HTC 7 Trophy

8th Nov 2010 | 12:15

HTC 7 Trophy

Is the cheap price of this Windows Phone 7 handset worth the sacrifices?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Windows Phone 7 needs some tweaks here and there, but we couldn't put the HTC 7 Trophy down. A brilliantly usable and stunningly fast phone with few peers in its price range.

Like:

Beautiful operating system; Fast and highly responsive; Great Facebook integration; Good music playback with SRS Enhancement; Free on contract;

Dislike:

OS is still missing some features; Battery life is a bit disappointing; Camera was a let down, especially video recording; Can't expand the 8GB storage; Awkward sleep/wake button;

HTC 7 Trophy: Overview

The assault of Windows Phone 7 devices may seem like a bit too much to take in, but we beg you to forget the HTC HD7, the HTC 7 Mozart, the Samsung Omnia 7 and the LG Optimus 7 and just take a few minutes to appreciate the HTC 7 Trophy.

It doesn't have the unique apps the LG came with, or the fancy camera on the Mozart, or the HD7's screen, but it does have an arguably even better trick up its sleeve.

The Trophy is available for free, from just £25 per month. None of the others can match that, and the list of sacrifices to make this sort of price is minimal.

The 3.8-inch WVGA screen may not match the HD7's monster display, but it's still pretty large. Similarly, while the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash may not match what's on the Mozart, it's hardly at the poor end of the spectrum.

HTC 7 trophy

It's got the same 1GHz processor speed you'd expect to find humming along in all the Windows Phone 7 handsets, although the 8GB internal memory is admittedly beaten by some of its peers.

That storage isn't user-expandable, but using Microsoft's Zune software it's easy to get media onto the device.

HTC provides some apps to differentiate its Windows phones from the others, including the HTC Hub, which replicated the animated weather and clock that both Android users and former Windows Mobile owners will be familiar with.

HTC 7 trophy

With Facebook integration permeating just about every aspect of the handset, Microsoft definitely wants its mobile operating system to be thought of as 'social'.

HTC 7 trophy

Although it lacks third-party multitasking, apps are available from the Marketplace, while Xbox Live integration adds something for gamers, including the ability to import their avatar from their Xbox 360 console.

HTC 7 Trophy: Design and handling

HTC 7 trophy

The HTC 7 Trophy's front is unsurprisingly dominated by the 3.8-inch screen. The silver detail running around the capacitive touchscreens glass gives the Trophy a very iPhone 3GS look, albeit mixed with the touch-button stylings of HTC's Desire HD.

At 118.5 x 61.5 x 12mm, the handset isn't exactly petite. This leads through to the weight, which clocks in at a hefty 140g – only 22g lighter than the 4.3-inch HTC HD7.

HTC 7 trophy

There are a few different materials used in the Trophy's construction. The rear half and battery cover are made of a matte black plastic that's easy to grip (and is smudge-tastic). Around the edge of the front of the phone is a slightly glossy plastic, surrounding some silver detailing. And inside the latter sits the black glass touchscreen.

The build quality is excellent. Although it's several different parts fitted together, there's no wobble or give in the joins. Expect the HTC 7 Trophy to stand up well to a contract length's worth of punishment.

The 480 x 800 WVGA screen is bright and beautiful. It seems to have quite a limited optimum viewing angle, with colours becoming washed out very quickly when you look at it off-centre, but is just lovely when viewed straight on.

HTC 7 trophy

Below the 3.8-inch screen are the three Windows Phone 7 buttons that all handsets sport: Back, Start and Search. In this case, they're all touch-buttons – no physical depressing necessary. They're inactive when the screen is off, so you can't use them to wake the phone.

HTC 7 trophy

Above the screen is the ear speaker, as well as a tiny light that can indicate charge level. It flashes red when the battery is low, is steady red when the battery is charging and turns green when the battery's full. This light also flashes green when you've got a missed call.

On the phone's right side is the camera shutter. Like other WP7 devices, holding this down will wake the phone from standby straight into the camera app, without you having to go via the Home screen. It's a handy feature, although the button is very far down the phone here – it's so easy to accidentally press when reaching up for the sleep/wake button on top of the handset.

HTC 7 trophy

The camera button itself is silver, with a concentric circles texture that differentiates it from the case around it. It presses halfway and then goes down fully, for quick autofocusing.

On top of the handset is the aforementioned sleep/wake button, which also turns the phone on and off. The 3.5mm jack can also be found here.

HTC 7 trophy

On the left of the phone is the volume control and the micro-USB port, which is used both for charging and connecting to a computer.

HTC 7 trophy

On the back of the phone is the 5-megapixel camera's lens, a small LED flash and the (fairly large) external speaker. A shiny HTC logo adorns the battery cover, with a less ostentatious Windows Phone logo at the bottom.

HTC 7 trophy

Just behind the sleep/wake button is a little notch in the battery cover that you can use to open it. It just snaps on and off with no trouble, offering access to the battery beneath, which must be removed to access the SIM card slot.

