The HD7 is HTC’s top-of-the-line Windows Phone 7 smartphone. It’s the WP7 equivalent of the Android-packing Desire HD with a slight retouches on the exterior design. We’ve got a good 2 weeks to play with the handset so check our full review of the HTC HD7 after the jump.
The HTC HD7 copies some of the genetics of its year old predecessor, the HD2, although that one was just on WinMo 6.5. The large 4.3″ display wrapped around a combination of metal and polymer body gives it an elegant look.
The edges are lined with a strip of black, polished metal with only the power button, volume controls and dedicated camera in place. The micro-USB port is at the bottom together with the 3.5mm audio port and microphone.
The display is pretty large and the screen is crisp and bright. At the bottom end of the glass panel are 3 touch controls — search, home (represented by Windows icon) and back. The single sheet of glass that covers the display is significantly thick and doesn’t touch the top and bottom edge of the front panel. The small gap serves as an opening for the speakers.
I was meaning to write a separate and full review of Windows Phone 7 OS but this is the only time I’ve had a really significant experience with the OS so I might just have to wait a little bit and test how it goes with other models or brands. Nevertheless, my initial impressions of Microsoft’s mobile OS has been pretty good.
It’s pretty obvious that Windows Phone 7 has been developed from the ground up and even if you’re a long-time WinMO user, you’ll definitely not notice any similarities. The OS did not undergo an evolution, it’s been radically mutated. And Microsoft did not just made a 180-degree turn but totally went crazy with the UI. For those who have owned or tried the Zune player, the UI is very familiar.
I’d say the user interface is essentially a breathe of fresh air, especially if you’re coming from iOS or Android. Objects such as shortcuts, widgets, contacts and apps are represented by tiles stacked from top to bottom. You add items by pinning it to the home screen (Start) or remove it by un-pinning them. The tiles are big and bold with options to change color schemes that screams of eye-candy.
Slide the screen to the right and you get the entire list of links to settings, apps and the whole enchilada. The scrolling list might be bearable if you just have a couple of dozens to a hundred items in there but it could get dizzy once the figure reaches several hundreds (by that time, we’ll be needing folders or groups).
The UI makes a lot of fancy transitions in between screens — it flips, swipes, peels, tumbles and slides every chance it gets. It’s like a magician that takes his time flapping his cape around before executing a trick. It’s amusing most of the time especially if you’re just leisurely navigating thru the phone’s menu. However, if you’re in a hurry, it could get tiresome.
WP7 is integrated with Facebook and Twitter very neatly. After plugging in a new SIM and linking my Facebook and Twitter account to the device, I was surprised that contacts from new SMS came in fully propagated — name, avatar, other contacts and status all pulled off from Facebook.
The built-in Mail client is spiffy, clean and runs quite fast. It lacks a search feature though which I hope they’d add in the next update. The IE browser is light, supports multiple windows or tabs and, frankly, is quite fast too. We’ve also tested that here before.
The HD7 can be managed by hooking it up to Microsoft Zune and synching multimedia files like music, photos and movies can also be done wirelessly as long as the Zune software and the handset is connected to the same WiFi network. You can also login to Windows Live to manage contacts and calendars on the cloud.
The Windows Live account also has some features to ring, lock or erase the phone remotely. The phone also updates itself by sending GPS location on a regular basis. You can login to Live and locate your phone on the map with matching date and time it last recorded its location.
Apps are very essential to the usefulness of any smartphone and thankfully, the Zune Marketplace on the HD7 has plenty of them. It’s not as extensive as the ones found on the iTunes App Store or the Android Market but it’s got some decent numbers.
The more common social apps were actually developed by Microsoft itself (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare) so you will notice the tight design integration of these apps into WP7.
The games for the XBox Live though are somewhat on the expensive side where games like Bejeweled and Need for Speed costs $7.99 and Assassin’s Creed and Guitar Hero 5 costs $10.99. There’s an option to try before you buy though (much like the Lite version if you will).
HTC also added several of their own apps (all for free) and featured them in the HTC Hub which also doubles as a weather app (see the airplane perspective of the weather transition in the video).
The HD7 packs a 5MP autofocus camera and takes some pretty decent to good quality photos. It doesn’t handle night shots or low-light shots very well though. Photos are a bit washed out and blueish at times. See sample photos here. Video recording is much better and can do up to 720p.
The virtual keyboard is well thought of, nicely spaced with unique audio and visual cues for each tapped key. You’ll most probably need both hands to comfortably use the handset due to its sheer size.
The kick-stand at the back doubles as a protection for the camera barrel and flips to the side so you can position the handset in landscape when watching movies. The speakers are just beside it and can do a good amount of volume. You’ll need to set the Audio Enhancer app to use Dolby Mobile so you get better sound quality when watching movies.
HTC HD7 specs:
4.3â€³ display @ 480Ã—800 pixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz processor
16GB internal storage
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ A2DP
5MP camera w/ 720p video recording
GPS w/ aGPS support
Ambient Light Sensor
Li-Ion 1230 mAh
Windows Phone OS 7
According to HTC Philippines, the HD7 comes at a retail price of Php36,900 but we’re sure you can get some good bargains with several local resellers (my contacts tell me they will sell it between Php34-35k in HTC Concept Stores). Got mine at the Hong Kong Airport last November for about Php31,250.
The price point is very near that of the half-twin Desire HD so the choice between the two is mostly attributed to the OS.
Microsoft has made good improvements with Windows Phone 7 OS and pairing it with a powerful hardware like the HTC HD7. We’ve haven’t had much hands-on time with the HTC Trophy and HTC Mozart, both of which are running on WP7 as well, but I can definitely say that the HD7 is looking to be the much better model.
The OS comes with a lot of flair but it still feels a bit half-baked with all the missing little features and basic controls needed. It’s a really good start though and the addition of more apps and future updates should address all that. The only multi-tasking I was able to do is play music while browsing the web or using the camera. Cut & paste is also missing too but Microsoft is said to be working on that in the next update.
A few more software/firmware updates and addition of more useful and affordable apps in the Marketplace could make the HTC HD7 a good alternative to those who are eyeing the Desire HD.