Well, this is a nice looking thing. The HTC HD7 burst onto the scene just a few weeks back and we were lucky enough to grab one on the day. UK network o2 have the exclusivity on this and, fair play to them, it’s one heck of a catch. This, from what we’ve been told, has got the biggest internal storage of all Windows Phone 7 devices – 16GB is on board, but you can’t add more .. there’s no microSD expansion.
Inside is that all-new operating system, Windows Phone 7. It’s a big step for HTC. This is a complete reboot for Microsoft, a fresh start with every “Windows Mobile” thing thrown in the bin. Seriously. Wipe everything you knew about Windows Mobile. Forget ActiveSync, forget that stylus, forget the many menus and forget .. well, the lot. Microsoft have defined a set of minimum specs so that the experience is up to a certain standard.
The screen is 4.3″ and it reaches right to the egde of the device. It’s a 480×800 WVGA multi-touch screen yet, despite the size, it still feels like a “normal” phone.
The device feels pretty hefty and you can instantly feel the HTC quality. The front of the device has two shallow grooves. One at the top, one at the bottom. The top groove, if you look carefully enough you can see that they’re actually speakers complete with a grill in the front. The top is your earpiece and has LED’s behind for giving you
phone information but doubles as the left speaker when you spin the device to the side. At the bottom is the right speaker because, as you’ll see in a minute, there’s a kick-stand at the back to prop the device up.
So the specs. You’re looking at a 1GHz CPU, 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and dual LED flash, 720p HD video recording and – on this o2 UK version – 16GB of on-board storage. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB connector, G-Sensor, digital compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, WiFi, 512MB ROM, 576MB RAM, Bluetooth 2.1 and
The three Microsoft buttons site along the bottom. A light finger-touch is all that’s needed here. Back, the Windows key and Search. The latter will do slightly searches depending on what app you’re using. Press that Windows key and hold it down to fire into the voice-dial app.
The right side of this solidly built phone has the volume up and down buttons, then below there’s the camera button which you can soft-press to start the focus process. From power-off / standby you can just press and hold the camera button to crank up the camera app. It’s a good way to hop straight into snapping a shot.
Up top, that power button for waking the device, turning it off and turning it on.
Down the bottom, a microUSB connector for charging and sync’ing your stuff via Zune. The 3.5mm audio plug is down here too.
Around back, that 5 megapixel camera. It’ll do 720p HD video recording and, I have to say, was pretty decent. The shots were good in low light, great in normal light and it left me wondering why the same camera lacked a little in HTC Android phones. Above the HTC logo you’ll see the kickstand, which doubles as the camera / LED flash surround. We’ll have some example shots from the camera itself later in the review.
When the kickstand is out you can see how the phone tilts to a angle viewable whilst sat on a train, at work or at home.
The back of the handset has a gentle arch. The kickstand clicks in and out with and holds its’ position well. The actual kickstand and the camera is connected directly to the chassis, not the rear of the device. this gives it extra strength.
Pop the back open and, at the bottom of the battery, there’s a slot for the SIM card. That microSD is hidden somewhere inside beneath a user inaccessible panel.
Inside the all-new Windows Phone 7 OS is, from what I can tell, vanilla. o2 haven’t really tweaked the OS or added any extra apps. It’s the phone we’ve concentrated on a lot more when investigating Windows Phone 7, purely because it’s got less network “stuff” added.
We’ve covered Windows Phone 7 as an OS more in our Windows Phone 7 review, so I’ll let you soak it up. The camera is, to be honest, fantastic. The flash kicks in at just the right time and the images produced are balanced. The video images – recording at 720p – is brilliant and the continual focus works well. We’ve included some examples below. I was impressed when I compared it to my standard HD camcorder. You no longer have to “make do” with the camera on your phone – instead this is a really decent camera which will record great videos and take great pictures.
We tried the handset out with GPS and Bing Maps. Once you choose the option to track your movements it will actually hold the screen on and, although there’s no turn-by-turn navigation, you can at least follow the dark blue line to your destination.
The Zune software, which does seem to take a short while to install and feels almost as “hefty” as the iTunes equivelent at times, sync’d media files with our HD7 brilliantly and displays all your media in a clean, friendly way. You can sync media over the WiFi too and, with the Zune Marketplace, it’s easy to find tunes and videos to enjoy. Forget the old “ActiveSync” issues from Windows Mobile, transferring media is so easy.
Again, I’ve already covered the internals of this phone in the Windows Phone 7 OS review, so please, please do click to view it. We actually based the Windows Phone review on the HTC HD7, so you can see all the screenshots of the OS here.
As usual we’ve filmed a number of hands-on videos so that you can get a better look at the HTC HD7..
I was impressed with the camera. Considering this is (probably) a similar unit to Android devices I saw a much improved picture on this Windows Phone device. The focus was quick, but sometimes I’d have to half-press that camera button a second time to get it to focus. Some of these shots were taken outside, some inside. The ones on the bottom row were actually taken at night time, so you can see just how good that flash is. Click each thumbnail to enlarge the image, then again for the direct-from camera shot.
The video quality was again spot on. I just can’t fault it. The
continual focus is shown below..
This shouldn’t work. I mean yes, the rather clever people at Microsoft are behind the OS and the increasingly amazing HTC make the thing, but this is all new. How dare they, you may say, how dare they just storm forward with a brand-new Operating System, user interface and
Marketplace all at once, with a glut of new handsets. How far it actually be.. pretty good actually. Sure, I can point out a few foibles with the OS. At the moment it’s October 2010 and I can’t add custom ringtones to Windows Phone 7, I seem to only ever get one picture “Music and Videos” Live Tiles, if I set two alarms in sequence the second one doesn’t seem to fire, I don’t have a great level of customization or flexibility and there’s not a massive choice of apps in the Marketplace but…. there’s potential, and bags of it.
Microsoft have full control of the OS now. They don’t need to run things by the operators / networks – if something doesn’t work, Microsoft can roll out an update and fix it. If something needs to be improved, an update can do it. Microsoft have that level of control that Apple have with their iPhone, but here you have a range of Windows
Phone devices to choose from and the HTC HD7, in our humble opinion, should be right up there on your shopping list.
The battery lasted well with well over a days’ “geek” usage from the phone, the fluid analogue animations, screen and build quality are all excellent and the images produced by the camera were much better than before, although I did have the odd issue with the focusing – especially when the item you’re snapping moves.
This is a great device. The choice, though, is whether you want to try out that all-new Windows Phone 7 OS.