Review: TELUS HTC Desire HD Review

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 HTCSense.com 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)