Thursday, February 17, 2011

Specs OF HTC HD 7 .

The screen that just keeps on going meets the OS that refuses to fit on a single display. Yes, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, like Windows Mobile 6.5 and Android before it, is getting treated with a 4.3-inch display from HTC for its launch party. The aptly titled HD7 is, by virtue of Microsoft's stringent hardware requirements, mostly just a stretched-out version of its WP7 contemporaries: it offers thestandard 800 x 480 res, 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon, 576MB of RAM, and a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with a 720p movie mode. So what sets it apart? HTC will have you believe its Hub enhances the buttery smooth WP7 software, while outside the shell there's a handy kickstand for landscape lounging and you do of course benefit from an enlarged canvas for your finger inputs. Join us after the break to discover how much that matters in day-to-day use, along with the rest of our thoughts on the HTC HD7.


The HD7 isn't shy about proclaiming itself an entertainment machine and its design reflects these aspirations. Besides the kickstand inviting landscape operation, you have two speakers framing the large display, nestled in elegant little crevices at the bottom and top of the phone. Protecting them from harm's way is a metallic band spanning the HD7's entire circumference, which also houses a volume rocker, a two-stage camera button, and your standard-issue power/lock combo button.

On the whole, we like both the look and feel of this handset, but it's not without its flaws. Chief among them is the quality of its construction materials, with the back cover being made from a relatively flimsy plastic, which has a slight, albeit tangible, flex to it and is prone to creaking. It looks durable, mind you -- we don't expect its matte surface to degrade too badly over time -- but the phone's rigidity comes almost entirely from the metallic band around its sides and from the display itself. Not exactly ideal in our eyes. Then there's also the kickstand, which exhibits some lateral wiggling action we're not too fond of and does not sit flush with the phone when retracted. Beyond that, just to get all our bugbears off our chest, the pair of speaker recesses turned out to be absolute dust magnets and cleaning them out wasn't the easiest thing in the world either.


The US (exclusive to T-Mobile on November 8) and UK (an O2 exclusive, available today) variants of the HD7 will pack 16GB of non-expandable storage whereas most other countries will have to settle for 8GB. You might consider that something of a limitation, and indeed if you have to have every episode of every season of House on your mobile device, maybe you'll feel the squeeze, but T-Mobile is coming to the rescue with Slacker Radio and Netflix apps preinstalled on the US HD7, while the Zune Pass all-you-can-listen music buffet service (coming to Western Europe right around now) can turn the cloud into your music collection guardian.

What we're more concerned about, however, is the Qualcomm QSD8250 chip that resides within the HD7's confines. This was a celebrated 1GHz part back when it graced HTC's own HD2 this time last year, but today... not so much. And speaking of the HD2, it's pretty outrageous that HTC has gone and matched its spec almost entirely. Sure, the externals have been tweaked, the physical buttons have been dismissed in favor of capacitive keys and you've now got a slightly different frame around your jumbo display, but as far as the internal hardware is concerned, it's nearly the same phone. We imagine this was probably out of HTC's hands since Microsoft insists on the particular trio of WP7 buttons and has also been the one to mandate the processor within, but it still leaves geeks like us feeling less than overjoyed. After all, if not for a bit of red tape, we could just as well be reviewing the HD2 right now.

Looking at the HD7 and its Windows Phone 7 OS in isolation, however, we have to commend the final product. Whether we like the route by which Microsoft has gotten here, what we're looking at with all these launch devices is one hell of a smooth user experience. So, in spite of its aged hardware, the HD7 is by no means a performance slouch. Basically, we'd have preferred something beefier inside, but that's just because we like numbers, and we like them to grow higher, but in actual use the HD7 is more than nippy enough. 

There was one truly noticeable hardware drawback to this handset, however, and that was the size of its battery. At 1,230mAh, it's on the small side for most smartphones nowadays, but particularly so for one that has to power a backlight spanning a full 4.3-inch display. The LG Optimus 7 comes with a 1,500mAh cell and there's no reason (other than perhaps a budgetary one) for the HD7 not to do the same. We definitely felt this shortcoming during our time with the device, finding ourselves looking for the charger before a full day of intensive use was through, whereas even the lightest of use would necessitate you tethering up by the end of the second day. Not terribly impressive.

A final note is also merited regarding the HD7's front-mounted stereo speakers. Not that it should be any surprise given that this is a mere phone, but their quality was pretty nondescript in our testing. We weren't impressed either by the loudness or by the clarity of the output and would describe them as mildly disappointing, given the hype that HTC has flourished upon them.


Ah, the display. The HD7's meat and potatoes, its reason for being, the meaning to its life, the beating heart of its entire operation. If we haven't made it abundantly clear yet, the display is this phone's defining feature and also the thing that will most likely determine its commercial success. That's aside from the key determinant, of course -- the Windows Phone 7 experience -- but given that the OS has been so tightly regimented by Microsoft, you'll be able to easily jump aboard abother WP7 ship should the HD7 not rock your boat quite how you'd like it to. The trouble with its 4.3-inch panel, however, is that it does indeed both make and break the appeal of the HD7. Allow us to explain.

On the one hand, the enlarged panel really makes your daily smartphone tasks so much easier. Yes, in terms of pixel density it's no better off than the more diminutive phones it's vying against, but the magnification of those pixels was a definitely improvement for us, allowing us to read webpages without necessarily having to zoom in on them every time, and also making navigation and text input appreciably easier. It's worth reiterating, perhaps, that this was simply our experience and others may find the large screen overwhelming and its contents unnecessarily inflated. What we're saying is that this just felt like the ideal size to us, not too large (hello, Streak!) and not too small (Motorola Flipout, anyone?).

In fact, on a couple of occasions we honestly got carried away reading on our commute and simply forgot we were using a phone. It felt more like browsing on our desktop with the added bonus of being able to scroll by flicking our fingers. It was a terrific sensation, even if it only lasted for brief moments, and of course it's not something we can confidently say you'll be able to experience on the smaller devices in the Windows Phone 7 stable. The Samsung Omnia 7 and Dell Venue Pro might come close to that, but the HD7 clearly sits at the top of the pile when it comes to taking your Windows experience on the move without resorting to a tablet or a laptop.


The camera on the HD7 was a weird one for us to get to grips with. On the one hand, focusing is pretty snappy and Windows Phone 7 does allow you to jump straight into the camera app from a locked screen (by holding down the shutter button). But our actual results were somewhat hit and miss. Sometimes, the HD7's camera would nail the white balance in situations where even a DSLR was struggling to guess correctly, but at other times it'd struggle to focus in relatively unchallenging circumstances. Aside from that, we have to take issue with WP7's inability to remember camera (or camcorder) settings. The HD7 defaults, weirdly enough, to shooting 480p video, which you have to switch up yourself... each and every time you use the video app. Maybe we're unenlightened on how to make our settings stick, but sure enough, each time we turned on the camera and wanted to shoot at 720p, we had to manually turn it on. Which was annoying. As to the video output itself, it's quite presentable stuff, although the sensor does tend to search for focus even when we're keeping it steady on an unmoving landscape. All in all, the HD7's camera and video recording seem par for the (somewhat mediocre) smartphone course.


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