Friday, June 3, 2011

HTC HD7 Review

When Microsoft unveiled the lineup of Windows Phone 7 devices, I remember two of them caught my eye. I was instantly drawn to the Dell Venue Pro and the HTC HD7. I found it ironic that the two best phones for the US market were bound for T-Mobile when it was AT&T who was supposed to be the premiere partner. But that's the way things fell and I was perfectly okay with that since I was switching to T-Mobile from Verizon (I was sick of how the employees treated me like I was dumb every time I went to get a phone). Given that the Venue Pro wasn't going to be out at launch and I'm about as patient as a 5 year old outside Baskin-Robbins when it comes to this sort of thing, I jumped on the the HD7.

The Win

The first thing that caught my attention with the HD7 was the massive screen. Clocking in at 4.3" it seemed like the perfect choice for a media junkie like me. I could see it being great for watching video when I'm on a long trip or just sitting around. One night I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for someone to get in the car and I propped this thing up on the dash, loaded up an episode of Top Gear I downloaded off the Zune Marketplace, and found myself instantly entertained.

When I first saw a phone with a kickstand, I must say that I thought it was a bit of a gimmick. I'll tell you that I've been sold because of this phone. It could be a bit more stable. If the ground isn't perfectly level or if you bump the phone in the wrong way, you run the risk of it falling over. It gets annoying, but then if there wasn't a kickstand, I would have the same problem with whatever I rig up on the fly when I need one.

Being a Windows Phone 7 device, I love the OS on this thing. It's snappy, has all the apps I need, and brings my information together so I don't have to jump from app to app to app. I don't see myself abandoning Windows Phone 7 any time soon. They've done more and announced more innovation than anyone else in the market. I'm so glad to see Microsoft keeping the industry moving with this OS. And good news! This device will get all the great updates coming with Mango in the fall. I'd go on and on about this OS, but I personally pick my OS first and then the phone with that on it. If you're considering the HD7, I imagine you're already sold on Windows Phone 7.

The "Meh"

I can't say I'm impressed with the look of the device. I'm not one to buy a phone because I think it's pretty, but it would be nice to think "Dang, that's hot!" when I look at my phone. It's not ugly at all, but it's not going to win a beauty contest. 

Another thing that annoys me a bit is the camera settings. Having had the opportunity to play with both the Samsung Focus and LG Quantum, I've noticed other Windows Phone 7 devices have "Post to Facebook" right on the slide out menu when going through the camera roll. When the HD7, I have to go to "Share..." to get to that. The option to upload to SkyDrive is right there, but that's not a site I use to share pictures like I do Facebook.  It's a little annoyance for me to have to go to the "Share..." menu to get to Facebook. I wish HTC didn't make this design choice.

Speaking of the camera, it's nothing to write home about. But then I've never been impressed with a camera on a phone. I would like to see a phone maker partner with someone like Canon or Nikon and develop a nice camera for a phone so I can stop carrying my little point and shoot. I'm personally willing to take a little bit thicker phone if it means a better lens on the device. As is the case with many cameras on phones, the camera on the HD7 doesn't work well in low light and motion blur can be a big problem.

I'm not a huge fan of the location of the headphone plug. It's on the bottom right next to the USB plug. I would like it on the top. At the very least, I would like it if these plugs were on the same side as the kickstand. I've knocked the phone over more than once because I bump the cable which is on the unsupported side. 

I'm a fan of having a physical keyboard on the device and that's part of what attracted me to the Venue Pro as well. While I would still like a physical keyboard on my next phone, I have to say that the large screen helps make up for the lack of a slide out keyboard. The larger on screen buttons along with Windows Phone 7's great auto correct help make working with an on screen keyboard useable. If you're someone who's turned away from the HD7 just for the lack of a physical keyboard, give it a try first before writing it off completely. It works better than it does on most devices (but I still want that physical keyboard).

The Eww!

If I have one complaint about this phone, it's the build quality. The battery cover feels cheap when you pop it on and off the device.It doesn't even fit that snugly. I can see my SIM card when battery cover is on. The volume rocker wiggles around a bit too much. I found this to be a bit of a letdown because I normally see great build quality in HTC devices. This is the first one that's let me down in that regard.

I also have issues with the proximity sensor every so often. If any sort of dirt or oil gets on the sensor (which is just to the right of the "HTC" logo as far as I can tell), it creates problems. I take the phone away from my face and the screen doesn't wake up. It's become extremely frustrating when I want to hang up after leaving a voice mail. I can only imagine how many seconds of silence I've left for people to listen to while I try to clean off the screen so I can hang up.

We've come to a verdict

The HTC HD7 is a solid Windows Phone 7 device. It's far from perfect, but it's not a device you'll hate having. I'm quite happy having it as my daily phone right now, but I imagine that that's more the work of Microsoft with Windows Phone 7 than HTC and the build of this phone. I also haven't really bonded with this device. At the end of the day, it's just a piece of hardware to me. I don't think people will be disappointed having this phone, it's just not one they're going to think about 6 years down the road and think "I miss that phone."

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