HTC Desire HD and Desire Z Hands-on

HTC Desire HD and Desire Z Hands-on
It was long awaited, but finally the HTC press event with the mysterious smokescreen invite has spilled the beans on two exciting new phones, and even more exciting new functionalities of Sense UI. Was it worth the wait and the hype? Certainly, be it only for the chance to experience the renowned HTC build quality on two long-awaited additions to its portfolio, such as the European versions of the EVO 4G and the T-Mobile G2.

We had the chance to be there, and to touch and feel the freshly announcedHTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z, both running a new version of HTC's Sense UI, that is all about cloud services. We fondled and examined the Froyo-running smartphones from all possible angles, and are following up with our images and video impressions.

Please note that we are working hard to post the materials as soon as possible, so some content will be added subsequently.

HTC Desire HD

Wow. What a screen. First impressions of the HTC Desire HD screen? Sharp, shiny and BIG. We could think of more adjectives to describe the screen alone, but for now, let’s talk a bit about what the phone is like. The HTC Desire HD is a rebranded EVO 4G for European markets. The EVO 4G, in case you don’t know, comes with a 1GHz processor and a large 4.3” screen, coupled with Android. It also has an 8MP camera with a dual LED flash and 720p video capture. There are plenty of creative shooting options in the camera mode and the whole experience feels more considered than on previous handsets. We love the feel of the HTC Desire HD.

As with the HTC Desire Z, it has an aluminium body, and has a comfortable weighting behind it, with its smooth, ergonomic shape enabling the hand to comfortably cup it. With such a big screen there will always be concerns surrounding overall device size, and rightly so, the surface area of the Desire HD is considerable. HTC have however taken all the necessary precautions needed to make it a bearable size: not including a touch-pad, making the capacitive buttons under the screen  small and ensuring no unnecessary black space surrounds the screen at all. It in turn fit very well in the hand, and while we weren’t allowed to try the “pocket test”, we assume semi-baggy pockets should be fine for it. The on-screen keyboard we used appeared to be the stock Android keyboard and was comfortable to type on, however, with its huge screen the HTC Desire HD keyboard might not be ideal for someone with small hands. We are eagerly awaiting a test unit to test this more thoroughly for longer text input. The physical elements of the phone include all the usual, a micro USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rocker, power button and camera button. 

With the 4.3” screen filing almost the entirety of the fascia, we hoped it would be good, and it really is. 480x800 pixels makes it pop. Being SLCD and not AMOLED, the screen may be less saturated than the Samsung Galaxy S for example, but colours are nevertheless realistic when viewing images and things seem to look very sharp and refined. The super crisp Desire HD in turn has one of the better 4 inch plus screens we’ve used on a mobile device. As the conditions of the conference were favourable, being low lit with the devices presumably on max brightness, it will be interesting to see how the glossy screen fares out-doors and in other real-world conditions and to know if the SLCD screen has experienced any improvements over those of the HTC EVO 4G and the HD2.

The Desire HD can be expected in October across Europe, and in the UK will be free on a 24 month contract of around £35 / month.

HTC Desire Z

The HTC Desire Z follows a legacy of side-sliding QWERTY smart-phones from HTC dating back to the TyTN and before (Wizard). Adopting the new and improved Sense UI and shipping with Android 2.2, the Desire Z is specced very similarly to the Desire in all other areas, except for one, the keyboard.

Physically, the HTC Desire Z is glorious. It is slim for a QWERTY device, feels solid, with a slick, brushed metal aesthetic, and handles smoothly. The Desire Z’s secret weapon in the smart-phone wars is its keyboard, which opens from under the screen with a hinge mechanism HTC call the “Z Hinge”. It’s a less springy mechanism than we’ve gotten used to from other handsets and provides a smooth gliding motion throughout the opening and closing range. In case you can’t tell yet, we’re immediately warming to the design, as the hinge, and indeed the device on the whole feels more luxurious and controlled than, say, the Nokia E7 we played with yesterday. Another reason for this is the way the screen sits when open. The HTC Desire Z screen opens out flat... very, very flat, with no E7esque tilting in sight. While for practical use in poor lighting, a tilted screen may help, on a purely aesthetic level, the Desire Z looks gorgeous when open. With the top and bottom virtually flush with one another when open, it looks and feels like both parts are one, adding to the solid, rich feel. The keyboard is comfortable to use, with keys being rubberized and tactile, sufficiently raised and well spaced. We look forward to testing the keyboard out in extended use as soon as we get a review unit.

With the same resolution and screen-size as the original Desire, the only real change to the screen on the HTC Desire Z comes in the form of it being SLCD instead of AMOLED, which may mean greater power consumption and less colour vibrancy. Below the screen is a touch pad, with a battery unlock on the right hand side, a power button and 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and a micro USB port on the left hand side. The camera is also the same as on the Desire with a 5MP sensor and a single LED flash.

With a 800MHz processor moving everything along, the HTC Desire Z we played with ran smoothly and Sense UI was immediately familiar. While we didn’t get to see the advanced features of the new HTC Sense (i.e. remote control with or DLNA) as these will be going live around October, we were nevertheless impressed when operating the phone.

Expected in European markets in October, the HTC Desire Z will be free here in the UK on a £35 a month contract of 24 months, with prices elsewhere awaiting confirmation.

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