HTC HD7 review: Dim the lights

GSMArena team, 1 December 2010.

HTC HD7 unboxing

The retail box of the HTC HD7 has pretty standard contents: a USB charger and a standard microUSB cable. There’s a one-piece headset with music controls and a manual on both mini-CD and in paper-copy. The supplied headphones aren't your only option – the HD7 has a 3.5mm audio jack.

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The HTC HD7 unboxed

HTC HD7 360-degree spin

We guess we just need to say it again. Although it looks like a screen this size has raised usability questions, the phone is perfectly manageable – and the use of space deserves credit. The bezel around the screen is remarkably thin and the slim waistline does well to make the height and width of the handset acceptable.

The HD7 measures at 122 x 68 x 11.2 mm and weighs 162 grams – we’ve been there already with the Desire HD. This is by no mans a small phone but the screen estate you get is worth it. Not least, it’s the traditional solid build we’ve come to expect form HTC.

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The HTC HD7 next to the LG Optimus 7, the HTC 7 Mozart and Apple iPhone 4

Design and construction

It is a big and heavy phone but one that feels solid and durable. The screen? Well, any bigger and we’re talking tablet. The best thing – and that’s no news by now – the whole package handles comfortably enough. So let’s skip right to the kickstand – after all, it’s what makes the difference from the HD2 and the Desire HD.

To begin with, it’s the only piece of metal on the phone – tipping the scales at 162g already, we don’t think any more is needed. The kickstand is another example of good use of space no the HTC HD7. It folds nicely around the camera deck at the rear. The whole thing has ornamental value too. The chrome kickstand is a nice accent matched by a thin strip further down the rear.

The camera deck itself (housing the lens, dual LEDs and loudspeaker) is flashy yellow – the same color we’ve seen on the internals of some recent HTC phones. With the kickstand folded into place, very little of it is visible – only enough to be a discreet accent. The matt plastic at the rear is reasonably fingerprint-proof.

It’s nearly all-screen up front and it looks good. That’s in terms of sheer size though it isn’t great to look at – for image quality. It’s a regular LCD but that’s not what we’re complaining about.

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HTC HD7

To start on a positive note, we have no issues with sensitivity – the capacitive unit has great response and silky smooth, precise performance. Watching videos and browsing, and reading text, are all nice and comfortable on a screen that size and resolution. The viewing angles and sunlight legibility are passable.

It’s the subpar contrast, subdued saturation and surprisingly weak brightness that we’re not happy with. The screen falls obviously short of Super AMOLEDs and the iPhone’s LCD – no doubt about that. But it’s also certain that the image quality is inferior to that of phones like the LG Optimus 7 and even the very own HTC Trophy.

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The HD7 screen is no match for Super AMOLED

And as if this is not enough – the HD7’s screen has another problem. Its response time is really poor and that’s most prominent when scrolling listed menus. You’ll notice it in the launcher where some kind of ghosting causes the text labels of the menu items to fade away while you scroll. The same happens elsewhere in the interface where you need to deal with lists. Quite surprisingly, this is less noticeable in the browser (as you’re scrolling or zooming in on text) or the image gallery. That’s what counts after all, but the unpleasant effect in the main menu (and video player, too) is nevertheless hard to ignore.

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The HTC HD7 screen is generally unimpressive

Above and below the display glass there are two long and thin grills which can easily be mistaken for stereo speakers. They’re not – we regret to say. They have no purpose at all other than getting annoying amounts of dust – which is nearly impossible to clean at that.

Above the display you will only find the earpiece and a status LED, as well as ambient light and proximity sensors, all embedded beneath the grill. .

Underneath the screen we find the typical Windows Phone 7 controls – Back, Start and Search. They’re all capacitive keys with excellent sensitivity and haptic feedback. Pressing and holding the middle Start key will activate Voice Commands.

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The two useless grills at the top and the bottom plus some of the typical controls

The right-hand side of the device hosts the volume rocker and the dedicated camera key. The volume rocker is a thin button that’s quite stiff and with such low stroke there’s almost no confirmation of a press being registered.

The dedicated camera key is also small and thin, but its feedback is much better. It has a different problem though. Because of the peculiar design of the rear panel, the shutter key is closer to the middle than it should be. Being away from the natural position of the index finger – in landscape hold – it’s hard to reach and press comfortably.

There is nothing of note on the left side.

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The volume rocker and the camera key are on the right • the left side is empty

The only thing to at the top is the Power/Lock key, which is thin but prominent enough.

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Power/Lock key on top

The bottom part of the phone features the microUSB port, the mouthpiece and the 3.5mm audio jack.

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The 3.5mm standard audio jack, the microUSB port and the microphone pinhole are all at the bottom

At the rear of the HTC HD7 is the 5 megapixel camera lens, stuck between the loudspeaker grill and the dual LED flash.

The camera lens is centrally placed and it’s still the natural place for your index finger to rest when holding the phone during calls. There’s no lens protection – except for a slight embedding – even carrying it in your pocket you risk getting it scratched.

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The camera lens between the loudspeaker grill and the dual LED flash

There are only two positions for the kickstand and you can’t fix it between fully-open and folded. It’s spring-assisted and generally provides solid enough support for the phone. The thing is, the lack of front-facing loudspeakers is felt when you use the kickstand.

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The kickstand is a nice accent, and does the job too

Removing the battery cover reveals the SIM bed and the 1230 mAh battery. It is quoted at 320 hours of stand-by and five hours and twenty minutes of talks in a 3G network.

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The 1230 mAh Li-Ion battery

The HD7 is a solid and generally well-built phone. Most of the HD7 is high quality matt black plastic, but there is some metal too – on the kickstand, which doubles as a camera plating. Good use of space make the otherwise big set comfortable enough to handle.

The screen size is an obvious advantage – though it’s not necessarily how you might feel about it. We think HTC did a great job of building the phone around the 4.3” screen but failed miserably in picking a decent screen in the first place. If you’re uncertain, the best thing would be to give the phone a try before buying it. And make sure you like what you see – the image quality issues are so easily noticeable that it made us even wonder if it’s not our unit to blame though we snatched it off the retail network.

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The HTC HD7 is a handful

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