The most notable thing about the HTC Touch Diamond retail package is its shape. It's a reverse truncated pyramid. Made of the same glossy plastic as the phone, the lid of the box is the best warning of what to expect in terms of fingerprint issues.
As far as contents are concerned we aren't really impressed. Now don't get us wrong - we aren't that disappointed but we expected some sort of a pleasant surprise inside the flagship's box. Well, it failed to deliver. On the other hand, that might as well be for the better, keeping the HTC Touch Diamond cost down. As for those keen to accessorize their handset, HTC have launched a whole series of nice little extras for the Diamond that can be purchased separately.
Cutting to the point, the list of items in the Diamond's box is not too long: a rather under-par wired handset, a spare stylus and a CD with software of arguable use. The headphones really aren't much to our liking with really low bass levels. There is also a bunch of leaflets and guides, along with a catalog of available accessories to order. Finally, a screen protector is included to help protect your precious handset from scratches.
HTC Touch Diamond's dimensions of 102 x 51 x 11.5mm make it one of (if not the most) compact PocketPCs ever made. There isn't any other Windows Mobile powered device to match its thickness and only a few have a weight of less than 110g. It's no problem to stick the Diamond in virtually any pocket.
If you have seen the preview you would know that we weighed the HTC Touch Diamond on digital scales in our office. The reading of only 103 g still has us wondering where the difference came from.
The HTC Touch Diamond design is quite impressive. The gem-inspired back panel and the glossy front do make up one slick looker of a handset. However, it's quite noticeable that in reality the Touch Diamond is not pitch black as those HTC ads suggest. At a certain angle of light, the front panel actually turns bluish grey, much like the HTC Touch Cruise display frame. This gives it a bit cheaper looks, though it's not really that big a deal. You can clearly see that effect on some of the photos.
On the negative side, the usual problem with glossy panels stands with the Diamond too -fingerprints do make it a mess. Even the shortest time of using the device is enough to get it all covered with smudges and ruin the otherwise great looks.
The front panel is dominated by the 2.8" screen of the exciting VGA resolution. While not exactly a novelty among PocketPCs, the VGA screen is really one of the highlights of the HTC Touch Diamond. We'll be back discussing the qualities of the display in more detail a little later in this review.
Above the display we find the earpiece, the ambient light sensor and the secondary video-call camera.
The rest of the front panel is taken by the four hardware soft keys and the special scroll wheel/D-pad combo. The regular keys feel somewhat cheap and fail to provide enough press feedback. We wish HTC did better here, after all the Diamond is expected to top their non-QWERTY lineup.
However, HTC do deserve credit for finding room for a back key on the Diamond. It gets you one screen back wherever you are in the Diamond interface and though this might seem the simplest of things, it is missing in other WinMo devices. In the Diamond, it's a real boost to user-friendliness.
The D-pad is a bit of a let down. It combines the regular 5-way functionality with a touch sensitive overlay to use as a scroll wheell. The touch-sensitive scroll wheel can be used for zooming on images, web pages, messages, and doubles as music controls. It is basically the same as the HTC Touch Cruise scroll wheel, only in touch disguise.
The problem we are having with it, is that pressing the D-pad rather frequently results in an accidental press of one of the other keys.
On the top of the Diamond there is only the power key, which is also used for toggling the standby mode.
The right side of the handset is completely bereft of controls, the only thing to see there is the "4GB internal storage" label. A dedicated shutter key would've been welcome. Instead, the HTC R&D team chose to leave that to the D-pad. The dual focus-and-shoot action is all there: a tap on the touch-sensitive D-pad counts as half-press, while pushing the confirming center is a full press.
On the left side of the Diamond we find the volume rocker, which is large enough and comfortable to use.
The bottom features the miniUSB port for connecting the data cable, charger and the headphones. The other thing to note here is the stylus compartment, which scores another point for the Diamond.
When you're tucking the stylus back in, you don't need to push all the way down. The slot is magnetic and it literally pulls the stylus in. The stylus is active, so when you take it out, the phone automatically resumes from standby. Furthermore, taking out the stylus during a call automatically activates the Notes applications, so you can quickly put down a phone number for example.
The back of the phone is where designers were definitely not on a short leash. However, functionality has been sacrificed for the sake of cool looks.
For one, the gem-patterned back side renders the handset impossible to operate when laid on a table. It wobbles annoyingly and that makes touch-operating it rather tricky.
The uneven surface causes another problem with the backside of the Diamond. The few edges that stick out are way more vulnerable to the day-to-day wear and tear than the rest of the rear. In only a week or two of having the Diamond, those edges got really worn and bruised, which has a really negative impact on the looks of the handset.
The only thing to see rearside is the 3 megapixel camera lens. There is no flash whatsoever, so low-light shooting with the Diamond is out of the question. Furthermore, the camera lens is covered by a thin layer of plastic, which is an inherent part of the battery cover. This protective layer is obviously not crystal clear, resulting in poor photo quality. The best demonstration of that is comparing pictures taken with the rear cover on and off. Such a comparison lies in store in the camera chapter of our review.
Opening the battery cover reveals the 900 mAh Li-ion battery that powers the HTC Touch Diamond. Having a demanding VGA screen powered by a battery of this caliber won't make wonders in terms of battery life but still the Diamond isn't a terrible performer. It manages to deliver about a full day under heavy usage which is on the verge of passable by our books.
It also managed about three days of stand-by in a 3G network when not used excessively. We had left it be for a while but this will hardly be the case with any Diamond owner. In our dedicated GPS battery test the HTC Touch Diamond managed the unimpressive 2 hours and 20 minutes before its battery went dead flat.
Good news to potential Diamond owners is that the company recently announced an extended battery pack for the phone, featuring the far more reasonable 1350 mAh. It will add some thickness and weight to the Diamond but to some users the sacrifice might just be worth it.
As a whole, the build quality of the HTC Touch Diamond leaves mixed impressions. It's one looker of a handset but the quickly wearing edges at the back and the fingerprint issues just can't be overlooked. It does make up for some of that with size and handling.