Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Windows Phone 7-powered HTC HD 7

NEW DELHI: A responsive touchscreen, a relatively cool camera and a decent interface, but can Windows 7-powered HTC HD 7 really help Microsoft gain a foot in the smartphone market already crowded by the likes of iPhone and numerous Android-powered devices?
One look at this device and I can confidently say NO! In fact, the biggest letdown of HD7 is ironically the feature that should have been its weapon of choice to help it take its fight to the enemy camp some distance. The smartphone that carries a rather expensive price tag of Rs 30,000 is hugely dependent on Microsoft Windows Marketplace, which is yet to make its India debut and is only expected to be launched after two to three months.
This means that to download even a basic app like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, you will be left stranded by the seller despite having paid a bomb to acquire this dud. What were you thinking HTC and Airtel? People don’t buy dud phones at Rs 30K, do they?
To start with, HD 7 is a solid, neat-looking black-coloured device -- albeit a tad too big to hold unlike an average smartphone -- and thin compared to its build. The smartphone measures 4.8 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 162 gram. It sports a 4.3-inch touchscreen (480 X 800 WVGA), largest in the current breed of Windows Phone 7 smartphones, with two speakers spanning the entire display at the top and bottom. It has a metallic band running through the circumference of the phone with volume rocker, a two-stage camera button and a handy lock button at the top.
At the bottom, the phone houses a micro-USB port and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Just below the display is the back, start, and search buttons powered by Microsoft Bing.
The phone's build quality seems rock solid except for a rather flimsy quality plastic back cover which does not inspire confidence about how long it may last. HD7 has a kickstand covering the camera at back which when opened can help you take pictures and enjoy hands-free videos and music. Removal of battery and SIM is quite easy compared to many phones.
One of its biggest plus USP is its large built-in keypad which makes it ideal for browsing and using the Microsoft Office programmes. For messaging too, the touch sensitivity is quite good and auto correction gives closest results. The phone's Home button takes you to a list of tiles and apps list that has rather large, but reading-friendly icons. Which also means you may end up scrolling down and down to locate your favourite app. Especially, with no Folders around.
From the Home button you land at the Windows Phone 7 interface that takes you to a list of tiles and apps. Swiping right on the screen shows up a list of apps that are either built-in or the ones you have downloaded. Folders would have made life much nicer.
Coming to the phone's 5-megapixel shooter, the camera has an auto-focus, dual LED flash and can record 720p HD video. The camera makes up for good pictures that can be further jazzed up with the effects, scenes, resolutions and flicker adjustment. However, the camera interface came out to be pretty simple and flat. There is a built-in Photo Enhancer app that lets you play around with effects, found in any other basic phone.
The phone also bundles HTC Hub that houses apps like Sound Enhancer, YouTube, Notes, Flashlight and Xbox Live games, but be warned you would be unable to download many of the apps which is a pity indeed.
Microsoft has bundled Bing Maps in the HTC HD7, which comes out to be a surprise winner. It can be easy crowned as one of the best mobile mapping applications, giving accurate and clear results. The double tap on the screen to center lets you zoom in on a spot. You can also add a push pin to Maps if in case you want to remember a place or mark your location.
Another app that gets a complete thumbs up is Microsoft Office programme that offers Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint and OneNote. Microsoft's OneNote lets you track your shopping list, meeting notes and your to-dos. To jazz it up, you can add audio and pictures. With OneNote you can virtually record your entire meeting or an interview. All this particularly helps if you are used to working in a Windows environment on the computer.
Xbox Live coming to HTC HD7 is another to-die-for feature in the Windows-powered device. But with no Windows Marketplace in India around, this feature too won’t excite you.
HTC HD7 also comes pre-installed with Microsoft's very own Internet Explorer sitting right on the Home Screen. The browsing experience seems to be satisfactory with pinch and tap for zoom functions.Also, the large display makes up for easy reading and watching videos.
I found the phone's battery to be impressive after a good session of Internet browsing and calling. But, the real battery test remains as the phone hasn’t opened up to the real battery-hogging applications that could have come from the Windows Marketplace.
On connectivity front, the phone offers 3G, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and GPS. HD 7 comes with 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB ROM/576MB RAM and 16GB memory capacity. However, there is no card slot to further boost the memory count which is quite strange in this age.
Coming to the most important part, is it worth a buy at Rs 30,000? With Microsoft saying it is still three months away from the Marketplace launch, HD7 is a complete no no until then. Especially when you have Android hitting the market with dozens of capable and cheaper devices and boasting of over two lakh.


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