HTC Magic review: Practical magic

GSMArena team, 15 July 2009.
Pages: 1234567891011

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Design and construction (continued)

The deck below the display accommodates the trackball and 6 regular press keys. That's quite a count in touchscreen terms but we don't really mind having them onboard. What we do mind however is their smallish size, which compromises usability if you have larger fingers. The tiny knobs have a rather short stroke too but are quite responsive to the gentlest of presses.

The menu key actually launches a contextual mini set of options while the main menu is handled exclusively via the touchscreen. The Home and Back buttons need little introduction. The Search knob is the difference from the G1 / HTC Dream. The Send and End keys are positioned lower, their size and elevation nicely setting them apart from the other controls on the keyboard.

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Six keys and a trackball below the screen

Pressing the End key turns the screen off and locks it and to unlock you'll need to use the menu key instead.

Trackball navigation is certainly one of our favorites. It might not be as usable as a D-pad for gaming but at its full-time job it's quick, intuitive and generally excellent. The trackball implementation on the Magic is very good, even coming close to the BlackBerry devices. Of course, it would've been even better to have adjustable trackball speed like on the Canadians.

The other thing to note about the trackball is it gets heavily used in camera mode. While it's absolutely pleasing in zoom control, its service as a shutter key is questionable. The thing is there's no way for it to accommodate half-press for autofocus. So, once you've framed and locked focus you can't skip the shot.

The sides of the HTC Magic are almost as plain as they get, the volume rocker the only control to note. It's way too narrow and even though it looks quite slick, it does need some time getting used to.

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A single control on the sides of the HTC Magic

The top of the Magic is completely bereft of controls.

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There's nothing of interest at the top either

The miniUSB port is located at the bottom of the HTC Magic. Since there is no dedicated audio jack onboard this is also where the headset/handsfree plugs in. Unlike the Dream, HTC Magic slot has no protective lid over it. That makes it vulnerable to dust unless you make a habit of using the carrying case.

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The miniUSB port is at the bottom

The back side of the handsets is where the 3 megapixel autofocus camera is located, as well as the loudspeaker grill. There is no flash of any kind, suggesting that low-light photography isn't really something you can expect from the Magic. The loudspeaker shares a berth with the lens, lying beneath a fine mesh at the top of the brushed metal plate at the top of the rear.

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The backside of the Magic

Under the battery cover lays the large 1340 mAh Li-Ion battery, which powers the Magic. Its performance is pretty decent, keeping the handset alive for a day and a half under some pretty extensive usage (half an hour of telephony, two hours of browsing over Wi-Fi, half an hour of music playback and a couple of hours of exploring the rest of the phone features).

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The handset draws its power from a pretty large battery

The other thing of interest under the hood is the microSD card slot. Even though you will have to remove the cover every time you access it, the slot is hot-swap enabled so you don't have to power off the Magic to switch cards. Also, we are pretty pleased to see that the HTC Magic has no problem handling 16GB microSD cards, which is the largest capacity currently available on the market.

The build quality of the HTC Magic is excellent, the plastic used looking quite durable. The white casing looks outgoing and very stylish too. Whether or not the hardware QWERTY keyboard of the HTC Dream will be badly missed, we do appreciate the nice and smooth hand feel. The Magic is a touchscreen of very friendly size and distinct face.

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The HTC Magic is a pleasure to handle and look at

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