Review: TELUS HTC Desire HD Review


February 12, 2011 6:19pm

As mobile consumers continue to demand larger displays, faster processors, and better media quality, mobile device companies have ramped up their research and technology in order to keep up with these demands, which has become apparent in the latest trend of recently released and upcoming devices: Apple iPhone 4, Blackberry Torch, Samsung Galaxy S Series, Motorola Atrix, and now the HTC Desire HD. The HTC Desire HD sports a massive 4.3” capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels WVGA Super LCD and contains multi-touch (pinch to zoom), proximity, and light sensors. The Desire HD is approximately 123mm (tall) x 68mm (wide) x 11.8mm (thick), and weighs around 164 grams.

The Desire HD is encased with an aluminum unibody design made up of a lightweight metal. This housing provides minimum bulk, while also providing a rigid and durable frame, which is scratch resistant due to the matte finish. This device has a nice ergonomic curve, which allows the phone to sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Although it may take some getting used to, the Desire HD also sits contentedly in any pocket, without too much additional weight.

SIDE NOTE: It seems that the screen of this device is surrounded by a slight ridge, which is created between the screen and the frame. This slight bump becomes very annoying with larger touch gestures.

The phone is covered in a light grey-brushed aluminum bezel, while the front of the Desire HD houses a massive 4.3” capacitive touchscreen with 480 x 800 WVGA Super LCD. Below the screen are four capacitive shortcut buttons for Home, Menu, Back, and Search. Similar to other HTC devices, these shortcut buttons were effectively located at the bottom of the device, while also maintaining accurate and efficient responsiveness. The left side of this device sports volume rockers, while the top of the device houses a slightly raised button for power/lock (no features on right side of the device). It should be noted that the volume rockers are actually built into one bar/button, with no actual “rocking”. The bottom of the device houses a small opening for the microphone, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microUSB port for charging/PC connectivity.

SIDE NOTE: I have had many complaints in the past with other devices for their often tiny, inverted power button, which is always difficult to locate while fiddling with the device. It was a nice change to have a larger power button, which is also slightly raised from the frame of the device, making it easier to find and operate.

The back of the Desire HD houses an 8.0MP camera (autofocus, dual LED flash, 720p HD video recoding, face detection, geo-tagging). HTC has altered their previous smartphone designs and explored the use of various sized, removable panels. On the back of the HTC Desire HD, there are removable panels on the bottom and right side of the device. These panels seem convenient and efficient at first, however there were some growing pains. The bottom panel of the device can be removed to reveal a SIM card slot, as well as a microSD port (up to 32GB support, 8GB card included). This removal panel is made of a delicate plastic, which also does not sit flush with the back of the device. The removable panel on the back right side of the device reveals a 1230mAh battery, which advertises up to 550 minutes of talk time, and/or 420 hours of standby time. This panel is also difficult to remove, and does not have a locking mechanism to hold the battery in place.

SIDE NOTE: The camera does protrude from the back of the device, and it would have been nice if HTC included a sliding lens cover, in order to protect the camera.

The HTC Desire HD is powered by a 1Ghz processor with 1.5GB of internal memory, 768MB of RAM, and comes preloaded with Android 2.2 Froyo with HTC Sense. This device is compatible with dual band HSPA 850/1900, with Quad band EDGE support. The Desire HD is powered by a 1230mAh battery, with up to 550 minutes of talk time, and/or 420 hours of standby time. The Desire HD supports GPS, +AGPS, DLNA (video streaming to TV), and Bluetooth 2.1, while housing a Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n card for Wi-Fi support. The Music player supports AAC, AMR, OGG, M4A, MID, MP3, WAV, and WMA with the addition of a built-in FM radio, while the Video player supports 3GP, 3G2, MP4, WMV, AVI, and XViD, with SRS and Dolby sound options for video playback.

I tested the reception throughout various areas of the GTA, where I was able to consistently make and receive calls. All calls sounded crisp and clear through the speaker, for both incoming and outgoing calls. The main downside to this experience was the volume of the speaker, which was average at best, which also hindered the performance of the speakerphone. The Desire HD was not able to pump out a loud enough sound through the tiny speaker, which is located beside the camera on the back of the device. I was unable to clearly maintain a speakerphone conversation in the car while driving, as I was unable to hear the caller through the speaker.

The screen size is enormous, compared to other smartphones currently on the market, and provides a smooth and pleasant operating experience, as text and images appear very clear and colourful on the screen. Despite this large screen size, the device does not feel awkward to hold or make calls, as I experienced with the Dell Streak. The capacitive touchscreen performed very well, which has come to be expected from any HTC device. The Desire HD quickly and efficiently processed any user input, while all gestures were accurately recognized.