HTC 7 trophy

While the Trophy is comfortable to hold and use generally, it's a bit of a hassle to wake it. The sleep/wake button is positioned slightly forward of the central seam of the Trophy. This makes it a little hard to hit single handed when holding the phone in your right hand.

HTC 7 trophy

It's something you just get used to, but would be avoided if the three buttons below the screen could be used to wake the phone.

HTC 7 trophy

HTC 7 trophy

In its box, the HTC 7 Trophy comes with a set of earphones that can be used as a handsfree kit, an optional clip for the earphones, a USB cable, and a slightly strange wall plug charger that comes in two parts.

HTC 7 Trophy: Interface

You can read TechRadar's Windows Phone 7 review for a thorough picking apart of Microsoft's new mobile operating system, but read on for our experience of it on the HTC 7 Trophy.

There's no denying that Windows Phone 7 is something else compared to the other big boys on the market. Marrying the uniform structure of Apple's iOS with the live updates you might expect to find on Android, it's clearly designed to draw the eye.

The Home screen uses a system of 'tiles', which are either square or a rectangle. Some of them update with live information, such as the Messaging and email tiles, while others have fancy effects.

HTC 7 trophy

The People tile has animated changing grid of your contacts' and Facebook friends' photos; the Me tile has your Facebook photo scroll on and off it; and the Xbox Live tile is occasionally invaded by your avatar, before the Xbox Live logo forcibly bumps him/her back out of view.

You can 'pin' apps to this Home screen (the full app list is available by scrolling right), as well as contacts, websites, favourite albums and other things. There's doesn't seem to be a limit to how much you can fit here, so we recommend not going too crazy or you'll never find anything.

HTC 7 trophy

While Microsoft has touted Windows Phone 7 as being customisable, it's not in the way we tend to think of that term. We're used to Android-level tweaking, with a choice of a million widgets, wallpapers, overlays, keyboards and so on.

On WP7, you can choose a white or black background and choose a dominant colour for the tiles (some will always stay the same colour, such as the blue of the Twitter app). You can rearrange the tiles, but at first glance it doesn't appear to have the kind of customisation we were promised.

HTC 7 trophy

The thing is: it does. But it's not what we're used to, and it's not done by the user. The People tile may be uniform in its style and function between all WP7 owners, but the people that appear in the pictures that flash up aren't. They're your friends.

You can't choose an alternate music player, but the tile for Zune app will pull down a wallpaper of one of your favourite bands from the Marketplace and use it as the image on the Zune. You don't need to ask it to do this, you'll just look down and go, "Hey! I like them!"

When you choose a tile, all of the other tiles swing forward off the screen, with the one you selected lingering for a moment as confirmation. As if from behind the screen, the new app or hub you chose then rotates into view. All this movement is performed as if they're the pages of the world's most advanced book, always connected at the left.

Probably the most famous part of the WP7 interface is the large typography at the top of apps that half disappears off the screen. It serves to indicate there's more content to be seen, and helps you keep track of your relative position in the app. Sometimes, they text here also acts as tabs, of the kind that would simple be listed in small buttons at the top of the screen on iOS.

HTC 7 trophy

Though having the words half fall off the screen may be a good way of indicating that there's more content to the right, it would undoubtedly be simpler to simply have some buttons so you could see every option at once. That's much more boring, though.

Like iOS, in-depth options are often hidden behind a long press or tapping something out of the ordinary. In any list arranged alphabetically, you can double-tap on a blank spot or single-tap one of the letters to bring up the full alphabet and skip to a letter.

HTC 7 trophy

There's also the ellipsis to take notice of. Frequently, a few simple options will appear on screen, with a set of three dots to their right. Tap the dots and you'll bring a longer list of lesser-used commands.

The three buttons below the Trophy's screen exhibit a funny mix of behaviours. The central Start button always takes you to the Home screen – simple enough.

The Back button usually takes you back a screen from where you are, but it doesn't necessarily take you up a level in the OS. So if you've been hunting through lots of artists in the music player, it'll take you back through all of them, rather than immediately out of the artist view to the Music and Video hub.

The Search button is designed to be context sensitive for the app you're in, meaning that if you're in your contacts list, it'll search there. If you're in emails, it'll search through them. Press it from the Home screen and you go straight to Bing search.

This is a bit hit-and-miss with third-party apps, sadly. Want to search for something in the Twitter app? Well, you can, but only using the button actually in the app that looks identical to the Search button, because the Search button itself will take you to Bing, exiting Twitter altogether.

We have to say, the Windows Phone 7 interface is so intentionally over-designed that we can't help but love it. There are so many little animations and bits that seem to be in here purely to make the user smile.

When you scroll past the bottom of a list, the items in the list bunch together, as though they're a coiled spring. When you release your finger, they bounce back to fill the space left.

On the Home screen, when you reach the bottom, the arrow on the right bounces, as if to say, "You've reached the end of this screen, but follow me for more!"

