HTC Legend Review

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The HTC Legend serves as the successor to the Hero (that’s the one with the “chin”), a device that was quite popular for HTC. The characteristic chin was a generally revered design element because it was unique and functional in its ability to give the Hero a more phone-like feel. Whenever HTC has a hit, they create a successor. The second iteration of the Hero, dubbed the Legend, is an Android 2.1 phone that is interestingly cut from a solid block of aluminmum. This material choice means that the device is super sturdy (and yet not heavy) because it’s made from one piece and thus has no front or back. In this review of the HTC Legend we’ll cover hardware, software, performance, and more.

BOX CONTENTS

The unboxing experience of the Legend is identical to all recent HTC devices like the Nexus One and HD2. Inside the box we see the usual stuff…headphones, a sync cable, wall charger, and a microSD card that is 2GB. Lacking is a case.

HARDWARE

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The Legend isn’t a large device and it fits nicely in-hand. The screen is just 3.2″ and has the same resolution as the iPhone, so HVGA or 480 down and 320 across. The Legend has an AMOLED screen, meaning that blacks are truly black, and colors really pop. It also supports multitouch, so that you can pinch to zoom in various places.

Let’s talk specs. The Legend is running with a 600MHz Qualcomm CPU with 384MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM. These specs aren’t as impressive as you’ll find on the HTC Desire or Nexus One, and to be honest, it shows. As we’ll discover later, performance on the Legend isn’t fantastic at times. Continuing on, the Legend has WiFi, Bluetooth, aGPS, and an FM radio. The camera on the rear is 5.0MP and has autofocus with a flash. It’s a quadband GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900) with dualband UMTS (900/2100), meaning you won’t get 3G in the US. Powering everything is a good-sized 1300mAh battery. For audio, the Legend has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and for charging and syncing, it uses the standard microUSB. For full specs, check out PDAdb.net.

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While the AMOLED screen is terrific indoors, taking the device outside on a bright day changes the story. Couple the glare from the shiny screen with the poor outdoor visibility typical of an AMOLED display, and you’ve got a nearly unviewable screen if you’re in bright sunlight. That’s a bummer.

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Zooming into the buttons, we find that HTC went with a more minimal button layout on the Legend than found on the Hero. Gone are call start and end keys. Are they missed? I have to say that yes, these keys are missed. In order to make a phone call, you must always go back to the home screen, which is an extra step that wasn’t there before.

Also new is the optical D-Pad, which was previously mechanical on the Hero. I found the sensitivity of the optical D-Pad to be fantastic. And, thanks to the chin tilting the D-Pad towards the user, it’s very comfortable to use, especially with one hand. Speaking of the chin, it makes the Legend very comfortable to hold against your face while using it as a phone.

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The Legend is a thin device at just 11.5mm in depth, which is about 1mm thinner than the Hero. When you turn it on the side like above, you get to see a nice chisseled look, indicative that the phone was sculpted out of metal, rather than cast with plastic.

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Because the Legend is made from one piece of aluminium, there is no backing. In order to access the battery, SIM card, and microSD card, you must pull off a piece of plastic at the bottom of the device.

Also back here we can see the 5.0MP camera with LED flash, plus an interesting dotted pattern used as the speaker grill for the speakerphone.

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Again, thanks to the AMOLED screen, videos and photos (plus anything graphical for that matter) appear beautifully. As you’ll see in a video below, the Legend supports Flash in the browser, so websites appear in their full glory.

SOFTWARE

New to the HTC Legend (and the upcoming Desire) is an updated version of HTC Sense. It allows for more widgets, improved performance, deeper integration with the operating system, plus a fantastic multi-touch gesture for the home page that lets you zoom out to see your seven home screens. On the Hero (which happened to be the first device with Android Sense), if you wanted to get from homescreen one to homescreen seven, you’d get a finger cramp having to swipe so many times. This new version of Sense completely fixes this issue!

In this video, we take a look at the browser performance on the Legend. While not as smooth as the HD2 and iPhone 3GS, the Legend has a capable web browser.

CAMERA

The camera on the Legend is quite good. You can see some uncompressed sample photos here (indoor close up, no flash), here (indoor low light with flash), and here (outdoor bright light). Also, the Legend shoots in VGA video. You can see a sample in 3GP format here.

PERFORMANCE

Overall, the Legend is a snappy device, but I did have problems. At least five times while testing the device (in the duration of a week) I would have to pull the battery out of the phone to do a reset. This was often caused by using one of the more intricate Sense widgets. Another problem I had at least a few times was the phone not recognizing the presence of a SIM card. Again, I’d have to soft reset the phone to get things back to normal. I think that these issues are software-related and could probably be fixed with a simple software update. With all of that said, the gaming performance of the Legend was quite good. See a sample of a high FPS racing game here.

CALL QUALITY

I usually don’t write about call quality because solid call quality is an expecation in 2010, but in the case of the Legend, call quality was far above average. Perhaps the “feels-like-a-phone” form factor combined with good sound processing allowed for this. Also great was speakerphone volume. I could raise the volume to 100% without having the sound break up. Reception was fine.

BATTERY LIFE

The Legend ranks very well for battery life. With heavy use, I could get through about a day and a quarter. With moderate/average use, the Legend can go about two days before needing to be recharged. I credit this to a big battery, the AMOLED screen (which doesn’t need a strong backlight), and the lower-clocking Qualcomm CPU.

PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

At this time, the Legend is being sold overseas, but can be imported like I did and used in the US with EDGE data. The lowest price we could find was at Clove Technology. They are selling it for £315 or about $480 unlocked. No word on a US release.

PROS

+ Solid construction

+ AMOLED screen is beautiful (indoors)

+ Improved Sense UI is fantastic

+ Great battery life

+ Outstanding call quality

CONS

– Unstable/buggy at times

– Poor outdoor screen visibility

– No case included

– No US 3G version

Conclusion

HTC has learned a lot since the Hero. For the Legend they’ve dramatically improved the speed and functionality of their Sense interface and have taken design to a whole new level with a well-crafted aluminum chassis that is as sturdy as it is beautiful. My major gripe with the Legend is it’s instability when pushed to the limit, though I’m confident that a software update from HTC could fix these performance issues. I give the Legend a 4/5.

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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.