HTC Gratia review: Body double

GSMArena team, 7 January 2011.
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Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

5 megapixel snapper

The HTC Gratia is equipped with a 5 megapixel camera for a maximum image resolution of 2592 x 1952 pixels. It doesn’t have any assistance from a flash, not even a dedicated shutter key to make snapping photos easier. The job of a shutter button is reserved fro the touch-sensitive pad below the screen.

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HTC Gratia camera interface

The camera interface isn’t the ultimate in user-friendliness, with most of the options sitting on a retractable tray at the left side of the viewfinder. It can either be dragged out by a finger sweep or by pressing the menu key.

You get shortcuts to exposure compensation and the camera album right in the viewfinder but that’s all. From the extended menu you have some more controls to play with – brightness, contrast/saturation/sharpness dials, color effects along with white balance, ISO and metering mode controls.

The Gratia camera supports geo-tagging photos as well as face detection. There’s no smile or blink detection. Finally, there’s an option to shoot photos in the wider 3:2 aspect ratio, which expands the viewfinder to the whole screen at the cost of some vertical resolution. If that option is off, there are two black bars on the left and right of the viewfinder.

The actual shooting isn’t quite as comfortable as we would’ve like, mostly because the small optical trackpad is flush against the front face of the Gratia and doesn’t make for a very good shutter key.

Continuous auto-focus seems to take its time – each time you re-frame you have to wait a bit longer than we’d expect for the device to focus. Touch focus on the other hand seems to work well.

The HTC Gratia camera is somewhat of a disappointment. The camera unit seems defective.It's probably a faulty lens to blame here – photos are very soft, with almost no fine detail. The issue is less pronounced at closer differences as you'll see in the photo compare tool.

Other than that the color rendering and contrast are good but there’s a fair amount of noise visible too. Oversharpening is also quite visible in our studio shots of the test charts.

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HTC Gratia camera samples

Photo quality comparison

We’ve also added the HTC Gratia to the database of our Photo Compare Tool. The Tool’s page has a quick how to guide and also what to look for.

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HTC Gratia in the Photo Compare Tool

VGA video at lower FPS than expected

HTC Gratia shoots VGA resolution video, like the Aria, but we notices something strange. While the Aria almost managed 30fps (it hovered around 29fps), the Gratia struggled to make it to 20fps.

The video won’t win any awards even if you ignore the frame rate – the HTC Gratia produces relatively low-bitrate 3GP videos with noticable compression artifacts and little fine detail.

The interface of the camcorder is similar to the one on the still camera and there are lots of customizable options with this one. You can set the video resolution, encoding type and recording limit.

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Camcorder has plenty of options

As far as image settings go, you get exposure compensation, contrast, saturation and sharpness, as well as color effects and white balance settings.

Here goes a sample VGA@20fps video clip.

Connectivity is well-geared

The HTC Gratia comes with quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE to ensure voice and data connectivity when travelling abroad and a dual-band 3G plus HSDPA (7.2Mbps downlink, 2Mbps uplink) with European bands (it is a European phone after all).

The local wireless connectivity is standard – Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP.

When you connect the Gratia with a computer over the microUSB cable you get the following list of options: Charge only, Disk drive (connects the microSD card as a mass storage drive), HTC Sync for connecting to HTC’s PC suite and USB tethering, which shares the phone’s data connection.

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Selecting a USB connection type • Starting the personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Android 2.2 comes with Wi-Fi hotspot functionality built-in. The HTC Gratia supports up to 8 connections and you can encrypt the connection (for security and to avoid freeloaders).

You can pick the encryption method (WEP, WPA, WPA2), select the Wi-Fi channel to use and there’s a helpful auto power-off, which can turn off the hotspot after a preset period of inactivity (5 or 10 minutes).

A great Flash-capable web browser

Solid web browsing has been an inherent part of the Android deal since day one but the Froyo web browser is one of the best in the mobile world.

The user interface is pretty much nonexistent at first sight. With pinch-zooming enabled you don’t even need the +/- zoom buttons that we have seen on most other Android handsets.

The address bar is docked at the top of the page so you can scroll down and get it out of the way too. However you don’t need to scroll to the top every time you want to tap a new address – just press the menu button and bring it up anywhere on the page.

The Gratia browser also supports double tap zooming and text reflow, which make it extremely easy to read even longer texts on the phone display. Without text reflow you will either have to zoom out until the text fits (but then it’s too small to read comfortably) or scroll sideways to read each line.

The minimalist UI is still quite powerful – hit the menu key and six keys pop up. You can open a new tab, switch tabs, refresh the page, go forward, open bookmarks. The final button reveals even more options (text copying, find on page, etc.).

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Web browsing is a pleasurable experience on the HTC Gratia

The bookmark list shows a thumbnail view of the bookmarked pages and you get a “most visited” list in addition to the regular history.

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The bookmarks, Most visited and History lists • Switching between tabs

And to further sweeten the deal, HTC Gratia has Flash support in its web browser. The performance is far from spectacular but it’s better than nothing. You should definitely pick simpler Flash games, but it’s good at least those run just fine.

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Playing a Flash game in the browser • Flash content in full screen and landscape mode

Flash video support is also dodgy enough with the Gratia failing to open the Vimeo and Metacafe videos that we tried. YouTube works fine but it uses the preinstalled YouTube application so it doesn’t really count.

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The YouTube application

Mind you, the Android browser has support for HTML5 and its video tag but since that is a few years (at best) away from becoming the norm we won’t be crediting it with extra point on that account.

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