T-Mobile HTC HD7 Review

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The HTC HD7 is the first Windows Phone 7 smartphone to be released on T-Mobile in the U.S.A. and it’s the successor to last spring’s HTC HD2. Many people are going to think it’s too similar to the old HD2, but there are still quite a few nice new changes, not least of all being the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Whether or not these changes are worthy of your money, is up to you, but we’ll give you all the info you need to find out. Read on for our full HTC HD7 review!

BOX CONTENTS







Here’s the unboxing for the HTC HD7. You’ll see the usual AC adapter, Micro USB cable, and 3.5mm stereo headphones. Nothing special like a case or anything.

HARDWARE



Here’s a look at the hardware on the T-Mobile HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7. The new kickstand design that surrounds the rim of the camera and duel LED flashes is quite a unique feature and I like it a lot. The only thing that’s disappointing is the buttons. The hardware buttons around the edge are very thin and difficult to press. They don’t have much movement either, so it’s hard to tell if you’re pressing it correctly without looking at the screen. The HD7’s formfactor is very similar to the old HTC HD2 and HTC Evo 4G smartphones.

The HTC HD7 is running a 1Ghz Snapdragon QSD8250 processor with 576Mb RAM, 512MB ROM, and 16Gb of storage. The 4.3″ Super LCD screen has a 480×800 pixel resolution and 4 point multi-touch. You’ve also got WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, Assisted GPS, 5Mp camera with dual LED flash, 1230mAh battery, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, and a MicroUSB 2.0 port.

The device dimensions are68 x 122 x 11.2 millimetres, and it weighs 162 grams. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

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When the new HD7 phone is on its kickstand, you’ve got a speaker grill on each side. It would be cool if these would offer stereo audio, but they don’t. The real speaker is on the back and those speaker grills are just for decoration. The screen looks great at this size, but it’s slightly dimmer at all brightness levels when compared with the HTC Surround. In direct sunlight, the screen will get significantly washed out, however it’s still readable and looks better than an AMOLED screen in direct sunlight.

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The kickstand surrounds the camera, dual LED flash, and speaker. It looks like just a decorative element, but it nicely flips out in order to form a stand for the device. The kickstand looks like metal, but feels and sounds kind of like plastic to me as seen in our hardware tour above. Given the magnet-test, it turns out the HD7’s kickstand is metal after all.

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On the left side of the device we have nothing but a chrome plastic rim.

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On the right side of the device we have the camera button and volume rocker buttons. The volume rocker buttons work well, but I wish the camera button was larger and easier to press. It has a half-press for focus and then a full press for shutter, however the button moves so little you really have to press hard or maybe use a fingernail in order to take a picture. Your mileage may vary, but this may take some getting used to.

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On the top we have a power button. Again, the button is very recessed. It’s difficult to feel and difficult to press. It seems the part of the button closest to the power icon (towards the middle of the device) is the best place to press. If you press it too far towards the edge of the phone, it may not register.

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On the bottom is the MicroUSB connector, a microphone hole, and a 3.5mm headset jack.

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The back has a nice feel to it and the top portion of the back kind of peels off from a little finger-nail-sized slit in the top. You’ve also got a rear speaker grill here along with the 5Mp camera and dual LED flash.

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Underneath the battery cover, the plastic is a bit translucent. I really like how you can see some of the insides through the plastic here. It’s a nice, yet subtle design touch.

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Here’s the HD7 next to the HD2, HTC Surround, and Samsung Vibrant.

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To compare smartphones we’ve got the HTC HD7 on top, then the HD2, the HTC Surround, and the Samsung Vibrant on the bottom. The HD7 is very similar to the HD2. Both are naturally thicker than the Surround, but the Samsung Vibrant is significantly thinner and light in comparison.

SOFTWARE

The T-Mobile version of the HTC HD7 smartphone comes with a few bundled apps that were bundled special for the carrier. Unfortunately we’re not talking about a huge amount of innovation. You get the T-Mobile Family Room app which will let you connect family members with T-Mobile branded Windows Phone 7 devices in order to share notes and calendars. There’s also the TeleNav GPS navigation program which is similar to the one we’ve seen on AT&T branded Windows Phone 7s. You’ve also got “T-Mobile TV” which is basically a rebrand of the Mobi-TV app for Windows Phone 7. The premium T-Mobile TV channels will cost you an extra $10 per month, but if you cancel your trial subscription, you’ll still have a few free channels to watch. Lastly, from the HTC Hub, you can actually download another T-Mobile application called “My Account” this gives you easy access to your phone service stats such as how many minutes and text messages you’ve used so far during the billing cycle.

