HTC HD2 review: Portrait of a rockstar

Introduction

Quietly brilliant is what HTC like to call themselves and they’ve been giving enough proof lately. But allow us to disagree. The last thing to call the HD2 is quiet – the monster of a PocketPC simply screams rock’n'roll.

We just got a glimpse of the Snapdragon-powered giant in the preview we posted a few days back. It’s now time to let it off the leash and hope we can keep up with its speed. The HTC HD2, a.k.a. Leo, is the company’s first Snapdragon-based device and also the first Windows Mobile smartphone ever to have a capacitive touchscreen (read: super thumb-friendly).

A capacitive touchscreen on a PocketPC? No way? Well, you’d better get used to it because they are just going to keep on coming. The HTC HD2 may be the first of its kind but the next ones are just around the corner. And what’s even more important, a capacitive screen gives WinMo unmatched and absolutely unexpected user friendliness. With the large screen, icons are big, almost huge, and you can easily thumb your way around the menu and apps.

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HTC HD2 official images

We’ve met the HD2 already and we guess it’s ok to cut the civilities short. It’s a device that likes to be in the thick of action and we’re not paid to keep it idle either. The HD2 promises an exciting ride and it sure has horsepower to spare.

Key features

  • Huge 4.3″ 65K-color WVGA glass-covered capacitive touchscreen
  • Multi-touch input
  • Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional OS with Sense UI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz CPU and 448MB RAM
  • Quad-band GSM support
  • 3G with HSDPA 7.2Mbps
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Built-in GPS receiver with A-GPS support
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with dual LED flash and touch focus
  • VGA video recording at 30fps
  • microSD card slot
  • Standard microUSB port and Bluetooth v2.0 with A2DP
  • Standard 3.5mm audio jack
  • Great audio quality
  • MS Office Mobile document editor
  • Opera 9.5 web browser
  • YouTube client, Facebook and Twitter integration
  • Excellent video playback performance
  • Good battery life

Main disadvantages

  • It’s a pretty large phone
  • Poor sunlight legibility
  • 65K color limitation of display has color gradients banding
  • Card slot under the battery cover
  • Disappointing photo and video quality
  • No dedicated camera key and no lens cover
  • No DivX/XviD video support out-of-the-box
  • Preloaded CoPilot Live navigation software is a trial version
  • No secondary video-call camera
  • No voice dialing
  • No handwriting recognition
  • Dodgy web Flash support

The HTC HD2 may be a tad smaller than the monstrous Toshiba TG01 but that’s nowhere near compact. And it all comes down to one simple thing: the 4.3″ display. The huge touchscreen is an absolute treat but may be not that simple in the end. In tablet terms, the HD2 is sweet to use landscape but not every user will be happy with singlehanded operation and actual phone calls. But then you look at how thin it is, what it’s packing inside and perhaps it doesn’t seem so big. You know you’ll adjust and get used to it in the same way that people got used to the less than compact size of the iPhone.

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HTC HD2 live shots

And while we’re at it, a side by side comparison of both devices may not be enough to convey the size issues of the HD2. In all fairness, a phone this size is not the most comfortable to hold next to your year but it’s an impressive package that’s worth the inconvenience. Against the iPhone, the HD2 has a much larger and higher-res touchscreen, as well as a faster processor, multi tasking and a 5 megapixel snapper with dual LED flash. HTC have also done a lot to transform TouchFLO into their new Sense UI, but it still lags slightly behind the user interface of the iPhone.

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The HTC HD2 is probing tablet boundaries

One thing’s for sure, the HTC HD2 is trying to widen the PocketPC horizon and remove the stigma of WinMo unfriendliness. We’ve seen very few phones that could possibly live up to the scale of that task. So, it’s time to open the box and meet the handset in person. We’re back after the jump with unboxing, design and construction. It’s HD2 time.

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