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HTC has established itself as arguably the premier provider of Windows Mobile devices in the UK. The company's products are taken up by the UK's main network operators, and are also available SIM-free. New additions to the range are always eagerly anticipated, but the Touch Diamond received more pre-launch attention than most. This was due largely to its ultra-slim format and a revamp of HTC's TouchFLO interface. The Touch Diamond has its strong points, but some significant drawbacks may rule it out for business users. Battery life, in particular, is terrible.
The Touch Diamond is striking in its physical appearance. Smaller and sleeker than any Windows Mobile device we've seen to date, it measures of 102mm tall by 51mm wide by 11.35mm thick, and weighs 110g. This is much more compact than the relatively bulky Windows Mobile Professional devices we generally evaluate here.
The all-black casing and shiny, reflective front gives the Touch Diamond a stylish look — perhaps too stylish for business users who prefer sturdy, workmanlike devices. Beneath the screen sit the usual quartet of Windows Mobile shortcuts: Home, Back, Call and End. There are no softmenu keys — you simply tap the screen to use these.
HTC's Touch Diamond is slim and shiny, and features the TouchFLO 3D overlay on top of Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional.
The central navigation pad looks at first sight to comprise only a large select button (which pulses with a white backlight when the device is charging). In fact, you press the edges of the button to get up, down, left and right control; you can also run a finger around the edges of the button to scroll in various applications.
The overall look is pleasingly minimalist but the build quality feels less than rugged: this device might not survive too many drops onto hard surfaces.
The 'Diamond' in the device's name comes from an irregular raised cut pattern on the shiny backplate. We don't care for this at all: the shiny surface attracts fingerprints and the patterning serves no purpose.
The Touch Diamond gets its name from the pattern on the back of the device.
The screen measures 2.8in. across the diagonal and so is not particularly compromised by the Touch Diamond's compact dimensions. In fact, it's the same size as the screen on the comparatively large (keyboard-equipped) HTC TyTN II.
The difference here is that the Touch Diamond's screen has a native resolution of 480 by 640 pixels, making it particularly clean and sharp. It fits flush to its border, making it easier to tap at icons in the corners than on recessed screens. The flush screen is also essential for using the TouchFLO interface, of which more later.
The stylus lives in a housing at the bottom back right of the device. It's very lightweight, but there is one interesting feature: its tip appears to be magnetised, with a further magnet inside the housing to attract it. This is a neat safeguard against the stylus falling out and becoming lost.
The Touch Diamond ships in a rather over-designed diamond-shaped box whose plastic seems environmentally questionable. It ships with a UK-only AC adapter, a screen protector, a USB PC connectivity cable and a headset. All three wired devices connect to the device via a mini-USB connector. You also get a printed quick-start guide, but the full user manual is on one of the two CDs in the box.
The HTC Touch Diamond has a 528MHz Qualcomm processor and runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. It has 256MB of ROM and 192MB of RAM. After a hard reset our review sample reported 60MB of free storage memory. There's also 4GB of internal flash memory, but no memory expansion slot. Although it's handy to have so much internal storage, the convenience of being able to exchange data with a computer or other device by swapping memory cards is a notable absence.
The Touch Diamond's phone is a tri-band GSM unit with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/ HSDPA support, the latter allowing download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps given a suitable signal. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) are integrated, along with GPS.
The addition of GPS means that the Touch Diamond can function as a standalone sat-nav device, with the addition of suitable third-party software. However, your choices may be more limited than with other Windows Mobile devices, as sat-nav software tends to come on a flash memory card for convenience. We installed a specially produced version of CoPilot Live! 7 that installs from a CD.
There is a front-facing VGA-resolution camera for two-way video calling and a 3.2 megapixel camera at the back. The main camera lacks a flash unit, and our test shots were distinctly mediocre.
The Touch Diamond incorporates a motion sensor. Among its jobs is to sense when you turn the device on its side, whereupon it switches the display into landscape mode. It does this in a number of applications, including the web browser (it also helps you play a game called Teeter which involves turning and twisting the Touch Diamond to guide a ball through a maze).
As far as software is concerned, it's the new version of HTC's TouchFLO interface that has gained most attention. TouchFLO 3D effectively provides an entirely new interface sitting on top of Windows Mobile itself. The Windows Mobile Today screen has been almost entirely replaced by a screen whose key feature is a flip-over clock — the only vestigial Windows Mobile elements are the upper status line, Start button and lower softkey.
A scrolling touch strip at the foot of of the display gives access to other screens — contacts, messages, mail, photos and videos, music, the internet, weather, settings and a 3-by- 3 grid of user-definable shortcuts to applications.
Many of these screens allow you to flick through file contents by stroking the screen up and down. When viewing photos you can zoom by running a finger around the selection button and turn the device on its side to see a photo in landscape format. The weather information can be set to update over the air, although we couldn't find a way to alter the download frequency.
Although TouchFLO 3D looks stunning and is easy enough to get to grips with, there are some significant problems with it. It runs a little slowly, and can leave you unsure whether a screen swipe or tap has been registered. This is odd given the Touch Diamond's 528MHz processor.
TouchFLO 3D is also distinctly skin-deep, and you'll inevitably revert to the underlying Windows Mobile interface on a fairly regular basis. This dual personality makes the Touch Diamond experience somewhat disjointed.
It also seems to us that HTC has not tested TouchFLO 3D thoroughly enough in terms of its interaction with other software. It often obscures information boxes or (worse) boxes that require a tap. For example, open Opera Mobile and a search box appears centre screen. Tap it and the TouchFLO 3D soft keyboard pops up. The search box relocates itself above the keyboard. Start typing and the search box disappears behind the keyboard , making it impossible to check the accuracy of your typing.
We mentioned Opera Mobile: although Internet Explorer is included, you'll be a lot better off using the preinstalled Opera Mobile. It's far superior, benefits including tabbed browsing, a full-screen web page view, screen dragging to pan around and zooming via the navigation button. Other preinstalled applications include an FM radio, Google Maps, an RSS reader, YouTube client and Zip manager.
Performance & battery life
We have already noted the Touch Diamond's sluggishness, and also mentioned its biggest drawback — battery life. To quantify this, we set the device to play music from a full battery charge with the screen forced to stay on; under these conditions, it lasted a frankly risible 2 hours 43 minutes. This is a lot less than we'd expect from a current-generation touch-screen Windows Mobile device.
The high-resolution VGA screen could be the culprit, as it requires considerably more battery juice than a QVGA (320x240-pixel) display. Even so, we'd expect better.
HTC's Touch Diamond manages to cram a multitude of features into a compact and stylish device, topped off by a flashy user interface. However, the TouchFLO 3D interface has too many rough edges, the build quality might not suit the rough and tumble of everyday business use, and the battery life certainly won't. The Touch Diamond is a compelling prospect on paper, but the reality is, unfortunately, considerably less appealing.