HTC Desire HD

1st Apr 2011 | 16:50

HTC Desire HD

The Desire's successor finally lands but is it an improvement?

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

We'd have to colour ourselves a little disappointed with the new HTC Desire HD - as a standalone phone it's excellent, but it has too many niggles to be considered the best in HTC's range.

Like:

Super-slick UI; Great browsing experience; Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound; Decent e-book reader; Very easy to connect contacts

Dislike:

Poor battery life; No OLED screen; Suspect build quality; Video player needs overhauling; HTCSense.com connectivity still has bugs

HTC Desire HD: Overview, design and feel

After the success of the HTC Desire, the Taiwanese firm is looking to take smartphones to the next level with the super-sized HTC Desire HD. But is it the next tech-filled talisman for the brand or a super-sized effort too far?

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, you can check out our quick video guide to what to look out for:

We've all seen the HTC HD2 and the HTC Evo, both with the same-sized 4.3-inch screens, and they were both successes, so it makes sense to continue that theme on the latest Android flagship phone, right?

Add to that it's got the overhauled Sense UI, with more new features than you can shake a techno-stick at, and there's a lot to be excited about with this new handset.

HTC desire hd review

We're not sure if there's been some optimisation on the screen, but the 4.3-inch offering from HTC seems to be packing a better contrast ratio since we saw it a few weeks ago at the launch.

It still lacks the wow factor of the Samsung Galaxy S' Super AMOLED but it's certainly not a bad screen – just perhaps a bit light on the difference between the black and whites on the display.

But there are those out there that think that OLED screens are over-saturated anyway, so perhaps it will appease rather than disappoint some.

HTC desire hd review

The slim dimensions (68mm x123mm x 11.8mm) are really important, and help to make the 4.3-inch screen more palatable to those that think it's simply too big.

It doesn't feel as skinny as the iPhone 4 or the Galaxy S (well, it isn't at 11.8mm) but it's perfectly pocketable.

HTC desire hd review

The front of the Desire HD is mostly taken up by screen, as you can imagine when you have one as whopping as this.

The four touch sensitive options are all easy enough to press and light up when the phone is in use – we'd still rather they were the physical keys of the original Desire, as it's much easier to hit them without taking your eyes off the screen.

HTC desire hd review

The dimensions of the phone are designed to minimise the trade-off of having a massive screen, but it only partly works.

Yes, the thin frame makes it nice to hold in the hand, but in the normal portrait mode it's still nigh on impossible to reach the top of the screen without jiggling the phone around in your hand – something that's never an issue on the sleek iPhone 4.

HTC desire hd review

The top of the phone only houses the power/lock button, and like the HTC HD7, this is flush to the chassis and thus hard to even find, let alone hit without looking at times.

There's a massive volume rocker switch on the left hand side of the Desire HD, leaving the right hand side completely clean – no power or camera key here, which gives it a nice smooth finish.

HTC desire hd review

Below the volume key is the battery cover – it's an odd one, as you have to yank it off and the battery then falls out, with no catch like on the HTC Legend.

It's even more confusing when there's a separate sliding cover on the bottom of the Desire HD to get to the microSD and SIM slots.

HTC desire hd review

This cover isn't the best though – a few clicks on and off and we found it started to get a little loose, feeling creaky when gripped.

There's an odd choice from HTC when it comes to the 3.5mm headphone port, as it's on the bottom rather than the top of the phone, next to the microUSB port.

HTC desire hd review

It means that the phone will be easier to pull out of your pocket already the right way up in your hand, but it just feels a little odd when 99% of other portable devices have it located on the top and out the way when holding it in the hand.

At least it's central, so it doesn't get in the way when you're holding it for video watching.

HTC desire hd review

Around the back we're treated to an 8MP camera that also packs a dual LED flash, and also records HD footage at 720p resolution. There's also a small speaker that seems to be the main source of audio output – there's another on the front above the screen, but it feels like most of the sound pumps from the rear.

HTC Desire HD: Interface

The HTC Desire HD is bringing a similar experience to the others in its top end Android line - namely, using its snazzy Sense UI to make the Google experience much better in addition to the new Android 2.2 OS it's rocking.

The Taiwanese firm has worked its magic again for the new Desire HD and Desire Z, offering up new widgets, layouts and ways to play with your phone on the train.

HTC desire hd review

For the uninitiated, Sense UI is a skin that sits on top of the basic Android experience, offering new widgets and a greater number of home screens to play with.

If you want to access these quickly, simply pinch the screen in, and you'll see all the different pages showcased in an exploded view - really handy if you're at one end of the list and want to look at something you've stored at the other end.

HTC desire hd review

One feature of HTC's Android handsets has always been a fluid experience under the finger, and once again that's on show here with the HTC Desire HD.

It's simply mind blowing, much like the experience on the Samsung Galaxy S (when it's working) and the iPhone 4... there's not a hint of slowdown on show here, no matter how hard you push the phone.

