So what makes the Touch Pro so much better than the Diamond? The answer is simple – its keyboard. This slides out from underneath the screen with a silky smooth action, to reveal one of the best keyboards I’ve used on a smartphone ever. It has a full five rows of keys, including a dedicated row for numbers (no fiddly function key button combinations here). It has a CTRL key, its own TAB key, plus separate buttons for CAPS, comma and full stop. It’s not only well-laid out, it’s also responsive – much more so than the keyboard on the HTC TyTN II – and the keys are large enough and separated from each other by just enough space that you’ll be up to speed on it in minutes.
A nice touch here is that when you pop the keyboard out, TouchFlo 3D presents a special, landscape launcher screen with a simple array of shortcuts on it to Email, Messages, Bookmarks, Web Search, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Contacts. It doesn’t simply try to shoehorn the TouchFlo 3D home page in.
Of course you do also get TouchFlo 3D’s touchscreen keyboards as well – a full-sized QWERTY effort, number pad and “compact keyboard” which consists of a QWERTY layout where letters are arranged two per “key”, and these work well. But once you’ve used the keyboard, you’ll wonder why people put up with entering text on a touchscreen, no matter how good that touchscreen may be.
There are other differences between the Touch Pro and the Diamond apart from the keyboard, of course. The backplate, still adorned with diamond-like facets, is covered with soft touch plastic instead of gloss black, for instance. This makes the phone feel much nicer hold, and you don’t have to keep polishing the fingerprints off it. The sliding keyboard does add to the thickness of the Touch Pro – it’s 18mm thick, which is about the same as the TyTN II. It’s clearly not as pocketable as the Touch Diamond, but this is ameliorated by more rounded corners, and it really doesn’t feel that big once you’ve stowed it in a pocket.
The Pro feels much more responsive out of the box than the original Touch Diamond did. You can use it without wanting to throw it across the room every five minutes, and without having to take the life of your phone in your hands by upgrading the ROM. TouchFlo 3D with its attractive animations and touch controls is much more usable as a result, and whizzing through the various screens (email, text messages, settings and so on) using the icon track at the bottom of the screen is extremely effective. But it is worth pointing out that you’ll still have to get the stylus out regularly – the alarm clock settings (bizarrely) still require the tapping of tiny check-boxes, as do most other settings screens – and there’s still the odd pause here and there.
Neither does this phone have the 4GB internal storage of the Diamond. There’s 288MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM for storage, which is a bit on the mean side considering how expensive it is, but it does at least have a microSD slot (the Diamond has no means of adding to its storage) so you can add as much as you like.