HTC Touch HD review: Windows almighty

GSMArena team, 28 November 2008.
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Surprising camera

What now seems a small step for the mobile industry proved a giant leap for HTC. Anyway, they are finally hitting the 5 megapixel scene and by the looks of it the wait may have been well worth it.

By the way, the 5MP breakthrough must have taken everyone at HTC by surprise. Or someone was so excited they forgot to fix the camera chapter of the standard Windows Mobile Help, which still claims the primary shooter is a 3.2 megapixel unit.

HTC Touch HD
The help page says the HD has a 3.2 MP camera on its back

Never mind the Help texts, HTC Touch HD has a 5 megapixel auto focus camera producing photos with a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels. The camera shoots only in landscape mode. It lacks a dedicated camera key so focusing and actual shooting are entrusted to the touchscreen.

Auto focus engages when you touch the shutter icon on the screen and then the handset proceeds to take the photo. It sounds quite inconvenient and in fact it is. This way you get little-to-no chance of deciding not to take a photo after focusing. A Shoot Option setting is there to give you somewhat better control of the situation. You can opt between Touch and Touch-and-Hold, the latter leaving you about a second or two to change your mind and not take the shot after focus is locked.

The HD camera lacks a flash, which basically renders night photography impossible.

Camera interface and features

The Touch HD doesn't use its whole display as a viewfinder and has a reserved space for the shutter icon to the right. Since the display aspect ratio is different from the aspect ratio of the camera sensor this is understandable. And with a display of this size the frame still remains more than clearly visible.

You will find though that the default setting for the viewfinder is a fullscreen view, which naturally leads to some sort of cropping - part of the image that's actually taken is not visible on the viewfinder when you shoot.

In terms of camera features, the HTC Touch HD isn't the best equipped 5MP camera we have seen. It still offers a self-timer, white balance presets, as well as color effects, and a viewfinder gridline. You can shoot images with the front-facing video-call camera too and there's some nice custom resolution setting for contacts' images.

The most interesting among its features is probably the touch focus which allows you to focus on any object in the frame by simply touching the display. While we aren't quite sure how useful it is in real life terms, the feature is quite well working, refocusing instantly and quite precisely.

By the way the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 has that same feature.

HTC Touch HD HTC Touch HD HTC Touch HD HTC Touch HD
The HTC Touch HD camera viewfinder and some of the available settings

Probably the biggest letdown, when it comes to features, is that the camera lacks geotagging. The third party remedy for this is already found but we still can't figure out why HTC saved themselves the effort.

With the Touch HD you can shoot macro images easily without changing modes or anything. Luckily the focusing is improved over what we saw in the Diamond and the Touch Pro. There are still a few shots where it failed to get proper focus but those were rare enough and not too badly missed either.

There is also a panorama mode that offers on-screen framing guidance. After all the individual shots for the pano are taken, the HD stitches the images automatically. The downside here is that in Panorama mode each individual image is shot at about 480 x 480 pixels. Plus, images aren't seamlessly stitched. Obviously, the Panorama mode is only ok if you intend to show your images on the handset display exclusively (which is exactly 480 pixels wide) with no further zooming.

Image quality

The image quality of HTC Touch HD is what caught us totally unprepared. Noise is kept well under control and the amount of resolved detail is high - the Touch HD beats down even Nokia N82 on both parameters. The reproduced colors aren't too precise though but on most occasions they were close enough. There is also no extreme oversharpening, but the sharpening levels are too high for our taste.

Impressed as we were by its initial results, we held an impromptu shootout between the HTC Touch HD, its main rival - the Samsung i900 Omnia and Nokia N82, which is one of the best 5MP shooters on the market.

Shootout Shootout Shootout
HTC Touch HD • Nokia N82 • Samsung i900 Omnia

Shootout Shootout Shootout
HTC Touch HD • Nokia N82 • Samsung i900 Omnia

Shootout Shootout Shootout
HTC Touch HD • Nokia N82 • Samsung i900 Omnia

Shootout Shootout Shootout
HTC Touch HD • Nokia N82 • Samsung i900 Omnia

The results came to confirm our first observations - the HD has the lowest amount of noise among the three contenders and has higher resolved detail than Nokia N82. The Omnia was hardly in the game at all - it got blown out of the water by both the the HD and N82.

Still, the Touch HD image quality is hardly flawless. When shooting high-contrast scenes with bright sun and harsh shadows, the advantage of Nokia N82 and even Samsung i900 Omnia becomes obvious. The HTC Touch HD is really short on dynamic range and its fuses blow off (eradicating detail and clipping the highlights on large portions of the image) each time you give it a tough contrasty scene.

So the HTC Touch HD camera is almost certain to fail capturing right your beach or snowy mountain shots.

Still, the camera performance of the Touch HD is a huge leap forward for the HTC. We are quite positive that this is the best camera on a Windows Mobile PocketPC we have seen so far. The Touch HD has confidently closed the gap between the very best in business.

Who knows - the way things are going maybe we'll have a WinMo contender in our next camera shootout!

Video

Unfortunately, the Touch HD video capturing capabilities are utterly unimpressive. All you get is CIF recording (352 x 288 pixel) at 30fps. It's not that bad: after all the VideoCD standard uses that resolution, but it's nowhere near what you would expect in a high-end smart device with ample processing power.

The interface of the camcorder resembles that of the still camera. You can only adjust white balance, resolution and brightness and add some color effects.

Here is a sample video produced by the Touch HD. It's an MPEG4 recording in CIF resolution at 30fps - what you see is what you get.

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