If all of the window dressing affected performance, we'd probably be criticising Microsoft for it. But it doesn't. Windows Phone 7's interface is astonishingly fast. Sure, apps take time to load, but that's true of all smartphones.

Windows Phone 7 is smooth, responsive and beautiful. Function takes a bit of a backseat, but in favour of usability. For a lot of people, that's a fair trade.

Not many people are likely to use it, but you can also activate voice control by holding the Start button. We found that it actually worked really well (and came with a British voice!), but we still don't imagine we'll use it too often.

HTC 7 Trophy: Contacts and calling

Populating the People hub on the HTC 7 Trophy, as with other Windows Phone handsets, is pretty much unavoidable. Signing into your Windows Live account can bring contacts from there, while adding another service, such as Gmail, can bring down those contacts too.

HTC 7 trophy

To fill out information on those contacts, you can then link them all to your Facebook account. You have the option of bringing in all your Facebook friends, or adding those that already have a contact entry.

If the Trophy doesn't connect a contact to its relevant Facebook profile for some reason, you can go into the contact and do it manually. You can also do this to link any duplicate contact entries to each other. It's an extremely painless process.

The contact list in the People can be scrolled down, you can bring up a list of letters, or you can hit the Search button and type in who you're looking for.

Enter a contact and you'll see their name at the top along with a little note to tell you where the information is being drawn from. Their main profile will feature a picture (this will be their Facebook profile picture if you've just left the phone to its own devices and not added one yourself) and their last Facebook status update will be next to the image.

HTC 7 trophy

Below that, you get context-sensitive options for each bit of contact information your have for them. Calling, texting, writing on their Facebook wall and emailing them are all just a click away, although it's a shame there's no 'message through Facebook' option.

Flick to the right on the Profile page and you'll see their What's New screen, which is essentially a kind of Facebook news feed for that person's wall.

If you're adding a new contact, you're presented with a fairly typical information input screen, but with one nice addition. There's an Account button, asking which of your online contacts lists it should sync the new contact with (so it could be your Windows Live or Google account, for example).

HTC 7 trophy

The dialling screen on the Trophy is just a simple set of numbers, and doesn't have the smart contacts dialler that other phones do. However, it's simple to get to your contacts list from the call screens and find who you're looking for.

HTC 7 trophy

We found that the HTC 7 Trophy was really strong at picking up and holding signal – better than a lot of other smartphones in known problem spots. Similarly, data connection speeds were very strong.

Call quality was pretty good, though not amazing. The ear speaker didn't stand up too well to loud traffic, but voices were nice and clear. The external speaker can get very loud, though is quite shrill and distorted at very high volumes, which doesn't make it ideal for speech.

HTC 7 Trophy: Messaging

Text messaging on the HTC 7 Trophy is very similar in principle to the iPhone. Enter the Messaging tile and you're presented with a list of Conversations, arranged by the name of the contact.

Any new messages are presented in your choice of theme colour, rather than the usual light grey. No icons necessary: just a bold statement in your preferred hue.

Conversations are threaded, which is par for the course these days. The speech bubbles are presented in your theme colour again, save for the light grey 'Type a message' bubble for writing a new text.

HTC 7 trophy

Pressing it brings up the keyboard, shifting the most recent text and writing area to the top. Again, iPhone users will find the whole thing eerily familiar.

HTC 7 trophy

The keyboard is very usable, and is a good size on the 3.8-inch screen. Much has been made of the fact that Microsoft says the software makes it easier to hit letters likely to come after what you've just typed, so we played around a bit.

It seems to us that the effect is there, but it's pretty subtle. Certainly we found that we could hit further into an adjacent letter and still get the one we wanted sometimes, but it seems like there's a time limit to it.

HTC 7 trophy

Any mis-types you do make are aided by the clever word prediction system. When you're writing, a list of possible words comes up, but if you make an error, the word it thinks you're trying to type comes up in bold, signalling that the OS will replace your word with that one if you just keep going.

If that wasn't the word you wanted, you can simply pick what you did want from the list.

The cursor system is also very good. Holding your finger in the writing space brings up a cursor just above it, so you then track your finger down to position the cursor where you want it.

All of the above applies to writing emails, too, so let's talk about those. Setting up an email account on the Trophy is as easy as it gets. You simply choose your provider from a list including Outlook, Windows Live, Yahoo, Gmail and Sky. You can also use POP and IMAP settings to manually set things up.

Similarly to the Conversations view, new emails are flagged by having their subject in your theme colour. Alternatively, you can swipe to the right, which will take you an Unread screen.

HTC 7 trophy

Unfortunately, there's no way to sort by anything other than date, which is a little annoying. Of course, if you're looking for something in particular, you can just hit the Search key, but it's still a fairly standard feature on other email clients that's missing here.

Similarly, using Search will only look through the messages on the handset – on other handsets, including the iPhone, you can search the server for terms not found in your downloaded messages.

Overall, the email client is great as far as ease-of-use goes, but we were expecting a little more in the way of features for power users.