Other than that, T-Mobile has just bundled a couple more apps that anyone can download from the Marketplace. Netflix and Slacker will show up as defaults on your start screen, but they (and any of the other T-Mobile customizations) are easily removable if you so desire.



If you want, you can easily tap and hold on the application icon in the programs listing and choose “Uninstall”. That will remove the application from the new HTC HD7 phone permanently¬Ö that is unless you do a Factory Reset, at which point the original bundled applications will get reinstalled in the background during first boot.

CAMERA

The HTC HD7 can take photos at 5MP with the dual LED flash. Here’s a few photo samples at full resolution: outdoor sunset, indoor close up with flash. You can see there is a bit too much sharpening on the edges and the flash tends to over-expose things that are too close. Launching the camera takes about 3 seconds either by navigating to the programs listing or press-holding on the camera button. The latter method works even when the device is off and the screen is locked. It proves to be a great shortcut for quickly launching the camera. When it comes to actually taking a picture, the shutter button needs to be squeezed pretty hard and this can tend to cause some camera shake. HTC didn’t add any special features to the camera such as wide dynamic range or anti-shake mode.

In terms of video recording, by default, as soon as you switch to camcorder mode in the camera software, it will record in VGA 640×480 mode. If you go into the settings, you can change the resolution to 720P for HD video recording, but the next time you go into video recording mode, it will go back to VGA resolution. That’s probably going to be pretty annoying if you like to record 720P HD video a lot since apparently you’ll have to go into the settings every time. There’s also interesting “stereo, normal, or noise reduction” audio recording options in the camcorder settings.

BATTERY LIFE

The new HTC HD7’s battery life has actually been about on par with the old HD2. It’s about average for smartphones these days, and should get you through a workday just fine. Plan on recharging the device over night, or sooner if you’re downloading a lot of apps, streaming video, or playing a lot of games.

BUGS AND WISHES

So far, the HD7 has been very reliable. The power and camera buttons are going to take some getting used to. Both could be much easier to use. I also wish the speaker grills on the top and bottom of the new HTC phone could actually output stereo audio. Unfortunately, they’re just for decoration.

If you look at all the great programs and deals that came with T-Mobile’s HTC HD2, you’ll notice you don’t get nearly as much value with the HD7. There’s no Blockbuster movie rentals, no B&N Nook ebook reader, and the HD7 doesn’t even come with any preloaded movies or free games.

PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

The HTC HD7 will be available from T-Mobile officially on November 8th for about $199 with a new contract. Unofficially, many T-Mobile stores may have the HD7 in stock beginning November 1st, so if you’re craving the HD7 on T-Mobile, you might want to call your local store and see if you can get one early.

PROS

+ Large 4.3″ screen

+ Windows Phone 7 is an exciting new mobile OS

+ Flip out kickstand integrated with the camera rim

+ Dual LED flash on the 5Mp camera

+ Free T-Mobile TV channels

+ Great for Xbox Live gaming and Zune Media Playback

CONS

– Windows Phone 7 still lacks key features like fast app switching, copy/paste, and tethering/router support

– No DLNA media streaming built in

– No expandable storage (16Gb only)

– External speaker is mono, not stereo. Poor sound quality compared to the HTC Surround.

– Buttons are difficult to feel and press

– Lacks many of the apps and special add-ons included with the previous HD2

REVIEW CONCLUSION

If you love the 4.3 inch screen on the HTC HD2 and love the exciting new Windows Phone 7, you’ll love the HD7. It’s the only Windows Phone 7 with a large 4.3 inch screen. The extra size makes all of the type and navigational elements of Windows Phone 7 smartphone larger and easier to use. You’ll also notice the styling and feel of the latest HD7 is much improved over the HD2. The HD7 makes the HD2 look ancient. The kickstand is a great addition, and I love how it’s integrated with the rim around the camera. I’m disappointed it doesn’t come with very many good T-Mobile programs or free movies and games, but if you’re a T-Mobile fan, the HD7 is going to be a good choice. It loses a couple points for potentially-frustrating hardware buttons and pretending to have stereo speakers.

If you would prefer a Windows Phone 7 device on AT&T, check out the Samsung Focus or HTC Surround. Also, take a look at our full review of Windows Phone 7.

I give the HTC HD7 a 3.5/5.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!