HTC Touch HD review: Windows almighty

GSMArena team, 28 November 2008.
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Out of the box

Remember the Touch Diamond truncated pyramid-shaped box? Well, the HTC Touch HD retail box goes a completely different way - made of cardboard, the rectangular box is as simple as it gets. When you lift the cover you will see the phone waiting for you.

The mid section of the box beneath contains all the stuff - a nice looking wired headset (like the Diamond's), standard USB cable, a two-piece charger, which uses the USB cable itself to connect the handset to the plug.

The other extras are a spare stylus, an 8 GB microSD card and a carrying case made of polar-fleece-like fabric. At the bottom is the rest of the box contents - a screen protector on top, two discs, quick user guide and a bunch of brochures.

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The simple Touch HD retail box and its contents

HTC Touch HD 360-degree spin

The HTC Touch HD stands at 115 x 62.8 x 12 mm and weighs 146 grams. It's a nicely slim device but of robust width and weight. The gorgeous 3.8" display is the best payback though.

Design and construction

Full touch operation doesn't leave too much room for design creativity and the iPhone styling is pretty much the standard. That said, the Touch HD somehow comes out bulkier than Apple's handset, which is more notable in reality than the numerical difference in size suggests.

The HTC Touch HD still has a very pleasant design with rounded corners and polished looks. Edges on both the front and the rear are sloping, which makes the phone very ergonomic and pleasant to hold. The back panel has a soft rubbery finish for a secure non-slip grip and is immune to fingerprints.

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HTC Touch HD has a really pleasant design

The front in contrast, which is almost entirely taken by the quality display, leaves an ample space for fingerprint smudges. The 3.8" display just needs to be scratch-resistant, though there is no word of this on the HTC site. The unpleasant memories of the Diamond still hold - its display was said to be scratch-proof but even the stylus used to inflict scratches, not to mention the usual phone handling.

We've been hearing many reports that the black gloss paint surrounding the display is prone to chipping and flaking after short periods of use. After we had our Touch Diamond plastic key surface flaking in only three months time, we don't find the HD complaints too hard to believe.

The screen of the HTC Touch is absolutely fabulous. Better yet, compared to other WinMo devices, touch operation is utterly smooth - the lightest touch will do, with sensitivity seemingly as good as with the Diamond. Of course the graphical elements on the Touch HD are scaled so they occupy more physical space and in result single-handed thumb operation is a breeze.

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The front is all display • Touch HD screen in the dark

There are only a handful of controls on the body. Four touch-sensitive keys are placed below the display (two receiver keys, Home key and Back key). Each press on them has vibration feedback and using them is surprisingly in coherence with touchscreen display. The disparity between touch-sensitive and analogue controls on one single phone is now gone providing for an excellent user experience.

Unfortunately there is no D-pad here - or even a touch-sensitive scroll wheel. While the iPhone can get away with that, we have our doubts about Windows Mobile usability without a directional navigation solution.

Above the screen, the HTC logo and the secondary video-call camera are flanking the earpiece grill, which accommodates the proximity sensor too.

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The four touch sensitive controls • Earpiece grill and video-call camera

The bottom part of the phone hosts the USB port, the microphone pinhole and a stylus compartment in the lower right corner. Much like on the Touch Diamond, the stylus is active and magnetic action helps keeping it in place.

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At the bottom we found the USB port, mic pinhole and stylus compartment

At the top are the slim power key and the standard 3.5 mm audio jack. The jack nest sticks out a bit to create a palpable bulge at the top. Now probably the first thing you'll notice about the power key is that it's really hard to press it as it doesn't protrude at all.

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Power key and audio jack topside

The volume rocker is on the left side of the body and that pretty much sums up the available controls on the Touch HD, as the right side is pretty bare.

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Left and right side views of the Touch HD

At the back of the HTC Touch HD is the 5 megapixel camera lens, nestled within a bulging brushed metal plate. Somewhat hard to notice, the tiny loudspeaker grill is discreetly bordering on the left side of the brushed metal plate. There is no LED flash, but that's not a big waste.

As we see it, the more serious issue is the lack of a dedicated camera shutter key.

The implementation of the touch operated shutter in HTC Touch HD strongly reminds us of the much criticized iPhone camera, where the lack of a hardware shutter key made third-party developers work hard to reassign the function to some of the other hardware keys - such as the volume rocker.

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The 5 megapixel camera lacks flash and a dedicated shutter key

Removing the back cover doesn't really reveal much of the handset except the fact that HTC have put the reset pinhole there hidden away from easy access. You don't have to remove the battery to access it but still it doesn't seem the best solution from a usability point of view.

The microSD card slot is also under the rear cover but luckily, it's accessible without removing the battery itself. So as it seems, future Touch HD users will have a fair deal of rear panel handling.

The standard Li-Ion battery with capacity of 1350 mAh ensures about 2 day of intensive usage of the Touch HD, which is a decent achievement having in mind the 3.8" display.

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The red reset key and memory card slot under the battery cover

With almost the same dimensions as Apple iPhone 3G, the Touch HD feels and handles well but singlehanded operation is not as comfortable as the iPhone icon homescreen layout.

What should be noted though is that for the first time on a WinMo device the stylus is almost entirely redundant - the massive Touch HD screen and enlarged UI graphics allow for a hassle-free thumb scrolling and selection across menus and settings.

The soft rubbery texture at the rear provides a pleasant and secure grip and the weight of the handset is hardly a burden. A styling that's obviously more conservative than iPhone is surely to be appreciated by many users.

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HTC Touch HD in hand

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