HTC Touch HD

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INTRODUCTION

    From the day we first caught a glimpse of the Touch HD, we’ve been in love. The device features a screen that has a larger size and much higher resolution than the iPhone, and its gorgeous, minimalist design, has caught the attention of many. Every time I show this to someone for the first time, the response is always the same: "Wow!" In this review, we’ll take a deep and thorough look at the sexy Touch HD, and will help you decide if it should be your next mobile phone. Read on for more!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s talk specs. The Touch HD sports a Qualcomm MSM7201A processor running at 528MHz. It has 512MB ROM (322MB accessible), 288MB RAM (195MB accessible), and has a microSD/HC expansion slot for added memory. Most Touch HDs are shipping with an 8GB microSD card, which is great. The screen is a huge 3.8" and is WVGA 480×800 resolution, making for a pixel density of 245ppi (the Touch Diamond’s screen is 285ppi and the Apple iPhone’s screen is 164ppi). It’s a quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) phone with dualband UMTS (900/2100) with HSDPA and HSUPA. It also has assisted GPS, WiFi b & g, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, USB 2.0, FM radio, and an accelerometer for screen rotations in Opera Mobile and while viewing photos. The rear camera is 5MP with auto focus and no flash, and the front camera for video calls is VGA resolution. Powering all of this is a 1350mAh battery. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)

The Touch HD, which features a massive 3.8" wide VGA screen, is gorgeous, and perfect for viewing multimedia like photos and video.

In hand, the Touch HD feels quite large because of its height and width which is needed to accommodate the huge screen.

Using Opera Mobile 9.5 for internet browsing on the Touch HD is a joy.

    Here is an idea on how the Touch HD compares in size versus the Samsung Omnia, iPhone 3G, and Touch Diamond. It’s almost the same dimensions as the iPhone, but a bit wider, as you’ll see in a picture later in the review. Also, if you’re interested in how the screen of the Touch HD compares to the Diamond/Touch Pro, check out this post.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here is the unboxing video for the Touch HD.

This is the box for the Touch HD.

HTC provides a lot of accessories for the Touch HD – pretty much everything you need. Included is a fabric pouch, wall charger, sync cable, earphones, 8GB microSD card, extra stylus, screen protector, and reading material/software.

THE DEVICE

The entire front of the Touch HD is a uniform piece of plastic, under which a layer of glass resides.

On the top of the device we have a speaker, plus light sensor to the right. On the far right side is the front-facing video camera.

    There are just four hardware buttons on the front (Call Start+End, Home, and Back/OK) that are touch-sensitive, so they don’t press inward – but you do get a slightly vibration from the device so that you know a press has been registered.

On the first side, we have a good-sized volume rocker on the left.

On the bottom we have HTC’s ExtUSB port for syncing and charging, which will work with miniUSB cables. To the right of that is the mic.

On this side, we have the stylus on the left, which is magnetic. Removing the stylus will turn on the screen, like on the Touch Pro and Diamond.

Speaking of the stylus, I found it a bit too short.

On the top we have a power/standby button which has a little status LED within it, plus a welcomed 3.5mm headphone jack for audio.

The back panel is covered in that great non-slip rubbery plastic. On the top, we see the 5MP camera sensor (with no flash) surrounded by a nice brushed-metal mound, and the loudspeaker to the left of it.

Taking off the easy-to-remove battery cover, we find the SIM card slot, soft reset hole, and microSD slot.



Here’s a short hardware tour video of the Touch HD.

COMPARISONS

From left to right, we have the Palm Treo Pro, SE XPERIA X1, Apple iPhone, Touch HD, Samsung Omnia, and HTC Touch Pro.

Here they are in reverse order, stacked.

And here is a profile shot.

    Here is a closer look at the Touch HD next to the iPhone. Although the are almost identical in size, the Touch HD feels much larger (because of the slightly wider body) and thicker (because of the non-rounded edges). You have to admit that the Touch HD is the better looking device here.

Click onto the next page where we’ll talk about software and the new version of TouchFLO 3D that comes on the Touch HD.