HTC desire hd review

You can drag the notifications bar down from almost any application, and even if the phone is updating in the background you won't notice any juddering - in fact the only time we encountered a sniff of it was when we were downloading 10 applications at once.

The home screens are obviously large and clear with a 4.3-inch display, and the extra estate means HTC can offer up massively functional widgets or half sized versions of many of them so you can fit more onto your home screen set up.

It should be applauded that HTC has managed to overhaul the Sense UI without making any major changes - in fact, they're mostly nothing more than tweaks but still bring that level of user delight that we're so excited about.

HTC desire hd review

The first is the extra option at the bottom of the screen - rather than having to long press the display to edit it (although you still can) there's an icon of a palette to press, which achieves the same thing.

The editing screen has been overhauled too, with a load more options. Here you can do little things like alter your ringtone (or even the whole sound set, so all notifications will sound like harps or the sea or whatever you're into - we were sad 'Top sounds of the M4' didn't make the cut) or change all the icons and set up of your home screen using the new scenes offering.

HTC desire hd review

You can scroll through all the new scenes on offer, which are preloaded with different arrangements of widgets and wallpapers, or you can hit a button to quickly download more.

Not only is it testament to the new GPU on the HTC Desire HD that this process of scrolling through thumbnails suffers no slowdown, but the ease of which you can go online to download more shows that this really is a next generation smartphone.

Other things you can edit include skins (to change the way the phone's notification bars and menus are shaped and coloured) and wallpaper too, making it very easy and cool to personalise your Desire HD.

HTC desire hd review

We're a little peeved you can't do timed screen changeovers - how cool would it have been to be able to suddenly see your phone enter party mode (even though that already sounds a bit sad) at 5.30 on a Friday evening?

Another tweak is the Edit button - before when users would hold an icon or widget, the Android interface would pop up with a 'remove' option that you could drop your selection into.

Now you also get an edit option (if applicable) which allows you to change certain elements - very cool and one of the things that show off the overall slick nature of the Desire HD.

The menu layout is the same as ever - a scrollable list of icons you can mess around with and re-arrange as you see fit, or pop into folders to make it easier to use.

HTC desire hd review

Another new feature on the Desire HD lives in the notifications bar, which you open by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen.

Here you'll see your most recently-used icons, making it mega easy to swipe along and see what you've been up to - and opening up oft-love options too.

The interface on the HTC Desire HD is simply phenomenal - you can sync up loads of accounts and have a fair few background processes and yet things still tick along wonderfully in the foreground.

And another thing – the fast booting process is sensational. It only works if you've turned the phone off and not pulled out the battery (as you might do on the plane) but turning it back on yielded a start screen that we could play with in less than 8 seconds, which is amazing and we had to check it three times to believe it.

HTC Desire HD: Calling and contacts

There's always a worry with today's smartphones: are they becoming too much like tablets and forgetting about the core needs of a phone?

That's not strictly the case with the Desire HD - while not a superb phone experience; it's certainly more than passable.

Contacts

The contacts menu has always been one of HTC's strengths on nearly any phone it's created, and that's once again mirrored on the HTC Desire HD.

The way you can synchronise up Twitter, Facebook, Exchange, Google and more is sublime, and the options to interact once you're in there simply leave the laughable attempts of the Nokia to incorporate social networking trailing it its wake.

Once you've turned on the phone, it will encourage you to connect to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Exchange, Flickr and whatever else you fancy, and if you choose you can download contacts from there as well.

HTC desire hd review

These then appear on the phone's contact menu, and you can cycle through and link them together.

It could be a pretty laborious process, but HTC seems to have nailed telepathy on its Android phones by nearly always guessing the contact you're looking to sync up each time.

New for the Desire HD too: automatic linking. Instead of having to go into each person and see if there's a link for them, the phone now will present a list of people to link up which you can easily scroll down.

We managed to knock around 50 people from our 150-strong contacts book this way, and it's a real help.

But linking doesn't just give you the status updates – it allows you to see so much more of your dealings with them as well.

HTC desire hd review

You can see threaded messages (both text and email) as well as social networking updates from Twitter and Facebook.

(One word of warning – when you sign into the official Twitter and Facebook applications also included on the phone, don't ask to sync contacts, as you'll just end up with a million duplicates if you've done it when you first started up the phone).

You can also see galleries from the likes of Flickr and Facebook too – it's awesome being able to nose through a friend's photos just like they're stored in an album on your device.

HTC desire hd review

One thing we do like about the way HTC implements its contacts system is the level of customisation you get.

You can choose any picture you like from any source, and have a different name as well if they're called multiple things on all the places you've linked them from.

It's a far cry from the bodge job we had to perform on the Windows Phone 7 devices, where only deleting certain accounts would perform that task.

