Caption by: Sandra Vogel
The HTC Desire appeared in the first quarter of this year and quickly set a new standard for high-end Android-based smartphones. It has proved popular since — so much so that HTC has recently expanded the Desire range with two new models: the Desire Z and the Desire HD, reviewed here. The HD's large size may put some people off, but its lavish features will undoubtedly lure many others.
The HTC Desire HD is a big smartphone, and only those with hands will be able to reach across the screen for one-handed use — a key ergonomic factor that may count against it.
On the other hand, the Desire HD's huge 4.3in. display is definitely a big plus point. AS with HTC's other 4.3in. smartphones, the Windows Mobile 6.5-based HD2 and Windows Phone 7-based HD7, the resolution is 480 by 800 pixels. This is the same resoluton as on the 3.7in. HTC 7 Mozart (Windows Phone 7) and on the original HTC Desire.
HTC's flagship Android smartphone is the 4.3in. Desire HD, which has a 1GHz CPU and an 8-megapixel camera
So, although the extra size of the HTC Desire HD doesn't add any more pixels to the viewing area, it does stretch content over a bigger space, and that has a number of advantages.
It's easier to see the detail in web pages; it's more comfortable to watch video and view photos; and, perhaps most importantly of all for business users, it's easier to use the on-screen tappable keyboards for text entry because they're that bit larger.
There's almost no bezel around the screen. At the top is a thin section containing a speaker grille and a couple of tiny status lights. Beneath the screen are four touch-sensitive buttons covering the familiar Android functions of Home, Menu, Back and Search.
There's no navigation pad to match the small optical pad on the Desire HD. HTC clearly thinks that with a screen of this size you can use touch for all navigation. We are inclined to agree in most cases, although highlighting text in the main body of an email proved tricky at times.
The back and sides are made mostly from aluminium, with removable plastic sections at the bottom, covering the SIM and microSD card slots, and on the left edge covering the battery slot. Both of these covers feel a bit flimsy and the battery cover, in particular, is a tight fit.
The aluminium chassis makes for a relatively hefty 164g smartphone, although the weight doesn't feel excessive given the handset's 123mm by 68mm by 11.8mm dimensions.
The HTC Desire HD, which costs £499.99 (inc. VAT; £425.52 ex. VAT) unlocked, ships with an AC adapter, a microUSB cable, a stereo headset with flat in-ear buds, a printed quick-start guide and an 8GB microSD card.
The HTC Desire HD is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone with HSPA mobile broadband (up to 14.4Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up). Like other high-end smartphones, the Desire HD has Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and GPS.
The HTC Desire HD uses a new 1GHz processor from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon QSD8255. The CPU didn't seem challenged by anything we threw at it, and the handset performed happily with multiple open applications. The new processor is coupled with HTC Fast Boot, which is designed to accelerate the handset's power up sequence.
The Desire HD has 768MB of RAM and 1.5GB of internal storage, augmented by an 8GB microSD card. Because it runs Android 2.2 (Froyo), you can install third-party applications to the external card and run them from there, so storage should not be a problem.
Another benefit of Android 2.2 is the ability to use your handset as a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing other Wi-Fi-equipped devices to access the internet via the Desire HD's mobile broadband connection.
HTC has equipped the Desire HD with an 8-megapixel camera with twin LED flashes and 720p HD video recording. The camera supports autofocus and geotagging. Features include face detection and the usual range of effects such as greyscale, sepia and negative along with some novelties like vintage, vintage cold, vintage warm (these produce photos that resemble faded 1970s colour snaps), depth of field (which tinkers with the focus at the edges of your shot), vignette (which fades out the edges of an image within limits you set), and distortion (again, with limits you set).
These features are certainly fun to use, although they have limited appeal for professional users. The same goes for the Desire HD's other multimedia headline feature — Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound.
Selecting Dolby Mobile or SRS enhancement from the music player does enhance music playback when you're using earphones. The music player also has some equaliser settings. There's an FM radio with no fewer than 40 presets, but there's no support for Dolby, SRS or equalisation here.
We do have a couple of audio-related complaints. Output through the handset's speakers is tinny and relatively quiet, even though there are speaker grilles at the front and the back; also, the 3.5mm headset jack is on the bottom edge of the chassis, rather on the top — the most ergonomic location.
HTC's Sense 'user experience' sits on top of the Android interface. Although it's broadly familiar, HTC has done a lot of subtle tweaking and added some new Sense features. There are the usual seven home screens, which you can fill with widgets. A new Personalise shortcut sits on the bar along the bottom of each home screen, which also contains a shortcut to the phone dialler and apps menu. This bar will be familiar to HTC Sense users, but the Personalise shortcut replaces a widget management shortcut and adds the ability to select scenes, wallpapers and skins, personalise sounds and add an alarm.
There are some additional enhancements to HTC Sense, including an attempt to jump on the e-book-reading bandwagon with a new Reader app and bookstore. There's also a new mapping utility called HTC Locations that provides paid-for access to premium content like speed cameras. Google Maps is also present, of course, and remains free.
HTCSense.com is a cloud-based companion providing a variety of phone management and backup services
A key feature of the HTC Desire HD (and also the HTC Desire Z) is support for a companion web-based service at www.HTCSense.com. This offers various remote management features such as ring, lock and erase, and call forwarding to another handset. You can also archive your contacts, SMS messages and call history, and store Footprints (saved locations) at HTCSense.com.
Performance & battery life
Battery life is always an issue with high-end smartphones, and the fact that the HTC Desire HD uses a 1,230mAh battery to drive a 4.3in. screen is a concern. We'd have preferred HTC to drop a 1,500mAh battery into this device. However, HTC claims that the supplied battery should provide up to 550 minutes (9.2 hours) of talk and 420 hours on standby.
In practice, we got more than a day and a half of life from the battery with moderate to light usage. However, if you use Wi-Fi and GPS, and play music and videos, the battery will run down much quicker. Our HTC Desire suffers hugely when we use GPS, and this could prove an issue with the HD model too.
The HTC Desire HD may be too large for some users, and the new e-book reader and navigation apps left us somewhat cold. Battery life could be an issue too. However, the large screen is excellent for media-rich activities like web browsing and makes text entry easier.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel