HTC Desire Z Review
HTC Sense has one of the best touch interfaces out there, but it was left out intentionally on the T-Mobile G2. Slating it as a follow up to the first ever Android handset, HTC and Google probably wanted to stay as close to the stock Android 2.2 experience, as possible. HTC Desire Z, on the other hand comes with full blown HTC Sense, and the newest version to boot. This latest edition can for now only be found on the HTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z, so it is worth reviewing the updates to one of the most beloved OEM customizations there are. We will review only the new stuff, as we’ve extensively written about the previous version already.
Sense UI crams so many options in it, that it is probably an antithesis of the iOS simplicity. Still, we didn't feel the diversity overbearing, even for a moment. On the contrary, personalization and the ability to customize the interface are taken to a whole new level now.
First off, the new Sense UI is extremely fast to load – it literally takes five seconds to shut down the phone, and then another five after we pressed the power button to get it up and running. HTC Sense obviously goes into some sort of hibernation to achieve that, since after we took out the battery and re-inserted it, the phone booted up completely in about a minute.
The initial setup includes entering your details, and adding all the accounts that you would want to sync, plus registering your phone on HTCSense.com. We will just mention here that to the excellent social integration features in the People app, which aggregates your phone contacts with your Facebook, Twitter, Exchange and Gmail peeps, you can now add feeds and updates from your HTCSense.com buddies, once the service is populated, of course.
Probably the most important new addition to Sense UI is the introduction of cloud-based services for it via the new HTCSense.com website. After registering on the site, the link sent to your email asks you to login on the handset, afterwards you are good to go. Besides backing up your phone information there, you can set and share footprints with other HTC users on Google Maps, or use the HTC Hub to check for recommended applications and updates to your existing ones.
Dashboard is the default section on HTCSense.com, which shows your handset’s whereabouts on a map, and that's where you can set call and message forwarding, if you have forgotten the phone at home, or check on missed calls. It also allows you to set a PIN and lock the phone remotely, or erase the phone and storage card completely from the website. HTC has conceived the cloud service as a social undertaking, and even shows you if there are other registered users around, the places and app recommendations they’ve shared, and so on. For now it looks a bit like a work in progress, but all the basic functionalities we just listed are there to use at your discretion.
The last, but not least major addition to HTC Sense for us is the Locations app – HTC has teamed up with TomTom and Route 66 to offer the closest thing to free worldwide offline navigation so far on an Android handset. Google Maps has a lot of countries covered, but needs data connection to download the maps. Google Maps Navigation is an excellent free service as well, but its turn-by-turn guidance doesn’t work anywhere but the US and Western Europe, and also needs Internet connection.
The HTC Desire Z comes preloaded with maps of the region it is sold in, and others can be downloaded from the app itself. There is quite the list of countries present - we counted about 90, which makes it on par with the coverage of Nokia’s free Ovi Maps. Even without voice guided navigation, you can follow your route fed just via satellites, with no need for data charges. A very useful addition is the digital compass, which shows exactly the direction you are heading to, making it very useful to know which direction to take before taking off. This is especially useful in pedestrian mode – we have often walked a few blocks already, before the GPS software recalculates that we are heading in the wrong direction and turns us around. Of course, if you are driving by yourself in a totally unknown city, you will need voice directions. Upon first license sync, you will be granted a 30-day trial to test the software, and we have to admit it is very good – route recalculations are zippy, there is an abundance of categorized POI and detailed maps with multitouch support, in the language of the country you are in, as well as a car mode with huge icons to tap.
After the trial period, the prices are also quite bearable – after Google and Nokia introduced free navigation, the GPS software prices plummeted. A lifetime pass for offline navigation in the United States on the HTC Desire Z costs EUR 24 ($33), Western Europe costs EUR 40 ($56), and there are 30-day passes for $5-$10, depending on the region you’ll be traveling to. We are sure even these prices will go down with the proliferation of HTC handsets with the new Sense UI. Thus we are thankful to HTC for addressing one of the major reasons hindering Android’s adoption rate outside of the US – Nokia is the only manufacturer so far offering free lifetime navigation on its devices in most of the world. Locations also integrates Google Navigation, and you can pick which one to use, so the two navigational programs complement each other nicely.
To recap our excellent experience with the new HTC Sense, we have to note that the name of the game here is personalization. The abilities to customize the interface are mind-boggling. The profiles are called scenes, the handset comes with a few of them like Work, Play, Social, etc., and more can be downloaded off the new HTC Hub.
Each profile comes with its own set of widgets and functionalities, then there are different skins within the profiles, and different wallpapers and sound sets. More of each can be found in HTC Hub, and the possibilities to mix and match them can be used in a math class to explain the combination theory.
We truly felt like a kid in a candy store with the new HTC Sense. Throughout the review we ploughed through a smorgasbord of rich graphics, tastefully chosen color combinations, and animated transitions, but we never even once experienced lag or choppiness. The new generation Snapdragon chipset, produced with the 45nm process, really shines here – our HTC Desire Z scored above 1500 on the Quadrant synthetic benchmark test several times, which makes phones with this chipset the fastest on the market, at least until the Samsung Galaxy S receives its official Froyo upgrade. The same chipset on the T-Mobile G2 has become a playground for overclockers recently, and we’ve seen it pumped up to over 1.3GHz, and scoring 2200+, just to prove a point.
1. desireZ (Posts: 2; Member since: 09 Nov 2010)
Why only 8,5??? it had 8,7 on sunday. I think this phone deserves a better score :( You shouldnt give it less of a great score because of the weigth and a little dissapointing keyboard...) And btw. Is it better than the desire? The speed, screen etc?
2. desireZ (Posts: 2; Member since: 09 Nov 2010)
Oh, I see you arent giving it less of a great score because of the keybard, but why did the G2 get 0,5 more than this one??
3. illiad (unregistered)
So not REAL web-flash then??? please try on BBC.co.uk, and dailymobile.se for embedded youtube ability....