HTC 7 Pro Review
Windows Phone 7 suddenly became very interesting, didn't it? Overnight it went from being the underdog in the mobile OS family, to a part of the “three horse race” Nokia's Stephen Elop alluded to while introducing the Nokia Windows Phone plans.
Thus every new WP7 handset will be examined and scrutinized with the notion that it is to eventually become a part of a huge ecosystem of phones, apps and cloud services that the Nokia-Microsoft tandem is about to deliver probably a year from now.
Here enters the HTC 7 Pro, the last of the announced HTC Windows Phone 7 handsets to come, which adds a physical keyboard in the mix. There is another WP7 device with a slide-out physical QWERTY - the LG Quantum on AT&T - but let's see how this one holds up as your mobile typewriter...
The HTC 7 Pro carries the company's typical solid build quality – it is crafted with quality plastic all around, and has a brushed aluminum back cover for added style. A brushed metal ellipse also marks out the area where the 5MP camera with LED flash, and the loudspeaker are on the back.
You can compare the HTC 7 Pro with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.
The back has a screw placed prominently in the midst of its soft-touch plastic low end, that looks like it's holding the battery cover. Fret not, though - for removing the aluminum back panel you don't need to carry a screwdriver with you at all times, or grow large nail on your pinky – just open the keyboard, and the cut to pry open the back cover is on the right hand side. The bad part about the HTC 7 Pro is that it doesn't have a microSD card slot, so you are stuck with the 8GB/16GB of internal storage. The volume rocker on the left is flush with the side, and that's where the microUSB port is located, too. The right only hosts the dedicated camera button, whereas at the top we have the lock/power key, and the standard audio jack.
The display is of the odd 3.6” size, and carries the 480x800 pixels of resolution each of its WP7 brethren is boasting. It is a nice, bright LCD screen, with relatively decent viewing angles, but it could use a bit more contrast to its colors.
At 0.61 (15.5mm) thickness and 6.53 oz (185 g) of weight the HTC 7 Pro isn't the most slender kid of the bunch, but for a solidly built QWERTY slider tailored mostly to the suit types, it will pass. Nevertheless, that heft won't let it stay unnoticed in your pocket, or during long conversations.
Luckily, the tilting slide-out QWERTY keyboard mechanism gets the job done. For the T-Mobile G2, HTC went with this innovative Z-hinge mechanism, which was cool, albeit it looked iffy, and still didn't allow you to tilt the screen up; it also had you bashing thumbs against the lower part of the display half when pressing symbols on the top keyboard row.
The HTC 7 Pro takes all these, and corrects them. The screen half now slides up with a tight movement, and, when fully opened, its lower part recesses into a pit designed specifically to accommodate it, thus making it almost flush with the keyboard half, decreasing the thumb-bashing to a minimum. The effort to push it open is pretty significant, though, and at the end of the movement it drags a bit against the textured surface surrounding the keyboard, instead of opening with a click.
For us the screen tilt mechanism should be an integral part of any smartphone with a physical keyboard, as it adds great value to the whole I-have-a-bulky-QWERTY-phone experience, regardless if you are typing or watching movies.
The keys themselves are chiclet style, each with its separate dome, very well spaced, and with enough travel to them so as typing to feel comfortable. The LED backlit letters make typing in less than perfect lighting conditions easy, and there are two small lights on the left to indicate when you are using upper case letters, or have pressed the function button to access some of the special symbols that glow in the dark in different color too. Add to all that goodness a dedicated top number row, and we might as well have the best slide-out QWERTY keyboard created for a phone in recent memory. It made us almost grin with delight while using it, and forget about the significant weight it added to the HTC 7 Pro.