HTC 7 Trophy: Internet

Since we're generally being quite nice to the HTC 7 Trophy, let's stick a quick gripe in here (although we're also filing this one under 'Connectivity', as you'll see later).

Getting the Trophy to connect to our Wi-Fi network was a total pain. It just outright refused time after time. We reset the phone. We reset the router. Eventually, we tried it and then just started tapping the screen impatiently while it was claiming to be trying to connect.

Apparently, it was just waiting for us to get snippy, because it finally connected. There's no reason for it to have such troubles, and we've had no problem since.

Anyway, with that out of the way we could get some proper browsing done. Choosing the old internet explorer symbol as your gateway to the internet feels inherently odd after abandoning the browser years ago, we have to say.

Once you steel yourself and press it, an incredibly strong smartphone browsing experience awaits.

HTC 7 trophy

The responsiveness is through the roof – with one exception. Links sometimes just don't seem to work the first you press them. It often seems to take two or three taps before the browser realises what you're actually asking of it.

However, all other interaction is class-leading. Pinch to zoom is immediate and fast. Text resizes and reformats for the larger size almost instantly.

HTC 7 trophy

What impressed us most, though, is just the simple panning around a web page. Not that this is always smoother than smooth peanut butter blended with whipped cream, but it's got the perfect amount of momentum to it.

Tracking's one-to-one when you move around slowly – no surprise there, and no different to comparable phones – but when you flick to go down a long web page, it just goes that bit further than, say, the iPhone.

It's such a small change, but it makes it so much nicer to skip down long articles.

At the top of the screen is the address bar and button to reload the page. At the bottom are buttons to add the page to favourites, view your favourites, see all open tabs (you can have up to six), or there's the WP7 ellipsis, which means more options are hiding nearby.

In the browser, you get extra options to go forward a page (the Back button below the screen acts as the browser's 'back' button, which makes sense, but you can't help but expect it to take you out of the browser and back to the Home screen), plus you can share the page over email or SMS, search the page for a certain term (very handy), pin the page to the Home screen or access IE's settings.

Speed-wise, the browser is fast, but not blisteringly so. Certainly you'll never complain about its speed, but it's not quite winning this particular arms race.

HTC 7 trophy

Hitting the Search button while in the web browser takes you to your default search engine website, rather than to the Bing search that pops up when you press Search on the Home screen.

Interestingly, this is actually Google on the Trophy, which gives a rather disjointed approach to search across the handset. Press Search in one place, you get Bing's beautiful pictures and little factoids. Press it elsewhere and you get Google's austere styling.

There's no Flash on Windows Phone 7. Whether this is a deal breaker for you will depend entirely on your own personal preference. We don't judge Microsoft too harshly for not including it in this first version.

A larger issue is that many YouTube videos wouldn't play from the browser, even though we had the YouTube app installed. The iPhone is capable of handling the very same videos from the browser, despite being as Flash-limited as WP7, so that's pretty disappointing.

If Microsoft can add some better video playback and copy and paste (because if a web address appears on a page without being hyperlinked, you can't follow it at the moment) then there'll be an arguable new king of the mobile web. The interaction and general browsing on the HTC 7 Trophy is second to none.

HTC 7 Trophy: Camera

HTC 7 trophy

The 5-megapixel camera on the HTC 7 Trophy carries a lower pixel count than its brother, the HTC Mozart. However, there's no reason the Trophy shouldn't be able to product some decent pictures.

In the camera's settings, you can choose one of a number of Scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Macro.

You can also add effects, including Greyscale and Sepia, and change the Metering. The LED flash can be on, off or auto. Finally, there's a mode to reduce the flicker when taking photos of televisions – you can specify 50 or 60Hz.

HTC 7 mozart

Click here for full-res version

LEAVES:Though the colours aren't bad here, there's a lack of detail in this shot, taken using the Landscape mode

HTC 7 mozart

Click here for full-res version

LIFELESS:There's no depth or dimension to this theatre, and again there's little in the way of detail

HTC 7 mozart

Click here for full-res version

CARVING:This is better, detail-wise, but once again looks flat

HTC 7 mozart

Click here for full-res version

GLASS HOUSES:The colours here are pleasingly accurate, and the focus has finally managed to get something nice and crisp

HTC 7 mozart

Click here for full-res version

CLOSE UP:While some parts of this macro shot are nice – especially the colours – there's a huge amount of digital noise in the dark pink parts, which spoils it somewhat

Pictures can be viewed back in the Pictures hub, which also brings down new pictures from your Facebook friends for you to browse.

When you view your saved pictures, you can choose to share them over email or MMS, or you can upload them to Facebook and Microsoft's SkyDrive service.

HTC 7 Trophy: Video

Well, we were all excited about the chance to check out the 720p video recording on the Trophy, so went out and found a subject worthy of the HD goodness. Have a look below.

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/techradar#p/u/7/pYD-7oDhsIg&hd=1

HTC 7 trophy

What. Garbage.

No, not the violin guy. He's awesome. The video is just totally appalling. It's jerky, the colours are inaccurate (everything's washed out except for red, which stands out horribly).

