In this the second HD handset from HTC, the company has made some very relevant modifications. The previous HTC Touch HD seemed as impressive when launched but fared poorly. I was hoping this one would do better and I got the opportunity to find out. Take a look.

Form Factor

The handset can be described appropriately in one word – Big. 2010 has seen the rebirth of the Tablet PC and the HTC HD2 although not officially categorized as a tablet, could very easily pass for one. It has one of the largest capacitive screens in the mobile phone segment at 4.3-inches and looks even larger thanks to the handset's brilliant, slim design. You don’t often expect a handset this big to be just 11mm in depth. HTC’s simple button system has shortcuts to the homescreen and menu which is convenient.  Volume keys are located on the side and a 3.5mm handsfree socket is at the bottom beside the micro USB port.

The handset is gorgeous and although it’s big, it's easy to use with one hand as well as both when necessary. Thankfully it’s not thick enough to create am embarrassing bulge in our trousers, however, its width can make it a little uncomfortable carrying in tight jeans. I recommend a belt pouch in these cases.

Features and Performance

The HD2’s Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz processor ensures that you have a smooth ride. It uses a Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional OS but thanks to HTC’s Sense UI, you won’t notice… too much. Of course the Sense's look and feel is not very dissimilar to their TouchFLO system, which also made navigation and feature access a lot easier than most other WinMob handsets.

HTC has fully customized the UI to make it extremely finger friendly and the capacitive touchscreen negates the use of a stylus altogether. From onscreen virtual keypads to accessing menus and sub menus, the large display makes it all very convenient. The handset’s display and UI also incorporates multi-touch capabilities that would have Apple’s iPhone in a cold sweat.

The handset’s media capabilities are really good, but there are a few drawbacks. On the plus side you won’t ever have to use Windows Media Player as HTC has provided better options built right into Sense UI. To enhance audio, an Audio Booster application with its presets and customizable 10 band graphic EQ setting has been provided. Together with the bundled handsfree kit the HD2 provides loud, comfy and clear audio for both music and voice. Even the FM radio has good pick up in most places. It could have used a recording feature though, but it’s not something to complain about. A voice recorder is also present and an MP3 Trimmer application allows you to shorten music files for ringtones.

Where the HD2 lacks is in its video playback capabilities. Unfortunately HTC has not included DivX or XviD codecs so you’ll have to convert videos to suit the screen so you can forget about copy/pasting files. Irrespective of videos (if converted properly to 3GP, MPEG4, WMV, H.264/H.263 formats) looking stunning on the large clear display, the fact that the player doesn’t have a resume play feature is very very annoying. It’s very odd considering the Android version of the same player supports the feature.

The HD 2 is fully equipped to handle high 3G speeds, of course we won’t get to use that for a while longer so we’ll just have to settle EDGE/GPRS of Wi-Fi. The handset can also be used to share your mobile data service connectivity via its Wi-Fi router function. I was successfully able to share connectivity with my iPhone and netbook. You have a choice of browsers. Opera is preloaded which is just as good as the new WinMob 6.5’s IE browser. The large display makes viewing and navigation so much easier, so there’s nothing to complain about here. Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP and USB 2.0 can also be used to exchange and back up data between devices and your PC. A GPS antenna is built-in but you’ll have to suffice with just Google Maps.

For email you’ll easily be able to access your MS Exchange client for Outlook Mail access and sync your Contacts, Calendar, Notes and Tasks as well as easily set up IMAP and POP accounts. With minimal information, the handset will download all the relevant settings and have your emails streaming in minutes. The standard Windows Live and MSN Messenger apps are part of the package. Microsoft’s MyPhone app that lets you back up your data online is also available.

For the social networker, HTC has included their Peep application for Twitter, Facebook integration with your address book, a YouTube client and of course uploading capabilities for videos and pictures to all the various sites that support the same. Unlike their Android models though, the Facebook/Address Book integration is manual and time consuming. With the Android version it automatically matched names in my phone book to those on my Facebook account. I had to search for all manually in this handset. You can also download apps from the Windows Marketplace app.

Misc. Features
Aside from all the regular functions you’d expect in a mobile handset and Microsoft’s Office Mobile for WinMob handsets, HTC has also included a few extra tools. A few of these include a very accurate card reader that utilizes the camera, Remote Desktop, a Digital Compass and wireless printing capabilities.

The on board 5 megapixel camera has a dual LED flash for better low light pictures and also incorporates touch focus. The latter feature hasn’t been too well developed in the mobile industry and the HD2 hasn’t been able to do better. The focus very rarely remains on the designated subject. Other features include White Balance and ISO levels up to 800, a self timer, a few basic effects and geotagging. You can also use the Footprints application for capturing images and stamping them with location details.

Pictures in normal daylight are well lit. Settings are quite crisp and focused with just a little bit of jaggy edges showing up here and there. That’s something you’d expect to find in most mobile phone cameras. Low light images look ok at first view but at native resolution there’s quite a bit of artifact and blending of colors.

One of the other minor issues with the HD2 is the battery life. It’s not designed to sustain prolonged use of the large display for videos even on low brightness settings. The battery life is not by any means poor though. On an average the talk time ran up a count of about 4 hours and change. That’s better than average but for the kind of price tag attached to the handset it should have been able to offer much more. You’ll be able to use the handset for over a day and half with nominal usage which can include downloading emails, listening to music, surfing the net with a few calls and messages thrown in. But one full length movie will have the battery gasping for breath.

The Bottom Line
HTC’s HD2 is priced at a whopping Rs. 37,800 (approx. MOP). It’s a feature rich handset that’s well designed for comfort of use and manages to offer quite a bit for that price. There’s absolutely no need for a stylus although one has been designed for a specific purpose i.e. for digital signatures. It’s the closest thing to a tablet PC and its closest competitor is Samsung’s Omnia HD, which is a better value for money as a multimedia handset as it supports copy/paste video playback and is equipped with an 8MP camera, not to mention it costs quite a bit less.

However the HD2’s primary demographic is the business user, who’s used to the Windows Mobile platform and functionality. When it comes to hardcore business functions the HD2 is definitely better.

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