By June 30, 2008

Review HTC Touch Diamond

HTC Touch Diamond We have all read a lot of hype surrounding the HTC Touch Diamond and recently a lot of negative comments on how it actually performs, well we have had some hands on experience over the last week and its definitely a phone that will split opinions right down the middle. Read on for our full review and find out our opinion on this VGA Windows Mobile Professional device.

On the Outside

The phone comes packaged in a box shaped like a pyramid with the top chopped off and it really is well packaged and looks very enticing. Inside the box is the phone, wired headset, spare stylus, two CD ROM’s with a user manual and extra software, battery, mains charger and a USB cable, all neatly tucked away inside.

Picking the phone out of the box for the first time you realise just how small the Diamond is, in fact it is tiny and light but feels great to hold in your hand. I stuck it on charge for a few hours and and was itching to get my hands on it. I took a picture of the Diamond along side the Samsung SGH i780 and a credit card to show how small it looks.

HTC Touch Diamond Review

Looking at the phone from the outside, the front is totally flat it has 4 buttons and a centre button. Home, back, phone send and end keys and the centre button whch also works as a virtual scroll wheel for zooming in Opera.

The bottom of the phone has the mini USB connector for charging the device and using the supplied HTC Headset. The bottom right side of the unit gives access to the stylus which is magnetic and gets sucked into the socket with a satisfying clunk. The top of the phone has the on off push button.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

 

The sides of the phone are blank on the right side and the volume up and down buttons on the left hand side.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

 

The back of the phone is just plain strange. As the phone is called The Diamond, HTC decided to make the back of the phone with very slight angles to represent the lines of a diamonds structure. It looks different you have to say but the phone doesn’t sit flat on a desk, its a strange design indeed.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

On the Inside

Ok the HTC Diamond was announced by HTC back in May this year and the major marketing point of the phone was the newly developed Touch Flo 3D interface. This interface was supposed to offer a finger friendly interface to Windows Mobile and for those of us who have used Windows Mobile before it was a very enticing offering.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

Unfortunately HTC have got it wrong, the interface is just not up to scratch at all, it is slow, no it is very slow, its buggy and just not a good experience at all out of the box. I gave the phone to three different people to take a look at with the Touch Flo active and every comment that came back was the same, its very nice graphically but it is just way too slow to use. This is such a shame as HTC have given us something that looks great, especially the weather application, it looks stunning especially when it is raining and the water spots appear on the screen and then wipers appear and clear the screen, but at the end of the day eye candy is nice but usability is much more important.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

XDA-Developers suggested quite a few tweaks to speed up the interface which do improve it dramatically and below is a Youtube video showing the Touch Flo in action after the tweaks, but for me it is still just not fluid enough to be a full time feature on the phone, hopefully HTC will release another Rom upgrade to improve this as it potentially could be a very good overlay to Windows Mobile.

 

From now on I am going to look at the phone without Touch Flo 3D as I believe that after a few days of use you will end up turning it off like I did.

Turning on the screen for the first time was a sight to behold, its a lovely screen, no its absolutely stunning, vibrant, bright colours and VGA resolution it just looks fabulous.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

The screen is totally flush and made of glass so touching and sliding your finger around is really smooth. The device comes installed with Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 with a few added extras like RSS Reader software, MP3 editing software and a few other things to keep you interested.

Navigating the Windows Mobile menus is very quick without the Touch Flo 3D enabled and need of the stylus is rare for a Windows Mobile device, most features can be used very easily with finger touch only.

The phone interface is a standard Windows Mobile interface and sound quality has been fine for me, despite a few reports that the sound quality is poor from other sources. A test was done with MSMobiles and the results can be found here.

When the phone rings you can silence the ringer by placing the phone face down, this works with the built in accelerometer. One annoying thing, when you are on a call and you need to enter text or a number the screen has automatically switched off so you have to manually switch it back on again before you can do it, also again when the call is finished (the other participant has hung up), there is a delay of 3-4 seconds before the screen comes back on and lets you hit the end button.

We tested out video calling and have a Youtube video showing how its works and the quality of the call.

 

The Diamond comes with a GPS receiver built in and we tested this with the pre-installed Google Maps application, this GPS also has an assisted option where updated satellite positions can be downloaded to achieve a quick fix with the satellites, using this system we managed to get a fix in around 30 seconds which was pretty impressive.

The pre-installed Youtube application works great over HSDPA with search functionality and bookmarks, videos streamed very quickly and automatically rotated to landscape view, very similar to the original iPhone application.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

The Diamond comes pre-installed with Opera 9.5 and it is definitely a massive improvement on Pocket IE, it renders pages very nicely and scrolling around web pages is very finger friendly. Another good feature on The Diamond is the virtual scroll wheel, circling your finger around the wheel either clockwise or anti-clockwise zooms in or out of the webpage, a nice addition. Actually the whole zooming process is definitely much better with Opera 9.5 simple taps zoom into the area of the webpage you want to see and text is automatically resized to match the screen making web surfing very usable on this device. The phone also has a built in accelerometer so when the phone is rotated into landscape mode the screen automatically does the same although this doesn’t work with all applications.