    We’ve all seen TouchFLO 3D by now, but the version included on the Touch HD has been modified. Just like the hardware buttons, you get a slight bit of vibration feedback when you tap any of the TouchFLO 3D icons along the bottom. The Touch HD will do this in other programs like YouTube and Opera. Here on the Home tab, because of the taller screen, we can see several appointments without having to swipe your finger up to see more.

We now have a Stock tab which you navigate much like the music and photos tab – by swiping your finger up or down to move through each chart.

If you tap on one of the stock charts, you get a more detailed graph with other bits of info about the stock. This is powered by Yahoo Finance.

The taller screen on the Touch HD allows you to see more of each picture in the Photos and Videos tab.

Like other HTC devices, the Music tab will scan your device for audio, and let you flick through album covers and play songs right from the Today screen.

In previous versions of TouchFLO 3D, you could get a 4-day forecast, but you’d have to open another tab. Because of the longer screen, you can see the forecast without the second tab on the Touch HD.

Here in the Settings, we have a new option: Customize Tabs.

And this is great – you can turn off tabs, or move the order of them. Unfortunately, some tabs cannot be removed like Settings, Program, and Home.

SOFTWARE

Ok, let’s go through the software. Being an HTC device, we have the HTC task manager which allows you to have the "X" button actually close programs in Windows Mobile.

Here is the Start menu, which has large, finger-friendly entries.

The Touch HD has the full suite of Office 2007 mobile programs.

Here’s the first pane of Programs. The software on the Touch HD is almost identical to that of the Diamond and Touch Pro. I should mention that all lists (like this one) are flick-scrollable.

Tweeter, the game that uses the phone’s accelerometer to move a ball around, is even more fun in WVGA resolution =D.

Navigating and viewing photos on the Touch HD is a great experience.

When you plugin your headset, you can use the equalizer to adjust the frequencies for audio.

The FM radio is the same as found on the Touch Diamond and Pro.

Here is the second pane of the Start menu.

I was excited to use remote desktop on the Touch HD, since, at 800×480 resolution, it would actually be pretty usable. But unfortunately, there is no way to use Remote Desktop in landscape, which is a huge bummer.

MP3 trimmer is a neat little app that lets you make ringtones from songs you load onto your device.

The Voice Speed Dial application that comes on the Touch HD is not as good as Microsoft Voice Command.

WorldCard Mobile lets you take a picture of any text or a business card and convert it to editable text. It works pretty well but takes too much time to use.

YouTube works great, and videos scale to the full screen.

Some of the Touch Pros and Diamonds out there don’t have this Program Guide menu option.

    Speaking of video, here is video playback at VGA resolution in Windows Media Player. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t stretch to the whole screen unless the video is outputted in WVGA resolution (so, VGA/QVGA videos won’t scale).

    Using a program like CorePlayer, you can not only play many more file formats than WMP, but the player will stretch all video to the whole screen regardless of resolution. Using CorePlayer to watch DiVX video really lets the Touch HD shine. Video playback is super smooth, and the clarity is fantastic.

    Here I have a high-quality episode of The Office playing in full screen glory on CorePlayer. The clarity of the video is breathtaking. Like I said, this is where the Touch HD really excels as a multimedia device, it’s just too bad you need additional software to make it happen.

    Internet viewing is great on the Touch HD. You get to see a lot on the screen at once, and you don’t have to zoom in as much as you do on the Touch Pro and Diamond because everything is bigger. Unfortunately, the Touch HD’s version of Opera Mobile still doesn’t have flash support.

If you tilt the screen to landscape, the accelerometer will automatically rotate the orientation. A new feature to this version of Opera is the zoom slider in the bottom left corner.

Here’s what the keyboard looks like in landscape.

    Let’s talk about text entry. Obviously, the Touch HD doesn’t have a keyboard (or D-Pad). Included on the device are many input options. In addition to the defaults for Windows Mobile (transcriber, stylus keyboard, letter recognizer, and block recognizer), you get the three great HTC on screen keyboards. The screen of the Touch HD is sensitive enough to where you don’t have to press very hard to type.

