HTC has a history of making enormous, feature-rich smartphones and the phone I’m looking at today is the pinnacle of those efforts so far. The HD2 incorporates an enormous 4.3in capacitive touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera, and plenty more besides, but with it running Windows Phone can it possibly be our favourite handset of the moment?
Well we weren’t joking when we said enormous. At 121mm tall and 67mm wide, the HD2 is some 5mm taller and wider than the iPhone 3G/3GS, which some people find too big too handle already. Now, 5mm may not sound like all that much but when added all over it makes for a significant increase. At 11mm thick, it’s at least a tad thinner than its fruity rival and it’s still markedly smaller than the behemoth that is the Toshiba TG01.
Adding to the feeling of this being a large phone is the size of its screen. While, the iPhone’s screen actually fits within the palm of your hand (even if the whole phone doesn’t) and is thus completely accessible using the thumb of one hand, the HD2’s screen always requires a readjustment of your grip or your other hand in order to use all of it. Again, this isn’t uncommon per se but it’s definitely the marker of a phone we feel goes beyond the point most people would find comfortable for everyday use. Also because the screen fills so much of the device, you’re left with very little room to position your hands without pressing and activating some part of it.
Nevertheless, if all you want is the biggest and best screen on your mobile then you won’t be disappointed. Not only is it enormous but its resolution of 800 x 480 pixels is equal to the best on the market and is double that of the iPhone’s and most Android phones. Combined with excellent brightness, pitch-like blacks, and wonderfully vivid colours, it is simply a joy to behold. In fact, because it uses standard LCD technology, rather than AMOLED, it seemed to suffer less from the slight over saturation that plagues devices like the Samsung Galaxy, and the Samsung Jet (Samsung does seem to be at the forefront of this display technology when it comes to phones).
Whatever task we put this phone to, its screen never failed to amaze us. Probably the most memorable thing was this phones ability to fit the entire TrustedReviews website on screen and still maintain readable text… when held in portrait mode! Of course, watching video, viewing photos, and all the other multimedia tasks one can enjoy on a modern mobile phone are dutifully taken care of as well.
Helping our perhaps (on second read) over-zealous enthusiasm for this phone’s screen is the fact that it’s glass is super tough and scratch resistant. You’ve probably also guessed from this that it uses capacitive touch sensing as well and, again, it is superbly implemented, reacting instantly to any gesture with the lightest of touches. Multitouch is also supported but more on that later.
Getting back to the core hardware of the phone, below the screen sit five small buttons that conform to the usual HTC Windows Mobile/Phone configuration of Call Answer/Home/Start/Back/Call End. These buttons are actually disappointingly small and wobbly, though still just about usable.
A volume control rocker switch is situated on the left edge while the bottom edge is home to a 3.5mm headphone jack and standard micro-USB data and charging socket. The headphone jack would of course have been a welcome addition wherever it was positioned but to find it at the bottom, where it is most practical is a real plus. As for the micro-USB socket, that’s even more interesting as HTC has been clinging onto its ExtUSB (essentially mini-USB) socket for quite a while as it can carry data, power, and audio for headsets. With the public so rapturously demanding 3.5mm headphone jacks and the vast majority of the mobile phone industry having signed up to use micro-USB as a standard data and charging socket, HTC has realised that it has to change and we think this is a great thing.
The main bulk of the HD2 is finished in a very pleasant soft touch grey plastic and together with its brushed metal backplate the entire handset feels very solidly made. The backplate wraps around the central portion of the phone and clips to the sides, which is quite a neat trick. Under it sits the SIM slot, battery, and microSD slot, which can accommodate cards up to 16GB. The battery is an 1100mAh unit which kept the phone going for a couple of days of extensive usage.
Above the backplate sit pin-holes for the impressively loud speaker and the 5-megapixel camera with its twin-LED flashes. The camera is possibly the best we’ve seen on a smartphone both in terms of operation and quality. The camera application, for instance, has the same level of usability as that of dedicated camera phones; responding quickly, offering plenty of options including manual exposure and focus (both using an on screen slider and by pointing at your subject on screen), and giving impressive shot to shot times.
