HTC Legend review: A Hero becomes a Legend

GSMArena team, 24 March 2010.
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Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Few surprises in the box

The retail package of the HTC Legend is pretty much the same as the one the Hero came in. It packs the essentials plus a couple of minor perks – a 2GB microSD and a one-piece headset with music controls.

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Some nice stuff in the box

The package also includes a microUSB cable, a charger that uses the USB cable to connect to the phone and the plug part is changeable (though the package arrives with only one plug, but plugs for other sockets are available on the Internet).

There are paper manuals too of course, plus a mini CD, though that just has more manuals. The HTC Sync software is preloaded on the microSD card in the phone.

The headset uses the standard 3.5 mm audio jack, so you can use your own instead, but this one is pretty nice, it has additional music buttons – the call button doubles as a play/pause button and there are previous and next track buttons that can be used to fast forward and rewind too.

HTC Legend 360-degree spin

The HTC Legend is the heir apparent of the Hero, but we won’t be doing it justice if we neglected to mention that the Legend is the handsome younger brother of the Hero. The chin that goes back as far as the granddaddy of them all, the T-Mobile G1, has been straightened out, which combined with the thinner frame of the Legend, makes it more pocket friendly.

At 112 x 56.3 x 11.5 mm, the HTC Legend is compact in the age of 4” touchscreens, but isn’t the tiniest of smartphones. Its weight of 126 grams gives it an extra solid feel, though it doesn’t feel heavy.

Design and construction

The HTC Legend preaches industrial design – it’s a work of art as much as it is a work of precision engineering. For example, the chin that we mentioned several times even in its current, less pronounced state makes the Legend comfortable to with just three fingers.

It also lifts the phone a little when it’s placed face down, which keeps the screen from rubbing against the table surface.

The frame of the HTC Legend was milled out of a single piece of aluminum – in fact, back at the MWC, the HTC booth had a display that showcased several of the stages that piece of aluminum went through.

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The final stage of the transformation from a piece of metal to an awesome phone body

The white HTC Hero had a special Teflon coating that fended off fingerprints and dirt. The Legend doesn’t have that perk, but the aluminum is very good at staving off fingerprints on its own.

Some of the other choices of materials we’re not quite so fond of, but we’ll get to that. For now, let’s direct our attention to the screen.

The HTC Legend has a 3.2” HVGA (320 x 480 pixels) touchscreen, which sounds very much like the one on the Hero. But there’s quite a difference however.

First off, it’s an AMOLED screen versus the TFT screen of the Hero. And second, partially because of the newer OS, partially because of the different screen, but the Legend screen can show up to 16M colors (for the Hero that number is just 64K).

Putting the Hero and the Legend side to side two things are immediately noticeable – the Hero’s screen is brighter, but the Legend’s screen has darker blacks. This is the usual situation when putting TFT and AMOLED head to head.

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The screen on the HTC Legend vs. HTC Hero and Apple iPhone

Also usual is the disappointing sunlight performance – this time in TFT’s favor. On a sunny day you’d be able to make out most things on the AMOLED screen but under direct sunlight it’s a struggle.

HVGA is a good enough resolution for a 3.2” screen and the image is crisp. The viewing angles are pretty good too.

There’s a relatively thin glossy-black bevel around the screen. That bevel is one of the materials we don’t quite like on the Legend. The HTC Hero had a glossy-black bevel too, but that was surrounded by brushed aluminum on which the hardware keys laid.

Here, those keys are made of the same plastic and looks cheap. HTC chose physical, pressable buttons over touch-sensitive ones, which usually have poor feedback (or none at all).

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The Android buttons and the optical “trackball”

The trackball was changed in the opposite direction – it went from a trackball to an optical trackpad (though HTC call it an optical trackball). It’s flat and unobtrusive and while not as easy to use as an actual trackball, it’s still convenient. But Android can easily be navigated without either of those two.

To complete the tour of the front of the HTC Legend, we’ll visit the earpiece at the top center of the device and the nearly invisible proximity and ambient light sensors to its right. You may notice, there’s no sign of a videcall camera. But for all we know, videocalling may as well be out of the reach of Android as a platform.

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The earpiece and the ambient light and proximity sensors are on top

The sides of the Legend are pretty neat. The right side is completely bare (there is no shutter key), and the left houses just the volume rocker.

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The left and right sides are very clean

By comparison, the top is almost crowded with its two elements – the power/lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom, which is plastic rather than aluminum (more on why later) has the microUSB port, the mic pinhole and the lanyard eyelet.

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The top and bottom of the HTC Legend

The 5 megapixel camera is on the back accompanied by an LED flash to boost low light performance. The camera doesn't have any lens cover either, so you better keep an eye on it or it will scratch in no time.

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The camera, flash and the loudspeaker are on the back

The camera and the flash placed on a strip of black rubbery plastic, which is punctured by little holes – the holes on the left are for the loudspeaker, while the rest are just decorative.

This rubbery plastic appears cheap and isn’t our favorite material, but aluminum can be slippery so this strip and the one on the bottom provide important points of grip.

The bottom strip of plastic acts as the “battery cover”. To get to the battery, you slide it down to remove it, and then open a plastic flap. To get the battery out, you put the phone upright and the battery slides out.

The HTC Legend packs a pretty large 1300 mAh battery that the manufacturer quotes to last for 440 hours of stand-by or 7 hours of talk time in 2G networks. When using 3G the stand-by should theoretically be up to 560 hours, while talk-time drops to 6 hours and 10 minutes.

In reality the battery life of the HTC Legend is about two days under slightly heavier than average usage. That would include about 20 minutes of talk time over 3G, an hour of browsing through Wi-Fi and about two hours of fiddling with the other apps(most of which require Wi-Fi internet access as well) per day.

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Getting to the microSD card is quite hard

Unfortunately, the SIM card and microSD card compartments are just below the battery, which makes pushing the cards all the way in quite a challenge. And you can forget about hot-swapping the microSD card – chances are the battery will slide out before you manage to reach the microSD card with your nail.

This is quite a cumbersome solution dictated by the unibody design, but hopefully you won’t have to change cards too often.

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HTC Legend in the hand

The HTC Legend feels rock-solid in the hand, the back is smooth and comfortable to hold, while the edge around the screen is just sharp enough to remind you it’s made of metal.

The weight adds to the feel of solidity without being too heavy. The chin and the grippy plastic make it comfortable to hold even with a few fingers at the bottom.

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Size comparison: Apple iPhone vs. HTC Legend vs. HTC Hero

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