The web browser was very impressive on this device and was able to render various HTML webpages with ease, including pages with heavy content. The 1GHz processor efficiently processed common scrolling, panning, and zooming gestures (pinch to zoom), as well as transitions from portrait to landscape views. Flash-based content also loaded quickly and efficiently on the Desire HD, allowing for impressive YouTube playback on the 4.3” screen.

The music and video player were able to handle my daily music needs and included functions for track sorting and visualization functionality, while various apps from the Android App Market allowed me to add features for streaming content and lyrics. However, both of these players suffered due to the lack of volume through the speaker, as expressed earlier. The camera on the Desire HD produced many detailed and colourful pictures while utilizing the various built in settings. The dual LED flash was able to provide enough light for times of low visibility, and the video recording quality was also crisp and clear (see Review: TELUS HTC Desire HD Video and Picture Quality).

The “hot button” topic with this device revolves around the battery life and size. The battery size of 1230mAh is sub-par for current 2011 smartphone devices, and a larger battery would have increased the battery life of the Desire HD. Through various battery tests and experiments, I was able to last around a day and a half on a full battery charge; based on activities of light web browsing, test messages, phone calls, pictures, and gaming. The main culprit of the diminished battery life is the large screen size; however some minimal setting tweets to backlight, and timeouts produced minimal impacts to battery life. Another reason for the diminished battery performance is the OS, which does not kill/terminate application processes, as with other devices currently on the market (Blackberry OS6, iPhone, etc.). These constantly open applications produce an added drain on the processor and battery. I was able to download an app from the Marketplace (Quick Task Killer or Advanced Task Killer), which was able to rectify this situation, however it should be a standard feature built into the Android OS.

The Desire HD comes preloaded with Android 2.2 Froyo and HTC Sense, which includes additional features and optimization. The home screen interface presents seven separate screens, which can be populated with various shortcuts. These interfaces are organized by default for GPS, Favourites, Connections, Home, Media, Friend Stream, and Bookmarks. The default keyboard is the Android virtual QWERTY keyboard, which can be used in either portrait or landscape modes. This keyboard is very easy to use and provides a means of quick and accurate input on this touchscreen device. The email and messaging applications are well structured and organized with added support and features for Gmail and Talk. The Desire HD also comes preloaded with other useful apps such as Adobe Reader, Blocked Callers, Car Panel (as well as Navigation), Facebook, Flashlight, FM Radio, Friend Stream, Gmail, Latitude, MySpace, Places, Talk, Twitter, Wi-Fi Hotspot, and YouTube.

The preloaded HTC Sense provides some additional features and optimization in order to further increase the HTC experience. Once of the first things I noticed when powering up this device was the quick boot time, which was under 10 seconds. Another added feature was the Desire’s HD recognition of the device’s location. The device was able to ring louder when located in a pocket, and turn to silent when the phone was flipped over. These features were definitely an asset to have, especially when the ringer is left on during times where a quick silence is needed (meetings, movies, etc.). The Locations app is another alternative navigation app, which is aimed at providing preloaded data based on GPS data. Finally, the support allows for remote access of your phone and data.

The HTC Desire HD is an impressive device, which has durable design, powerful hardware, a stunning screen and display, as well as efficient software in Android 2.2 Froyo and HTC Sense. Despite all the nuances and annoyances noted in this review, the main concern with this device is the battery life and size. Although the killing of application processes was solved with the installation of a third party app from the Marketplace, HTC could have paired their large 4.3” display with an equally large and efficient battery. The inclusion of HTC Sense included some additional handy features and the 4.3” screen size is the perfect fit and balance between functionality and aesthetics. Paired with the proper data plan, the Desire HD can also function as a navigation device (when properly mounted/holstered). Overall, the Desire HD is the perfect Android device for more advanced smartphone users, looking for an “all in one” device. I would recommend the purchase of additional accessories such as a Bluetooth headset, extra batteries and/or extended battery cases, in order to truly perfect the HTC Desire HD experience. As usual, I would also like to see a significant drop in contract prices (more specifically on a 1 or 2 year contract), as many consumers are fearful of committing to long-term contracts. Although the 3-year contract price seems reasonable, anything beyond that (especially 2-year contract) seems ridiculous. Eventually, I hope that mobile service providers in Canada learn from the United States, and adopt their trends in contract prices and structures.

The HTC Desire HD was recently released by Telus in Canada, under the following pricing structure:
• $499.99 (no term contract)
• $449.99 (1 year contract)
• $399.99 (2 year contract)
• $149.99 (3 year contract)

  • Nick

    I’m impressed by the battery usage you managed to squeeze out of it… did you find it handicapped the phone at all?

    I also agree about the 2-year deals… unfortunately Canada gets screwed in that respect.

  • andy p

    I live in the UK and have had this device since mid October and before it, the original desire. The battery life on this device outlasts the original desire. This is because this has a very efficient 2nd generation snapdragon. It is a brilliant device all round and is very powerful in the hardware dept. It has the most Ram on a smartphone. I do recommend a task killer though

  • Scott

    Great review.. Wish the pics were a little better though.

