"Should I buy the HTC HD7" is something a lot of people might be asking. You'll find out from this HTC HD7 review, as a Windows Phone 7-touting successor to the HD2, the HD7 doesn't fall far from the tree. Great build quality, high-quality materials, and an executive feel are some things we've grown to expect from HTC. Android is ruling the smartphone lineup on T-Mobile, but the HD7 is here to bring a true competitor to little green Andy.
Design & Features
Inside the box, you will find the AC adapter, a USB cable, and a headset with in-line controls (volume control and answer/end call). Of course, neatly tucked away underneath the phone itself, you will find the quick start guide and user manuals.
Looking at the device for the first time, there's no mistaking that it's an HTC-made device. You will notice that it strongly resembles the HD2, EVO 4G, and other various HTC devices. It's about the same size as the EVO, but it's noticeably thinner - remarkably thin, actually. On the face of the device you will see a stainless mesh screen covering two speakers, one at the top and one at the bottom; the 4.3-inch LCD display; and three capacitive touch buttons (back, home, search). The outer rim of the device is composed of a dark-chrome band that holds the power button on the top edge, volume rocker and dedicated camera button the the right edge, and a micro USB port and 3.5 mm headphone jack on the very bottom of the device.
It can't go without saying that even though the device is very nice and feels great, there are some things about it that really should be better. The battery door is made of very thin plastic that twists quite a bit when removing the cover. It is also a bit too small for the device. There is a tiny gap at the top edge of the battery cover and at the bottom – so much that you can see the SIM card even with the battery door on. My camera didn't capture it so well, but it's really hard to miss in person. On top of that, the kickstand, however useful and neat it is, is a very poor implementation. It has a rounded foot, so any tap on the bottom end of the device or nudging of a table could send the device toppling over. Even with a few flaws, it's not enough to discard the benefits of this device. The HD7 should be just as durable and long-lasting as any other, and overall, I'm impressed with its physical aspects.
Usability & Performance
When I first turned on the HD7, I thought, “This is what Windows Phone 7 should be.” After using the Surround for a while, I realized that Windows Phone 7 is in need of a larger display, something that the HD7 delivers. While I wasn't initially turned on by the washed-out look of the display, it was its sheer size that won me over. While the tiles are a bit cramped on a smaller screen, they feel just right on the 4.3-inch display. Minus the faded colors, the display has a 480 by 800 pixel resolution and remains fairly bright in sunlight. The problem in sunlight with the HD7 is not the brightness though, it's glare. The face of the device gives off some terrible glare.
The HD7 sports a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, and in basic use of the device I experienced zero lag. This device is definitely quick. However, Windows Phone 7 will lead you to believe different. I like Windows Phone 7, I really do, but they have got to do something about lag in applications and loading times. I don't know whether to blame Microsoft or the developers for this. Just like on the Surround, the Facebook application can take anywhere from 10-30 seconds to launch and load new feeds. I wasn't particularly fond of all of the animations before, but they feel quicker on the HD7 versus the Surround. To be honest, there is probably no difference in time, I'm more than likely just getting used to them. One thing worth noting is that in side-by-side comparison with the Focus and its 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, the HD7 is nearly one second faster than the Focus when rotating from portrait to landscape. Aaron told me to try it out. I was skeptical at first, there is a very noticable difference in rotation times.
Internal memory on the HD7 shouldn't be a problem, even without a microSD card slot. Internal storage is a generous 16 GB, with 576 MB RAM and 512 MB ROM. No removable/expandable memory constrains the user quite a bit, but many will never think twice about it; 16 GB is ample memory for music, pictures, etc. If you aren't a memory hoard like me, you should be just fine.
Call quality on the HD7 was pretty good from what I used. T-Mobile in my apartment is par, it usually hovers around 2-3 bars. I never dropped a call, and there seemed to be no trouble between the other person and I hearing each other. The speaker seems plenty loud; I turned the volume all the way up and started dialing a number and I'm pretty sure it damaged my hearing. I'm kidding of course, but it was loud enough to startle me. The verdict is the same for using the speakerphone. Quality is decent and the speaker is definitely loud enough. I could recreate the "death grip" issue, but you have to hold the phone in a ludicrous way and cover the internal antenna.
