HTC HD Mini Review: Software

ManilaHome1This is the first part of my review of the HTC HD Mini, in which the software is explored.

Hit the link below to read the full review.

The HD Mini is HTCs first WM6.5.5 device, and the difference between WM6.5 and WM6.5.5 is definitely noticeable. All of the little controls that looked fairly horrible in WM6.5 have been skinned, and now feel like part of HTC Sense.

First though, a quick look at the Sense interface.
Because of the limited resolution on the HD2, the amount of information displayed is less. The weather wallpapers are still there, as is the calendar, but gone are the shortcuts on the front screen. You can still flick up and get a screen of nine, but it’s slightly less convenient.

ManilaHome1 ManilaHome

The email tab has had many of the additions that were seen on the latest T-Mobile US HD2 ROMs. The menu button has been extended, with deletion, replying and account options now displayed very simply, it’s now fairly easy to deal with most emails without having to drop in to the traditional inbox.

ManilaMail2 ManilaMail

The internet tab has one addition, the ability to do a local search, which is best demonstrated with a video.

The browsing experience is pretty good overall, and if you absolutely must have flash, then IE has support for some things in browser. Opera Mobile 9.7 is also installed, and sports multiple tabs, text reflowing, and very good page rendering. Pages load surprisingly fast, so you’re never left too long without the page. Pinch to zoom is available in both Opera and IE, and does a fine job making pages easy to navigate.

The photos and videos, and the music tab have had landscape removed, probably because they require a lot of CPU time  which the MSM7227 can’t provide, but the rest of the Sense interface is pretty much the same. This is a bit of a shame, as the landscape mode does look very nice, but in terms of functionality, it doesn’t add much.

ManilaAlbum ManilaMusic

The music tab is great, and has much smaller overheads than running a dedicated media player application, and can even download the album art for you! The music tab icons are a lot more colourful than they were in previous iterations of Sense, and look pretty good for it.

ManilaMusic2ManilaMusic1 

The HTC Album application allows quick uploading to Facebook, which is a very useful feature, and well implemented, with the uploading happening in the background with no need to wait for the upload to complete.

AlbumUpload

All of the settings pages that haven’t been replaced by HTC have the new friendly controls, skinned in HTCs style, and combined with a capacitive screen, the whole experience is excellent! Pinch to zoom still lets you zoom in on some older applications, though generally, there’s no need for it! Since this was one of the major criticisms of the HD2, it’s great to see it fixed.

Settings

Beneath Sense, you still get the full Windows Mobile OS, which even on the 600MHz processor runs very smoothly, multitasking brilliantly – I’ve yet to bother with the task manager. For when you do feel the need for the task manager, HTC have made access to it fairly simple, tapping on the reduced size title bar (which can get a little annoying) brings up quick access to quite a few things, including the Task Manager.

TitleBar

What makes the HD Mini different to most Windows Mobile devices is the fact it’s running the latest iteration (Windows Mobile 6.5.5), and the differences are quite obvious. It’s clear that WM6.5.5 was designed with capacitive touch screens in mind, the enlarged soft keys, and generally finger friendly experience really does make a difference to the ease of use. Multitouch seems to be supported at an OS level, rather than just being HTCs hack layered on top (though so far, only Internet Explorer uses this). Another alteration in WM6.5.5 is the way copy and paste works.

IMG_1013 

It’s now a lot easier than it was on devices like the HD2, where the lack of precision with capacitive screens really makes a difference. It’s not perfect and can at times be a little fiddly, but it’s a lot better than it could otherwise have been.

HTCs keyboard is brilliant (as they always have been), with the spell correction working brilliantly, and with keys that are large enough to hit without paying much attention. There’s a new addition to this keyboard though, and it lets you bring up a virtual d-pad, allowing somewhat easier placement of the cursor. The ability to select language is also now very obvious, though it can get in the way a little, and there’s also no way to turn off the spell correction should you want to.

The only annoyance I’ve run in to, is due to the fairly non standard screen resolution (HVGA) which as far as I know, is only on the HD Mini (though the iPhone and lots of Android devices share the same resolution). For some reason, Marketplace doesn’t have HVGA as a selectable resolution, so most applications are supposedly available. Things like SPB Keyboard (amongst others) fail to run correctly, and some applications look a little distorted. Hopefully Microsoft will add HVGA to the Marketplace submission forms, but until then it’s hit and miss as to whether an application will work.

KeyboardTest1 KeyboardTest2

Overall then, the software on the HD Mini is generally great, it’s fast, responsive and intuitive, and most of the little issues can most likely be worked out in future releases. With WP7 coming soon, devices like this may become less popular, but if you want the full multitasking available with WM6.X, but want a much improved interface, this is definitely a device to look at.

Thanks to Clove for supplying the device, which is available no for £323.13 including VAT here.

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