    Here is the first keyboard, which is SureType style. This is the best keyboard for typing long messages if you use both thumbs on the keyboard. With T9 switched on, I could type pretty darn fast. Note the D-Pad arrows on the bottom of the keyboard. This is where you have to turn if you want to move the cursor around on the screen without moving your fingers up to where the cursor is, or to select an item in a list.

The second keyboard is a T9-numeric style, which is best for one-handed use. Again, keeping it in T9 mode allows you to type pretty fast. You can quickly switch into ABC mode if you need to type a unique word.

And here is the full QWERTY option, which is my least favorite. I didn’t find it to be very accurate.

PHONE

    To make a call, you can enter the phone application by pressing the Call start hardware key (or, at least, that’s the quickest). You then get this screen. You can quickly bring up the person you want to call by using the letters on the keypad here. There’s a problem, though. Because you have no D-Pad, you can’t go down to the third name, press right to switch "m" to "h" to call home, and place the call. In order to do this, you can swipe your finger right or left on each entry to cycle through the different numbers. This took me a while to discover.

In the bottom left corner, you can switch the selector to Video Call. We can’t do video calls in the US.

This is what call history looks like.

    This is new. When you get an incoming call, you get this. Slide left to answer, and right to ignore. You can use the Call Start/End keys for this function as well. From here you can also send a text message to the person, or mute the ringer. I wish there was a way to disable the hardware keys when the phone rings – there were a few times when I accidentally picked up the call while taking the phone out of my pocket because one of the buttons got pressed on the way out.

    And this is what it looks like when you’re on a call. It’s the same screen that you see on the Touch Pro and Diamond. Regarding call quality, the Touch HD performs well, and the Speakerphone had a nice amount of volume.

Click on to the next page as we cover Settings and talk about photo quality on the HTC Touch HD.

Let’s go through the settings.

We can customize a long press of the Call button, but that’s it. This is one of the most disappointing aspects of the Touch HD – the lack of hardware buttons. It doesn’t even have a camera button.

You can turn on and off the haptic feedback for the four hardware keys.

You can somewhat customize a tap and hold of the End key.

Here we are in System Settings.

You can have the device automatically adjust sound levels for you when recording, or (on the next tab) listening to music.

Here is the second pane of the System Settings.

After ending all programs from running, we have about 90MB of RAM left, which is good, but not as good as the Touch Pro or the XPERIA X1.

If you go into Screen settings, you can’t rotate the screen full-time, which is a shame. With some registry tweaks, you could make this happen.

And there is a new setting in the TouchFLO panel – seen on the bottom there. This is the other bit of haptic feedback I wrote about earlier.

This is a neat feature of the Touch HD. If you set up your YouTube account credentials in the account manager…

…and you press "menu" in the gallery application when you’re on a video…

…the video will jump into the Uploader, where it’ll upload to YouTube. Neat! For a demo, check out this post.

And here we are in Connections.

The device will configure itself to any carrier when you install the SIM, which is great. I popped in my AT&T SIM card and immediately got EDGE data and could make calls.

And finally, here is what the Communications manager looks like.



This video shows some software features that I’ve written about so far in this review.

CAMERA

Here is the Camera app. Since there is no hardware camera button, you must activate the shutter with the shutter icon on the right. The Touch HD has selective auto focus, so pressing anywhere on the screen will focus on that area.

All of the controls are finger friendly and the application is fast.

From here, you can change the capture mode. The Panorama is a good feature and it works well. The Touch HD can take images up to 5MP.

You can have the camera utilize the whole screen to take wide-aspect pictures.

You can also adjust the metering mode and turn on flicker adjustment.

Using the selective auto focus, I was able to get a super crisp picture of this flower – even though it was swaying in the wind!

Without a flash, low-light pictures come out noisy.

And here is an outdoor shot. Everything is clear, but the color is quite dull.

Click on to the next page as we wrap up the review with a note on performance, battery life, and talk about all the Pros and Cons of the Touch HD.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with HTC Touch HD.