Text entry as a whole is pretty good, the on-screen soft keyboard is very easy to pick up and get the hang of, once you realise that you have to press the screen firmly to register a character, word recognition was also very effective.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

The games pre-installed on the phone are the usual Solitaire and Bubble Breaker which have been around for too long, but there is one additional game and what a game it is. Teeter is a fantastically addictive game where you have to use the phones built in accelerometer to get a ball bearing down the green hole. Sounds simple enough just hold the phone flat and slowly move the phone to get the ball rolling and avoid the black holes. When the ball hits the walls of the maze the phone vibrates and it actually feels like the force of the ball against the wall, very very clever.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

Battery Life is definitely a problem, if you use push email, hsdpa or talk a bit you are in trouble, from my usage pattern I was struggling with battery life by mid afternoon each day which is really not satisfactory. A car charger is a must if you are out and about all day in the car and critical if you intend to use the GPS features. There is now an extended battery available for the phone which doubles the capacity but as it comes with an additional back panel  its going to make it fatter which is a real shame. You can get it here.

The inbuilt camera is a 3.2 megapixel camera and the pictures were average phone pictures, the lense cover on the rear of the phone is positioned exactly where your fingers would naturally go when holding the phone during a conversation and is subject to finger prints and smearing which clouds the pictures you take if your not careful. Below are a couple of sample pictures taken at the highest resolution on a cloudy day.

HTC Touch Diamond Review HTC Touch Diamond Review

 

Stability is always a problem with Windows Mobile devices, memory leaks and soft resets are the norm in a lot of cases but without Touch Flo 3D running I can honestly say I have not had to reset the device once, which has to go down as a big positive, if it ever does need resetting the reset button is quite difficult to find as it is tucked away under the stylus. To access it you have to remove the stylus and you can then see a small red button which can be activated with the tip of the stylus.

Conclusion

With Touch Flo 3D running it is far from a polished user experience, it is slow and buggy, if HTC really are intent on attracting consumers away from feature phones to experience smart phones they are going to have to do a much better job with Touch Flo 3D than this, it needs to be more fluid, more responsive and intuitive, its a good start for sure but its just not good enough for such a high end device with a high end price to suit.

Turning off Touch Flo 3D this device is a totally different proposition, I enjoyed using it, it is fast, powerful, easy to use and reliable. It is a fantastic size, comfortable to hold and is packed with features, we didn’t even mention the music and video play back or the built in FM Radio which all work great. The screen is gorgeous and at last web surfing is a good experience on Windows Mobile.

The built in storage of 4 GB is a good addition although it would have been nice to have a memory card slot for further expansion if needed.

Battery life as predicted though is poor, less than a day with average use is not acceptable and really needs to be addressed,

If you are looking for a Windows Mobile device and know your way around the OS already this could be a good option but switch off Touch Flo 3D.

Positives

Great form factor

Beautiful screen

HSDPA

GPS

Teeter

Negatives

Touch Flo 3D is way too slow

Battery life is awful

Finger print magnet

 

HTC Touch Diamond Specifications

Processor
Qualcomm® MSM7201A™ 528 MHz

Operating System
Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional

Memory
ROM: 256 MB
RAM: 192 MB DDR SDRAM
Internal storage: 4 GB

Dimensions
102 mm (L) X 51 mm (W) X 11.35 mm (T)

Weight
110 g (with battery)

Display
2.8-inch TFT-LCD flat touch-sensitive screen with VGA resolution

Network
HSDPA/WCDMA:

  • Europe/Asia: 900/2100 MHz
  • Up to 384 kbps up-link and 7.2 Mbps down-link speeds

Tri-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE:

  • Europe/Asia: 900/1800/1900 MHz

(Band frequency and data speed are operator dependent.)

Device Control
TouchFLO™ 3D
Touch-sensitive navigation control

GPS
GPS and A-GPS ready

Connectivity
Bluetooth® 2.0 with EDR
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
HTC ExtUSB™ (11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one)

Camera
Main camera: 3.2 megapixel color camera with auto focus
Second camera: VGA CMOS color camera

Audio
Built-in microphone, speaker and FM radio with RDS
Ring tone supported formats:

  • MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, WAV, and AMR-NB
  • 40 polyphonic and Standard MIDI format 0 and 1 (SMF)/SP MIDI

Battery
Rechargeable Lithium-ion or Lithium-ion polymer battery
Capacity: 900 mAh
Talk time:

  • Up to 270 minutes for WCDMA
  • Up to 330 minutes for GSM

Standby time:

  • Up to 396 hours for WCDMA
  • Up to 285 hours for GSM

Video call time: Up to 145 minutes for WCDMA
(The above are subject to network and phone usage.)

AC Adapter
Voltage range/frequency: 100 ~ 240V AC, 50/60 Hz
DC output: 5V and 1A

 

Thanks to Clove for supplying the review device

Disclaimer, the HTC Touch Diamond featured in this review will be returned.

About the Author:

Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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