  • steve

    You have to love an OS that requires a third party utility to close applications. And people laugh at the BlackBerry OS.

    • thighzen

      Android 2.3 gingerbread comes with a task killer built in. Nothing to laugh at, just growing pains.

    • Sub-Joker

      My Galaxy S with Android 2.2 comes with a Task killer….. Can blackberry OS tether, become a hot spot, play flash content, play .avi videos, stream movies from netflix??
      Does it have applications at all. I installed Need for speed on my Galaxy S and it is AMAZING.

      Blackberry is losing market share for a reason which is very simple. for the price, they give you way less than any of the competition (whether it’s Android or iPhone, even Windows Mobile seem to be developing faster than Blackberry OS)

      I hope I made my point clear.

  • Jim

    Once again, good review. Having the battery last 1 1/2 days is great news. I believe with any smart phone we have to except that it will need to be charged every night and on days with heavy use probably even sooner. Since it has the standard mini usb, charging it in the car or at work shouldn’t be an issue.

  • Chris

    Android is designed to kill apps as the system sees fit to maintain a solid performance. Any one that understands the basics of the Android system will know that a task killer is a waste and can kill your battery faster. There is a way to use them to optimize for apps that are not used as often, but for the apps you use all the time leaving them running is the best. This is the multi-tasking capabilities of Android. If you are to monitor the running services then you will find that the system is not using the battery to power apps that are not being used. They are simply in a state of hibernation that allows the app to start quicker. By killing them all you are going against the operating system and making the phone work harder to start everything from a cold start and hence draining more battery.

  • Keith

    To each his own but that looks so dated. I’d go with another 4.3″ HTC–the HD7 with WP7.

  • baconeater

    Isn’t there a “task killer” under settings/application settings?

  • rulerxy

    Just for the record.. The camera has a lip around it so there is actually no concern of the lens getting scratched.

    As for the task killing it really is not needed and hasn’t been needed since 2.1, but it helps people sleep at night and that is why it’s one of the top downloaded apps on the market.

    I personally use one but rarely turn it on. Only really use to make sure games are shut down and other third party apps.

    The phone is excellent and I find it funny you didn’t mention anything about syncing in your battery portion. The fact that there is quite literally 6+ apps that sync on a regular basis from the get go of the device would be a huge factor on poor battery life as well.

  • wtv

    Looks like a nice phone.

    SIDE NOTE: Sadly it’s on Telus.

  • chris

    the cancellation fee with telus is the cost of the device, divided by 36 (months in the contract), every month your with them they take that amount and put it towards 350 discount they gave you on the device. when or if you cancel they make you pay the portion of the discount back. That seems reasonable to me, and the actual retail value of the phone is 629.99 from HTC, set by HTC. telus give you the 499.99 when you activate it with them on a month to month term. do your research Joe.

    • rulerxy

      You forgot the admin fee of 50 bucks. It is still better than the old system of 20 bucks times the number of months left.

    • Joseph

      @chris….I did not mention cancellation policy at all…I agree that the new policy is fair…

      All I was stating was that in the US, the prices are much more affordable on 2 year terms….while in Canada there is always a huge jump in prices between 2 and 3 year contracts

      For example:

      1) Verizon BB Curve 3G on 2 year contract – $29.99
      Telus Mobility BB Curve 3G on 2 year – $229.99

      2) Verizon SGS Fascinate on 2 year contract – $199.99
      Telus Mobility BB Curve 3G on 2 year – $429.99

      see my point?

    • Bruce


      Why compare Canadian plan with US when none of us can use the US plan here (without some roaming charge)?

      I think this is like comparing apple to orange.

      I think DHD is amazing.
      HTC used a “smaller” battery because the lower power consumption (LCD screen and new processor). The battery life is fair but it will be so much better if HTC use a “bigger” battery and have an above average battery life. (this can easily be a good selling point)

  • Joseph

    **2) Verizon SGS Fascinate on 2 year contract – $199.99
    Telus Mobility SGS Fascinate on 2 year – $429.99

  • Kirbs

    Re camera lens; the lens of the camera is rimmed with a raised metallic ring which protects it when laying flat. Mine isn’t scratched after 3 months of usage.

  • cody

    @Keith how does that even make sense? You say the Desire HD (September ’10) is dated and recommend the HD7 (March ’10). The DHD is about eight months newer!

    • Keith

      The OS certainly isn’t. And note I said “looks” dated. Neither Android or iOS is functionaly dated obviosuly but compared to WP7 they look dated.