Images viewed on the phone look sublime though inevitably viewing them on a computer monitor does reveal the cameras limitations. In particular, there’s a distinct lack of dynamic range so highlights are nearly always blown out and dark areas lacking in detail. The auto white balance also struggles at times, as demonstrated in the second of the ‘lawn & trees’ shots. For the most part, though, it’s simply the case that these tiny little lenses can’t pick out the detail to justify the sensor resolution, but at least the LED flash does a good job at close range.
Video is also onboard and it can shoot to a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. It maintains a good enough refresh rate to capture smooth motion and is quite impressive for a phone camera. You can even use the LEDs when shooting video too. It’s only the lack of any autofocus that really lets things down on the video front.
Finally, in terms of internal features, you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, a digital compass, HSDPA, GPRS, EDGE, GSM, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 448MB RAM and 512MB ROM. In other words, you’re left wanting for nothing.
So, on a hardware front, if you’re not too concerned about its size, the HD2 has a heck of a lot going for it. However, as always, there’s the software to consider and here the HD2 is a bit of a mixed bag.
Performance is something we certainly can’t complain about. The Snapdragon processor at the HD2’s heart makes mincemeat of any task you put it to, making this phone very slick in operation. We only had the phone for a short time and so didn’t test it with games or other demanding programs, but in general use and when multitasking it was flawless (we’ll be producing a video review soon, so you’ll be able to see it in full flow).
HTC has also gone to town with its implementation of the Sense UI, revamping all its icons and menus to make them even bigger, shinier, and fancier to suit the enormous screen. Possibly the best demonstration of this – and it’s unfortunately rather difficult to capture in still photos – is the weather animation that is activated when you turn on the phone. When raining (as it was at the time), you get animated clouds and rainfall in the background while rain drops will cover the inside of your screen until a windscreen wiper appears and wipes it all away. Of course it’s a total gimmick but it is rather impressive and does mean you get a full and accurate description of the weather without needing to read anything.
It’s not just the weather app that feels slightly gimmicky with HTC’s Sense interface either. We’ve used it on many iterations of Windows Mobile phones and have always found it to be more showy than practical and this largely hasn’t changed. In particular, the sliding icon bar along the bottom has never felt intuitive. Then again, with the limitations of Windows Mobile, even in its current 6.5 (Phone) version, it does well from a limited start. Also, if you get tweaking, you can customise it to be a bit more streamlined and a bit less fluffy.
Elsewhere, HTC has given its usual spit and polish to the music, picture, dialler, text, clock and other core phone apps. This means that for the most part you can use this phone quite effortlessly for everyday tasks. However, step outside HTC’s soft cushioning and you’re hit square in the face by the cold hard slab of horrible that is the Windows Phone interface where even finger scrolling isn’t always natively supported. It really is quite a shock.
Of course you get access to the growing number of applications on the Windows MarketPlace and we found preinstalled applications for Facebook and Twitter so you can get your social network up and running as soon as possible.
Perhaps the single most important thing about this phone on a software front is that HTC has nailed its onscreen keyboard. Whether in portrait or landscape mode, there’s ample room for the keys, there’s support for multitouch, response is fast, word prediction is great, and the capacitive touchscreen responds to the lightest of touches. Put simply, this is arguably a contender to the iPhone’s crown of best touchscreen keyboard.
There’s plenty more we could talk about on this phone – as indeed there is on many of these feature-packed modern phones – but we have to stop somewhere and none of it would add significantly to the outcome. The simple fact of the matter is, if you want the ultimate feature-packed big phone that can do everything, and you can accept the interface limitations of Windows Mobile, then this is the one to get. Sure the camera isn’t amazing, but on just about every other front, it’s class-leading.
However, this doesn’t mean we’d recommend it for everyone. It’s just too big and cumbersome for some. So, if you only want that next level of multimedia experience from your phone, over and above a basic handset, then the iPhone, many of the Android-based phones, or indeed a Blackberry, will still offer more manageable day-to-day usability.
The HTC HD2 is a top-notch phone that usurps every handset on just about every front when it comes to features and hardware. And if that’s all you want, then we’d recommend you get one! However, its sheer size and Windows Mobile operating system will no doubt put many off.
Score in detail
|Operating System||Windows Phone|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||4.3in|
|Talk Time (Minute)||340m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||390hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||0.512GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs
|App Store||Windows Marketplace|
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