There's no detail to speak of, yet the video's bitrate is 8Mbps. Where the hell's all that bandwidth going? Especially considering the recording rate is only 24 frames per second. We have no problem with 24fps, but you'd expect a higher frame rate with all that data being used and no detail coming of it.

Honestly, there's no improvement in quality over using the VGA 640 x 480 setting. You might as well save yourself the memory and use that.

And while we're at it, Windows Phone 7's most annoying habit is the way it reverts to VGA every time you close the camera app, so even if 720p was any good, you'd still likely end up accidentally shooting in VGA. Fix this please, Microsoft.

HTC 7 Trophy: Media

It's been very roundabout, but in Windows Phone 7 the fabled Zune has finally hit the UK. While the connection to the iPod rival here might seem academic, it obviously isn't to Microsoft, since the tile that takes you to the Music and Video hub is labelled prominently with the Zune logo.

HTC 7 trophy

Since the screens in WP7 can be swiped left and right forever in a carousel, it's hard to pick one that could be considered the 'main' media screen, but we'll arbitrarily start with the one labelled Zune. This one enables you to choose Music, Videos, Podcasts, Radio and Marketplace.

Swipe to the right and you get the first of two History screens – sort of. This gives you one big tile telling you what was last played (or, if it's currently playing, the name of the song and the timecode).

The second part of the History screens is a load of smaller tiles, but since it can show different songs from the same album with no differentiation, it's a bit confusing.

More than that, though, it highlights one of the weaknesses in Microsoft's OS. Instead of just fitting on one screen, the smaller History tiles can spread off to the side. However, a big swipe to that side will take you straight past the ones that have fallen off the side, and you'll end up at the New screen instead.

To get to the other History tiles, you have to scroll very slowly. This is fine once you know about it, but there's absolutely no indication on WP7 when there's more on that screen to be scrolled to, and when you're just going to the next menu option.

It's not like you miss out on any major media options because of it, but since the whole point of the History tab is to save you time, it's definitely a problem if you spend a few minutes flicking back and forth wondering where that album you saw a sliver of went.

Moving onto the New screen, which is next, shows you what you've recently added, and suggests connecting to the Zune software to add yet more content.

After this is the Marquee screen, where apps that can be considered part of the Music and Video hub (such as YouTube) will appear.

And then you come full circle back to the Zune screen. From here, selecting Music will bring a new set of screens for choosing what to play. You start off at Artists, but scrolling to the right will take you through Albums, Songs, Playlists and Genres.

HTC 7 trophy

Your options are arranged alphabetically in a long list. By double-tapping anywhere that's blank (although it's hard to miss names sometimes) or tapping on a letter square, you can bring up the alphabet and choose a letter.

The Album screen displays the artwork for each record. It's nothing as fancy as the iPhone landscape Cover Flow view, but is infinitely more practical while being almost as pretty.

One of the key issues with WP7's design comes out when using these lists. There just isn't very much room with those big fancy fonts. Band names, song names and albums frequently don't fit in the space provided.

To be fair, you probably know your own music collection, and we can't imagine there's many people who'd glance at 'Another One Bites The D…' and wonder if Freddy Mercury liked the taste of dog, but function definitely takes a back seat to form here.

Choosing an album brings up the artwork at the top of the screen, with the list of songs underneath. Again, the large font size means you will definitely have to scroll to get to the bottom, but it's no problem if you're starting from the first song.

Once you start playing, there's the main music player screen, which we think is just a beautiful bit of UI design. The names of the artist and album dominate, along with the album art. Below that is the name of the current song and, in truly inspired move, the names of the next three songs that will play.

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This is somewhat unnecessary if you're just listening to an album in order, but to being able to see what's coming if you've just shuffled all of your songs is fantastic. You can even then tap those songs and see a full list of how the player's decided to shuffle your music and skip much further down the list if you want.

The play/pause, forward and back controls are at the bottom of the screen – though you can also skip between the next or previous songs by flicking the album left or right. This is something we always yearned to be able to do on the iPhone, and it looks fantastic when you're shuffling through songs from different albums.

Flush to the album art is the time counter for the song. Stupidly, you can't manually scrub through songs or videos, meaning that the only way to get to a certain part is to hold the forward or back arrows and go through the whole thing. It's something that might never bother you, but as soon as you try to use it and it doesn't work, you'll be spitting at the boneheadedness of its omission.

Background music is one the few multitasking capabilities of Windows Phone 7, so there's the matter of how you access the controls quickly without going through the Home screen.

Basically, tap either of the volume buttons when music is playing and it brings up a small overlay at the top of the screen. From here you have play/pause, forward and backwards options (along with volume control, of course).

One of the features HTC has added to Windows Phone 7 to make its handsets stand out is the Sound Enhancer app. On the Trophy, this enables you to add Dolby Mobile and SRS Enhancement to your music and movies (there's separate options for each), or to add equaliser settings.

