HTC Desire HD Review
The HTC Desire HD is possibly the biggest and best Android Smartphone we have seen to date here in the UK. Some will say that the Samsung Galaxy is better. The Galaxy may have a nicer screen but the difference in build quality between the two devices is like chalk and cheese. The desire HD oozes solidness unlike its rival.
With an 4.3 inch screen the Desire HD is the natural progression on from the HD2 which ran Windows Mobile. We also have the HTC HD7 out now running Windows Phone 7 but with its lack of customisation I think the Desire HD could be number one.
As we have been swamped by Android devices in the last 18 months I will try to focus on the unique and best features of the Desire HD. Frankly, doing the same screen shots on every new Android phone is getting on my nerves. However we are about to endeavor exactly the same issue with WP7. I need a holiday!
What's in the box:
- USB cable
- Wall plug
- Quick start guide/warranty
The ten second review:
Device: HTC Desire HD
Price: £469.99 inc. VAT
Summary: A monster of a high end touch screen Android device. Everything you could possibly want.
Best of: Screen size, Camera, Sense UI, 720p HD video recording, Music player
Worst of: Size may be a little big for some
Buy it now from: Devicewire.com
HTC Desire HD Specifications:
- 1 GHz Snapdragon Processor
- Android 2.2 (Froyo) with HTC Sense
- Internal phone storage: 1.5 GB
- RAM: 768 MB
- 123 x 68 x 11.8 mm (4.84 x 2.68 x 0.46 inches)
- 164 grams (5.78 ounces) with battery
- 4.3-inch SLCD touch screen with 480 x 800 resolution
- HSPA/WCDMA: ? Europe/Asia: 900/2100 MHz Upload speed of up to 5.76 Mbps and download speed of up to 14.4 Mbps
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
- Internal GPS antenna
- Digital compass
- Proximity sensor
- Ambient light sensor
- Bluetooth 2.1 with FTP/OPP for file transfer, A2DP for wireless stereo headsets, and PBAP for phonebook access from the car kit
- 802.11b/g/n WiFi
- 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
- Standard micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0)
- 8.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus and 2x LED flashlight
- 720p HD video recording
- Audio supported formats - Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9) Recording: .amr
- Video supported formats - Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3) Recording: .3gp
- 1230 mAh battery
- Talk time: Up to 320 minutes for WCDMA, Up to 550 minutes for GSM
- Standby time: Up to 490 hours for WCDMA, Up to 420 hours for GSM
- microSD expansion (SD 2.0 compatible)
- 100 ~ 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz DC output: 5 V and 1 A AC adaptor
- Dolby® Mobile and SRS surround sound
- Share pictures, video or music to your big screen TV or PC display via DLNA® (Digital Living Network Alliance)
The left side of the Desire HD houses only the volume controls.
HTC Desire HD left side
On the right is nothing. Just smoothness!
HTC Desire HD Right Side
The power button is located on the top.
HTC Desire HD Top
And on the bottom we have the MicroUSB port and the headset jack.
HTC Desire HD Bottom
The back is quite busy with the camera lens, flash and a speaker grill. And not forgetting the nice shiny HTC logo.
HTC Desire HD Back
The front is quite clearly mainly screen but we do get four touch sensitive keys under it. Home, menu, back and search.
HTC Desire HD Front
- Sense UI
- Music Player
- Video Recorder
- Screen may be a little large for some
- Battery life could be better
The HTC Desire HD is a monster of a phone. At 4.3 inches the screen will be a little too big for some as stretching a thumb up to the top of the screen when using it one handed is frankly impossible for me. Like its older brother, the HD2, the Desire HD is rock solid. Build quality feels superb and as far as I am concerned it is the ultimate 'slab' Android device.
It looks good too. Like HTC's new Windows Phone 7 devices it is sleek and dark with a hint of sparkle at the top from the ear speaker grill. And the grill also houses a notification LCD light which I love.
The back of the Desire HD has an almost satin finish to it. No metal battery cover like on the HD2. Things are a little different here. On the right hand side of the back of the phone is a slender door than can removed. In here you will find the battery. Putting the door back takes a bit of practice. There is a knack to it.
