February 22, 2013

HTC HD7 REVIEW

The last Windows Phone 7 device we reviewed, HTC Mozart, left us highly disappointed. Although the hardware was quite decent, the software failed to impress us. Apart from being slick and visually appealing, it had little more to offer, whether it was in terms of built-in features or third party applications. In the light of such strong competition from Apple and Google, Microsoft's latest offering just comes across as an incomplete package with a large "Work In Progress" sign over it. 
 



Today, we have another Windows Phone 7 device with us and it's called the HTC HD7. For those keeping track, this is the third avatar of this handset, the first being the HD2 running the infamous Windows Mobile operating system and the second being Sprint's Evo 4G running Android. The phone has now been modified to run Windows Phone 7 and we are about to find out how good is it as a premium smartphone. 
Bundle

  • HTC HD7
  • Battery
  • USB cable
  • 3.5mm stereo headset
  • Power adapter
  • Start here guide
  • Quick guide
  • Safety and regulatory guide


Build and Design
HTC rarely fails with the design of its smartphones and the HD7 is unsurprisingly a handsome device. It is immensely large though, thanks to the massive 4.3-inch display but also incredibly thin at just 11.2mm at its thicket point. The front is nothing but the display with the top and bottom portions made as thin as possible. The earpiece on the top is a thin slit with a mesh grille underneath, with a similar grille seen on the opposite side for design symmetry. Along with the speaker, there is also a proximity sensor and an LED hidden underneath it. Of course there is no video call camera because Windows Phone 7 does not support that feature, yet. 

 



Below the display are the three keys for back, homescreen and Bing search. Once again, as on the Mozart, these keys are touch sensitive, which is not at all a good idea, considering how easy it is to accidentally press one of these buttons and exit the application. Imagine playing a game and right when things get very interesting, you press the homescreen button. By the time you are done pulling out your hair and go back to the game, you will find it starting all over again because there is no multitasking. This is the point where you pull out the remaining hair. 



The sides of the phone are finished in metal, with plastic buttons protruding out from it. On the top, there is the power button, which is terribly soggy and doesn't give any feedback to confirm whether you have actually pressed the button or not. The volume buttons on the right are slightly more usable but the camera button is again terribly annoying. It feels like it is there just because Microsoft has made it a mandate for every Windows Phone 7 device to have one and HTC obviously doesn't think it is a very good idea. It's pointlessly thin and almost flat with the phone. And even though it is a two-step button you won't be able to tell unless you dig your nail in. At the bottom of the phone is a 3.5mmheadphone jack and a micro USB port. 





On the back of the phone you can see the 5 megapixel camera lens at the top with dual LED flash on the left. The lens is left exposed to whatever damage that comes its way. It is surrounded by a kickstand that makes a nice clicking sound every time it is opened or closed. The area below the kickstand is finished in bright yellow which contrasts nicely with the black on the rest of the phone. Unlike some phones we have seen in the past, the kickstand does not launch any application when opened.  


The battery cover has to be pulled out from the top and once you do, you'll notice it feels rather flimsy. Inside, you will find the 1230mAh battery, which looks comically small compared to the dimensions of the rest of the phone. 

When closed, the battery cover leaves rather unsightly gaps around the edges. The cover seems about a millimeter too small in every direction. You can even see a tiny glimpse of the SIM card inside through the lower gap. We expected better attention to detail from HTC. 

The overall build quality of the phone is pretty good and it feels solid in your hand. It is also fairly light, probably because of the smaller battery and the fact that metal is sparingly used, and it is thin as well, which makes it easy to carry around in your pocket. 

Display
The HTC HD7 has a 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 resolution, TFT LCD. HTC probably thought it was okay to ship a device with sub-standard display on premium handset but we beg to differ. The HD7's display is probably the worst we have seen on a premium handset. The picture looks dull and lifeless like on one of those cheap LCD TVs, the response time is painfully slow and causes visible ghosting every time you scroll that doesn't do the smooth transition effects on Windows Phone 7 any justice and the colors are pale and often incorrect. For example, the red color theme in Windows Phone 7 looks almost orange. The display also has poor contrast, poor black levels, mediocre viewing angles and washes out almost completely under the sun. Also, it's neither scratch resistant nor smudge resistant. It might seem as if I have some personal vendetta against it but it really is quite horrible. I did not expect such poor performance at this price. 

One good thing about the display though is its size, which is ample. This does come in handy while web browsing or typing, when the added real estate makes it easier to see everything at once or hit the keys accurately. And although video playback would have been quite enjoyable, the quality of the display ruins it. 


Hardware
The HTC HD7 runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Unfortunately, it uses the 1st generation QSD8250 instead of the 2nd generation MSM8255, found on newer smartphones such as the Desire HD and Desire S. Because of this, it loses out on the faster Adreno 205 GPU and instead uses the older Adreno 200. It has 576MB of RAM, 512MB of ROM and 16GB of built-in storage, which cannot be expanded. The HD7 has a built-in accelerometer but neither a gyroscope nor a magnetometer. 

 



SoftwareAs mentioned before, the HTC HD7 runs on Windows Phone 7, which is pretty unfortunate. Although Windows Phone 7 showed great promise and still has a lot of potential in it, the truth is right now, there is no reason why one should choose it over either iOS or Android. It lacks in two crucial areas: features and applications. Applications is understandable, it's a new platform and will take a time to get a decent number of applications but the lack of basic features such as copy and paste and multitasking is just appalling. These are some of the things that even a basic Sony Ericsson phone has and there is absolutely no reason why an OS launching towards the end of 2010 should not have them. Sure, Microsoft has promised to bring them eventually, but then why should I spend so much money on these phones with missing features now when I can get an Android phone instead where everything does work by default? Yes, the interface does look great and it works pretty well too but that does not make up for the lack of useful basic features that Microsoft has missed out on. If all you care about is a fancy interface or don't mind waiting for Microsoft to take its own sweet time to add functionality which should have been there from day one, Windows Phone 7 is for you. Thankfully, for the majority who would think otherwise, there are a healthy number of options to choose from the Android camp.  

