HTC ChaCha review: Status update

GSMArena team, 12 July 2011.
Pages: «12345678»

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

HTC ChaCha 360-degree spin

At 114.4 x 64.6 x 10.7 mm, the HTC ChaCha is pleasingly compact, though hardly featherweight at 120 g. Some will certainly appreciate the solid feel that comes with the extra weight though.

Design and construction

Most of the design decisions about the ChaCha are quite good. The company trademark chin, an ample amount of metal and a slim waistline seem like a pretty good start.

What we aren’t particularly fond of is the blank area between the QWERTY keyboard and the four touch-sensitive keys below the display. There seems to be plenty of unused space around the two Call knobs. They could’ve easily fit a bigger screen and the QWERTY keyboard is perfectly fine. A trackball was a brief wishful thought too since the white-clad ChaCha reminded us of the once popular HTC Hero. You don’t actually need it though, the arrow keys on the keyboard give you the needed precision.

It’s just that the gap between the screen and keyboard doesn’t look good and is probably part of the reason why the ChaCha looks cheapish compared to the Nokia E6. It’s just that higher-end phones make better use of the available space.

On a positive note, the HTC ChaCha looks pretty well put together and quite sturdy. We'd bet this one to last for quite a while even though we've only spent a couple of weeks with it.

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The ChaCha seems pretty well built

Display

The HTC ChaCha has a 2.6" landscape display of HVGA resolution. There’s enough pixels for the modest diagonal so sharpness is not an issue really.

Nor is image quality: the ChaCha screen is as good as you might expect in this class. Of course, it won't match the AMOLEDs and Retinas of this world, but good luck getting those for the same kind of cash.

HTC Chacha
The display is actually pretty decent for its class

Against a more direct competitor, in Samsung Galaxy Pro B7510, the ChaCha has a clear advantage in terms of image quality even though it loses on screen size.

The ChaCha sunlight legibility isn't perfect, but it's nothing you cannot live with either. The screen remains legible in just about any weather, even if it loses some contrast. Once again, that's seems like more than you could realistically expect in such a device.

There are also no sensitivity issues with the ChaCha touchscreen, so all-in-all we'd call the screen a solid performer.

Our observations were confirmed by the results in our display test, where the ChaCha ranked closer to the best LCDs on the market than to its peers.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC ChaCha 0.36 283 785 0.61 559 923
Samsung Galaxy Pro B7510 0.15 119 770 0.29 213 747
HTC Wildfire S 0.43 256 603 0.76 314 414
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880
Sony Ericsson W8 0.18 125 696 0.34 250 737

QWERTY keyboard

The four-row QWERTY keyboard is the other highlight of the ChaCha front panel. With the chosen layout, the keyboard has dedicated keys for all the letters and some more frequently used symbols (comma, full stop, and question mark).

The numbers are located in the right half of the keyboard in a numpad layout, rather than occupying the top row. We are not sure this is the more comfortable solution for typing, but it certainly feels more natural when dialing.

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The hardware QWERTY keyboard will please the heavy texter

HTC even managed to squeeze a set of arrow buttons in the bottom right corner of the keyboard. Those can be used for UI navigation and even the occasional app so we found them pretty useful. Especially for those into gaming and, seeing the ChaCha target audience, we believe most owners will be.

A cool touch about the keyboard is the camera button. It launches the camera and can then be used for taking photos too so it makes up for the lack of a dedicated shutter key. Of course this is not a two-position button, but with continuous autofocus it's not too bad.

The general usability of the keyboard is pretty good too - key press is good and even though individual buttons aren't the biggest we have seen they are well spaced so we were able to type error-free at pretty good speeds.

The rest of the controls

Sandwiched between the screen and the QWERTY keyboard, stand the HTC ChaCha six most important buttons. Those include four touch-sensitive Android keys - home, menu, back and search and the two regular buttons for call-handling purposes.

There's not much to say about the capacitive touch buttons really - they have the usual functionality including invoking the task switcher on holding the home button and starting voice search by holding the search key. However, we would like to give HTC a pat on the back for bringing back the call keys - those are really useful for those who actually talk a lot on their smartphones.

The next interesting bit at the front is the Facebook button below the keyboard, which shows that this is not just an ordinary HTC. That button alone is a statement that may make some people purchase the ChaCha.

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The Facebook button

If you are on the homescreen, the Facebook button will let you quickly post to your wall upon short press or let you check in with Facebook Places when you hold it.

If you are in an app, the button will try and post whatever it is you are looking at to your wall. So if you want to share a photo or an album that would be as simple as opening them in the gallery and clicking the Facebook button.

The tour of the ChaCha front panel concludes at its top, where we find the earpiece, the video-call camera and the proximity sensor.

The HTC ChaCha long and thin volume rocker is located at its left side, but we have to admit it's not the most comfortable control we have seen. Below it is the unprotected microUSB port, which also doubles as a charging slot. Needless to say that you are also free to charge the ChaCha off your computer and not just a power outlet.

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The microUSB port and the not particularly comfortable volume rocker

The bottom of the ChaCha features nothing but the microphone pinhole, while the right side is perfectly bare.

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There's not a lot of action at the bottom and on the right side

On top we find the 3.5mm audio jack, which has no protective cap of any kind and the power/screen lock key. Much like the volume rocker, this one is a bit on the flat and thin side so it's not the easiest thing to press, but you get used to it eventually.

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The 3.5mm audio jack and the power key

The back side of the HTC Chacha hosts the 5 megapixel autofocus camera lens and, either side of it, the loudspeaker grill and the LED flash.

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The 5 megapixel camera lens is in between the loudspeaker grill and the LED flash

To access the battery you slide the bottom half of the back panel downwards. It takes a lot of force before the part starts sliding, though.

The Chacha battery life is quoted at up to 660 h of stand-by and up to 7 h 30 min of talk time. Those numbers may sound about average, but in reality the handset does way better than most droids - it lasted through almost 2 and a half days of some moderate to heavy usage.

Unfortunately, the microSD card slot is located next to the battery and replacing the card without taking out the battery is impossible.

HTC Chacha
The microSD and SIM card slots are under the battery

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