At the bottom of the back cover is another kind of door that can be slid off. This is where the sim card and MicroSD are housed.
The best change for me on the back is the redesigned camera lens. I don't know if you remember but on the HD2 the lens would touch the surface when the phone was placed back side down. This time the lens has a circular ridge around it to offer protection. Nice work HTC. You listened to us.
So lets jump into the operating system which is Android 2.2.
Like we have seen before on many a device the Desire HD runs the Sense UI. If you have not seen it before then to summerise it is made up of seven home screens that can each be totally customised to suit your requirements.
You can add widgets, shortcuts, apps,and folders to ensure you have quick access to your most commonly used features on the handset.
The various homescrrens are accessed by swiping left and right but there is a shortcut. Just press the home key and you are taken into leap/helicopter mode showing all seven screens on one page. Just tap the one you want to go to and you are taken there. Simple.
The Desire HD also has a scenes option and this will allow you to quickly change all your home screens to a pre designated arrangement. For example: while at work you may want different widgets on the home screens to when you are at home. Why not have a work scene and a home scene. There are various scene options but all can be totally customised. Switching one one scene to another takes just a few seconds.
Live wallpapers are also pre loaded on the device and this will really bring your home screens to life as the images are animated. You can always download more if you don't fancy any of the default ones.
At the top of the home screen you will find the notification bar. This will produce various symbols depending on what notifications you have. Pull the symbols down and the notifications will now be full screen. Pressing one of the notifications will take you straight into that particular app/message. You will also notice that above the notifications you have a selections of icons. These are apps that are currently running on the device.
The main menu on the Desire HD is much the same as we have seen before. The only thing i can really say is that is scrolls up and down smoothly and is you can get from the top to the bottom in one swift swipe.
The calendar on the Desire HD is a real joy to use. HTC have given the stock Android calendar a facelift and as you can see it is very much an HTC experience even with the weather being incorporated into the application. You get a day, agenda, week and month view so you can really choose which one works for you. If you have Facebook on the phone your Facebook friends birthdays will automatically be imported so no excuses on forgetting to say Happy Birthday to them!
Once in the app, adding an entry couldn't be easier. Just press the big plus sign down on the bottom right of the screen. You can enter your text, choose the times for the appointment to run from and to, enter a location using maps, invite other attendees via email and change the reminder time. All in al a great way of organizing your life.
One of the most important features on a smartphone is the web browser. Having a 4.3 inch screen on the Desire HD really makes browsing a truly fun experience. In both portrait and landscape the browser works beautifully. Switching between the two views in pretty much instant. There is very little lag. The best bit for me is the text reflow. This ensures that when you zoom in the text will alter to fit the page meaning you don't have to scroll left and right to read a sentence. Combined with the screen real estate the Desire HD may be a good alternative to an e-reader if you like to read books on the go.
Even the bookmarks are wonderfully presented with actual screen shots of the page.They are split into three sections controlled by the tabs at the bottom of the screen. As well as bookmarks you have a most visited tab and a history one. This ensures you can find frequently viewed pages quickly and hassle free.
Email features on the Desire HD are virtually the same as the Desire and the Legend. The main email view is arranged in to a number of screens to help keep things organised.
First of all the main 'inbox' showing all received email for each account. Next along is the conversation view where emails are threaded together based upon their subject.
Favorites allows you to apply a filter showing only email from those people on your favorites list so you might want to choose to have your wife or girlfriend's (or both!) emails appear on this list.
Unread email shows up in the next tab.
Flagged messages, those that you've set for follow up will appear in the second-to-last tab.
Finally there's a to keep all of your meeting invitations that you receive via email.
The great thing about email on the HTC Desire HD is that it now has multiple exchange email support (HTC added that just to keep Matt happy) as well as support for POP, APOP and IMAP so virtually all email servers will be accommodated. Switching email accounts is also an easy affair.
Lastly email composition is as simple as it gets.
There of course is a separate Gmail app if you prefer.