 

Windows Phone 7 UI

 
Windows Phone 7 UI



Connectivity
The HTC HD7 is a quad band GSM handset. It supports HSPA, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and A-GPS. We had no issues with call quality and network reception on the HD7. The Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS performance too was satisfactory. 
The HD has Internet Explorer Mobile as the web browser. Currently, it's the only browser you can have on Windows Phone 7. It's a pretty good browser with fast page loading and smooth scrolling. The large screen is also very conducive to browsing. Right now, the only drawbacks are the lack of Flash support and on rare occasions, inaccurate page loading. 

However, the Bing Maps application doesn't impress as much. The maps are poorly detailed and using it to show you directions is a complete no-no, unless you want to go round and round in circles and land up miles away from your destination. There was even a bug in the Maps application, where using the search button activated the Bing web search instead of searching within the Maps application. It will get better with time but right now, it just sucks and is not even close to matching the performance of Google Maps. 

Transferring data to the phone can only be done through the Zune software on Windows and the Windows Phone 7 Connector on Mac. Ironically, it is the latter that I personally found to be the better of the two. It had a simpler and no-nonsense interface that would let you do the task of transferring data without excessive visual flair, like the Zune software. The only thing that the Zune software does and the Mac client does not, is downloading the applications on the desktop and then transferring them on to the phone later on, an ability we often miss on Android. The HD7 has 16GB of storage capacity, which we found to be more than enough for our music and video files, however if you want more storage, then you are out of luck as there is no way to expand it. 




Multimedia
Camera
The HTC HD7 has a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and dual LED flash. It is, without a doubt, one of the worst cameras I have seen on a mobile phone. The colors are inaccurate and highly saturated, the details are poor, there is a rather prominent pink spot in the middle of every image, the low light photos are noisy and the flash gives every image a foggy, fairytale look. It doesn't help that the camera software does not remember the last used settings and that there are very few settings to begin with (no manual white balance, for example). Also, the camera button wasn't the most comfortable that we have seen. 

 


The reason why the colors look so oversaturated becomes apparent once you look at the pictures on the phone's display. Since the display actually has very dull color output, HTC has boosted the colors in the camera so the pictures taken look good on the phone at least. 
Click here for the camera samples. 

Music
The Zune player does the job of playing audio files on the HD7. It supports MP3, AAC and WMA files. The player itself does not have built-in equalizers but HTC has installed an application which lets you do that. The player has a very slick, minimalistic interface like the rest of the OS but we wished the album art was a bit bigger. There were minor annoyances though, like the inability to drag the progress bar to a particular location; instead, you have to press and hold the track skip buttons.  



The audio quality of the phone is good, very good in fact if you are using good quality headphones. The loudspeaker, however, is disappointingly weak. It's not even half as loud as you'd expect it to be. 

Images and Videos
The image gallery in Windows Phone 7 is pretty neat. You can view as well as upload images on services such as Facebook and SkyDrive, although we would like to see more, such as Twitter and Flickr in the list. The image viewer is like what one might expect these days; you can pinch to zoom and swipe to move between images. 



The video player is rather disappointing. Not only is it utterly featureless, it also lacks support for popular codecs such as DivX and Xvid. Couple this with the boring display and the kickstand on the back feels like wasted effort. 




Battery life
The HTC HD7 has a 1230mAh Lithium Ion battery. For a phone with so many features and such a large display, the battery is unusually small. We assume HTC skimped on a bigger battery to keep the phone's profile as slim as possible. This does negatively affect the battery life though, as it struggles to last even a full day on a single charge. And we weren't even using 3G, which we will begin with our next cell phone review. With the phone being 3G enabled, its battery life is bound to go further down south. 

 


Verdict
The HTC HD7 is a disappointing combination of incomplete software and mediocre hardware. Its biggest drawback is the Windows Phone 7 operating system, which just doesn't have anything to offer right now apart from a slick interface. It lacks features, some of the UI decisions aren't intuitive or user friendly and it has few good applications to boast about. To add insult to injury, the Windows Marketplace isn't available in India yet, nor is the Zune music streaming service. It's difficult not to think of dumb blonde jokes when talking about Windows Phone 7. And although it shows promise, we would rather advise buyers to go for it once it reaches its full potential, whenever it does. 

Unfortunately, the hardware fails to impress as well. The software would mature eventually but the hardware can only get outdated and it isn't very impressive to begin with. Apart from the good looks and the large display, the HD7 has a terrible display and camera and a loudspeaker that is more of a loud squeaker. Even the battery life is below average; the phone struggles to last even a single day on a full charge. 



Priced at Rs. 25,999, the HD7 is rather expensive. And when you add in all the drawbacks, it seems like a rather sour deal. And it's not as if you are strapped for choice; with excellent phones such as the Galaxy S I9003 costing much less, it leaves one with fewer reasons to even consider this phone. We would rather suggest you go for the Desire HD instead, if it is just the large display that you desire. It may not be a lot better in terms of hardware but the software is a lot more mature and usable. Plus, there are actual apps for you to download. 


 




 


 


 


Note the pink area in the center of the image. 

 
 


 


 

The second image has been captured by the Samsung Wave 2.  

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