HTC Salsa review: "Like" it or not

GSMArena team, 15 July 2011.
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Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

Unboxing the Salsa

The HTC Salsa comes in the usual small box, which has room only for the essentials. There’s a charger, which needs a standard microUSB data cable to connect to the phone. The said cable is, of course, included.

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The HTC Salsa retail package

There is also a headset with music controls. Unfortunately, it’s a single-piece unit, meaning you can’t replace the headphones with third-party kit without losing the remote functionality.

There is also 2GB worth of complimentary storage, safely tucked away in you phone's microSD card slot.

HTC Salsa 360-degree spin

To make room for the slightly bigger 3.4" screen, the HTC Salsa is just a tad taller than the Wildfire S. At 109.1 x 58.9 x 12.3 mm, it is still fairly compact and smaller actually in real life than it appears on the pictures.

120g give the HTC Salsa quite a bit of heft - well within reasonable limits for a unibody phone of such solid build. As a reference, the all-plastic Wildfire S weighs 105g.

Design and construction

The Salsa has HTC written all over it, from the unibody styling to the subtle chin. A lot of design ideas are being reused here, the Salsa looking a cross between the Wildfire S and the Desires S. In fact, the Salsa does fit right in the middle in terms of both screen size and clock speed too.

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HTC Salsa • the Salsa next to an iPhone and HTC ChaCha

We're having the pleasure of a lilac Salsa. Our Wildfire S test unit had the same paintjob, which we're not particularly impressed with. It's certain though it's meant for a different demographic. Other than that, the HTC Salsa will be available in black and silver too.

The front of the Sasla is dominated by a 3.4” capacitive touchscreen of HVGA (320x480) resolution. It’s a reasonably bright LCD unit that you can fully enjoy only by turning off the auto brightness and pumping it all the way up. The smallish screen is quite reflective (maybe not as much as the Wildfire S screen) – making it uncomfortable to use outdoors. It gets smudgy very quickly too, which doesn't help its outdoor performance either.

The Salsa seems to have better viewing angles than the Wildfire S - the colors do get washed out at some point but it's not as critical as in the Wildfire S.

As to screen sensitivity, the Salsa performs just as you would expect a capacitive unit. The gentlest of taps do the trick.

And here come the results of our now traditional display brightness and contrast test. Deep blacks are not the Salsa's strength and while the brightness levels are OK, the contrast ratios aren’t impressive.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC ChaCha 0.36 283 785 0.61 559 923
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 0 263 0 395
HTC Wildfire S 0.43 256 603 0.76 314 414
HTC Salsa 0.26 167 653 0.52 309 593
HTC Incredible S 0.18 162 908 0.31 275 880

Moving on, there is a small video-call camera between the earpiece and the display - an important upgrade over the Wildfire S. There are also a couple of hidden sensors nearby – one for proximity and another one for ambient light.

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Earpiece, secondary camera and a couple of sensors above the screen

Underneath the screen, we find four capacitive keys. The haptic enabled controls are well spaced and quite responsive. Plus, the transition from the touchscreen is seamless.

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The capacitive controls and the Facebook key

The keys (Home, Menu, back and search) have extra functionality upon a long-press (task switcher, voice search).

Further down, on the understated chin, is the same Facebook button we saw in the HTC ChaCha. On the homescreen, the Facebook button will let you quickly post to your wall upon a short press or let you check in with Facebook Places upon a press-and-hold.

Inside an app, the button will try and post whatever it is you are looking at to your wall. So if you want to share a photo or an album that would be as simple as opening them in the gallery and hitting the Facebook button.

The long and thin volume rocker and the unprotected microUSB port are on the phone’s left side.

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The volume rocker and the microUSB port on the left

Surprisingly, the right side of the smartphone has a control that's not too common for HTC droids - a dedicated camera key. Even better - it's big and has a textured surface but what brings it close to perfection is its impressive press feedback. The silky half-press and solid full press are near digicam grade.

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The dedicated camera key is on the right

At the top we find the 3.5mm audio jack and the Power/Lock key.

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There’s a standard 3.5mm audio jack and a power/screen lock key on top

As usual, at the bottom of the phone, you will see the mouthpiece.

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The microphone pinhole is located on the sloped bottom

The back of the HTC Salsa features the 5 megapixel camera lens and the small loudspeaker grill. There is also a tiny LED flash but, you know, you shouldn’t get your hopes too high for low-light photography.

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The camera lens is flanked by the LED flash and the loudspeaker grill

The rear plate looks like patchwork and we're not sure we quite like it. It's metal for the most part, with bits of soft rubbery plastic either end. The thing is, the upper one has different colors: the lens and LED flash are within a piece of lighter colored plastic that of the loudspeaker.

The bottom piece, the same darker hue as the loudspeaker portion, is the actual battery cover. To access the microSD slot you need to slide it open. Underneath there's a lock that secures the battery. If you undo it, there’s nothing to keep the battery in place so you need to prop it with a finger if you don't want to turn the phone off. If you're careful enough you'd be able to eject/insert your memory card but it's not exactly a textbook example of hot-swap.

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Gaining access to the battery is harder than usual

The 1520mAh battery inside the HTC Salsa is quoted at up to 445 hours of stand-by or up to 9 hours of talk time. In real life, it does pretty well. Our Salsa stayed on for almost two full days of heavy use: connected to a Wi-Fi network the entire time (quite a bit of web browsing, the usual set of photos, a few minutes of calls, a few levels of Angry Birds and fiddling with the interface and testing the rest of the apps).

The HTC Salsa is a well built and reasonably compact smartphone. It's got a bigger screen than the Wildfire S and metal unibody over plastic. We had no issues with the overall handling and ergonomics, the shutter key being an absolute high point. The reflective and fingerprint-prone screen is the only thing we'd warn users about.

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The HTC Salsa felt nice in our hands

We now move on to the software part of this review. Starting on the next page, we're going to look into the nuts and bolts of the latest Sense-skinned Gingerbread Android.

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