HTC Desire HD review
- HTC Sense is intuitive
- 720p HD movie mode
- Great browser
- Poor battery life
- The handset is big
- Screen isn't as good as rivals
We’ve been looking forward to reviewing the HTC Desire HD since it was first announced in September. As the successor to the HTC Desire - T3’s Gadget Awards 2010 Phone of the Year. It has a lot to live up to, and with a huge screen, some neat interface tweaks and HD movie boost, it certainly looks impressive.
But has HTC done enough to challenge the Apple iPhone 4? And with Windows Phone 7 making a storming return to form for Microsoft with the LG Optimus 7 and Samsung Omnia 7, is the HTC Desire HD still a worthy successor?
The aluminium backed HTC Desire HD is a striking phone, but lacks the wow factor of the Apple iPhone 4 or HTC Legend, more of a progression from the HTC Desire, rather than anything new. It feels durable – certainly the build is better than the Samsung Omnia 7 and LG Optimus 7.
HTC has removed the trackpad and the soft keys from the HTC Desire, replacing them with four touch sensitive buttons for: Home, Menu, Back and Search. On the back is an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, dedicated volume controls and a power button are on the side.
The 3.5mm jack sits in the base, adjacent to the Micro USB slot. There’s 1.5GB on-board storage and a MicroSD slot, which you need to shoot video.
When we first picked up the HTC Desire HD it felt too big, but after a few days you get used to it, although the original Desire is certainly more practical. You can just about type with one hand using the portrait QWERTY keyboard, although the larger screen size makes typing in landscape orientation a breeze.
Alongside N WiFi, you get Bluetooth 2.1, DLNA for Wireless file transfer. Running Android 2.2 means you can use Desire HD as a WiFi hotspot, so your laptop can connect to the web via 3G.
HTC Desire HD: Interface
One of the most welcome changes is Quick Start that launches the phone within two-three seconds - so there’s no more waiting for the phone to slowly wake up.
HTC Sense and its seven homescreens remains the same, but now you can use the new Customise menu screen to quickly change the display, add icons or personalise sounds. Tap the Home button to bring up helicopter view and you can hold it down to tab between recent apps.
Swiping down brings up the new Notification bar, where you can swap between icons showing recently open apps, as well as viewing email, messaging and missed call info. It’s a simple change, but one you’ll use a lot.
Friend Stream links your Twitter, Facebook and Flickr feeds, HTC Sense bringing together contacts and links them automatically along with your phone contacts This is fairly successful, although we did need to go through and link some manually - typically those that didn’t have last names. What’s new is the ability to view status updates of your contacts, a nice rather than essential feature
HTC Desire HD: Screen
The HTC Desire HD has an 800x480 4.3-inch screen, which is bigger than the HTC Desire at 3.7-inches, despite having the same resolution - the T3 of T3.com displays clear jaggies. It really needs some more pixels and really should be AMOLED. According to HTC, the reason for screen is the worldwide shortage of AMOLED, but we feel it’s a big loss, perhaps not a deal breaker, but puts HTC behind rivals.
The 1Ghz processor is quick; loading BBC.co.uk in eight seconds and a picture and video rich website like T3.com in 21 seconds Navigation is a very smooth experience. Pinch to zoom, flick up and down to move around pages and text automatically aligns to fit.
Support for Flash 10.1 means you can play back Flash videos and quality is ok, although it stuttered due to the sluggishness of our WiFi connection, a problem we didn’t have over 3G.
We streamed a selection of YouTube and BBC iPlayer videos simultaneously on both older and newer Desires - OK streaming is never going to be fantastic quality - but the HTC Desire HD had noticeably more blocking, blurrier skin tones and soft detail. Feed the Desire HD a high-definition clip and its far closer to what you’d expect: sharp, with more detail and good contrast.
Unfortunately the speaker is very tinny and underpowered, so you can forget more than two people listening at once. Plug in some headphones and either Dolby Mobile or SRS add a welcome depth to your soundtrack. Watching an HD trailer to Biutiful through some V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones and the audio sounds really immersive, creating an almost cinema-like experience.
The same applies to music, when listening to bass heavy tracks, Dolby Mobile totally transforms the sound and even when the screen is locked you can skip back and forth and pause. Unlike the iPhone 4 and Windows 7 handsets like the LG Optimus 7, you can transfer files via drag and drop.
Create playlists, scroll though albums, artists and songs via an effective, if dull music interface, which isn’t as slick as the Dune interface on the Samsung Omnia 7. Quickly tap through to Amazon MP3 to buy new music.
HTC Desire HD: Camera and video
The 720p HD movie mode produces good results, if not quite as sharp as we'd have liked, but fine for a phone. It's a shame there's no HDMI, although you get DLNA for wireless transfer.
The HTC Desire HD has an 8-megapixel camera, the large screen is good for composing images, although it can be hard to see in bright sunlight. Autofocus works effectively and you can tap to focus, but although the shutter is reasonably quick, we’d have preferred a dedicated shutter button (like Win 7 handsets).
Images are pretty good, on a good day colours are bold and there’s plenty of detail, although detail can be lost in high and low contrast areas. You can get some good Macro results from about 10cm. The dual LED flash is excellent, easily illuminating a small room, although watch out again for image noise indoors.
White balance is one of the features you can tweak, although we found Automatic produces the most accurate results - outside Cloudy and Daylight exhibit a red tint, while inside Incandescent is too warm. There are 13 filters you can apply to photos before (instead of after) you take them.
Some are really useful like Greyscale and Sepia, others like Depth of Field you may use occasionally, but some like Solarize and Posterize are more for novelty value.
HTC Desire HD: HTC Sense.com
Launched at the same time as the HTC Desire HD and Desire Z, HTC Sense.com is an online portal that lets remotely add elements, contacts, forward calls and send and store messages Choose to download Ringtones, Apps, Music, Wallpaper, Skins, Widgets and Alarm tones. Choice is still quite limited, but there are about 100 apps, 100 albums, six scenes and 10 alarms
My Footprint uses your phones GPS location, to find your footprint, so amongst others you can view Attractions, Restaurants and Shopping information – although it couldn’t find anything near us. You’ll be able to look up other HTC Sense users in the future.
It’s the security aspect of remote access provides that’s more useful, if you lose your handset you lock and erase your phone remotely. It’s also supposed to ring when turned, off but we couldn’t get that to work - in fact HTC Sense has a few teething issues, it kept coming up with ‘People Error’ when we tried to view contacts, hopefully this will improve.
HTC Desire HD: Verdict
HTC’s chosen to refine rather than make any drastic changes to the Desire HD. Tweaks to the build, an excellent browser and 720p movie made make it enjoyable to use, while HTC Sense continues to be one of the best UI’s on the market.
However, the Desire HD is a BIG phone and although it’s far more usable than we initially thought, it will still be too big for many. And while the 4.3-inch screen is certainly good for browsing and video playback, it’s a real shame the resolution isn’t higher or AMOLED, it’s just not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S and Apple iPhone 4 and those are the phones it will be competing against.
The large screen size really affects the battery too – we turned it on at 12.00 and with moderate calling, WiFi on and a heavy browsing period, it was on 15% by 7pm. After charging overnight and again it flashed up 15% by early evening.
We really enjoyed using the HTC Desire HD, it is a great phone and one of the best Android handsets on the market. But the original Desire blew us away and this is something of a fizzle in comparison, good, but certainly not worth replacing your original Desire for.
HTC Desire HD availability: Available now
Find the cheapest deal for the HTC Desire HD here