HTC Desire HD Review: The Prince formerly known as "Ace"

HTC Desire HD Review: The Prince formerly known as "Ace"

It's the same old desire..., crooned Ozzy Osbourne, and P.J. Harvey asked, "Is this Enough Desire"... and on and on. It seems we all have issues with desire, but for those of you who have used the original HTC Desire the questions may indeed be valid: Is HTC's new Opus Magnus, the Desire HD enough? Just bigger but the "same old..."?

Answers. It Is. It Isn't. The image above may partly explain why many reviewers judged the HTC Desire HD as "just a slightly updated and bigger Desire." Every HTC phone is promoted using more or less the same homescreen image, and th e homescreen dominates a touchscreen phone. HTC obviously try to create brand awareness, and though the Sense UI clock has almost become synonymous with "Android phone", it seems now it's backlash time. Is the prince worthy of the crown? Are there actually new clothes on the future King?

Fear not. This is the Android King, and the King rocks.

The most in-your-face improvement is the beefed up screen - a whopping 4.3'' (from 3.7'' on the 1st Desire) of SuperLCD goodness. For web browsing, document editing and media consumption on-the-go size matters, and if your favourite pocket can handle a Desire or iPhone, the bit of extra size is in reality not that bad. However, users with small hands may find that at times the UI of the HTC Desire HD is not for the one-handed. The size comparison photo below (courtesy of yugatech.com) shows the HD in good company.

HTC Desire HD Review: The Prince formerly known as "Ace"

But the screen-size is not the only improvement that really adds room to the Desire Machine. The full specifications of the HTC Desire HD are available over at htc.com, but the most significant changes area as follows.

An 8MP camera - up from 5MP on the 1st Desire. And though the HTC Desire HD does not deliver Nokia N8 class pics, it is a competent shooter, and especially in difficult lighting it outperforms the original 5MP camera. Say hello to the kitties and a cold Lough Conn.

HTC Desire HD Review: The Prince formerly known as "Ace"

Sense, HTC's proprietary Android user-interface has also received a major overhaul - and again, I am not sure why the HTC promo material shows the generic Sense homescreen seen on all HTC smartphones. The new Sense UI allows us to personalise every aspect of our HD to all our heart's, ahem, desire. There are new theme options, new widgets, colour schemes, etc. And thanks to the improved graphic chip bundled with the 1GHZ snapdragon processor, the HTC Desire HD delivers a user experience that is currently only rivalled by the iPhone 4. However, it's worth remembering that, buttersmooth or not, the iPhone's UI fails when it comes to personalisation. It's Jobs-style or jailbreak. The HD is YOU-style within minutes of finetuning. No warranty or jail to break, no extra apps needed.

At this point I need to u-turn back up to the 4.3'' whopper of a screen. Due to a world-wide shortage of AMOLED screen, HTC started using Super LCD panels in summer 2010, and in my opinion that is not a bad thing. Yes, side by side to e.g. the Super AMOLED screen of the Samsung Galaxy S the Desire HD's Super LCD (S-LCD) screen does look a bit duller. But the differences are hardly dealbreaking. In fact, like many others I find AMOLED screens hard on the eyes. They look impressive for 10 minutes, and then the harsh contrasts and exaggerated colours usually start playing havoc with my eyesight. AndroidCentral have done a good comparison of S-LCD vs AMOLED, and you can check out another test here on HTCPhones.Net.

Screen resolution of the HTC Desire HD is unchanged from the original - WVGA 480 x 800. Not iPhone 4 retinaesque, but you can zoom into high resolution photos and then zoom quite a bit more before you can go pixel hunting. The Dolphin Browser's Bookmark Homescreen Widget, e.g., shows satisfying detail. You can clearly see mobot's homepage layout in the collage below.

HTC Desire HD Review: The Prince formerly known as "Ace"

For comparison I placed the Android 2.2 sporting HTC Desire HD next to my HTC HD2 that I dual-booted into Android 2.1. Spot the difference? Well, there is a reason for bringing up the HTC HD2 - a windows mobile phone that is of similar size - down to the almost identical 4.3'' capacative touchscreen. And the reason is this: The HTC Desire HD is great. No doubt, but there's room to nag. The HD's body is cut from a solid piece of aluminium and it feels absolutely great. Smooth and trust-inspiringly sturdy. But then there are the 2 plastic covers. And I use "cover" loosely (and yes, the pun is intended). They do not fit well. The one at the phone's bottom houses the simcard and memory card slot, while the longer one on the side gives access to the 1230 mAh battery (Battery life is acceptable by the way. I get through a busy online day. Just about, but I do). You can see the marked gap between plastic and aluminium body, and the edge along the simcard cover is sharp enough to grate cheese or human skin.  Shame. Not just about our endangered blood supply, but also because they are excellent entry points for dust, moisture and small but persistent mammals. The HTC HD2 was overall of better build quality.

But perfection is an ideal, and in this case I am willing to interpret the flaws as an added feature to highlight the near-perfection of a truly great product. ***I am winking here, HTC. Try harder next time, will you***

To Conclude

The HTC Desire HD is by no means just "more of the same"; not just a biggified blast from the Android past.

The Sense UI is second to none, and the improvements and additional features compared to the 'old' Sense are incredible - a much larger jump in quality and joy than, say, the UI differences between iOS 3 to the iPhone's iOS 4.

The included software, such as the full Quick Office Suite, Soundhound (a Shazam style musicfinding app), Adobe PDF, Peep (HTC's Twitter client) etc would all cost quite a bit extra for other devices.

Social network integration (especially Facebook and Twitter) is fantastic, as is the new and improved internet browser that supports flash and is usable even on slow EDGE connections (try loading a full web page on the iPhone 4 on 2G...).

The 8MP camera, as seen above, is a decent and significant improvement.

And of course: that 4.3'' screen simply screams, "Touch me! Surf with me. I can show you things, you know...". Short of a tablet 'PC' of much bigger heft, this is the best way to experience the web on the go.

An aluminium body and toughened glass screen cover lend the HTC Desire HD a very trustworthy feel, although the sharp edges I mentioned are somewhat disappointing on a device otherwise near perfect!


Read more about: HTC Desire HDAndroid

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 1 comment

thecresta  Jan. 21, 2011 at 11:25

Adobe Reader is free for Android, however I'd recommend Beam Reader - it renders pages far quicker and has loads more features.

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