HTC Touch HD review
We review the HTC Touch smartphone - a Windows Mobile device with an iPhone-like veneer
Verdict: Impressive iPhone challenger that does its best to escape the Windows Mobile handicap.
Price: From £480 (handset only), from free with contract
Pros: Screen, TouchFLO 3D interface, 3.5mm headphone jack
Cons: Windows Mobile rears its ugly head, sluggish camera
Design: Functional, although good-looking
Operating System: Windows Mobile Professional 6.1
More info: HTC Touch HD website
The iPhone has changed the smartphone landscape and - to its credit - HTC was one of the first companies to realise this fact. It has pushed away the awfully dated interface of Windows Mobile and recognised the undoubted allure of the touchscreen interface.
HTC has skirted the space with appealing Windows Mobile alternatives such as its QWERTY keyboard-packing Touch Pro, aimed at business users, and its petite Touch Diamond, designed to appeal to fashionistas.
But the Touch HD is the first to really tackle the iPhone on its home ground, with a huge and advanced touchscreen designed to excel both in watching video and in navigation.
However, a fancy screen on its own does not a successful smartphone make, and the HD also packs in WiFi, HSDPA 3G (up to 7.2Mbps downloads and 2Mbps uploads), GPS, microSD memory card and a five-megapixel camera.
The screen is certainly impressive. It's 3.8-inches, which is slightly bigger than the iPhone's 3.5-inches and way bigger than the T-Mobile G1's 3.2-inches, but with a significantly higher resolution than those rivals at 480x800 pixels (leaving the others' 480x320 pixels in the dust).
Good-quality video comes across well though you'll need to be a bit careful with your sources to get the best out of it; we found some supposedly HD content that looked blocky and undefined, and other camcorder footage that looked smooth and clear.
The five-megapixel camera is an improvement on other HTC models, and is beyond comparison with the iPhone 3G's paltry two-megapixel effort, but it still falls short of the quality cameras on offer from, well, virtually all the major phone manufacturers.
It has autofocus, but it's slow to open and take photographs (there's no dedicated shutter button so you'll need to find it in the menu before you even start), and there's a four-second delay from pressing the on-screen shutter button to actually taking the picture.
Results aren't bad in good light, though they can look a bit flat with some light smear and there is a tendency to grain.
Extra camera features include a panorama mode, which allows you to take a series of between three and six photos which the camera will stitch together into a panoramic image. You can also set the focal point of the image by pressing your finger on the screen, so the central focus of your image could be off to one side, rather than in the middle.
Viewing your pics is fun though. HTC's gallery system allows you to zoom in or out by twirling your finger in a circle on the screen and brush the screen to bring on the next pic.
The HTC Touch suffers from the same problems as previous HTCs when recording video, with too much screen lag evident when you move the device around, and it generally fails to deal with fast (or even not so fast) movement in a convincing manner. It'll do for YouTube though, and there's an option to load them to the site directly from the device.
HTC's TouchFLO 3D skin covering Windows 6.1 Professional operating system makes browsing your menus a breeze, with its scrolling menu along the bottom which you can brush to access your favourite apps, including a customisable programs page.
Browsing the net is a key element of this device and the HD makes it easy. Opera is the default browser and the on-screen keyboard is a little cramped but easy enough to use with the tip of the finger; we never found it necessary to resort to the side-mounted stylus.
The on-board accelerometer flips the screen into landscape mode when you turn the handset on its side, which is better for viewing most webpages and you can move pages around by brushing your finger up, down or across the screen.
The zoom button in the corner brings up a slider which allows you to adjust the page to whatever size your prefer; okay, the iPhone's pinch function is still cooler, but this equals it for practicality. Handily, there's a dedicated YouTube viewer which makes it easy to search for videos and view them in full screen mode.
The music player will show off your cover art and you can browse your tracks by brushing through the covers. This is the first of the Touch series to sport a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can upgrade the undistinguished supplied 'phones and while the 512MB of onboard memory won't hold much of your collection, you can add up to 16GB via microSD card. There's an FM radio too, with 20 presets.
Battery life was better than expected, giving us around two and a half days of moderate use, though you can stretch this by lowering the screen brightness and switching off non-essential apps like WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Of all HTC's Touch devices, this is the one that comes closest to competing directly with the iPhone and trumps it in virtually every category.