HTC Desire review: A desire come true

GSMArena team, 16 April 2010.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Retail package is great

The tiny box of the HTC Desire has managed to accommodate pretty much everything you’d expect to get with a high-end phone. There’s a USB charger, a standard microUSB data cable and the usual paperwork.

There’s a one-piece headset with music controls (play/pause/skip). The supplied headphones aren't your only option though, since the Desire has a 3.5mm audio jack.

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The HTC Desire unboxed

Also enclosed is a 4GB microSD card but, unlike the Nexus One, the Desire doesn’t come with a carrying pouch.

Now here's an unboxing video of the HTC Desire.

HTC Desire 360-degree spin

The HTC Desire somehow fails to match the muscular style and the poise of the Hero – we guess that’s the Legend’s job. Being so closely related to the Google Nexus One, the Desire has no other choice but keep it all minimalist and discreet.

There’s no doubt however who’s in charge. The Desire’s bigger 3.7” screen makes the finish and embellishments less relevant. For a screen this size, the size of phone is still friendly enough to handle and pocket. It measures 119 x 60 x 11.9 mm and weighs 135 g but its curved edges and dark two-tone finish make it look smaller than it actually is.

Design and construction

Most of the differences between the Nexus One and HTC’s own version of the same device are easily visible on the outside. Some of them are welcome – but there are also a couple of things we think worked better the Google way.

Touchscreen phones are not the best devices to get creative and experiment with design and the Desire is no exception. But HTC made the right choice going for a sturdy build and durability. Just like the Google Nexus One, the Desire is not only subtly stylish but also very solid. At its launch, the Desire showed up only in Brown but a few weeks later a silver version of the phone was also spotted in the wild.

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HTC Desire facing some of its rivals

The Desire shares with the Nexus One a 3.7” capacitive AMOLED touchscreen of WVGA resolution. It looks marvelous indoors but if you go outside you won’t help but notice that sunlight legibility could’ve been better. It is the highly reflective surface and weaker backlighting that make it a bad choice for outdoor use.

Still, the Desire screen is brilliant indoors. It’s not only large but has high resolution and excellent image quality. Colors are deep and vivid and contrast is great. Currently, in this size segment only the Samsung Galaxy S Super AMOLED display would do better.

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Desire’s AMOLED display

As to screen sensitivity, the Desire reacts to the gentlest taps thanks to the capacitive technology.

Above the display you will only find the earpiece and two hidden sensors (proximity and ambient light).

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Earpiece at the top

Underneath the screen we find the typical Android controls (back, contextual menu, Home and search). This time around, they are actual press buttons instead of the capacitive keys of the Nexus One. The poor response of the Nexus keys was a letdown, so we welcome HTC’s decision to go for proper hardware knobs. They are tiny and discreet but with very distinct press – so no worries this time.

In-between them is the trackpad. It's not essential really - the touchscreen is more than enough to get you around the interface.

To be honest, we liked the Nexus One trackball more. You may need some time to get used to that optical trackpad, it just doesn’t feel as nice. Part of the reason is perhaps its size – it’s too small to fit the general design. The trackpad might come in handy if you need to jump links on a webpage or in document viewing. Other than that we don’t see why anyone would prefer it over the excellent response of the capacitive touchscreen.

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Optical trackball and hardware soft keys

The other obvious application that puts it to use is the camera - the Desire doesn’t have a dedicated shutter key. If you go for the trackpad, you'll need to press to lock focus and release to capture.

Yes, unlike the optical trackpad on the HTC Legend, the one on the Desire also acts as a hardware button. It sinks in when you press it.

The HTC Desire’s left side features a long and thin volume rocker and there is nothing on the right.

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The volume rocker is on the left • the bare right-hand side

At the top we find the uncovered 3.5mm audio jack and the Screen Lock/Power key.

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3.5 mm audio jack and the Power/Lock key

As usual, at the bottom of the phone, you will see the mouthpiece. The standard microUSB port accommodates both the charger and the data cable.

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The bottom hosts a mouthpiece and a microUSB port

The HTC Desire rear only features the 5 megapixel camera lens and the small loudspeaker grill. There is also a small LED flash in-between to boost the camera's low-light performance but you shouldn't be expecting miracles.

The material used on the back cover is described as soft-touch and it really does deserve the name. It’s really nice to touch – it’s still plastic but the surface feels soft and provides a great grip.

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The Desire back panel: camera lens, LED flash and loudspeaker grill

Under the battery cover, you'll find both the microSD and the SIM card slots and the 1400 mAh battery right next to them. The Desire is quoted at up to 6 hours 40 minutes of talk time and up to 360 hours of stand-by time.

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The 1400mAh Li-Ion battery

To reach the microSD card slot, you have to remove the battery first. So, hot swap is out of the question. In the retail package we found a 4GB microSD card but the device worked trouble-free with our 16GB card.

The HTC Desire is Google Nexus One’s twin and it’s no more than a few details that set the two phones apart. In terms of build quality, no news is good news – the Desire is solidly built using high-quality materials. Slim and heavy, the phone has an excellent hand feel.

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HTC Desire next to the Google Nexus One

The Desire has a subtle hint of a chin and the hardware buttons earn it a point over the Nexus One’s capacitive controls. On the other hand, we do prefer the trackball over the tiny trackpad. The non-hot-swappable memory card and the inadequate sunlight legibility are the only things that you may want to consider. On the other hand, the AMOLED screen is pure quality indoors.

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The HTC Desire: plain and subtle, but powerful enough

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