HTC desire hd review

The favourites widget for the home screen is really nice too, as it allows you to see all your favourite people with pictures and status updates, and offers easy access to call or message them too.

Calling

Calling on the HTC Desire HD is just fine – we had no issues with dropped calls or coverage throughout the time we were using it, and saw a connection downtime of just 2%, which is pretty good.

However the larger speaker grille at the top can be slightly hard to hear from as the phone is so large it can be hard to position it in the right place at times.

HTC desire hd review

This meant a lot of jiggling it around to make it work correctly, and while the volume wasn't terrible, we'd have preferred it to be a little bit louder.

The same can be said for the loudspeaker on the phone too – we used it the way it was meant to be, namely laid flat on a surface, and while it wasn't too bad for a one to one conversation, we can imagine that if you've got a few people sitting around for a conference call it could get a little quiet.

The same could be said for use in the car – we recommend you get a dedicated car kit for the Desire HD if you intend to use it hands free via the loudspeaker.

We also saw no evidence of noise cancellation on the Desire HD either, something we had hoped to see from the Google Nexus One – it's a premium feature, sure, but it's one that really adds to the call quality no matter where you are.

HTC desire hd review

Unless it's a chamber designed by a criminal mastermind specifically to mess with noise cancelling... you're on your own there.

The calling options are nice though – you can use smart dialling, where pressing the numbers will call up phone records using predictive text, and each person that calls you will have any recent social network updates and profile pictures at the centre of the call screen.

Video calling is sadly lacking here – there's no front-facing camera, so there's no FaceTime-beating option on here to take the fight to Apple. Oh, wait, we'd forgotten: nobody cares about video calling still. Now it all makes sense.

HTC Desire HD: Messaging

Messaging is integral to the performance of the HTC Desire HD, and once again HTC has come up trumps with the range of things you can do with it.

We're talking email (both POP/IMAP and Exchange) SMS, MMS, IM, Twitter and Facebook – and all are just slick and superlovely to set up too.

Things like automatically suggesting the email address you used to sign into Google for Facebook signing in show that a lot of thought has gone into the UI of this phone, and will instantly make you coo with delight at the ease of it all.

In fact it only takes around two minutes to set up all the above accounts, even Exchange – that only takes a user name and password and in 90% of the cases you'll be receiving work emails in a trice. If not, then manual set up is just a click away.

HTC desire hd review

The keyboard on the HTC Desire HD is once again fantastic – it's highly responsive, works out which words you're after most of the time and defaults to them, and also has cursor keys at the bottom to move around the text when you only want to change a single letter.

HTC desire hd review

We were expecting it to be even better than the original HTC Desire because of the larger screen, but that wasn't the case – it's probably the equal, although in landscape mode it's pretty much unerring.

HTC desire hd review

Email has been overhauled with the new Sense UI as it now offers more swipe-able options at the bottom of the screen to make navigating through the multitude of messages.

HTC desire hd review

For instance, you can swipe along to only see messages from your favourite contacts, meaning you can quickly get to the important stuff from the cool people easier.

You can specify who this group is – we initially thought it was locked to favourites only, but a bit of digging showed that lists can be altered using the 'View' category in the menu.

Google Mail has also had a few tweaks, with larger icons making it easier to reply and scan through your messages – it's these little tweaks that Google is making to Android that make using devices like the Desire HD a constant pleasure.

In terms of social networking, there are three clients included in the box – although Twitter is doubled up, so it's technically four.

Both the official Android Twitter client and HTC's Peep are included out of the box, which is odd – especially when HTC's Peep is the one that serves the notifications that you have mentions and messages automatically.

HTC desire hd review

Both are easy to use though – Peep is a little less functional but perfectly usable (and integrated with the phone book) and Twitter offers more in terms of wider searching – although there are other (in our opinion, better) options available on the Android Market, like TwiDroyd.

Facebook is handy, as it's been overhauled to offer up new elements like a photo stream under the icons grid, and of course Google Talk is included too for instant messaging.

You get chat notifications as well as the ability to have multiple chats at once –it's not earth shattering, especially if you've never used it, but if you're one for a spot of Google Talking then this is a pretty good way to keep it happening on the go.

However there are other options in the market too that let you connect with Windows Live Messenger, so check those out if you fancy chatting via other avenues.

HTC Desire HD: Internet

The large 4.3-inch screen of the HTC Desire HD, like its cousin the HD7, is simply ace for browsing the web, easily as good as anything else in the Android range.

The WVGA resolution (800x480) screen means you can get nice and close to the text, and for added benefits there's also support for HTML5 and more importantly for some people: Flash 10.1.

If you're unaccustomed to the different variations in the Flash family, 10.1 integration not only means that you can watch videos from places like the BBC and Sky without needing a separate application, but they will run within the webpage, without having to jump to a dedicated media player.

