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HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 review

Review HD2 redux
Thu Oct 21 2010, 00:05

Product HTC HD7
Specifications 4.3-inch 480x800 touchscreen, Windows Phone 7 OS, 122 x 68 x 11.2mm, 162g
Price £379 on pay-as-you-go

CINEMATIC STYLE is the selling point for the HTC 7 HD7 Windows Phone 7 handset, a phone for owners that love to watch video, but its specifications have some odd omissions and its signature OS, Windows Phone 7, has deficiencies that don't help.

Picking up the HD7, its 162g heft feels weighty, this is not a light handset. The metallic grey back and black front give it a robust look and it's not small at 122 x 68 x 11.2mm with a 4.3-inch display. For "cinematic style" viewing it has a kick stand that is easy to flick out and it's not flimsy, it won't be accidentally bent anytime soon. The camera is very prominent top dead centre, but one wonders why this top of the range model gets only a 5MP camera and not the 8MP that the HTC 7 Mozart has? Like all the other WP7 handsets, it has a micro USB, 3.5mm socket, an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1.

But the engine under the hood, so to speak, is not so dissimilar to that of every other Windows Phone 7. Bar memory, storage and battery size differences the HTC, Samsung, Dell and LG Windows Phone 7 handsets have all largely followed the basic minimum specification set down by Microsoft for the Windows Phone 7 OS. They all have a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of RAM, 512MB of ROM and internal storage of either 8GB  or 16GB.

The HD7 given to The INQUIRER is the 16GB version. With pictures, music and video including a movie and TV programmes loaded on a third of the 16GB had been used. Any user of an 8GB version might be wondering what they are to do with only 3GB left to play with. And with no microSD slot for storage expansion anyone that wants their ripped DVD collection on the device might be a bit miffed. What also didn't help was that the phone did on occasion restart itself, including at the end of one video playback.

While storage is limited in this regard, The INQUIRER found music, video and browsing to be quick and fluid. What is surprising though, considering the fact that this is a high end handset, is the lack of ports. In comparison the Nokia N8, while having a smaller screen, has an HDMI port and a microSD slot, as well as a micro USB port. With the HDMI port the Nokia N8 can be used as a High Definition 720p content player. Yet the HTC HD7, despite its cinematic credentials, has no HDMI facility.

Another surprise is the fact that despite the HD7 being a handset for heavy video users it has a 1230mAh battery and not 1500mAh like the Samsung Omnia 7 has, despite the rest of its specifications mostly following the bare minimum.

As the HD7 has the same battery as the HTC HD2 it's likely the latter's battery life stats of up to 8 hours for video playback, 12 hours for audio and up to 380 minutes talk time on GSM are equally applicable to its WP7 sibling. The INQUIRER's experience suggests that could be possible.

The battery is not the only similarity the HD7 has with the HD2. The two only really differ in that the HD2 is ever so slightly smaller at 120 x 67mm, and is 157g heavy, and HTC bothered to provide the HD2 with an microSD slot, a tethering capability and HTC Sense, because the OS was Windows Mobile 6.5. HTC told The INQUIRER that limitations on using WP7 meant that Sense could not be overlayed but the company hoped that would change in future.

The INQUIRER was informed that the WP7 software version on the HD7 review handset was not the final one. Checking the handset it says its OS version is 7.0.7004.0 and its hardware revision number is 0002. Unless the Zune website, where the latest software updates can be had, has an update on 21 October users will find that they also have this 7.0.7004.0 version. This is no disaster but The INQUIRER did find bugs.

Oddly some of the problems that arose, not being able to use GPS location and access to Bing search, were resolved as soon as an account with Zune had been set up. Another problem solved by Zune was that while apps could be downloaded when the handset was synced with a desktop the marketplace website accessed from the phone did not allow app downloads.

But other problems have not been resolved including the need to occasionally re-enter the Access Point Name to restart the Internet connection and the lack of support for Flash ensuring online videos can't be watched.

Another bone of contention, not caused by bugs, is the fact that use of social networks is limited because you are only able to get new feeds, photos and status updates from, for example, Facebook. This did not seem like an aspect of any prototype software and instead looked like a mature design feature.

What is clearly a mature design feature is the tile and hub UI. With the tile system, different functions can be reached quickly and music and video files play almost immediately after they are selected. But tile customisation would also be nice. The tiles square shape and lack of an alternate background does give the homepage a very stark look that might not appeal to some.

Customisation of the homepage though is relatively easy, as is the process of setting up the phone making it easy to personalise the handset. However the lack of a normal tree-like menu structure did make it harder to find certain functions such as SIM contacts.

Over a period of a couple of hours with no manual, this reviewer was able to browse the Internet, use the camera, listen to the radio, create favourite-like "tabs" of certain websites, upload pictures, music and video and SIM contacts from another handset and move tiles around on the homepage to personalise it.

The HTC HD7 is exclusive with O2 and it is offering the handset free with a 24 month, £40 tariff that comes with 900 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB of data. However there are other monthly contract tariffs for the HD7 that users can choose from. They come with unlimited WiFi and access to BT Openzone hotspots. Then again if you want to splash out £379 for the handset with O2 you can get it on the network's pay as you go tariff.

In Short
Overall the HTC 7 HD7 handset with its WP7 can best be summed up by likening it to the ear plugs that come with the phone. The headphones have a sturdy design and the sound quality is fine but they can become uncomfortable at times. The INQUIRER's advice to Microsoft and HTC is, in future only provide completed products for review. µ

The Good
Speedy browsing, intuitive user interface.

The Bad
Camera, limited storage.

The Ugly
Lack of Flash support.

Bartender's score


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