The second of HTC’s ‘Facebook phones’ is a very different fish to the HTC ChaCha.
There’s no QWERTY keyboard this time, just a standard smart phone big screen, with a big blue Facebook button sitting beneath it. But will that be enough to help it stand out from the slew of HTC smart phones we’ve seen over the last few months?
Design and build
The look of the ChaCha was clearly influenced by BlackBerry, with its QWERTY keyboard and landscape screen, but the Salsa has more of a standard smart phone look to it, with its touch screen taking up most of the front fascia. There’s a little chin at the bottom which bears a resemblance to HTC’s more high-end Desire, though it’s a bit less pronounced.
It feels solidly built but also nicely slim and lightweight at 109x59x12mm and 120g. Above the screen are a VGA camera for video calls and a loudspeaker, while beneath it are the usual four Android control buttons (home, back, menu and search) on a touch sensitive strip and beneath them is the blue ‘f’ of the Facebook button (more on that later). On the sides are a long, thin volume rocker, microUSB port and an outsized camera shutter button. On top are a power/sleep button and 3.5mm headphone jack.
The 3.4in touch screen is big enough for viewing movies and comfortable web surfing. It has a pixel resolution of 480x320 which, while it’s not unusual for a screen this size, at least delivers nice, crisp edges and as much detail as you really need. It’s sensitive, easily able to distinguish between brushes and presses, and it can do the pinch-to-zoom thing too, for blowing up web pages and getting a closer look at photos.
Interface and OS
The Salsa runs on the 2.3.3 Gingerbread version of Android, which is just a whisker behind the very latest 2.3.4 and ripe for an upgrade in the near future. The latest version brings video chat which, despite its front-facing camera, the Salsa isn’t capable of yet.
HTC’s Sense interface is here of course, this time in the 2.1 version, which looks lovely, especially the 3D-effect of some of the widgets which you can spread across its seven pages. Widget highlights include the FriendStream social networking tool, which presents all your latest updates as a single stream and the beautiful graphics of that ever-evolving weather widget.
As usual with HTC, the camera is less than stellar, but this 5 megapixel model shows they’re getting better. It starts up quickly in about three seconds and features include auto-focus, geotagging and face detection as well as the bright LED flash on the back. Picture quality isn’t bad either, so long as you’re careful with your light and don’t move around too much.
Video recording isn’t HD, offering a maximum resolution of 720x480 pixels, but it’s decent enough not to embarrass itself on YouTube.
Apps and browser
The Facebook button, like the one on its ChaCha cousin, is well integrated and a genuinely useful addition to your social networking toolbox, especially if you’re in a hurry. One touch lets you update your status, while a long press opens the Facebook Places function, so you can check locations your friends have logged and record your own.
So far, so much what you’d expect. But it also offers different functions depending on what application you’re in. So if you have the camera on, it takes a picture when you press the ‘f’ button and gives you the option to post it online immediately. If you’re listening to music or browsing the web, it will offer to share a link to what you’re seeing or listening to with your friends. Very neat.
The browser generally renders pages well, running text around the screen so it’s easy to read and connection usually quick either by 3G or Wi-Fi.
Media and connectivity
The screen is big enough and sharp enough for watching full-length films and there’s HTC’s usual option to stretch the film to fit the screen. There’s a little distortion, but not too much, and most people will appreciate the bigger picture. It seemed to struggle with playing back some of the formats it’s supposed to be okay with though, since it wasn’t able to show all the MPEG4 files we tried it with.
The Android music player is easy to find your way around and sounds pretty good too, though you’ll probably want to upgrade the tinny-sounding supplied headphones the first chance you get.
There’s 512MB of memory on board but you can bump that up to 32GB via microSD card.
Performance and battery life
This being a midrange handset, it’s got a midrange 800MHz processor rather than one of the more powerful 1GHz models that HTC reserves for its high-spec phones. Still, it doesn’t seem to slow it down too much, despite the presence of HTC’s latest 2.1 version of its graphics-heavy Sense interface. Switching between apps was swift and hassle-free, even with a few applications running at the same time.
The good-sized 1520mAh battery put in a good performance, delivering close to two days of fairly intensive use.
- Sharp 3.4in screen
- Dedicated Facebook button
- Not very distinctive
- Camera could be better
Verdict: The HTC Salsa is a solidly built smart phone with a good screen, okay camera and extra social networking capability thanks to its dedicated Facebook button. That aside though, there’s not a lot to distinguish it from its many, many HTC brethren.
More info: HTC Salsa spec