HTC desire hd review

However, in the case of Flash on the HTC Desire HD, it feels like it's not quite up to speed at times. While using BBC and the like is acceptable (if a tiny bit choppy) when it comes to using YouTube in its native format the audio syncing is poor and the overall effect not the best.

You can use the dedicated mobile YouTube site, which uses HTML5 to work quickly and simply, but a number of videos in your favourite playlists still won't play in this format it seems.

Anyway, the iPhone 4 manages just fine without Flash, so there's no reason to get too angry about it here, and it is useful in a number of instances (and probably still the best implementation on the market).

HTC desire hd review

There are a number of other positives to the internet experience on the HTC Desire HD - multiple windows with thumbnail scrolling through them mean various websites can be open at once.

It's odd that you're limited to just four windows though - the likes of Internet Explorer from Windows Phone 7 manages six, and we can't remember ever hitting an upper limit on the original Desire.

One think that Android (and HTC's Google portfolio especially) does well is text-wrapping; namely, zoom into whichever size you want on a column of text and the words will jumble around the screen and reformat to fill the display.

HTC desire hd review

Sure, you can double tap to get closer to the text in the same vein as other smartphones, but the text wrapping puts you in control of the size... and you can go mightily close.

Another winning feature from Android is the ability to share web pages to a variety of sources without having to break stride: if you're on a page that you think your buddies online will like then you can head into the 'Share Page' option and lob the link out via Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, SMS, Bluetooth - you name it, you can get it there via that method. Not carrier pigeon though. This is a mobile phone, you fool.

HTC desire hd review

We've always been fans of the bookmarks, as when you enter this section you can either look at the ones you've saved (via thumbnail, nice) or see your most visited or history of pages you've been to - enabling you to choose bookmarks that you need without realising it.

HTC desire hd review

With the new Sense UI, users of the HTC Desire HD can also subscribe to an RSS feed (if present on the page) by hitting the icon in the top left hand corner of the screen - it makes keeping up to date with the sites you love (cough*TechRadar*cough*subliminalmessage*cough) very easy.

Another plus we've always loved on the HTC Android range: the implementation of copy and paste. It's a little Apple-esque, as you long press on text and see a little magnification pane pop up.

From there you can drag two little pins to select the text you want - which bar the colour is almost precisely the same as Apple's offering.

Where the difference lies is in the pop up menu that appears after: you can copy the text, share it via the same options mentioned earlier or use it to search.

But not just search on Google, oh no. You can look for the phrase on Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Dictionary or even Google Translate - and that's an awesome option.

The internet experience on Android phones has always been a plus, and the sheer speed, functionality and slickness of the offering on the HTC Desire HD is up there with the best of them.

Desire HD: Camera

HTC desire hd reviewThe HTC Desire HD has an 8MP camera, making it one of the best from the brand so far. It's only bested by the Windows Phone 7-powered HTC 7 Mozart on the market, by dearth of the fact that has a Xenon (proper) flash.

But the Desire HD comes with a dual LED flash, which although slow can double as a video light and torch. Beat that, Xenon.

HTC desire hd review

While the modes are simplistic, there is a little bit of range on the camera shots you can take. Using simple slider bars, you can alter the contrast, sharpness and exposure, and these go a long way to altering the quality of the shot you get.

One problem is said shots do look a little, well, camera-phonesque. There's a processed quality to some of them, especially in overcast conditions, that you might not expect from an 8MP offering.

HTC desire hd review

The shutter speed is awesome though, and it's very easy to capture the picture you want when you're ready to go in less than four seconds, less if you turn off auto reviewing of pictures.

HTC desire hd review

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The standard shots can look a little over-processed with some digital artefacting, although they look good on the phone screen

HTC desire hd review

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The macro mode is non-existent; instead HTC's auto focus can handle pretty much any scenario - even as shown here, less than 5cm away from the subject

HTC desire hd review

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Touch to focus allows you to take a shot that highlights a certain aspect of the photo - here we've touched the tree

HTC desire hd review

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And here the sky - the difference in detail and light levels is impressive

HTC desire hd review

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Bright light is something of a hindrance to the small-sensored 8MP camera, but it doesn't completely destroy a shot if you focus on the right area

HTC desire hd review

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Here's our subject taken in normal, automatic mode

HTC desire hd review

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And again with high exposure

HTC desire hd review

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And again with low exposure

HTC desire hd review

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Here's an oddly purple shot taken again in automatic mode - as you can see below, the change in effect is quite marked

HTC desire hd review

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With high contrast

HTC desire hd review

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With low contrast

HTC desire hd review

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With high saturation

HTC desire hd review

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With low saturation

HTC desire hd review

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The digital zoom is average - here we took a photo using some exposure and contrast tweaking

HTC desire hd review

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Zoomed in it looks relatively similar - we've seen worse digital zooms, but it's nothing in the same league as theNokia N8

HTC Desire HD: Media

The HTC Desire HD comes with a variety of media modes, and all are on display here complete with an element of cloud coolness backing them up.

