The world's first for a ruggedized smartphone with built-in night vision.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
HTC's Touch HD is built around a large, high-resolution 3.8in. screen. The company's publicity material concentrates on how this enhances the multimedia experience, but in fact the big screen improves every kind of information display including emails, documents to be edited, web pages and photographs.
The Touch HD is exclusive to Orange for the remainder of 2008 and Orange provided our review sample. It will cost from £79.99 on a £40/month, 18-month contract. We found it online SIM-free with a distinctly premium price tag of £527.85 (inc. VAT).
The Touch HD is a large but relatively slim handheld, measuring 115mm tall by 62.8 mm wide by 12mm thick and weighing 147g. It won't fit into smaller pockets, but isn't unduly bulky or heavy for carrying about.
The Touch HD has a 3.8in. screen, which gives it a relatively large footprint.
The Touch HD large footprint is down to its 3.8in. screen. This dominates the fascia and has an impressive resolution of 480 by 800 pixels. By way of comparison, the BlackBerry Storm has a 3.25in. screen with a resolution of 480 by 360 pixels.
The Touch HD screen's definition and clarity are excellent. The screen size also makes it easier to use a fingertip to drive the TouchFLO/Windows Mobile interface rather than having to drag out the stylus — although you will have to that occasionally (mostly in the Windows Mobile bits of the UI).
The Touch HD's front control buttons are flush with the screen and close to the bottom edge of the device
Beneath the screen, and flush with it, sits a quartet of touch-sensitive shortcut buttons — Call and End on the outside, flanking the Windows Mobile Home and Back buttons. When touched these buttons generate a small amount of 'haptic' feedback where the Touch HD vibrates slightly in the hand. This provides reassurance that your button press has actually registered.
This handheld design — a large screen and a row of shortcut buttons at the bottom — is widespread, and the Touch HD shows why it can sometimes be a problem. The buttons are very close to the bottom edge of the device, which makes it a little tricky to work one-handed. On more than one occasion the Touch HD tipped out of the top of this reviewer's (admittedly rather small) hand and crashed to the floor. It was undamaged as it landed on carpet, but a solid floor or a pavement would be less forgiving.
HTC has given the Touch HD an almost completely black livery. The button icons are picked out in white on the fascia, while the HTC logo and speaker grille are silver. The sides are black and the back has a small brushed aluminium area around the camera lens. The finish is shiny on the front and rubbery matte on the back, the latter helping you get a firm grip on the device.
The Touch HD has a proper 3.5mm headphone jack, in a sensible place on top of the device.
Off-screen buttons are limited to a tall narrow volume rocker on the left and thin on/off switch on the top. The 3.5mm headset connector is also on the top — the most convenient location, in our view.
On the bottom edge is a mini-USB connector and a slot for the stylus. The latter is very lightweight and short; HTC should have gone for a telescopic stylus and weighted it more. However, we do like the fact that the stylus is slightly magnetised so that there's little likelihood of the stylus falling out when the Touch HD is in a pocket or bag.
The HTC Touch HD from Orange ships with an AC adapter, a USB PC cable, a stereo headset, a screen protector, a spare stylus, an 8GB microSD card, a protective pouch, a printed quick-start guide and software CDs (one of which contains the full user manual).
The HTC Touch HD is powered by a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM 7201A processor and runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. As well as the 8GB microSD card already mentioned, there is 512MB of on-board ROM and 288MB of RAM. The microSD card slot lives under the battery cover, which is slightly inconvenient, but at least cards can be swapped without powering down the device.
The Touch HD is at the top of the scale as far as 'out of the box'' memory is concerned for a Windows Mobile device: after a hard reset, our review sample reported an impressive 291MB of free storage memory.
The Touch HD is a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA support, giving theoretical download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps and uploads up to 2Mbps with suitable network coverage. Both Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0) are integrated, along with GPS.
There is a front-facing VGA camera for two-way video calling, while the main camera is a 5-megapixel unit that sits on the back of the device. This shoots stills and video, and has autofocus but no flash. The camera's image quality isn't as impressive as its resolution, but should be perfectly adequate for most business users.
HTC includes its familiar TouchFLO 3D interface, complete with screen sweeping and swiping, on top of Windows Mobile. This gives access to a range of services on the device including email, favourite contacts, web browsing, photos and music playback. There's also an automatically updated screen that shows the weather for your chosen locations. In a similar vein is the new stock quote screen, which shows nice colour-coded (green for 'up', red for 'down') graphs of your portfolio's performance.
HTC has augmented the standard bundle of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional applications with a range of additional tools including Adobe's PDF reader, an FM radio, Google Maps, an MP3 trimmer for editing sound files, Opera Browser for web browsing, an RSS reader, a Zip file manager and YouTube client. There is an additional game called Teeter in which you use the device's accelerometer to negotiate a ball through a series of mazes.
The accelerometer's main function, of course, is to switch the screen into landscape mode when you turn the device on its side. This generally works fine, although we found that the response time could be variable.
Performance & battery life
We had no problems with the Touch HD's call quality, but battery life could have been better. On a music playback test we got a little less than six hours from a full battery charge, with the screen forced to stay on throughout.
More anecdotally in everyday use with some Wi-Fi and GPS access we found we had to charge the Touch HD on a daily basis.
Generally, though, the Touch HD was responsive and the TouchFLO 3D interface seemed less sluggish than on some previous HTC devices.
The large screen is clearly the Touch HD's main attraction. Although the 3.8in. display makes the device big and difficult to pocket, it also makes data-rich activities like web browsing much more rewarding than they are on smaller devices. Those with larger fingers may also find that stabbing at the screen is much more accurate, simply because things are that bit larger than usual.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel