Editors note: I apologize beforehand for the video quality, my digital camera went and broke down on me right before shooting. The quality is ok but it’s certainly not our best effort. Next time will be better, I promise!
Let me just put this right out there. The HTC HD2 is a FANTASTIC phone and I have loved every minute of using it. I have never been a Windows Mobile Phone fan and have made little effort to hide that, much to the chagrin of my colleague Mystictrust. That being said, whether the phone is better than this phone or that phone is a matter of absolute opinion. Whether it is better than Android or better than Blackberry is going to be up to you, the individual user. The decision will depend on what your requirements for phones are, what preferences you have, etc. When you ask something of the HD2, the snapdragon processor screams to life and makes browsing the phone effortless. Of course, there are the usual hang-ups and slowdowns but I’ve been pushing the phone hard so I thought nothing of these infrequent hiccups.
The rest of the review follows after the jump as well as a full gallery of images!
Starting with a review of the hardware is a real mixed bag for me as I want to sit here and praise every single portion of it, from the screen to the battery cover to the placement of the charging port. That being said, the size for me, and I emphasize for me, is something I am hesitant to say I love. On the one hand, the 4.3-inch screen is amazing, beautiful and really just a pleasure to use, but, on the other hand, I am having a hard time picturing myself with the HD2 as my daily driver. It’s just big. We have seen plenty of pictures of the device so I won’t show you anything you haven’t seen, but it’s really just a large device. For some people, the 4.3 inches may be the biggest draw and I can absolutely understand why. My complaint is merely that the phone is wide and my hands aren’t exactly the biggest. However, it’s possible that I am merely so used to the size of the iPhone that anything larger becomes unattractive to me. In retrospect, though, I used to dislike the size of the iPhone as well when I came from the original Samsung Behold. It’s possible with time I would get used to it and become very comfortable so don’t let my hesitation be yours. This is a phone you need to see to believe and hold to understand.
The screen itself is beautiful. It is vibrant, the colors pop out and it’s got more than enough real estate to make browsing, reading emails or watching movies possible though not all at the same time, mind you. Multitasking proved no problem for the Snapdragon processor as I was able to go in and out of apps without any real slowdowns. The buttons on the front while small are readily accessible and feel quite comfortable. The capacitive touchscreen is very very good with almost no problems registering finger touches. The only time I ran into a problem was browsing IMDB.com and the links didn’t work but I don’t know if that’s a website problem or just a quirk of the phone. Overall, the capacitive screen registered all presses perfectly and I had little problem moving throughout the phone on this front. I have a newfound appreciation for mild haptic feedback on a keyboard as well and never really realized what I missing on the iPhone until now.
As far as the software goes, it’s easy to praise Sense UI for any number of reasons. First, it does a terrific job of completely hiding the Windows Phone experience. Sure, there are some instances where the Windows experience comes out, especially the general menu structure and the Start button. More often than not, you will probably forget that Windows is hidden underneath the incredibly attractive Sense interface. I could stare at the weather indicator all day and just watch the clouds move in and out. It’s just cool and I’m easily entertained.
Browsing through images is one of the best experiences I have ever had on a phone. It’s hard to explain and even more difficult to judge from just a picture, but the way you flip through images in a manner that resembles Cover Flow, ala the Apple experience, is truly enjoyable. It makes browsing through an album unique and is a small, but fun benefit of the Sense UI experience. Pinch to zoom here is excellent and works exactly as it should allowing you to reach in and out of a picture and scroll around to find the perfect spot. That’s not to say that all scrolling is smooth scrolling. In all honesty, nothing has matched or bettered the iPhone scrolling experience. The HTC HD2 comes damn close though. I did see a slowdown here and there but mostly only in the Opera browser so I don’t know if that was related to the browser itself or something else. For the record, in the video, I purposely typed TmoNews.com wrong because I wanted to show that, inside Opera, clicking on links can be a hit or miss experience. So it wasn’t just a random spelling mistake. I had the full intention here of showing this off and the result took me more times than I had intended to finally click the link.
The camera itself is a thing to behold. It really does take some beautiful images and while I accidentally restored the phone prior to uploading the pics, you can just take my word for it. Using the 4.3-inch screen as a viewfinder is just fun and the pinch to zoom effects make for some extra joy. The album browsing process again is just fun as well. Did I mention there is a lot about this phone that’s just fun?
I don’t even know where to continue about this phone since I could write for hours talking about how much I enjoyed the experience. I highly recommend it even with some small little annoyances that are easily overshadowed by the rest of the phone’s capabilities. As you can see in the embedded video, I had some trouble inside Opera selecting links and while I wanted to demonstrate it a little, it ended up taking more times to get to the TmoNews homepage than I would have preferred. Is that a dealbreaker? Absolutely not, not for me and it shouldn’t be for you either. There is so much here to like, the Sense UI, the large screen, excellent camera and great sound quality. Mind you, I spent the entire time on this phone running on EDGE and, even though I did that, browsing was almost shockingly quick and voice quality was excellent. I imagine the software will change a little in the T-Mobile official version but the result should be the same since it’s just a great phone.
I know and understand some of you have hesitations against the purchase of a Windows Phone and, for some of you, those reasons are quite justified. I’ve made no secret that Windows Mobile was not my cup of tea or how lacking I thought it was in particular areas. While the root of the HD2 is still Windows, the Sense UI more than makes up for that with smooth animations and a large feature set. The important characteristics are all there, multitasking and exchange, camera and video, full web browser and YouTube and so much more.
The bottom line is this is a serious phone and a serious competitor to the US market. It’s not a phone you should ignore just because you’ve had less than positive experiences with Windows before. While the Sense UI isn’t as game changing as Windows Phone 7 might be, there is more than enough here to please even the most stalwart Windows fan. Trust me, I know. So who should pick up this phone? It isn’t for the casual user because it’s a power phone for a power user and you would be picking it up to use it to its full capabilities. This phone has some serious game and those who are looking to buy should know that.
Enjoy the gallery!