Music

The music player on the HTC Desire HD is still as good as it's ever been - namely, a shade above average if we're honest, although at least we get 1.5GB of internal storage this time.

The audio output has been boosted by the addition of Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound, adding to the equaliser, although only the middle option really makes a difference sonically in a positive fashion - the rest seem to get too high-end heavy to our ears.

HTC desire hd review

The media interface is the same as it ever has been on the HTC Android brigade - namely, swipe-able album art that takes you from song to song, and a separate menu to slide along to get to artists, albums and playlists.

Having played with a roughly similar interface on the Windows Phone 7 offerings, we prefer Microsoft's offering here if we're honest - the option to swipe through albums to change songs is so much slicker, where on the HTC Desire HD it takes a beat to drop a new track. We learnt that phrase from the kids at the roller disco.

A couple of new and nice touches: after the artist, album, genre etc there's now 'Connected Media' that searches for DLNA-enabled devices.

HTC desire hd review

This means if you've got a Windows 7 enabled PC or a Playstation 3 turned on you can see all the media contained on that and stream it straight across... and it really works well.

HTC desire hd review

The other new feature is the addition of an Amazon MP3 store link - hit that to search for new music to buy and download. It doesn't add a lot in terms of media functionality, but it's an easy (and sometimes quite cheap) way to get that song you've been thinking of.

Video

Here we come to one of the weakest parts of the HTC Desire HD, at least on our review model.

We were impressed with the HTC Desire, with its large 3.7-inch OLED screen allowing us to watch all manner of files with no problem.

Well, on the HTC Desire HD, those same files don't want to play nice with our unit, and the loss of the OLED screen means the contrast ratios aren't as good as they could be.

HTC desire hd review

Firstly, even finding the video you want can be a challenge, as whether you survey your video list via the Videos app or through the gallery (the former is just a shortcut for the latter) you're presented with a bunch of grey tiles which should be thumbnails of your videos.

With no labels in sight, you have to wait an extraordinarily long time to find the vid you want - on the old Desire this was presented in a swipe-able horizontal list, and the thumbnails appeared in seconds.

The problems don't end there: on occasion we would load up a video and it would skip forward quickly, showing only random frames, which we couldn't get our heads around, as restarting the video player fixed it.

HTC desire hd review

And the final issue: files that would previously play in whichever screen size we wanted would only play in heavy zoom or 4:3, even though they were encoded in widescreen. We tried the same ones on the original Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S and they played fine.

We're painting a pretty negative picture of video on the HTC Desire HD, which is possibly a little unfair, as most of the time it works well without a problem - the slightly too-bright screen aside, there's not a lot else wrong with it.

The addition of Dolby Mobile here (as well as SRS virtual surround sound) is a real boon and benefit, really making your movies come to life providing you've got a decent pair of headphones. We tried it with the Sennheiser HD 650s (which are massive and look funny on the Tube, but man, they sound great) and there was a very real improvement in the sound of our videos.

But those other issues are something to worry about - we hope a slight firmware upgrade will make the difference in the future, as it's an unwanted blemish on an otherwise excellent media experience.

Connected Media

Another new trick for the HTC Desire HD - DLNA streaming to a big-screen TV. Given Nokia was crowing about being able to plug your N8 into the TV via an HDMI-out cable, this wireless method has the potential to become a much cooler offering.

And if you've got a DLNA-enabled TV (or are willing to buy the HTC dongle to turn it into one) then it really is - it's a feature that really will impress friends.

All you need to do is open up the application or click Share in the media you want to pump to a big screen, and if there's a relevant display in proximity then it will appear as an option.

HTC desire hd review

Simply select it and in seconds the TV will start connecting and play the media you've chosen. HD files take a little longer to get going, but the effect is the same - you can play a movie you've captured or got on your phone with no problems.

We should say if you're showing off an HD movie you've downloaded from elsewhere from the HTC Desire HD, it's not the equal of the wired-up Nokia N8, which can also support 5.1 surround sound, but for 99% of the tasks you'll want to do the HTC wireless method just looks so cool.

We'd advise you don't try and show off a photo album using this method - it takes AGES to scroll through each one, so best to stick to music and video. You know, for parties and whatever else posh people with DLNA TVs do.

Just make sure you select the right file when you're showing off the trick to family at Christmas - that 'Footie' file could be a number of things.

FM radio

The final media part of the HTC Desire HD jigsaw is the FM radio, something that people sometimes forget about functionality-wise.

It's the same old story: you need headphones to make the radio work, there's no RDS for station names unless they're in ultra-strong signal areas (clue: there are none) and you can forget about an FM transmitter to send it out to an external stereo.

HTC desire hd review

The signal is pretty poor too, making it hard to get a station even when you know a standalone device can pick up a clear signal without an issue.