The new HTCSense.com service is probably something that I could write several thousand words on alone. However, let's keep to the key features.
Essentially HTCSense.com is a free service for which you can register when you get your new HTC phone (either the Desire HD or the Desire Z at the moment). When you sign up you give your email address, a username and password and enter your mobile number. You also have the option to allow your phone to backup to the HTCSense.com 'cloud'.
Once you sign up you'll be sent a confirmation email which enables you to activate your account.
First of all you'll want to sign in to your HTCSense.com account from your PC (or MAC).
The main dashboard is where most of the cool features are to be found. On the left you'll see a map that will show you the last know location of your mobile. You can force it to refresh and using the Desire's internal GPS you'll be able to see where it is. Very handy if you are the kind of person that losses their phone at work or home all the time. It will at least tell you the address of where you've left it.
So now you've just arrived at work and realised that you've left your phone at home. Well here you have some options. Firstly from the HTCSense.com site you can choose to forward your calls and or your messages to another number. You don't have to forward both to the same number either.
Within the messages tab you are also able to read and SMS or MMS messages received on your phone from the website. Handy.
So lets assume you've arrived home and looked around for your phone. Still cant find it. The next thing you can try is to make the phone ring. I'm sure we've all done this at some point in the past, asked a friend or colleague to ring your phone in the hope of finding it by following the ringing. This in itself is fine but what about if we had the phone on vibrate or, worse still, silent?
Here's the answer, pressing the make phone ring button will do just that, it will ring at max volume, no matter what the ring profile you had it set on.
So the other scenario might be that you've left your phone in the back of a taxi. You can see it moving around on the map and at this point you are probably thinking you're never going to see the phone again!
This is where the lock phone option may help. By allowing you to secure your phone with a pin code and allowing you to display a message and a phone number on the screen you may get lucky and encourage someone to return it to you. By doing this you can set the number that they can call and that's all the handset can then do.
Remote lock in action
After a few hours you might think that you've tried enough to get you phone back and now the important thing is to secure your data. Fortunately there is a final option at your disposal, the Erase Phone button.
Your phone will be restored to factory settings. All of your content and phone data will be erased, including any connected storage cards.
Your Contacts and Footprints will be stored on the HTC Sense website, but you will be required to register a phone again to connect to HTC Sense. Remote phone control features will not be available until you connect a phone to HTC Sense.
With these new HTCSense.com features do you think the phone companies may offer a discount on the handset insurance? I guess not!
There is an Amazon app pre loaded on the HTC Desire HD. Not having used or seen it before I initially wasn't very excited about it and at first I overlooked it. However when I did come back to it I discovered that is is actually pretty cool. From the home page you can search for the the artist or song you want and then you are given a list of results split into two sections - Albums and songs. From here you can listen to a 30 second clip of the track before committing to buy and as you can see below the prices per track and per album are not bad.
A HTC phone would not be complete without an excellent clock. Of course the weather is incorporated as HTC love to do this. The clock app has five tabs at the bottom of the screen. These are desk clock, world clock, alarms, stopwatch and timer. All are nicely presented and easy to use. What an excellent clock app.
Within the menu you will find a Locations icon. This application will just allow you to search locally for certain points of interest. It seems to work just fine although I tend to use the web browser when I am searching for something. A nice alternative though.
A Google phone would not be complete without Google maps and on the Desire HD is looks real good thanks to the big screen. Pressing the menu key allows you to search and when the results are shown you get a nice selection of options. Once of these being street view which worked perfectly for me.
There is also Google navigation and a car panel on the Desire HD but I will cover that in a separately. I think it will work better on video.
We must not forget that the Desire HD is also a phone and makes phone calls. On the phones home screen is a nice big phone tab giving you quick access as there are no phone hardware buttons on the handset. The number keys are a good size and as well as beeping they produce a small bit of haptic feedback which I always like.
Under the dialer you will see a list of your contacts and as you dial either by focusing on the numbers or the letters on each key the contacts will be filtered to give you the one you are looking for. As you can see on the screen shot your Facebook contacts that have their phone numbers on the site will also be listed.
