First Look: HTC Desire HD

Are you looking for our full review of the HTC Desire HD? If so, you can find it here: HTC Desire HD review.

As saw as we saw the announcement of the HTC Evo roll out in the US, we knew we wanted our big Android handset on this side of the pond. The HTC Desire HD however owes more to the HD2 - the seminal Windows Phone from HTC - both in terms of looks and specification. Fortunately Pocket-lint was at the global launch of the HTC Desire HD in London to bring you first impressions of the new superphone.

You get the same, lush, premium unibody design that came along with the Desire and the Legend, although it isn't seamless like those models, but this makes it look industrial. The build quality is excellent, as we've become accustomed to with HTC.

With a phone this big you'll want to know the measurements. It sits pretty at 123 x 68 x 11.8mm which, despite the 4.3-inch screen, isn't all that big, but noticeably wide. It will slip into your pocket fairly easily, but for some it might be a little large. It is larger all over that the Samsung Galaxy S, which we see as a natural rival, and the metal construction adds to a premium feel as well as the weight: the Desire HD weighs 164g, the Galaxy S just 118g, with its plastic body.

With a phone like the Desire HD, it is only fair to start with the display. It might strike some as odd that HTC hasn't changed the screen resolution on the Desire HD – it is no more HD in that sense than the Desire, the Legend or the Desire Z. It is an 800 x 480 pixel resolution display and whilst it looks good, you know that the iPhone crowd will be waving their high-res devices in your face.

That might not matter in real terms, as the size of the HTC Desire HD makes it a great device for browsing the Internet or watching movies on your travels, but it isn't as adept at rendering fine text as the iPhone is. We also examined the Desire HD with its Super LCD next to the Samsung Galaxy S and the Super AMOLED display: the Samsung device offers more punch, with deeper blacks and more vibrant colours. But this is just a first impression, and shouldn't be taken as a final damning judgement - the Desire HD does look fantastic in its own right.

The phone feels great in the hand, the strokable materials and the solid feel to the glass of the screen making it a pleasure to use. The space is also welcomed, as multi-touch gestures (essentially pinch zooming) are easily to pull off.

Sitting at the core of the Desire HD is a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8522 processor and 768MB RAM, which would account for the glorious immediacy and snap to the operating system. Something about the HTC Desire HD just seems to purr, ready to leap into action. We came away with the feeling that it will be satisfyingly powerful in the real world, under real conditions.

The HTC Desire HD comes running Android 2.2, so brings with it all those benefits, like Adobe Flash 10.1 compatibility, a real bonus for a large device like this. You also get the refreshed HTC Sense, which brings with it a host of new features, some of which we'll look at later in this First Look review.

New to European shores is an 8-megapixel camera slapped on the back, which we first saw HTC introduce on the Evo back in March 2010. We've been waiting for that camera to hit devices on this side of the globe and here we have it. It was great to hear John Wang, Chief Marketing Director of HTC, stand on stage and say that a good camera is not just about the megapixels.

So rather than just giving you big pictures to go with your big phone, you get a new range of effects that can be applied. The new camera interface looks good and is easy to get around, but we couldn't really test it, so we'll reserve judgement until we have a review sample so we can judge absolute quality. The dual LED "flash" might make it a better contender in lower light conditions, but we'll have to see how natural the shots come out. 

The same can be said for video capture, with 720p HD offered. Again effects can be applied (as they could on earlier devices) but we'll wait to see what the final result is before making a call here.

One thing that we did see, however, was the Desire HD showing off it's new DLNA streaming capabilities. This is a new feature of HTC Sense so is also on the Desire Z and means you can stream content to other compatible DLNA devices. This is a little like Samsung's All Share application and is a useful feature for watching and displaying content via your device. 

One thing you don't get on the Desire HD is HDMI. This might come as a surprise as it is a feature of the HTC Evo and we've recently seen it on Nokia's N8 and E7 and on the likes of Acer's Stream handset. With DNLA you perhaps don't need it, but HDMI is a simple approach to getting media onto your TV. 

Elsewhere HTC Sense presents you with all the goodness we've come to expect from the ultra-connected socially aware user interface. The response from the handset showed no signed of delay as we moved around the homepages and apps installed on the device.

One of the new HTC Sense apps is a Reader app which responds to the growing positioning of larger touchscreen devices as ebook readers. The Reader application seemed simple enough to use, with swift navigation of pages and the ability to jump around easily and we know that there will be EPUB support (that's nothing new - Aldiko already does that). The question will be whether you'll be able to activate your device with Adobe Digital Editions so you can view DRM'd content - i.e., that which you've bought.

The device may be capable of displaying "books" but the small size means it's something of a stopgap. You're not going to put it to any serious reading, but a bit here and there on the train might just work. We'd still pick an ebook reader for dedicated reading - and save the smartphone for more dynamic pastimes.

Another new feature of HTC Sense is the ability to block callers. If you are being plagued by a particularly annoying salesman, you can simply block their calls. We've had a look at some of the other new HTC Sense features over in our HTC Desire Z First Look, and as both devices run the same operating system, it is well worth taking a look at that too for comparison.

Rounding out the specs you get fast data connections from HSDPA, Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is present and the Desire HD comes rocking the Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound. This positions the HTC Desire HD as a serious mobile movie watcher as the sound should be fantastic. We'll be looking at how well the Desire HD handles playback of movies and what the format support is really like when we get a unit in for review.

You also get a GPS and HTC have done some tinkering to the Maps offering in HTC Sense which will really make a difference. The biggest step will be pre-caching of maps, so you won't need to rely on a data connection. This will be a real benefit for people using underground trains and so on, or for those travelling to areas that don't have good network reception. We'll have to see how it really works, but if you can get an offline mapping option at all levels of zoom (as promised) then this is a real bonus for travellers.

Verdict

The HTC Desire HD is understandable going to be a desirable handset. If you thought the first Desire couldn't be bettered, then think again. The size may be an issue for some, but with the general trend drifting towards larger devices, we can see it being amazingly popular. Fortunately we've already been told it is coming to all networks in the UK, with the exception of O2 in the short-term (we don't know why, we suspect some sort of other deal is being done with O2).

From our hands-on time with the Desire HD the performance did impress, but having been spoilt by Apple and Samsung with their impressive rival displays, you will have some decisions to make.