But the automatic station searching is cool, and while it doesn't work all the time at least the home screen widget is easy to use.

HTC Desire HD: Battery life

Does anyone remember the Mystery of the HTC Desire and the suspect battery life? Well, this is the sequel: HTC Desire and the suspect-er battery life (that's the best we could come up with? You expect me to believe you used to work in Hollywood? Get out of my office...)

The battery life on the HTC Desire was iffy at best - it would last a day or so without a problem, but heavy usage would bring that right down to sometimes needing a midday boost.

Android 2.2 helped to make that less of an issue, but it still wasn't the greatest - and the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the iPhone 4 managed to find nearly 40% more battery life through some nice processor integration.

The video issue aside (which we hope will be fixed in the near future) this is the single biggest flaw on the HTC Desire HD – in our tests we managed to get just under 24 hours' use out of the phone without needing to recharge.

HTC desire hd review

The fear is that this will dwindle over time in the same way anecdotally HTC Desires appear to be doing.

If you start using the HTC Desire HD heavily, for video, music, camera or streaming media, then that battery life drops too, so you might need to recharge.

Where we struggled to work out what was nabbing the power from the HTC Desire, it's a pretty easy one with the Desire HD: the screen is apparently sucking half the power.

You can see when installing battery readers that the phone can hold charge quite easily in normal use – even when it's got push email on and is quietly syncing in the background, it's holding a pretty good charge, and as the signal doesn't drop too often it's not searching for another one.

HTC desire hd review

It's odd then that HTC has decided on a 1230mAh battery when it could have added in a 1500mAh option instead – surely that 20-odd percent increase is crucial?

And as it's the screen, we don't see how it can be remedied. Overall, we didn't find many days when we were reaching for the charger before we got home – but it gets a little too close for comfort.

HTC Desire HD: HTCSense.com and connectivity

One of the new features on the HTC Desire HD is the connection to the all-new HTCSense.com, a portal that allows you to control your phone from afar.

Initially, it looks like the main reason for this portal is to deal with the issue of leaving your phone at home or even worse: losing it.

You can perform basic tasks like forwarding all your calls to another number and messages too - it works nicely and makes the hassle of people not being able to get hold of you a distant memory.

Another neat feature for the lonely and friendless among us (just us? Well, that makes sense...) is the ability to ring the phone as loud as possible - it overrides the vibration setting as well, so even if you've turned the ringer off you can still hear where you've left your precious device.

HTC desire hd review

But there's a lot more to this portal than just that - being able to send a message to your phone or lock it remotely means that if you think you're going to get it back you can protect it or entice someone to return it.

You can also see roughly where your phone is - handy if you think you might have left it at that restaurant across town but don't want to go over there on a wild goose chase.

And of course there's the remote wipe option, allowing you to protect any data that might fall into the wrong hands.

However there is a worry - with nearly all of these elements, it took a couple of attempts to actually make them work, with a 'cannot connect to phone' message popping up far too regularly.

HTC desire hd review

Other elements, like being able to synchronise contacts up to the cloud, are similarly poor - not all of them were sucked up for some reason, and while we're sure there's a fix if we dig around in the settings it's not something the average user is going to be doing.

We like another feature from HTC with the new Sense account - you can add friends also on the service and recommend things to each other, or see what they're downloading.

Except this wouldn't work at all - no matter what we did, we couldn't confirm any friends that added us or vice versa (and no, that's not because we're alone and boring).

We like HTCSense.com as a handy portal, but it's not going to be the massive lure HTC is making it out to be.

Connectivity

There are a number of connectivity options on the HTC Desire HD, and mostly they work better than other smartphone contenders on the market at the moment.

For instance, Wi-Fi, which was a slight issue with some Android phones, seems to be a little stronger on the Desire HD than on the original Desire or the Galaxy S - it's about on a par with the iPhone 4 in our tests.

We had a few issues with data connection though - on some occasions the phone would look like it has full signal but then you'd realise that those bars wouldn't change and you can't get any data - it was actually frozen, and we have no idea why.

HTC desire hd review

Another bug from the original Desire was back too - Bluetooth A2DP stereo connection. It was choppy, as the audio would cut out momentarily once or twice a minute when walking or dancing around your living room. It's not a terrible problem, but it's certainly not seamless.

Bluetooth was fine in other instances though, making it easy to transfer and connect between devices, so while we hope the audio issue is solved soon, we doubt it after it landed on another device.

Calendar

We're big fans of the calendars on HTC phones in general, as they offer up integrated functionality as you'd hope it would work - seamlessly taking information from your Google or Exchange account with no issues at all, and using colour coded labels to let you know which account the meetings are from.

And a superb touch - telling you the weather in the region you're going to be in on that day. It's not pivotal but it's another one of those cool moments that makes you realise how hard HTC is thinking about the user.