  • Don

    I ditched my iPhone for the HD. Battery life is better and it’s giving me just over a day

  • channer

    Purchased it a couple of days ago on a 2 year term. Truly an impressive phone compare to my Magic. Fast, responsive and very easy to use. I do find that the screen rotation is not as responsive as I would like. The Panel for the SD card and battery is a minor annoyance, but I can live with it. I went on eBay and bought some accessories which included a larger battery. That should solve the battery life issue.

  • Jim

    I picked up a Telus Desire HD on the 11th. I did a 12 day trial on the Samsung Galaxie S, but found the Galaxie much buggier. It reboots several times a day, and did not play well with Ford Sync.

    The HTC seems easier to setup and deal with. I also think it has better outbound audio, had some complaints with the Samsung.

    Love the Sence keyboard and the new Sence website where you can locate your phone and make it ring, even if you left it in silent mode. Also has GPS locator.

    Software note: Mine shipped with android 2.2.1 which I think accounts for the less buggy experience than the Samsung which was stuck in 2.2.

    Battery life needs some work on both devices. I have the screen t0o bright, and it won’t make it through a day yet, but I am sure I can address it with settings.

    Note that these devices use at least double the bandwidth of a Blackberry as they do not compress the data. Be prepared to double your data plan. The upside if this is faster data access. I checked after two weeks, rather than wait for my bill which would have been nasty.

  • jon

    glad they left the htc locations app there, unlike bell who removed it from the htc desire z and replaced it with their own navigation app that requires data.

  • kumar

    this phone is good but the gps system always loses the connection and say data connection loss, i got irritated to use gps in htc desire hd and the camera doesnt have anti shaking option and also im much depressed with its output speaker that is its output high volume is very low and with less clarity….

  • Jesse

    Ugh….being forced to use Sense and not Vanilla Android is not a viable option. WP7 is a better OS anyway in terms of usability.

  • andy

    got the htc desire hd and phone is always shutting down by itself can anybody help

  • Rod

    As usual canadians getting phones after they are a few months old and only a few months away from the 2011 phone launches that make it seem Slightly outdated. With dual core phones sporting 1gb ram on the horizon it would be a wise decision to skip this. Expect Telus to have some huge discounts on this phone by april/may when everyone flocks to the new phones and telus is left to clear out extra stock.

  • santy

    Hi to everyone. I purchased HTC desire us 2month bck. I m completely satisfied wit my phone. Great look easy to use and mindblowing applications. Everything abt dis phone s great. I m loving it.

  • Red

    DONT use a task killer, ‘droid is a virtual machine that runs on top of the kernal, it’s RAM use is the opposite of normal, although, a task killer is uesful sometimes.

  • kimmy

    how much ?

  • Ado

    Shout out to Bloor West Village in the video lol.

  • Jean

    Anybody else finds the speaker volume too low on the DHD? I am still in the 14 day try out period and I find the volume too low if you’re in a place with alot of noise. I returned my original desire because of this and now this one is doing the same thing. I heard of custom roms that might fix the issue but I dont wanna try it and ruin the 14 day try out by voiding the warranty.

  • Steve

    I did buy the htc desire HD but after a few days…. i had to return it…

    The battery life is just awful… Even with a lot of options turned off, i wasn’t able to complete more than 3/4 of a day…. so I always had to recharge the phone before leaving work to be sure i would be able to listen my music on my way back home.
    Most phone now are shipped with a 1500mAh and more battery… WHY 1230mAh on this monster phone ? Why HTC ?

    YEs it’s a great phone if the battery was better and some adjustments on the speaker and volume were made.

    Maybe with Gingerbread in Q2…. but for me…. was too late and i did return it…

    For me, the HTC Desire HD is a good phone but not yet ready or fully a winner…. especially with all the new model we might get in Canada in Q1 and Q2.

  • Karl

    Glad I got mine. I had an iPhone 4 but I missed android and decided to go back. The screen obviously is not as sharp as the iPhone but the sheer size of the screen makes the experience totally worth it.

    I’m very happy with my decision.

  • Dustin

    Task killers especially on 2.2 are at least unnecessary (yes you absolutely can kill tasks from the android OS, it IS built in, I would think someone who reviews phones for a living would know this, manage applications, force close) and at worst dangerous. Many “running” apps are basically parked and use virtually zero cpu cycles while not active. MySpace is not a useful built in app (it may be built in, but who finds it useful any more?).

    CORRECTION – “however some minimal setting tweets to backlight, and timeouts produced minimal impacts to battery life” should read “however some minimal setting tweaks”.

    I found the last section confusing as well “As usual, I would also like to see a significant drop in contract prices (more specifically on a 1 or 2 year contract), as many consumers are fearful of committing to long-term contracts. Although the 3-year contract price seems reasonable, anything beyond that (especially 2-year contract) seems ridiculous.” How is a 2 year contract “beyond” a 3 year contract? I’ve had 2 other people read this as well and find it ambiguous or nonsensical.