SRS Enhancement was the real winner here. Without it, music was flat and boring. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't have much life to it (especially over the included headphones). Enabling SRS added a huge amount of depth and great three-dimensional quality to sound coming from even the most basic earphones.

Videos

Videos are arranged in a similar manner to music, though instead of album, artist and so on, you have All, Television, Music, Films and Personal. Each video has a thumbnail to represent it, and the date it was added.

HTC 7 trophy

Hit the video and it starts playing fullscreen. A tap brings up the play controls and the time counter. As we said before, you can't use this to skip to a certain point in the video.

HTC 7 trophy

Video quality in terms of the screen was great. Colours look completely natural, and there's plenty of detail on offer. The contrast ratio is nowhere near that offered by the AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy S, but it's still above most other phones.

However, there's one issue with video quality. As we'll mention later in the Connectivity section, the Windows Phone 7 connection software insists on transcoding every video you put onto your phone. In our other Windows Phone 7 device reviews we've mentioned how slow that makes it, but there's another issue.

Every time you encode a video, you inevitably reduce its quality. Even if you re-encode into the exact same format it was in before, just the process of conversion will cause more digital artefacts to creep in.

Let's say you rip a DVD to put on your Trophy. That video has been encoded once to MPEG-2 on the DVD. Then let's say you rip it into H.264/MPEG4. That's a second encode, with much more compression than the first. In theory, this format is just fine for WP7, but the Zune software insists on transcoding it anyway. That's a third compression.

We compared the video we ended up with on our device to the version it was supposed to be (on our PC). Sure enough, the phone's version had more artefacts in motion, less definition (note: not lack of detail from the phone's smaller screen, but rather objects bleeding into each other) and was just generally worse.

Playing Devil's Advocate, we should point out that we've seen phones before that claim to support certain video formats but they never work in practice. This system dodges that bullet completely, so there is some merit to it. But not much. Frankly, to any technophile it's going to be totally infuriating.

Radio

The radio function is as basic as they come, but was functional enough. It's simply a big number on a line representing the spectrum. Swipe the number slowing to manually find a frequency, or flick to have it search automatically for the next viable station.

HTC 7 trophy

When you find a station, you can tap the star symbol with the plus sign to add it to your favourites (tap it again to delete it). You can browse your saved stations by hitting the star symbol at the bottom-left corner. There's no way to rename the station, so you'll have to know them by number.

Audio quality is obviously dependent on the station, but it was pretty passable. We think Microsoft could have really gotten a jump on its rivals by including an internet radio by default (this goes double here in the UK, because the BBC uses Windows Media Audio for some of its streams, so they can be hit and miss on some apps).

Well, we didn't get that, but we do get a pause button, which is always handy. Small mercies, and all that.

Incidentally, radio stations are stored in the History page of the media hub, which is great for getting back to them quickly.

Marketplace

The Marketplace in the Music and Video hub is as slick as you like, although this makes the front pages a little hard to navigate. Flicking between the new releases is especially difficult without accidentally hitting one, which can then cause the preview to play and interrupt your music.

Things are a lot simpler if you've got something specific in mind. The easiest thing to do is just hit the Search key below the screen when anywhere in the Music and Video hub. This will take you straight to the Marketplace search screen.

Every artist gets their own special background once you start looking at their songs and albums, which gives the whole thing a very personal feel. If the iTunes Store is like going to Asda for your music, this feels like going to the little record shop up the road that not only has every album your favourite band ever made, but their posters up on the wall.

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Sadly, tracks aren't cheap at 99p each (well, not cheap relatively), but you can listen to a 30-second preview if you want to try before you buy.

HTC 7 Trophy: Apps and Xbox Live

Though it will take some time for Windows Phone's Marketplace to match the App Store or Android Market for volume, there's already plenty of big names hitting the store.

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The lack of Twitter integration in the OS is offset by the addition of an official Twitter app. It matches the Windows Phone 7 aesthetic nicely, but isn't as good as its iPhone sibling. Links open in the browser in a new tab, potentially getting rid of a tab you may have already had open.

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The Facebook integration in Windows Phone 7 is somewhat scattered about (you find new photo updates in the Photo hub, for example, while your friends' status updates come into your People hub). There's also no way to send someone a private message, only write on their wall or reply to comment or status update.

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The Facebook app brings everything together in what is actually one of the better Facebook apps around. It looks much closer to the standard desktop Facebook web interface than other apps, making it instantly familiar to those used to accessing the social network from their browser.

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HTC has added several apps to its Windows Phone 7 phones to make them stand out from Samsung Omnia 7 and the LG Optimus 7. The Trophy comes with the Sound Enhancer app, which includes the Dolby Mobile and SRS Enhancement options, as well the HTC Hub and Photo Enhancer.

The former is an app that contains the familiar HTC clock and animated weather, and also leads to further HTC apps through the Marketplace and suggests games.

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The Photo Enhancer is a very simple photo touch-up tool, enabling you to apply a filter to photo stored on the device. Most are a bit heavy-handed for serious use, but one or two can actually make a photo a look better before you upload it to Facebook or email it to someone.