HTC desire hd review

The use of Android 2.2 on the HTC Desire HD means it also comes with a few built-in bells and whistles, and one of those is the Wi-Fi hotspot.

All you need to do is turn this on and fire up your internet device - the phone will be pumping out a name of your choosing, and you simply input a password that again you can choose.

It works nicely, eats as much data as you choose and as you can imagine, vaporises your battery in a heartbeat - it might be a good idea to have a charger handy with this one.

HTC Desire HD: Applications

The HTC Desire HD comes chock-full of applications and services to get your teeth into, and many of these make it a delight to use the phone.

For all the wonder of today's respective application portals, there's nothing like having some cool options available on your phone from the moment you turn it on, and that's another thing HTC has taken care of with the Desire HD.

We'll go into the separate applications in a moment, but there are a couple of new things that HTC has added with the new Sense UI that really make a difference here.

The HTC Hub is a place to get elements that totally overhaul your handset - from widgets to new messaging sounds; it's all here and free.

HTC desire hd review

You need an HTC Sense account to get involved, but after that you're treated to all manner of things, and most are presented in cool, swipe-able thumbnails that show off the power of the inbuilt GPU.

Downloads are swift and easily used and viewed - if you get one of these phone do it soon to try it out, and you'll feel like the link between cloud data and your phone has been closer.

The other new offering is the HTC Likes, basically a collection of applications that HTC is promoting from the App Market - but there are descriptions, comments and likes/dislikes to let you know how popular the app is in real time.

HTC desire hd review

You have to sign in through HTC Sense again here, so you can interact with your friends' choices, but it's nice to see what your buddies are downloading too.

Onto the pre-loaded applications: there are a number we're 'into', so we'll give you a quick rundown.

Flashlight - this is exactly how is sounds, and we only wish there was a home screen widget for it. Offering three levels of brightness, it uses the dual LED flash on the rear of the phone to create a light so bright it will melt your eyes.

News and Weather - this little widget shows you the local weather in your region (although the HTC Weather widget is also excellent and does the job a little better) as well as local news.

With an easy swipe system and various categories to choose from, this is a really good place to keep up with what's going on in the world of politics or what Cheryl said/did/looked at on X Factor this week.

HTC desire hd review

Reader - not to be confused with Google Reader (which is called News on the HTC Desire HD, which is not to be confused with News and Weather... we know) this is the e-book option for readers all around the world.

Offering a tasty selection of books from the outset (Dracula, The Art of War etc) it also lets you choose words to research, easily hop between chapters and bookmark pages with little fuss. It's a nice effort, and as full-featured of an e-book reader as you could want on your phone.

HTC desire hd review

SoundHound - This is a Shazam-style application, but one that goes one step further - you can hum and sing and lalalalala a song into the phone and it will try and identify it.

Utterly pointless for 90% of songs you can't remember (you very rarely can remember the name even if you read it) and it can be a little inaccurate - but it's a fun way to ridicule your mates down the pub.

However, you only get 10 free tries per month, so don't go overboard too soon.

HTC Desire HD: Maps and games

The HTC Desire HD comes complete with a couple of mapping options – considering how long the Taiwanese firm has bet big on Google Maps, offering its own option seems a little counter-intuitive.

We'll start with Google Maps that comes loaded on the Desire HD automatically - in our eyes it's a complete package anyway.

HTC desire hd review

You get the easy to read interface we've all come to expect, where you can search the maps for whatever you like - businesses, landmarks and addresses.

You can also add in other layers, like Transit Lines (the Tube, for instance) Traffic and Wikipedia entries for things nearby.

Weather has been added to Live Wallpapers, so you can not only see where you are at all times, but also work out the weather too. We couldn't make this work in the UK when we played with it, but then again looking out the window achieved the same thing anyway...

The GPS lock was pretty quick, taking around 5-6 seconds from cold to work out where we were. It's not the fastest, but seemed to hold our connection when we were using the phone as a sat nav.

Google Maps comes complete with integrated and free sat nav, and on this massive screen it's tip-top - you can easily see where you're going and it's very easy to poke the screen when you need to get a little more information.

Navigation actually gets its own little icon on the home screen, and will get you wherever you want to go - and tell you the traffic conditions too. It still relies on data streaming, which is a bit of a downside, but it's great for a free offering.

Voice search is offered on the HTC Desire HD, after a mysterious absence on the Desire, and it works well here too. Ask the phone to 'Navigate to that place with the Rosetta Stone' and you'll be taken to the British Museum (if that's where it is).

It's not a necessary touch, but it's pretty accurate providing you have an even dialect and speak clearly.

Locations

So after the wonder of Google Maps, we're unsure as to why HTC has decided to put its own locations platform on the HTC Desire HD as well.

HTC desire hd review

In association with TomTom, the theory seems pretty clear - making money, as while the maps are free to download, you have to purchase premium navigation, traffic and speed cameras.

