HTC Touch Pro

HTC Touch Pro

Summary: HTC's Touch Pro fixes many of the problems with the Touch Diamond and adds a superb keyboard. It remains neat and compact, while battery life is improved (if still not perfect).

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TOPICS: Smartphones, Reviews
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Pros

  • TouchFLO 3D interface delivers better speed and reliability
  • Superb keyboard
  • HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS
  • Improved battery life over the Touch Diamond

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Fiddly control buttons
  • Battery life could be better

HTC’s long-awaited Touch Diamond looked like a great Windows Mobile device on paper, but in practice it disappointed on several counts. In particular, the iPhone-like TouchFLO 3D user interface felt slow and clunky, while the battery life was dreadful.

Undaunted, HTC has now released a follow-up device, the Touch Pro. This is the logical successor to the still-superb TyTN II. But is the Touch Pro enough of an improvement on the Touch Diamond to be worthy of its illustrious predecessor? We obtained a review sample from Clove Technology in order to find out.

Design
If you've never seen the Touch Diamond, then the very similar Touch Pro should impress you with its looks. Small and neat, it shares the same 51mm by 102mm footprint as the Touch Diamond and is barely larger than an ordinary candybar mobile phone. However, it packs a cutting-edge set of smartphone features.

HTC's Touch Pro takes the basic Touch Diamond idea and adds a keyboard and better battery life. It costs £429 (ex. VAT; £504 inc. VAT) from Clove Technology.

Central to these features for the business user is a full QWERTY keyboard, which slides out of the left long edge. This does make the Touch Pro slightly thicker than the Diamond (18mm compared to 11.3mm), but it still fits neatly enough in the hand. It's heavier than the Touch Diamond too — 165g compared to 110g.

The keyboard is one of the best sliding full-QWERTY examples we've seen. Of course it's small, with individual keys measuring just 7mm by 6mm. But the construction is superb and the layout very well designed.

The small size of the keys means that the ergonomics work best when the device is held in two hands and the tips of the thumbs are used. If you have large fingers you may struggle to type accurately, although we coped very well. There's a small amount of return on each key, which helps enormously; for us, the Touch Pro's keyboard is more responsive than the TyTN II's by some margin.

HTC has done a great job with the keyboard layout, too. There's a full row of number keys, so you don't need to use a Fn key combination — a huge benefit. HTC has found space for a set of cursor control keys in an inverted-T arrangement; PageUp and PageDown double up with the up and down keys via the Fn key.

The Enter and Shift keys and the space bar are double width, there are separate Caps, Tab, full-stop and comma keys, while the all-important @ symbol is a Fn key combination. A range of other symbols map to the Fn key, including £ and €. Many of the number row's secondary functions are where you'd expect to find them on a standard keyboard — % with 5, & with 7, * with 8, ( with 9 and ) with 0. And there's still space for a shortcut to the Windows Mobile Comm Manger and the web browser. In short, this is the mobile device keyboard against which all others will henceforth be judged.

Unfortunately the same can't be said for the front controls. As with the Touch Diamond, the corners of the rectangle beneath the screen carry touch-sensitive icons for Home, Back, Call and End. In the middle is a large select button and around it, barely visible, are up, down, left and right arrows. The problem is that it's too easy, at first, to hit a corner button when you're aiming for an arrow. We had the same problem with the Touch Diamond and it's irritating until you become accurate, which takes some time.

Again as in the Touch Diamond, the area surrounding the select button also functions as an iPod-style touch wheel. You can use this in a number of ways — to zoom in and out of photos, for example. When you work out how to use this control, it can be very effective.

The screen, which measures 2.8in. across the diagonal, has a native resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. This is still rare in Windows Mobile devices, and is a joy to behold. As with other recent HTC handhelds, you can opt for large Start menu text, which is especially well rendered on the high-res display.

The Touch Pro has a shiny black fascia, just like the Touch Diamond. The backplate is cut in a similar diamond-like pattern that we don't like any more than we did before. At least in the Touch Pro the backplate is matte, making it more grippable and less fingerprint-prone.

The HTC Touch Pro ships in the same environmentally unfriendly plastic diamond-shaped packaging as the Touch Diamond. It comes with a UK AC adapter, a screen protector, a USB PC connectivity cable, a spare stylus, a headset and a slim envelope-style wallet. You also get a tiny printed quick-start guide and an equally tiny fold-out guide to the TouchFLO 3D system. The full user manual is on CD.

Features
The HTC Touch Pro runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional and is powered by the same 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A processor as the Touch Diamond.

Instead of the 4GB of internal flash storage that HTC chose for the Touch Diamond, there's a microSD card slot. We prefer this solution, as it allows for easy data swapping. There is 512MB of ROM and 288MB of RAM. After a hard reset, our review sample reported 275MB of free storage memory.

