HTC HD2 review
We review the HTC HD2, the most fully-featured Windows Mobile smartphone on the market
Verdict: Top-of-the-line WinMo handset with all the latest features.
Price: Free with contract or £500 SIM-free
Pros: 4.3in capacitive touch screen, Sense UI, WiFi, GPS, HSDPA 3G, 3.5mm audio jack plug, five-megapixel camera
Cons: Camera isn't as good as it should be, screen is a fingerprint magnet
Design: Huge screen but flat body
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.5
More Info: HTC website
HTC has been the most forward-thinking maker of Windows Mobile devices for the last few years, consistently making best use of the WinMo OS's assets while avoiding many of its pitfalls by running its own, superior interface on top.
The HTC HD2 pretty much marks the top of the range with its huge screen, latest Sense UI, new Windows Mobile version 6.5, a five-megapixel camera, HSDPA 3G, WiFi, FM radio, GPS and some social networking integration too.
There's no doubt about it, the HTC HD2 is a handful of a handset 121mm x 67mm and 157g but HTC has made it relatively easy on the pocket by squeezing it all into a depth of just 11mm, so although it looks massive in the hand, in the pocket it doesn't feel anywhere near as bulky as we'd expected.
Beneath the (very) large screen is a line of hard buttons for call start and stop, home, return and the Windows menu. The sides are covered with a sort of rubberised plastic and feature a volume rocker, micro USB power/sync slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The HD2's LCD touch screen is a massive 4.3in with 800 x 480 pixels and looks, quite frankly, terrific. It's nicely sensitive too, with haptic feedback, so it's always easy to make your brushes and presses count. HTC's recent high-end handsets have featured a sliding zoom bar for browsing or taking a closer look at pics but that's now gone, replaced by iPhone-style multi-touch capability, allowing you to pinch the screen with two fingers to zoom in or out.
Our only problem is that it doesn't seem to have a very effective anti-grease coating (if it has one at all), and it has a tendency to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
Interface and operating system
The HTC HD2 runs on the latest Windows Mobile 6.5 version, which is certainly more finger-friendly than previous incarnations, with nice, big buttons for all the apps in the Windows menu.
Running on top is HTC's Sense UI, which seems to just keep getting better and better. So there's a scrolling menu bar along the bottom for your main apps: contacts, messages, mail, browser, calendar, stocks info, gallery, music, weather, Twitter, Footprints (HTC's own geotagging picture feature) and settings, but you can also get to them simply by brushing the screen to left or right. There's also room on the home page for three shortcuts to customisable apps, contacts or documents. Flick the screen upwards and you can add a whole page full (nine in all) of shortcuts. It's never been easier to whizz your way around the menus of a Windows Mobile handset.
It also has a hefty 1GB Dragon processor which keeps things moving at a fair old lick, with no discernable drag when flitting between apps or viewing videos.
Fast Internet access is assured via the HSDPA 3G (with up to 7.2Mbps downloads) network capability or broadband access via Wi-Fi. The onboard accelerometer flips the resolution automatically to landscape when you flip it on its side and web pages generally render very well. That pinch to zoom function makes a big difference too and the only real fly in the ointment is that there's no native Flash video support, though there's a Youtube app already on board.
Windows Marketplace, Microsoft's answer to Apple's App Store is very much a work in progress at the moment, but it's fast filling up with the usual suspects, including Facebook and a host of Twitter apps.
Speaking of which, the HTC HD2 comes with Twitter already loaded and you can download apps for Facebook and MySpace from Marketplace. They're not as fully integrated as we saw recently on Motorola's DEXT, which pushes all your updates onto your home page, but if you add them as shortcuts to your home page, you can keep on top of the Twittersphere without too much delay.
The five-megapixel camera was a bit of a disappointment, as they usually are with HTC. Despite the protruding lens and the moderate pixel count, our pics looked consistently washed out with excessive light and the colour balance looked unappealingly faded. It has autofocus and a dual LED flash, but only 2x digital zoom and a touch focus function that didn’t seem to make any difference. You'll need to take a lot of care with the lighting settings to get even average looking results.
Viewing videos on the HTC HD2 is a joy however. That outsize screen is sharp and clear and really makes the most of a wide variety of video formats, including WMV, ASF, MP4, 3GP, 3G2, M4V and AVI. You can view in letterbox format if you like but there's also the option to stretch films out to fill the screen, which just looks terrific.
There are two music players on board and HTC's own is streets ahead of Windows Media Player in terms of presentation and usability. Sound quality is okay through the supplied headphones though the 3.5mm headphone jack makes it easy to upgrade. It supports AAC, AMR, M4A, MIDI, MP3, MP4, GCP, WAV and WMA formats and there's also a graphic equaliser on board as well as an FM radio, which means it has the audio side of things pretty much covered.
As you might expect, all that processing power and multi-media capability is thirsty work for a battery, but we managed to get a good day and half out of it with moderate to heavy use and there are the usual Windows Mobile options to save battery life by reducing screen brightness and switch-off times, as well as cutting back on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
If you like 'em big and well-featured, the HTC HD2 is a terrific handset with plenty of good things to rival any passing iPhone. We'd have liked to have seen a better camera, and for the social networking aspects to be a bit better integrated, and we'd have really liked to have seen a proper grease-proof coating on the screen, but these are mere quibbles. If you've got the asking price, the HD2 is the most full-featured WinMo handset on the market.