An FM stereo is also included. The user interface is attractive and I really don't know what else I can say. It plays the radio.
I mentioned earlier about using the Desire HD as an e-reader and I am pleased to say that their is a reader app pre installed powered by Kobo. Not being a reader myself I have no idea who Kobo are but I tested out the app and it seemed to work just fine. Actually reading a book is great as you can use pinch to zoom to get the text the size you require and once again the text will reflow to the page. Turning the page is done with a simple swipe from right to left and is instant. You don't get the proper page corner like on the iPhone but that is only for effect anyway. This one seems to work just as well.
Social networking apps are great on any Android device but on the Desire HD they look excellent, again this being down to the huge screen. The facebook app we have covered many times before so I wont go into too much detail but what I will say is that if you use Facebook a lot you will find yourself relying less and less on your PC as you can do most things from the app.
When it comes to Twitter there are loads of different apps to choose from and really it is a case of trying them and deciding which one suits you. I use one called Tweetissimo which is still in beta but i use it on both Android and on BlackBerry as if offers certain features that no other Twitter app offers. How do push notifications sound?
If you like to keep up to date with news feeds then the Desire HD has an RSS app.. This is not something I personally use and to be honest with you I found this one a little user unfriendly. I'm sure there are alternatives in the Marketplace that are better. Anyway, the app can be found in the main menu titled News.
Lets have a look at the camera.
The interface is is great. On the left you have the zoom bar. Over on the right you have the 'take shot' button in the centre and this must be used as the Desire HD does not have a hardware camera button which is a shame. Above that at the top you can toggle between camera and video. Under that is the flash options. Directly below the take shot button is the effects and then at the bottom is a shortcut to your picture gallery.
Once you have taken a picture and you view it there are several options that appear on screen. From here you can crop photos, alter the effects and rotate. A nice feature to have. The best bit is that the Desire HD allows you to instantly upload photos to a selection of websites as well as email them. This came in jolly hand for me as when ever i took a decent photo I just emailed it to myself so I had a copy on my Mac.
In total there are 12 different effects ranging from distortion and depth of field to sepia and negative. I tend to leave effects off when I am using a camera but they are there if you want them.
As you can see the camera does a decent job. The colours appear rich and bright and close up the photos were just as good. The auto focus works quickly and the duel LED flash is frankly fantastic. Taking shots is also very good. You can touch the screen to focus on a different subject and once the button is pressed the picture is taken very quickly. Overall I think the camera on the Desire HD is maybe one of the best I have used all round.
The Desire HD also supports 720P HD video recording which is a nice bonus although it is standard really now on high end smartphones. It does a pretty good job of it. The UI is the same as the cameras so dead simple to use. Quality is ok, not the best but i am not complaining. You can see a sample below.
On to the music player. The player certainly looks the part with multiple ways of viewing your music collection. At the base of the screen are various tabs and these will allow you to view your music by artist, album, playlist, all songs, connected media and marked items. Once playing a track you get all the important stuff on screen such as skip forward/back and pause under the album artwork. Above that you have options for shuffle, sound enhancer and repeat.
In terms of music quality the external speaker is not great and even switching to Dolby sound via the enhancer didn't really make much difference. One I had connected some headphones though it was a different experience altogether.
With headphones in you have four available settings. No effects, Dolby, SRS and the equalizer where you can choose rock, pop, classical etc.
With no effects the music sounded pretty good and much like most other smart phones. I then switched to Dolby and that really helped. I was listening to Anthrax live and it almost felt like I was there at the gig in person.
Finally I tested SRS. I have no idea what SRS is and I don't really case because all I know is that it makes the music sound freaking awesome. Without doubt the best music/phone experience I have ever listened too. Nice work HTC.
If you are a currently an Android user and looking to upgrade to a touch screen only device then you cant really get a better option than the HTC Desire HD. If you are moving to Android for the first time the same applies but bare in mind the phone is huge and some may find it a little too big, including me.
The Desire HD will offer you pretty much everything you could wish for in a phone and with the build quality to match the specs the handset is without doubt an Android users dream device.
Posted by: James