AT&T HTC HD7S Review

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The HTC HD7S is very similar to the HD7 on T-Mobile USA and other networks in Europe. There are only a few differences and improvements from the older HD7, but the biggest difference is that this model is available on AT&T with AT&T 3G bands. There were a few other things about the older HD7 that we really didn’t like. For example, the hardware buttons were difficult to use, the screen’s color was a bit washed out, and the camera had some white balance issues that would make for pink-tinted photos. Read on for our full review to find out how the new HD7S has improved on the older HD7!

BOX CONTENTS



This is our unboxing video of the newest Windows Phone for AT&T, the HTC HD7S. It’s a minor upgrade from the HD7 that we’ve already seen on T-Mobile, but there are still some interesting differences. Inside the box, we’ve got the usual headphones, microUSB cable, and charging adapter… nothing special like a case or coupon codes or anything like that.

HARDWARE





As with most Windows Phone 7 devices, the HTC HD7S is running a 1GHz Snapdragon QSD8250 processor with 576MB RAM, 512MB ROM, and 16GB of storage. The 4.3-inch Super LCD screen has a 480×800 pixel resolution and four-point multi-touch. You’ve also got the usual Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, assisted GPS, 5MP camera with dual LED flash, 1230 mAh battery, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, and a microUSB 2.0 port. The device dimensions are 68 x 122 x 11.2 millimeters, and it weighs 162 grams. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

What’s different about this device is its Super LCD screen that’s supposed to be better than the older LCD screen on the HD7. The HD7S also has some improvements in the camera as well as the hardware buttons (thankfully!) The hardware buttons on the HD7S, and especially the camera button, are now actually usable. The camera button’s half-press is easy to feel and the full press is much more distinguishable than the older HD7. The power button has a nice click to it as well. Unfortunately capacitive buttons are still capacitive buttons.

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Now what about that screen? The brightness seems about the same as the older HD7, but the color reproduction definitely looks better on the HD7S. The blacks are a bit blacker as well, but the whites are more grey, and the older HD7 clearly has a better range of contrast as you’ll notice in our display tests in the hardware tour video above. The HD7S also does not handle continuous tones very well. Ugly lines (banding) show up in graphic blends and gradients. You’ll see this in your photos occasionally as well. This is, in part, due to the number of colors that Windows Phone 7 is currently allowed to display.

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The kickstand surrounds the 5 megapixel 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. One difference from the HD7 on T-Mobile is that underneath the kickstand is a gold paint job rather than the silver.

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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 camera button has a half-press for focus and then a full press for shutter. It has been improved significantly from the T-Mobile version and now is much easier to press. This is a very welcome fix.

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On the top we have a power button. Again, the button has been much improved over the older T-Mobile HD7 and is much easier to press and activate.

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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 fingernail-sized slit in the top. You’ve also got a rear speaker grill here along with the 5MP camera and dual LED flash. Another difference from the T-Mobile HD7 is the HD7S’s blacker coloring to the back. You’ll also notice it does not have “HD7” etched into the little metal strip.

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You can see the grills at the top and bottom of the HD7S are painted black vs. the silver on the HD7 from T-Mobile. Outdoor visibility on the Super LCD screen is not much better than the normal LCD screen on the old HD7.

SOFTWARE

The HD7S is running the NoDo version of Windows Phone 7 right out of the box and of course it comes with some AT&T branded bundled apps. They’re all the same ones that you’d find on any other AT&T branded Windows Phone 7, and include things like Uverse Mobile, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Radio and AT&T MyWireless. The AT&T Code scanner was not included by default, but that’s an easy download from the AT&T app store within the Marketplace. You’ve also got the HTC Hub preloaded, but that’s about it from HTC in terms of customizations on this HD7S. Of course, from within the HTC Hub or within the Marketplace, you can download a number of free HTC applications designed for their Windows Phone 7 devices.





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 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.

For more, check out our detailed Windows Phone 7 Review

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The HTC HD7S can take photos at 5MP with the dual LED flash. You can see there is a bit too much sharpening on the edges and there’s certainly some blotchiness. Launching the camera takes about 3 seconds either by navigating to the programs listing or press-holding on the camera button. HTC didn’t add any special features to the camera such as wide dynamic range or anti-shake options that you might find in Samsung-branded Windows Phones. You’ll also notice the camera’s light white balance is much less pink.



As with most current Windows Phone 7 devices, 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. The video quality seems okay, but it is certainly not as good as something like the Nokia N8 camera. You might see some frame dropping in lower light situations, as well as some washed out highlights. There is also no noise reduction for the audio, so don’t expect that to be so great.

BATTERY LIFE

The HTC HD7S’s battery life has been quite good. It’s about average for smartphones these days, and should get you through a workday just fine. Plan on recharging the device overnight, or sooner if you’re downloading a lot of apps, streaming video, or playing a lot of games.

BUGS AND WISHES

HD7S is very reliable. There are no slow-downs or crashes with the built-in apps and native programs, though you might see some issues with 3rd party programs (which is to be expected on any platform). Most of the issues that I had with the earlier HD7 on T-Mobile have been fixed, however the newer Super LCD screen, while bringing much improved color, also makes the 16-bit color limitations much more visible. The banding you’ll see in continuous-tone images is very much an eyesore.

In terms of wishes, the hardware was high-end last year, and seems a bit old. It’s still very fast and smooth, though, so that may not be an actual issue. I wish it had HSPA+ 21Mbps download speeds, and a better camera.

PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

The HTC HD7S is available from AT&T for about $199 with a new contract, but if you look you might find some promotions. For example, you could get it from Best Buy for $49.

PROS

+ Large 4.3″ Super LCD screen

+ Windows Phone 7 OS is smooth, refined

+ Flip out kickstand integrated with the camera rim

+ Dual LED flash on the 5MP camera

+ Better hardware buttons

CONS

– Windows Phone 7 still lacks some key features that you might be used to from other platforms

– No expandable storage (16GB only)

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

– Super LCD screen makes color banding more apparent

– Only 3G speeds (but you won’t really notice on AT&T’s network)

CONCLUSION

If you’re an AT&T customer who loved the 4.3 inch screen on the HTC HD2, are interested in the new Windows Phone 7, and haven’t already bought a Samsung Focus, you might like the HD7S. It’s the only Windows Phone 7 with a large 4.3-inch screen, but when you look at the other Windows Phone choices available on AT&T, that’s really the only thing it has going for it.

I give the HTC HD7S 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!