tweaks we’d like. However, none of these issues is enough to change the fact that as an overall package this is the best smartphone we’ve tested. Extra functions like the presence of Flash in the web browser put it above the iPhone 4 while its build quality and design puts it ahead of the Android competition.