HTC Magic review: Practical magic

GSMArena team, 15 July 2009.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

3 megapixel camera gets improved

HTC Magic is equipped with a 3 megapixel autofocus camera with a maximum image resolution of 2048x1536 pixels. Missing any flash whatsoever strongly suggests that you better not count on it in low-light conditions. Knowing how things work in this business we would guess that the camera module is the same as in the T-Mobile G1 (or HTC Dream if you prefer). However some fine processing algorithm tuning has resulted in much better output this time.

The camera interface has gone through great changes since the first version of the Android OS. The all too simple iPhone-like application is now replaced by a much more functional one. Yet you still get the free of any overlay controls viewfinder by default that makes taking a photo as easy as pressing the trackball.

HTC Magic
Starting up the camera

Tapping the screen reveals the digital zoom bar on the left and the image gallery shortcut on the right while pressing the menu button brings up many more options. Five different options appear on a tab at the bottom of the screen with the sixth button leading to an advanced settings menu. There you can set the metering mode, sharpness, saturation and contrast of the photos and you can add a viewfinder gridline to assist you in your framing.

HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic
Camera user interface

The settings appearing on the viewfinder allow changing the capture mode (there's video this time too, you know), the image resolution, the white balance and the exposure. You can also activate a 2 or 10 second self-timer from there.

Strange enough there was no geo-tagging option on our HTC Magic. Given that this on one of the grand total of two options present on the G1 we don't quite get it why Google's R&D omitted it here.

Given the absence of a dedicated camera key on the HTC Magic you also have to use the trackball for taking a photo. This is certainly better than tapping the screen itself but it cannot match the usability of a dedicated two-stage camera key.

The HTC Magic image quality is rather good for a 3 MP shooter. As we already mentioned it pulls off better shots than the G1 used to, thanks to the more properly adjusted now white balance and image suppression algorithm.

The result is nice photos with pleasing colors and a good amount of resolved detail. Surely we have seen better but there's nothing too bad to say about the Dream photos either. There is no over sharpening or purple fringing and the dynamic range seems much better than that of the G1.

HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic
HTC Magic camera samples

Synthetic resolution

We also snapped our resolution chart with the HTC Magic. You can check out what that test is all about here.

HTC Magic HTC Magic
HTC Magic resolution chart photo • 100% crops

iPhone 3GS test chart iPhone 3GS test chart
Apple iPhone 3GS resolution chart photo • 100% crops

The HTC Magic matches the iPhone 3GS resolution, while at the same time producing cleaner, less-noisy photos. Notice that the noise that the iPhone has generated in each part of the color chart is much more than that of the Magic. The HTC has also handled the Grayscale better with more of the bars distinguishable than on the iPhone's photo.

Video recording makes an Android debut, fails to impress

Unlike the Android OS v1.0-running G1s, HTC Magic is capable of recording video too. The CIF resolution might not be a thing to brag about but it certainly is better than nothing. It took Apple 2 years to come up with VGA videos so we are guessing CIF in seven months isn't too bad of an achievement.

HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic
Camcorder user interface

The camcorder interface is almost identical to the still camera. It sports a setting for picking between MP4 and 3GP (H.263) encoding, which theoretically should give you the choice between smaller file and a higher-quality video. In practice the low resolution makes sure that the differences aren't really conceivable.

Connectivity duly covered

The HTC Magic like its predecessor - the G1 offers excellent all-round connectivity. The quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support guarantees that the handset will be capable of international roaming while the dual-band 3G ensures fast network data transfers. The 7.2Mbps HSDPA and 2Mbps HSUPA takes those speeds even further up.

One of the most convenient local connectivity options - Wi-Fi is also onboard. It's very easy to get running, with no need to dig through the menus or set various parameters. Just click on the desired network, type a password if needed and there you go.

Unfortunately Bluetooth connectivity is crippled in a way resembling the Apple iPhone's. It usage is only limited to headset support. The A2DP profile is good to have onboard but what we really would have liked is data transfer. Let's hope that this will receive its due attention with the next OS update.

The Magic also sport USB connectivity and has USB Mass storage mode support. Once you've connected the handset via the original cable, you should check your notifications area by sliding it down. You will find a USB connection notification there, allowing you to perform the additional task of mount your phone via USB. It's only then that your Magic will appear as a removable drive on your computer. Bear in mind that it will only mount the memory card slot, not the internal memory.

Unfortunately due to some legal issues Google had with T-Mobile, tethering has been disabled on the Android devices out-of-the-box. But one can still activate it through some tweaking.

Accessing the connectivity options can be done in two ways - you can either open the Main Menu and look up Wireless controls under Settings, or you can push the hardware menu button on the home screen and select Settings in the contextual menu. The second option is much more convenient when you have a long list of applications crowding the main menu and you don't want to scroll all the way down to get to the Settings icon.

HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic HTC Magic
The connectivity menu

Next Page »