HTC Kaiser vs HTC Touch Pro – Part I

After 2 weeks of using the Touch Pro as my main device, replacing my venerable and battle scared HTC Kaiser (MDA Vario III, AT&T Tilt, HTC Tytn II and 100 other names) I am now ready to put my thoughts to paper regarding the two devices. In this post I will be looking primarily at the external features of the two smartphones.

There have by now been many reviews of the HTC Touch Pro, but unlike most, ours will be directed to current Windows Mobile users, specifically users of the HTC Kaiser. The question most current users of the Kaiser face is whether to upgrade to the HTC Touch Pro. In some ways it seems to be the natural successor of the Kaiser, but in other ways it is a very different device.

Looking at the external appearance the devices could not look more different. While the Kaiser is strewn with buttons (15 with the slider closed) the Touch Pro has a minimalist 9, mostly hidden behind a sleek division-less facade. The Touch Pro’s lack of buttons, while it improved the device’s appearance tremendously, is obviously not without negative. This is most apparent when it comes to the lack of a camera button, which makes accessing the camera function a lengthy 10 second process vs near instantly on the Kaiser. Also missing are the voice dial button, jog dial and side OK key, but the Touch Pro does gain external volume keys that work very well.

Kaiser owners coming to the Touch Pro will immediately notice one plus – the power button is much, much easier to use.

The sleek facade on the Touch Pro also means buttons are completely undefined. This is especially problematic when it comes to the D-pad, which is objectively not just bad but horrendous, being incredibly stiff and prone to accidentally activating the surrounding buttons. Fortunately the TouchFlo3D interface the Touch Pro is designed around de-emphasized the D-pad and other button interfaces, concentrating on the use of the touch screen over everything else. Of course the Touch Pro has the capacitive navi-pad which is used to good effect in a few applications, especially the browser.
The Touch Pro is around the same thickness as the Kaiser, but is much slimmer and slightly shorter. The back tapers inwards. These factors together result in a great hand-feel for the Touch Pro. The back features the same facetted design as the HTC Touch Diamond, but with a soft-touch coating which prevents slippage and also fingerprints.

A great difference between the Kaiser and the Touch Pro is of course that the Kaiser’s screen tilts up, and the Touch Pro does not. This is for many, who found the tilting screen a selling point, a major negative. In use the lack of tilt does not impede typing, but is certainly less comfortable than on the Kaiser.

That brings us finally to the keyboard. The keyboard of the Touch Pro is meant to be its coupe the grace and certainly having a 5 row keyboard and a real number key is very useful. Having the keyboard in the same configuration as a normal QWERTY keyboard makes typing more intuitive. You will not be touch typing, but you will automatically know where all they keys and symbols are.

On the other hand, the keys on the Touch Pro are considerably smaller than on the Kaiser and therefore more fiddly. They keys are also more stiff and requires more pressure. A major omission is the lack of an OK or even Back key on the keyboard, meaning you will constantly be reaching up to the Back key on the front of the device.

To summarize the external hardware features, the Touch Pro is a much more sleek and attractive device and if this is your priority its a clear win. I’ve never had a mobile phone which drew as much attention, and it was automatically recognized as a high-end device. For the more utilitarian user the lack of buttons, tilt and smaller keys are however also clear negatives coming from a Kaiser. 

Our next post in this review series will cover the software, specifically TouchFlo3D vs the normal Windows Mobile UI as found on the Kaiser.

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