This is a well-connected device with HSDPA support providing 7.2Mbps connectivity, given suitable network coverage. Fall-back options are EDGE and GPRS. The phone is a quad-band GSM unit, making it a good fit for international travellers. Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0 + EDR) are also integrated.

Interestingly there's also a TV-out feature. This is accessed via the same mini-USB connector used by the AC adapter, PC connectivity cable and headphones. The Touch Pro TV Out Cable is a £16.99 (inc. VAT) optional extra.

Like the Touch Diamond, the Pro has a GPS receiver and Google Maps preinstalled. Google Maps is not that accurate at locating you correctly — it consistently placed us a few hundred meters from our actual location during testing. You can choose between several third-party applications if you wish to add point-to-point navigation.

There's also an accelerometer that causes the screen to rotate automatically when you turn the Touch Pro in your hand. However, this only works in some applications. The device has a front-facing camera for video calling and a 3.2-megapixel main camera at the back. The latter sports a tiny LED flash and has an autofocus feature.

TouchFLO 3D is a visually impressive layer on top of Windows Mobile: fortunately, it runs quicker on the Touch Pro than it did on the Touch Diamond.

The TouchFLO 3D interface is undoubtedly the star of the show visually. The Windows Mobile Today screen has been replaced by a screen with a scrollbar of icons along its bottom edge. These variously give you a time display, access to contacts, messages, email, the web, camera, music, current weather, an application picker and settings. You can sweep the screen with a fingertip to move around within these choices and make selections.

TouchFLO works much better than it did on the Touch Diamond, and is rather impressive. Moving through pictures and album artwork is visually pleasing as you flick through them rolodex-style, for example. Inevitably, though, you'll need to use the Windows Mobile 6.1 interface for a lot of tasks.

HTC includes a raft of applications on top of the Windows Mobile bundle. Internet Explorer has been ousted in favour of Opera, which is a good move: Opera is smooth, displays data better and allows for tabbed browsing.

Among the other extras is an FM radio, Adobe Reader, an MP3 editor, an RSS reader and a Zip file manager. There's also a YouTube application that lets you download videos and then view them. This works remarkably smoothly. Also worth a mention is WorldCard Mobile which you can use to photograph business cards and then import their contents into the Contacts database.

Performance & battery life
Touch Pro is well ahead of the Touch Diamond as far as performance is concerned. TouchFLO 3D works better, and the well-designed keyboard is an absolute must for heavy email users or anyone needing to significant amounts of data entry.

Battery life is also greatly improved, thanks to the replacement of the Touch Diamond's 900mAh battery with a 1,340mAh unit in the Touch Pro. This still only kept us going for two days between charges, and heavy use of 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS would no doubt reduce this further. HTC says the Touch Pro is good for 419 minutes of GSM talk.

Conclusion
We are very impressed with the HTC Touch Pro, which fixes many of the problems with the Touch Diamond and adds a superb keyboard. It remains neat and compact, while battery life is improved (if still not perfect). As far as the design is concerned, only the front-panel buttons give us cause for concern.

There are plenty of features packed in too. The TouchFLO 3D interface won't appeal to everyone, but you can always disable it and revert to the standard Windows Mobile UI if you wish.

 

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 51x18x102 mm
Weight 165 g
OS & software
Desktop software Outlook
Operating system Windows Mobile 6.1
Software included standard Windows Mobile bundle plus: Google Maps, Opera, Adobe Reader, MP3 editor, RSS reader, Zip file manager, WorldCard Mobile
Synchronisation software ActiveSync
Processor & memory
Processor model Qualcomm MSM7201A
Clock speed 528 MHz
RAM 288 MB
Storage
Internal 512 MB
Display
Display technology TFT
Display size 2.8 in
Native resolution 640x480 pixels
Connections
Ports USB 2.0
Slots MicroSD
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG UMTS, HSDPA
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11b, 802.11g
Short range Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
GPS technology
GPS receiver yes
Input devices
Keyboard Yes
Navigation button/wheel Yes
Stylus Yes
Touchscreen Yes
Power
Battery type Li-ion
Removable battery yes
Claimed battery life 7 h
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter, screen protector, spare stylus, headset, wallet, quick-start guide, TouchFLO 3D guide, full manual on CD
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Topics: Smartphones, Reviews

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  • Touch Diamond

    I think you will find that the interface response improvements are down to a revised ROM also available on the Touch Diamond as the hardware is otherwise identical.

    When I got my Diamond it was a dog on v1.3, revised to 1.9 it runs like a dream. More fool HTC for releasing flawed software to market
    mnorris@...