HTC HD7 review: Dim the lights
A decent 5MP camera
The HTC HD7 has a 5MP autofocus camera with dual-LED flash that snaps photos with maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels.
The camera UI is pretty simple – you have your viewfinder and some controls on the right. From top to bottom they are the still/video camera toggle, virtual zoom buttons and an extended settings menu.
A handy trick for checking out the last few photos is that a side slide to the right opens the last picture shot and a slide to the left brings back the camera's live view instantly.
The extended settings menu offers control over resolution, metering mode and flicker adjustment and also effects (fewer than the Photo Enhancer effects) and also Scenes presets.
The shutter key is not particularly comfortable. It’s too near the center of the right side of the HD7, so you can’t hold the phone by both ends and reach the shutter. You have to move your right hand to the left and obscure a part of the viewfinder or use some other awkward solution.
The good thing is the shutter key can wake the phone with a single press – that is unlock it and start the camera. But that feature cleverly doesn’t trigger if there’s something in front of the proximity sensor – like the insides of your pocket or purse.
The camera performance is noticeably better than the Trophy camera but that’s not saying much. The noise levels are lower and there’s less work for the noise reduction, so there’s a decent amount of detail left in the photo. There’s still some smearing though and oversharpening artifacts too. Color balance tended towards yellow too (but it’s how Joe Public prefers it).
Here are some camera samples so you can judge yourself.
The dual-LED flash is good at short distances and you can even try shooting at medium distances. Low-light shooting is hindered by how the flash works – it doesn’t light up when the phone is focusing (even in complete darkness) and only fires when taking the photo. The camera managed to focus most of the time with just this one flash but you’ll have a very tough time framing the photo.
And here’s a 720p video sample from our new test setup. Pay attention to the second half of the video where we lower the light to show you how the the camcorder performs in more challenging conditions.
Photo quality comparison
We’ve also added the HTC HD7 to the database of our Photo Compare Tool. The Tool’s page has a quick how to guide and also what to look for.
HTC HD7 in the Photo Compare Tool
Video camera does 720p
The video camera interface is identical to the still camera one and has plenty of features too. You can calibrate contrast, saturation and sharpness, change the white balance or exposure compensation and also add image effects. You can use the two LEDs as a video light too.
You can record in three resolutions: QVGA, VGA or 720p. The camera defaults to VGA, which is frustrating – if you forget to set it to 720p, the videos you thought were shot in HD will be at the much less impressive VGA resolution.
The video recorder does a decent job. There’s not much fine detail in the frames though and we suspect upscaling might have a role to play (note the jaggies on the thin branches). There is a slight stutter when things start moving too fast as well.
Here's an HTC HD7 video sample: 720p@25fps.
Video quality comparison
The HTC HD7 was also included in our Video Compare Tool database. Check it out – the tool’s page includes a quick walkthrough on how to use it and what to look for.
Connectivity lacks Mass storage unless you hack it
The HTC HD7 has quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support and dual-band 3G with HSPA (7.2Mbps downlink and 2Mbps uplink).
The local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP. Bluetooth is currently limited as to what it can do – there’s no file transfer support.
Syncing with a computer is done with the Zune computer application. It’s the only way to transfer files directly between your computer and your HD7 – Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support Mass storage mode. Zune supports syncing over USB and Wi-Fi. There’s a Mac version of Zune in the works too. You can check our detailed review of the Zune software here.
There is a registry hack that enables Mass storage, which is relatively easy (you need to change 3 values in the registry) and since the WP7 internal folder structure is fairly straightforward you can easily browse for content. Anything you put on it, won’t be recognized by the phone itself.
Another syncing option is the cloud. SkyDrive is a free Microsoft service that gives you 25GB of cloud storage. You can even have your photos automatically uploaded as soon as you snap them.
Great browsing experience would have been better with Silverlight
Internet Explorer on Windows Phone 7 is the best mobile IE yet. But that doesn’t do it justice – it’s actually a huge leap forward compared to version 6. Coupled with the big screen of the HTC HD7, it will make you think twice before buying a tablet.
Page rendering is perfect and fast, as are panning and scrolling. For zoom, you have double tap and pinch zoom. As an extra guide for navigation there’s the Find on page option. Flipping the phone in landscape orientation clears the onscreen controls and gives the whole screen to the webpage.
The browser can handle up to 6 tabs open at once. It’s a reasonable limit for a mobile device, but tab-lovers might be disappointed. Anyway, even with 6 tabs open the HTC HD7 zipped through webpages.
History and favorites are supported and you can even pin a favorite site to the homescreen. Another handy option is to let Bing suggest sites as you type in the URL and Internet Explorer will also suggest sites from the history.
There are some things missing though – Flash is one, but we were at least hoping for Silverlight, which didn’t work either. Saving files is problematic too – you can only save files that the OS can handle. Text reflow is another feature we missed – if you zoom in as much as possible to make fonts readable, you’ll have to pan left and right to read the text.
YouTube is obviously not supported and the current YouTube app is just a bookmark and nothing more. There are alternative browsers in the Marketplace but they still use IE for rendering (so they don’t have Flash or Silverlight either).
The 4.3” WVGA screen of the HD7 and its siblings (HD2, EVO 4G, Desire HD) is currently the biggest screen on a device that can be called a phone. The advantage is two-fold: you can zoom out to fit the entire page without the text getting too small (so you can read comfortably) and interactions are easy – no more hunting for that tiny link.