Part 2 of the Slashgear review

Slashgear has published the second part of their review of the HTC Touch HD, and unlike the first part which was just a quick preview, the second part is indepth and rather thoughtfull in tone.

Reading the full review, which is unusually balanced for a mainstream gadget site, is essential, but their conclusion can be read below:

What the Touch HD does well, it does very well. The camera may lack a flash but photos and video are both decent (easily besting those taken by other smartphones), media playback, with a few tweaks, is great, and the internet experience on the huge 3.8-inch display is addictive. Once Flash compatibility, in one shape or another, reaches the Touch HD we’ll be able to wholeheartedly recommend its online prowess; until then, it’s two qualified thumbs up. Opera does the best it can with a resistive, multitouch-lacking touchscreen, cleverly rendering to make the most of space and not, in all the time we’ve been using it, crashing once.

Which brings us, of course, to the touchscreen, and what will likely be the whipping point for most geeks considering the Touch HD. If you’re starting from the point of view that a capacitive screen is the pinnacle of interfaces (and trust us, many would disagree on this point) then no, a resistive touchscreen is never going to match up. That said, we stand by our assertion that this HTC handset has the best resistive panel we’ve used on a mobile device; firm, responsive, and capable both of precise taps with the stylus and bold gestures with fingers.

For many, though, having the ability to use both stylus and finger is a benefit, rather than the sign of a lesser technology. If you find yourself in that camp then run, don’t walk, to your nearest Touch HD stockist; it has 97-percent of the feel of a capacitive display – no squish, no sluggish drag – coupled with not only a stylus but the ability to use it wearing gloves.

There are undoubtedly disappointments – the lazy GPS, for one – but the biggest issue comes down to Windows Mobile. HTC have done a great job with TouchFLO 3D in hiding the underlying OS, but as long as there are menus and settings pages where you’re dumped into basic Windows Mobile territory then it’s simply not enough. A good example of this is the alarm: tap the clock on the TouchFLO 3D homepage to change what time you’d like to wake up, and you’re faced with a 3/4-inch line-drawn clock face adrift in white space. A single tap from the homepage and TouchFLO 3D is behind you.

You could argue that’s Microsoft’s fault, for having an ugly OS. Or perhaps it’s HTC’s fault, for not extending their GUI far enough. In the end, though, the consumer isn’t going to care who’s to blame: they’re just going to look at the interface failings and compare them to Apple’s consistent, slick design, and you know which will come out on top.

The HTC Touch HD has the potential for greatness. Connectivity options are both fast and plentiful, the physical design is attractive, even battery life – which you’d assume would be first victim to the glorious display – surprises with its longevity. Without TouchFLO 3D it would be a washout, however; with it, many will be able to look past the Microsoft flaws. We’d love to see the Touch HD running Google’s Android OS, or even the next-gen version of Windows Mobile which, if the talk is to be believed, will bring with it an overhaul in usability and design. Right now, it’s not as consistently intuitive as the iPhone, and that will cost it some customers; those who stick with it, though, will be rewarded by an overall brilliant smartphone. 

So, have HTC managed the nigh-on impossible and snatched the cellphone crown from the Apple iPhone 3G? Predictably, the answer is “maybe”, and it all hinges on what you want from your mobile. The Touch HD is a true smartphone and Windows Mobile 6.1 a truly flexible OS: there’s a wealth of applications out there spanning the breadth from business through to games, built upon a software ecosystem that’s been in development for years. Microsoft and/or HTC really need to step up and deliver a straightforward way for new users to plow through that back-catalog, because otherwise they’re wasting its potential. If you’re an enterprise user, or simply someone with an Exchange account, Windows Mobile is still a more stable and straightforward way to access that, compared to our experience with Exchange on the iPhone.

Read the full review here.

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