The Window Phone 7 calendar is pretty simple, but nice enough to use. It can tie into Google Calendar, but this function is hidden in the email settings, for some reason, rather than anywhere useful (such as, say, the Calendar app).

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Maps

A Maps app is included, powered by Bing. It's fairly fast to load, and the GPS antenna was quick to pick us up. However, we found it generally inferior to Google Maps on the iPhone, and quite far behind the Android version.

The direction search in particular is just far too assuming. Instead of giving you options when you type in something vague, it just decides what it thinks you mean, and is often badly wrong.

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The maps themselves aren't as clear as Google's offering, with the stark white and grey aesthetic not really lending itself to useful route planning.

Office

Being a Windows Phone, Office functions were always likely to be a corner stone. Sure enough, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have made the trip to the new OS, along with OneNote.

While you can create new Word and Excel documents, you can only view and tweak PowerPoint files. While both Word and Excel are capable of doing what you would generally want from them in this form factor (you're hardly going to be laying out a complex pamphlet on a 3.8-inch screen), there were a few niggles.

Unbelievably, accessing the formula bar in Excel doesn't bring up the plus or equals signs prominently. Considering that you need the equals sign to tell Excel that you're inputting a formula, rather than plain text, this is totally ridiculous. Again, we're hoping Microsoft will have a look at this in future versions.

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OneNote is a nice handy tool for combining pictures, words and recordings regarding a subject together into a file so you can keep track of notes in any media. However, without copy and paste to and in bits from websites, this is a pale imitation of what it should be. That's not to take away from the solid foundation here, but it really is a glaring gap in the feature list.

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Xbox Live

Xbox Live is definitely one of Windows Phone 7's trump cards. Though Apple's attempts to create a gaming network with Game Center are admirable, they barely register next to Microsoft's fully armed and operational battle station.

While the ability to see and alter your avatar is nice – as are the bragging rights offered by quick access to your achievements – we think Microsoft has something bigger on its hands here.

With the importing of your friends list and the ability to send messages, Microsoft has effectively created its own social network by adding Xbox Live to its phones. It's a brilliant idea, but one that feels half-formed at the moment.

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You start at the Games hub, with your games available and your avatar visible, but if you want to go in-depth on anything, then an Xbox Live app seems to launch after a little wait. It just makes the whole thing seem not as integrated as Microsoft would have you believe. This stuff should really be part of the Games hub – hell, why not just make it the Xbox hub?

Hopefully, we'll also see some more ambitious games coming soon. There's nothing wrong with Flight Control or Bejeweled, and we're sure people will go for The Sims, but let's see a Windows Phone equivalent of the iPhone's NOVA please.

Oh, and Worms. If there's any game begging for the Xbox/Windows Phone crossover, it's Worms. Get on this, Team 17 and Microsoft.

HTC 7 Trophy: Battery life and connectivity

With no third-party multitasking available, you'd be forgiven for hoping for some good battery life out of the HTC 7 Trophy. Alas, that isn't the case.

The 3.8-inch screen is no doubt a significant source of the battery drain; though it's smaller than the HTC HD7's screen, it's still larger than most other phones.

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But in addition to that, we noticed the battery seemed to drain a lot faster with music playing in the background. Obviously, this will always have an effect on battery life, but it seemed a lot more dramatic on the Trophy than on, say, the iPhone.

During our intensive testing period, we were able to wipe the 1300mAh battery out in much less than a day. The battery's capacity is about average for the phone type, but we get the feeling Windows Phone 7 could do with a bit more power optimisation.

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Having said that, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce drain on the battery. The screen's brightness and how long it stays without being used can be altered, and you can turn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G on and off independently.

If you got economic with the settings and left it alone mostly, we see no reason you couldn't get several days out of the Trophy. However, that's not the point of a smartphone, so we'll stick with advising you to charge it every night.

Connectivity

In a style that very much reminds us of the iPhone, all connectivity in the HTC 7 Trophy (and, more specifically, the Windows Phone 7 OS) is carefully curated.

The phone features Edge and 3G data connectivity, as well as Wi-Fi for speedy browsing when in range. As we said in the 'Internet' section, it was inexplicably difficult to get onto our Wi-Fi network. This network has had no problems with iPhones, Android phones, Symbian phones, a PS3, a Wii and various computers.

Why we were constantly rejected we can't say, but eventually we started tapping the screen impatiently during the slow 'Connecting…' period, and suddenly we were on. We don't know of anyone else having such a hassle, so we'll chalk it up to one of life's strange melodramas.

A micro-USB port offers the ability to connect to a computer and also doubles as the charging port.

There's no mass storage drag-and-drop when you connect you Trophy, so adding content will have to done via the Zune PC software. We've looked at the Windows version of the software before, including in our super Windows Phone 7 review, but this is the first WP7 handset we've had since the beta of Windows Phone Connector for Mac was released, so we'll concentrate on that here.

Despite the platform switch, it's actually very similar to the PC Zune suite, but with the buttons in the wrong corner. iTunes and iPhone/iPod users will also find it generally quite familiar.