Admittedly you can't get the latter with Google Maps, but that has the advantage of being free - we assume HTC is all about choice here, although it can be a little confusing.

You can tag pictures with location data and use them as bookmarks to navigate to, but that's as far as the usefulness of the applications goes in our opinion.

Despite offering up categories such as Shopping, Eating and Leisure for nearby suggestions, there was nothing on show no matter where we tried the service - and this was in London, so we can't imagine how it will react it the furthest reaches of Bury or Bognor Regis.

HTC desire hd review

There's a car panel mode here as well, which gives the opportunity to have even larger icons, but with no information in most of the categories, it's a little redundant.

Like we said: cool that you can download the whole of the UK to the phone to save data (although it takes up nearly 500MB of space, which may be a problem for some people with smaller memory cards or using a lot of media) and elements like helicopter view, which shows your route ahead and being able to take calls when navigating aren't enough to convince us that this is any better than Google Maps.

We'd wager it's not going to be too long until Google comes out with a caching option as well - we assume it's currently some sort of licensing deal at the moment, but it seems like a sensible thing to do in the future.

Games

The HTC Desire HD comes with an inbuilt GPU to handle the heavy graphical processing on screen, and it works really well in our eyes.

HTC desire hd review

Football games look superb on the phone, and racing options like Raging Thunder offer up a decent motoring experience, although we'd like to see some that properly test the powers of the HTC Desire HD.

HTC desire hd review

Of course, it's the casual gaming that HTC wants to attract too, and the likes of Angry Birds and Teeter both perform admirably - the former especially as it's so high-res you can see the birds' faces change colour as they fly towards to targets.

HTC Desire HD: Hands on gallery

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HTC desire hd review

HTC desire hd review

HTC desire hd review

HTC desire hd review

HTC desire hd review

HTC Desire HD: Official gallery

HTC desire hd review

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HTC desire hd review

HTC desire hd review

HTC Desire HD: Verdict

HTC desire hd review

We haven't been as excited about a new phone in a while as we have with the HTC Desire HD - the original Desire was so close to perfection in our eyes when it came out that we couldn't wait to see its successor.

The Desire HD certainly has the specs to make the step up, and we were intrigued by the prospect of a new Sense UI too - but what about that massive screen?

We liked

Well, where do we start? If you've already become a full signed-up member of the Android brigade, then there might not be as much to surprise you on the HTC Desire HD - but that doesn't mean there's nothing to enjoy.

From the flawless interface to the superb web browser, we fell in love with Android all over again thanks to the HTC Desire HD.

The HTC Hub adds a whole new layer of functionality and customisation to proceedings, and the Fast Boot blew our socks off. Metaphorically, not literally.

The camera performance is fast, the gaming experience is up there with the best - we just need some better games on the Android market now.

The elements that worked well on this phone we can't praise highly enough - it has that 'playable with' factor that will have you reaching for it to read a book, watch a video or listen to a track when you're bored, not because you need to - and that's something HTC has nailed in the smartphone experience here.

We disliked

We're sad to report that there were more things to dislike on the HTC Desire HD than we were expecting - and battery life was a big one.

We're not sure how it will stand up over time compared to the HTC Desire original, but it doesn't bode well when under medium usage we can only get just under 24 hours' use out of the phone.

Why is there such a small battery under the hood? Surely that would solve the issue?

Of more concern is the reason: that large display sucks an awful lot of juice, and it doesn't even have the wow factor of the Samsung Galaxy S' Super AMOLED screen.

The screen is also going to be a turn off for some people. If you can handle a screen of this size, then you'll love this phone no doubt... we really do, and we don't want to give it back.

But it is a little big in the hand, and it's hard to hit some functions without having to resort to a second set of fingers, which is annoying.

The size also means it can fall out of your hand a little easier, which could lead to more breakages.

The video issue is really annoying, as it should be one of the main selling points of this phone - HTC, get this sorted soon please.

That stupid Bluetooth audio issue is still hanging around, and the HTCSense.com portal needs sorting out soon, as it's not functioning at full power just yet.

Verdict

It would be a massive step too far to say we were disappointed with the HTC Desire HD, as it's only because the bar has been set so high with previous iterations in HTC's Android portfolio.

The screen size will be an issue for some people, but that's subjective; you'll either want it or you won't.

A more pressing issue is the battery life - people might be coming round to the daily charging idea, but if you can't last a day in some instances that's going to get tiresome very quickly.

Believe us when we say that the HTC Desire HD is going to be the perfect handset for a lot of people (providing the price stays at a reasonable level) and we'd certainly recommend it as the phone to get if you want the very latest in cool smartphone technology that actually works.

But that battery issue, combined with a few other niggles, leave us wondering if HTC has started to reach a little too far with the ultra-cool factor on its handsets.

HTC Desire HD Android 2.2 HTC Sense smartphone business phone camera phone
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