HTC Desire HD Review

13 May 2011

The HTC Desire HD is the natural successor to HTC’s old flagship phone – the HTC Desire. The Desire HD is very similar to the Desire in many respects. However, the improvements implemented in the Desire HD are definitely noticeable such as the larger screen, brighter display and Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system.

On the outset the Desire HD is a handsome, but not uniquely eye-catching device. Its curved edges and large screen make for a very smooth first impression, not to mention a comfortable experience when held against the ear or in the hand. Once against HTC has chosen to opt for capacitive buttons on this device, which we do admit looks great. However, as far as functionality goes we have to question this decision, as it’s a bit too easy to brush a finger across the bottom of the screen during normal use and finding yourself suddenly transported a different area in the UI.

The back is an ash-grey metal plate with patches of soft-touch material that are more for decorative and functional purposes rather than to add any real grip. Instead of sporting a completely removable back plate like the HD7, the HTC Desire HD has two small compartments that are revealed when the soft-touch covers are taken away. These two covers reveal the battery that slides out from the side, and the SIM and SD cards which are inserted in to the bottom of the device.

Getting Started With the HTC Desire HD

Once the Desire HD is turned on initial setup is simple. A few short prompts and you’re away. There, sadly, isn’t a Gingerbread update for the Desire HD as yet. However, if you're reading this from the future (which you probably are) then we suggest plugging your handset in to a computer after you set it up, just in case.

The 4.3 inch display is bright, crisp and clear. From the look of things it’s exactly the same panel we saw on the HTC HD7, which handled both colours and blacks superbly. Video plays in a fantastic high quality that actually surprised us, as do embedded Flash videos on websites, assuming you have the bandwidth to download them. Sadly, one problem with 3G networks is that HD videos tend to be a little beyond their capability as far as streaming is concerned, but we can hardly blame the Desire HD for that.

As is expected, the HTC Desire HD employs HTC’s Android user interface (UI) that they’ve aptly called Sense, assumedly both for its responsive touch integration and its sensible layout. Navigability on Sense is always easy and while Android devices can be a little tougher to get used to than some of the competition, once you figure everything out operation is a breeze.

The 1GHz processor makes for a generally crisp experience. However, as far as phones go the Desire HD can be somewhat temperamental, operating at peak efficiency at some times and being quite laggy and jerky on others. These incidents come with greater regularity the closer to an empty battery one gets, something that can become annoying towards the end of the day, which brings us to our next point.

As far as battery life goes we have to give the Desire HD a black mark. At medium to heavy use the Desire HD doesn’t even last a working day, let alone dawn till dusk. You’ll definitely find yourself either carrying around a charger, or at least plugging your phone in to your computer at work (if you have one) to make sure you’ll make it home with a functional handset.

Camera and Apps

The 8MP camera takes great shots, although we’d like the addition of a dedicated camera button like on the Desire Z or HD7, but we can’t be too picky. The Dual-LED flash is extremely bright, maybe a little too bright to be honest but it’s not a huge deal. Pictures at night still come out with a respectable clarity we haven’t often seen from mobile phones and if you’re particularly worried about washed out colours due to an over-enthusiastic flash there are plenty of free camera apps available at the Android Market with picture editing functions.

Where once apps on Android were both rare and of questionable use the Android Market is now a teeming source of quality, free apps of every kind. You won’t find yourself starving for lack of options for entertainment, news or funky little functionalities to add to your device. The best part is that Android has gone with a theme of advertising, rather than paid apps. That means you can usually find your apps for free as long as you’re willing to suffer a small banner across the top or bottom of the screen during use. We found that after a while we didn’t even notice them anymore.

Web, Email and Tethering With the Desire HD

Web browsing on the Desire HD is both a fantastic and frustrating experience. The inclusion of Flash in to a mobile browser is great and it works well, most of the time. However, we did find that due to some of the lag cause by Flash rendering our finger scrolling was often misinterpreted as a click and hold gesture. Pictures and videos were the worst, as the browser has an annoying options pop-up in these situations. As a result the user is left staring at a small menu of options, none of which they want, the only way out of which is to press the capacitive Back button at the bottom of the screen. Pressing the button isn't too much of a hassle, it's true, but the whole process does end up taking anywhwere between 5 and 10 seconds, an amount that definitely adds up after 2 or more instances. However, other than this small issue we found the browsing experience pleasant and easy, especially thanks to the larger screen and Flash compatibility.

Email integration is fast an easy, something that is aided by the keyboard which, in both portrait and landscape modes, had more than enough space to accommodate our large fingers and clumsy pawing.

One of our favourite parts of the Desire HD, however, is its ability to communicate with desktop computers. When tethered to a PC or Mac the user is greeted with 5 options:

  • Charge only: Just charges then phone without sharing information with the computer.
  • HTC Sync: Syncs your contacts and calendar.
  • Disk Drive: Mounts as a USB disc drive. This option is fantastic, easy to use and extremely useful as it effectively eliminates the need to use USB keys and makes for extremely easy media transfers.
  • USB tethering: Shares your phone’s data connection with your computer or laptop.
  • Internet pass-through: Shares your computer’s internet connection with your phone, saving you money on data costs and increasing internet speed while tethered.

Facebook and social media (SM) integration is all handled through the Friend Stream – one stream for all your social media networks that receives updates in real time and creates an easy, conglomerated experience for SM junkies.

The WhistleOut Opinion

Well, that’s it for the HTC Desire HD. As with every device it certainly has its good and bad points, but at the end of the day we found we were very pleased with its performance. We found it easy to learn, a pleasure to interface with and never once did we feel the need to introduce it to the brick wall out the back. The one major problem was, of course, the limited battery life. It’s not so much a problem for those of us who spend our days hunched over computers, as plugging it in at lunch time is no big deal. But if you’re a heavy phone user who doesn’t have the access to mid-day charging, or just thinks that sounds annoying, then we’d suggest looking elsewhere.

Otherwise we’d recommend the HTC Desire HD for anyone looking for an Android device with one note of caution; it’s important to remember that the newest range  of Android phones is starting to roll out. So you if you want a top end device it’s probably worth waiting a bit, or even  if you aren’t after the best it’s still a good idea as the Desire HD is sure to fall in price once the new generation makes its debut on the shelves.



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