Rather simply, the Connector program ties into your iTunes and iPhoto libraries to pull over any appropriate content. In the sidebar on the left-hand side you can see your device, and then categories for Music, Photos and Videos, Movies and TV Shows, Podcasts and an option to browse what's already on your device.

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We had no problems pulling any content from iTunes as long as it was compatible (any DRM-protected stuff simply isn't shown, so you can't try to choose it by accident). We opted to select our favourite artists rather than import everything, and then it was just a few minutes for the 2.5GB of music to transfer. Album artwork and song/album names all made it over unscathed.

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As we mentioned in the video section, video is a little more annoying. Like the PC Zune software, Windows Phone Connector for Mac insists on transcoding everything it puts on your phone. The obvious drawback to this is that it takes time, and the less powerful your computer is, the longer it will take.

We were using a MacBook Pro, and the conversion too a little over an hour (for what should be a few minutes of file transferring). We shudder to think how long it would take on a netbook or MacBook Air (and how hot they would get).

Does Microsoft not realise that not everyone is sitting on a quad-core media monster? Evidently not, and we hope this is something it looks at in the future.

Bluetooth is also present on the HTC 7 Trophy, but – like the iPhone – it can't be used for file transfers. It's for pairing with Bluetooth accessories, such as headsets, and supports the A2DP music streaming protocol.

HTC 7 Trophy: Hands-on gallery

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HTC 7 Trophy: Official gallery

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HTC 7 Trophy: Verdict

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If this review has perhaps seemed a little all over the place in terms of swinging between praise and frustration, then it's done its job. The HTC 7 Trophy – and Windows Phone 7, by extension – is a bumpy ride, but one that has totally captivated us anyway.

We had our problems, and we're not going to gloss over them, because when the opposition is as mature as iOS on the iPhone and as feature-rich as Android, it's a cut-throat world.

That said, we don't think it would be spoiling the next few paragraphs too much too say that we really, really liked the HTC 7 Trophy.

We liked

Oh, Windows Phone 7, you are so beautiful. The giant typography and tiles can look a little awkward in pictures, but are just stunning in motion. Do yourself a favour and go to see it running in a shop, with all the little animations and the changing screens.

The thing is, even that won't do it justice. The People tile won't flash with amusing images of your friends, and your favourite band won't adorn the Zune tile. There'll be no unread messages, causing the Messaging emoticon to wink at you.

Windows Phone 7 is style over substance in the best way possible, but it's also fast with it. Scrolling is brilliantly smooth, zooming is quick and responsive, and UI gives you lots of visual feedback as you use it, all thanks to a great capactitive touchscreen.

The 3.8-inch screen really shows off Windows Phone 7 well, too. As we said before, it has disappointing viewing angles, but looks glorious straight-on.

We really like the design of the Trophy. It's sturdy as you like, and is the sort of thing that hits the ground with a 'thud' rather than a 'crash'.

And, you know, we like that the Trophy worked really well as a phone. It can be forgotten, but smartphone can be a bit weak in the signal and calling department, but HTC got both right here.
Finally, there's the price – or lack thereof. Free on contract? At £25 per month? For this size screen, processor power and interface? Oh my.

We disliked

Starting with the design, we think the sleep/wake button needs to be a bit further back, or be a bit larger. It's just slightly too difficult to hit with one hand, and it doesn't have to be.

The battery life was a little disappointing, but not a massive let-down.

The camera is, frankly, not very good. It's the worst we've ever seen for still, but the 720p video recording is a waste of the 8GB memory (which is also a bit small, though inevitable at the price).

Really, the gripes for the HTC 7 Trophy come in what's missing from Windows Phone 7's feature list. We don't want to flog the same old horses… but we're going to.

No multitasking? Okay, it took Apple long enough, but it's there now, leaving Microsoft looking a little out of date.

No copy and paste? You know, we don't mind this mostly, but it's criminal to leave it out of an OS that features OneNote so prominently.

The basic email inbox is also bordering on inexcusable. We understand that Microsoft's going for a totally different market than it used to aim for with Windows Mobile, but this leaves it well behind its rivals for email power users.

There are other bits and pieces that need fixing in the OS (such as the inconsistent use of the Search key), but we're sure Microsoft will fix soon – lest WP7 be left playing catch up to Apple and Google forever.

Verdict

The Windows Phone 7 experience can basically be summed with: "…but it's so nice".

You can use that phrase after any criticisms or daggers, and it won't ring hollow. Windows Phone 7 is just lovely to use. It feels personal and responsive.

But the it's the implementation of WP7 on the Trophy that makes the phone so good.

There's nothing lost feature-wise in the OS coming down from its more expensive cousins, and not much on the hardware side, but this one is free from just £25 per month. The ease of use factor alone makes it worth considering at that price.

And if Microsoft was to give it an update with some of the missing features, this phone could be mid-range smartphone heaven.

mobile phone smartphone Windows Phone 7 HTC
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