Where the Desire really shines is through its screen. At 3.7in across, it feels like the perfect size for easy touch-screen navigation. In contrast, the HTC Legend with its 3.2in screen feels a little cramped while the monster 4+in screens of devices like the Toshiba TG01 and HTC HD2 are just too big to handle comfortably.
Size is not the only thing in this screen’s favour, though. Thanks to its OLED display technology it can produce an incredibly bright image with strong, saturated colours while maintaining black levels that LCD screens can only dream of. Combined with the fact that OLED displays are unaffected by viewing angles, you have a device that’s superb for watching videos, browsing the web, and flicking though photos, even if the colours are so saturated as to look a little unnatural sometimes. Given OLED displays don’t have a transflective effect, they can become difficult to see in strong sunlight, but given the dreadful weather here in the UK at the moment we didn’t have a chance to notice any such problems.
Thanks to capacitive touch-sensing you only need to touch, rather then press, the screen to get a response, which makes everyday use infinitely better than on squishy resistive screens. Compared to the iPhone the screen felt a little tacky, making it more difficult to glide your finger across the surface, but this is a small complaint. We also found accuracy to be only average so, whether due to calibration or inherent hardware issues, tasks like pinpointing links in webpages required a concerted effort to use the very tip of a finger where the best devices can interpret a more general stab from the pad of a finger.
Typing on the onscreen keyboard, however, wasn’t such a problem and we found we could rattle off text messages and emails almost as fast as any other device. We do have a couple of complaints, though. The word prediction generally isn’t quite as good as the iPhone and we find the way it shows a constantly updating list of alternative words above what you’re typing really distracting. We’re all for predictive text but a more subtle approach would be preferable. Also, we still maintain HTC’s version of the Android keyboard that has the secondary function of each key constantly visible makes it more difficult to read – and somewhat pointless as the keys shift slightly when you actually go to their second function.
The 5-megapixel camera that sits on the back has autofocus and an LED flash, instantly taking it a step above some smartphones. In use it is superb thanks to lightening fast loading times and quick shot to shot times. It also has a superb point-to-focus system, which we particularly like because you still have to press the button to finally take the photo, allowing you time to steady yourself. The overall onscreen controls are also excellent with contrast, saturation, and sharpness controls, ISO adjustment, geo-tagging and face detection all on offer. A dedicated shutter button on the side would be a useful addition but from an aesthetic point of view, we can see why it was left out. Results from the camera aren’t actually all that clever with colours looking fairly muted even in good lighting and the flash is very limited in range. However, for a phone it is more than adequate.
As for video, you can shoot at up to a resolution of 720 x 480 and up to 30fps though you certainly don’t get both at the same time. Our test clip was shot in 640 x 480 and it came out with a framerate of 10fps, which is pretty much unusable if there’s any action happening. The framerate does increase in better lighting but is still fairly ropey overall.