By far, the easiest all-touchscreen phone I have ever typed on is the HD7. It may just be the large screen, but I carried a Droid X for quite a while and it doesn't hold a candle to this. The keyboard is very large and the keys are spaced out just enough. They could learn a few things from Android, like long-pressing for number keys rather than switching to a number pad for numerical input, but I'm sure things like that will come with time. I would much rather have a keyboard that is easier to type on than neat features in a keyboard I never get to use because I'm too busy backspacing.
The camera on the HD7 was fairly impressive. It takes decently clear pictures in well lit areas, but where this device excels is in low-light situations. The dual LED flash is extremely bright and it fires off in a two-step phase. While it is very useful, sometimes it is a bit much. When you only need a little light assistance, the HD7 still bombards you with it's super-bright flash. Also, the two-step process that it requires slows down taking pictures quite a bit. It just may make you miss that Kodak moment. Video capture can be set up to 720p, but every time you launch the video camera application, you will have to switch it to that capture setting. For some reason, it doesn't remember your camera settings. I'm not sure if Microsoft wanted it like that or if they simply overlooked it, but it's annoying nonetheless. The sample video I made was impressive in terms of clarity but again, it seemed a little washed out.
The battery life on this device is a little up in the air. I've heard reports of less than desirable battery life from it, and I can see why with only 1230 mAh. But I honestly haven't had much of an issue out of it. Is it the best I've ever seen? Not even close. But it seems to hang pretty well with the Focus and even myTouch 4G. I make it no secret that I'm demanding of my phones when it comes to battery life, and I find it a little disappointing that HTC would send this device to consumer hands with only a 1230 mAh battery. Why not impress customers rather than just console them? It could always be the fact that they wanted to keep the device really thin, but I would rather sacrifice a little thinness for a longer battery life.
Internet browsing on the HD7 was superb, to say the least. While the Windows Phone 7 browser lacks a lot of functionality, zooming in and out is much faster than on any other device I have in my possession save for the Focus. I won't hesitate to say that Windows Phone 7 offers one of the best mobile web browsing experiences (for phones) to date. Of course, it doesn't offer Flash support, but I would consider that a benefit before I would call it a drawback. Pages load quicker and you aren't bombarded by annoying ads all the time.
One thing I found to be a hit or miss was the buttons along the bezel. It was a little difficult to know whether they had been pressed or not. For instance, once I can press the power button with quite a bit of pressure, and the display will not turn on. I'll press again with very little pressure and the screen pops on. The buttons are “mushy” with no tactile feedback. The same goes, not only for the power button, but the volume rocker and camera button. It isn't a major issue, but it was definitely frustrating. Small buttons that are hard to press tend to become very annoying over time. I learned that with my Droid X.
The HD7 is without a doubt one of my choice devices. If I were to do it again, it would be a tough decision between this device or the myTouch 4G. The HD7 is solid inside and out, and even though Windows Phone 7 has some kinks that Microsoft needs to iron out, and HTC missed the mark on the battery and display, it is still a great device. To T-Mobile customers looking to upgrade, if you're intrigued by what Microsoft has cooking, I would say give this device a go. With a return period, you have nothing to lose. I would recommend the HD7 to current Android users that are looking for something a little more simple, first-time buyers not bugged my a few minor glitches, and anyone looking to replace their HD2. For $199.99 with a two-year agreement, you can't go wrong.
What's Good: Decent battery life; thin; very large and responsive display; good build quality; kickstand; feels great in the hand; decent camera, dual LED flash helps in low-light situations.
What's Bad: Windows Phone 7 is still has an extensive setup process; display looks a little washed out when compared to other devices; lagginess (specific to launching third-party applications); dual LED flash is sometimes too bright; tends to forget some settings.
The Verdict: In more ways than one, the HD7 impressed me. It's large but not bulky, feels great in the hand, and delivers a better Windows Phone 7 experience than what I've experienced before, much better. For $199.99 with a two-year agreement, this is a great device for Windows lovers, those looking for something a little different, or even some risky first-time smartphone buyers.