HTC Touch HD review: Windows almighty

GSMArena team, 28 November 2008.
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Software (don't worry Teeter is here)

Much like the Diamond and the Touch Pro, HTC Touch HD comes loaded with plenty of extra applications that extend the functionality of the handset. It's got regular stuff such as the RSS Reader and Streaming Media manager, but it has some really original applications to go along.

First of all, it's nice of HTC to have preinstalled a great Task Manager on the HD. Both nicely looking and convenient it is available at the TouchFLO homescreen top right corner. It is also accessible through the settings menu if you prefer to access it that way.

HTC Touch HD
The HD task manager is available on the TouchFLO homescreen

The RSS Hub app is an RSS reader for staying abreast of the latest news and content at your favorite web places. The Streaming Media manager allows access to custom sources of streaming audio and video.

HTC Touch HD HTC Touch HD
The RSS Hub reader • the Streaming Media manager

HTC Touch HD also ships with the MP3 Trimmer app. It allows you to crop MP3 tracks to make your own ringtones. Another goodie is the Remote Desktop Mobile client. It allows you to connect remotely to any Windows-based computer. It's a really handy feature that - if you ask us - should come preinstalled on all PocketPCs.

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MP3 trimmer for making your own ringtones • the Remote Desktop grants remote PC access

Undoubtedly, one of the most impressive parts of the HD software is the Teeter game, which puts the built-in accelerometer to good use. If you are an upgrader from the HTC Touch Diamond you are probably already familiar with it but on this screen the game is all the more impressive.

The game itself consists of navigating a ball around a maze of holes. Teeter easily impresses with its polished graphics and the handset even produces well-balanced vibrations each time your ball hits the walls of the maze.

HTC Touch HD
The Teeter game is highly amusing and life-like

And finally, kudos to HTC for the excellent YouTube client, which offers a fluid and excellent looking interface - even better than the one on iPhone.

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The Diamond YouTube client • video quality settings

Third-party application support seems wide with the very start of the HD sales and we suspect that it will get excellent in a few months time when most application developers add the WVGA resolution support. For the time being you can check out the following app compatibility list for the Touch HD. Bear in mind that it's a user contributed list and is by no means exhaustive.

GPS navigation

The HTC Touch HD features a built-in GPS receiver - it's the Qualcomm gpsOne chipset, which comes along with the 7201A platform. It's the same chipset used in earlier HTC models such as the Diamond and the Touch Pro.

The HD also supports the Assisted-GPS technology, commonly known as A-GPS. It means you can download current satellite data over Wi-Fi or the 2G/3G network for a much faster satellite lock.

HTC Touch HD
The HD A-GPS data download manager

The Touch HD doesn't have a GPS navigation application pre-installed, so you have to purchase one separately. With a dedicated GPS app installed, the handset can easily replace your dedicated GPS navigation unit thanks to the large screen estate. Given the huge pixel count, a lot more of the map gets displayed on screen at the same zoom level.

Chipset sensitivity of the HTC Touch HD seems to be on the faster side when it comes to getting an initial satellite lock.

Tweaks & Modding

And we've finally reach the real fun part of this review - at least for us, that is. PocketPCs have long been the target of custom modding, patching and tweaking. HTC for one have an especially wide and busy fan base that seems to be constantly poking and prodding for a new twist to their gear.

So, the HTC Touch HD review would not be complete without mentioning some of the achievements on the user customization and modding scene.

First of all, it's the screen auto rotation limitations that HTC have imposed on the Touch HD. By default, screen auto rotation only works in the web browser, image gallery and video player.

The Gyrator app, which works on the Touch Diamond the Touch Pro just as well, enables the automatic screen rotation for the Touch HD almost all across the interface - except for the Home screen. An added bonus is that you can set specific system or app events to be triggered in reponse to the handset movement. For example, you can answer a call by simply picking up the handset.

Unfortunately, the HTC dialer doesn't seem to work correctly in landscape mode.

You can find more about Gyrator and download the latest version over at its developer's website.

Here's a link to various videos displaying it in action.

There is also a whole list of other customizable options that require you to edit the Windows Mobile system registry.

For example, you can set the HD to wake up on an incoming SMS, enable geotagging, or unlock hidden camera modes, such as Burst or Sport. You can also control stuff like TouchFLO scroll speed or the turn-over-to-mute feature.

The list is long and it keeps growing, as more users give in to the Touch HD allure and keenly mess around with its system settings. A nice starting point is this article.

However, in case you feel anxious about messing with the system registry, you can find most of the currently available tweaks among the options of the Advanced Configuration Tool (or simply the Advanced Config). This is a third-party tweaking app that is now compatible with Touch HD just as it was with the Touch Diamond. It allows easier tweaking of most without registry edits whatsoever. You can learn more about it and download it here.

Final words

The HTC Touch HD is guaranteed to change the way people think of Windows Mobile. It is a bold and confident step, taking full advantage of all the hardware and software strengths and a worthy effort of addressing the weaknesses.

There are still quite a number of performance issues but the problems of Windows OS are far too deep to disappear overnight. Still, if modding and tweaking is your game, you can fix quite a lot of the issues that come out of the box.

But while this certainly isn't a flawless phone, the results are impressive indeed. The multimedia power of the HD is immense, and only a touch away on that huge screen. The high-resolution camera and the tons of software available, make the HD a truly attractive package. And with looks like those - what more can you possibly want in a phone.

The great response and sweet thumb-optimized handling are remarkable (in WinMo terms) but that's hardly an achievement of the Touch HD alone. The company's headliner is the cutting edge of a consistent effort that started back with the HTC Touch and went sky-high with the Diamond.

The crown of that effort, HTC Touch HD, is now set on a path pretty much signposted by iPhone. Its driving inspiration has brought to the scene a capable candidate for a hefty bite at the apple.

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