I’d compare the performance of the Touch HD with that of the Touch Pro or Touch Diamond. It’s not as fast as the XPERIA X1, but it’s well optimized and going from screen to screen feels quite snappy.

BATTERY
    The battery on the Touch HD is a reasonable 1350mAh, which is the same as the Touch Pro. With heavy use of data, GPS, and many calls, the Touch HD will get through about a day. With moderate use, you’ll last about 1.5 days, and with light use, expect around 2, maybe 3 days. This is not outstanding, but above average for a smartphone of this kind.

BUGS AND WISHES

    In terms of bugs, there really aren’t any except for one issue with the keyboard: sometimes the keyboard doesn’t display when it should, and when you try to type on it, it hides away.

    In terms of wishes, I wish HTC had designed the Touch HD to feel smaller in hand. As it stands, it’s nearly identical in dimensions to the iPhone, but because the edges aren’t rounded and because it is just a hair wider, it feels big.

    The Touch HD has serious ease of use issues because of the lack of D-Pad and programmable hardware buttons. Although HTC has added a D-Pad to all of the keyboards, they’ve also added another step to many operations such as highlighting items on the screen or flipping through multiple phone numbers for a contact. The saving grace is that the Touch HD is well optimized for input with your finger via the touchscreen. Everything is large, the screen has a good level of sensitivity, and even scrolling is easy by flicking your finger.

    I’d love to use the Touch HD in landscape full time, but I can’t. Heck, I’d love to use Remote Desktop in landscape

temporarily

, but I can’t. The Touch HD is a portrait device, unless you’re in Opera or viewing pictures/video. With some registry modification, you could fix this.

    Web browsing is great on the Touch HD, but the fact that Opera Mobile still doesn’t do Flash is bothersome. Even the prototype Touch HD had it, why not the production version?

    The built in video player – Windows Media Player and the HTC gallery media player, don’t do the Touch HD justice. They don’t always scale to full screen, they play a limited amount of video formats, and they don’t allow for much control over video playback. For a device with the name "HD" – it’s disconcerting that there is no really good video playback solution included. Like I mentioned, CorePlayer works very well.

    And then there are the other little things, that aren’t deal breakers but just annoying: there is no flash on the camera, the soft reset hole and microSD slot are under the battery, the stylus is too short, and the status LED is way too small.

    In the end, the Touch HD isn’t practical for business users. The large and exposed screen will prove somewhat fragile for those that are rough on their devices; the lack of hardware controls limits how quickly you can do certain tasks; and the one-handed usability is almost non-existent…heck, even to access the Start menu with one hand requires a very long thumb thanks to the tall screen.

PURCHASING

    The Touch HD is only being sold overseas right now (and is not likely to come to North America), but you can import it into the US it’ll work fine on GSM carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T, though you won’t get 3G data (only EDGE). Hop on over to Clove Technology where they are selling it for about £445, which, depending on the current exchange rate, comes out to $700-800 USD.




PROS


  • Super sexy design


  • Has a large, high resolution screen

  • Everything is finger-friendly
  • Ships with an 8GB microSD card
  • Includes 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Solid performance
  • Haptic feedback on hardware buttons and some icons
  • Pouch/screen protector/extra stylus included
  • Includes updated version of TouchFLO 3D
  • Upload to YouTube right from the device

  • Decent battery life


  • WiFi/aGPS/FM Radio/HSDPA/HSUPA

CONS

  • Feels big in hand
  • Poor one-handed usability
  • Lacks D-Pad and programmable buttons
  • Lacks US 3G bands
  • Cannot re-orient display to landscape permanently
  • Still no Flash support in Opera Mobile
  • Needs a more robust built-in video player
  • microSD slot and soft reset hole is under battery cover
  • Status LED is tiny
  • No flash on camera
  • Not practical for business users
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    As I mentioned, for the business user, the Touch HD is just not practical. Instead, business users should consider the HTC Touch Pro or SE XPERIA X1. If you’re looking for the most flashy/sexy/gorgeous (and capable) multimedia and internet browsing phone that has ever been sold, the Touch HD deserves your serious consideration

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.