9 May 2011
The HTC Desire Z is probably the best keyboard-equipped Android smartphone on the market thanks to decent battery life and a reasonably quick interface, though like its peers, it can be a bit laggy with a heavy App load.
Nice, sharp screen, though the gloss makes it a bit of a struggle in sunlight. It's another part of the phone, however, which could be hit and miss with users. Aluminium looks sturdy and sharp - but the battery cover on the Desire Z makes it slippery, despite the rubber trim. Add the phone's hefty 185g and you'll need to be careful with it, especially since the screen isn't Gorilla Glass like its Motorola Milestone 2 counterpart.
We like the keyboard mechanism, which pops out smoothly after extensive use (it's a bit stiff when you first have the phone). The keys themselves are nicely spaced and you'll be quite accurate - personally, however, we prefer harder, faster keys to the Desire Z's slightly spongey ones which will call on you to deliver a little more strain.
The trackpad, however, is a disappointment, especially when you compare it to the terrific implementation on a Blackberry. The Desire Z's version is just not sensitive enough, and using it as a button only works for some functions. It's a shame particularly since the Desire Z's keyboard, unlike the Motorola Milestone 2, doesn't include arrow keys, and we'd rather have the latter than the never-used customisable shortcut keys on the Desire Z's keyboard. If you're going to make a button customisable, it should be those on the outside such as the Camera shutter button.
Useability and speed
Side by side with the Motorola Milestone 2, we found the HTC Desire Z faster in flicking through the home screens. It's a fraction slower in loading applications, however, which suggests that HTC Sense is a more efficient skin than Motorola's Blur. We also think Sense looks better than Blur, with more colourful widgets. That said, the bigger widgets - including some which take up an entire home screen - can be a bit slow to load new data (such as the calendar widget), and we saw plenty of "Unable to connect to the HTC Sense server" within the "HTC Likes" app.
The Sense touchscreen places a permanent "personalise" soft button to the right of the standard phone app button. We'd rather that be for the Address Book, as with Motorola Blur.
The phone is reasonably bug free - though we couldn't turn off the LED notification for new Gmail. Otherwise, it's the typical Android experience. The on screen keyboard is fine, with nice predictive text and haptic feedback. Selecting text with the touch screen was fairly easy, with a magnified box ensuring you can pin point text well. Good thing considering the pokey trackpad and absence of arrow keys.
You can turn the shutter sound off! We can't think of a phone on the market that has that feature natively. The quality itself is fine, although it's sensitive to camera shake and there are no convenient scene modes - only for special effects. Still, it's above average for a smartphone camera.
We love the nice, loud ringtones on the Desire Z. The speakers sound a little bit tinny, but at least you won't miss calls. Phone calls are fine, and while it looks great, the text application can be a little slow to load.
The battery isn't bad, and leaves the Milestone 2 for dead. We can't overstate how important that is for a business oriented smartphone. Don't be expecting iPhone 4 or Motorola Atrix life, but we got through a day reasonably comfortably with fairly intense use, including with Wi-Fi on, but Bluetooth and GPS off.
We like this phone a lot, and at this stage, it's our pick for Android smartphones with a keyboard. We're a bit bummed by the trackpad and it can be a bit slow with a heavy app load. That said, it's got a nice screen, is reasonably snappy, has decent battery life and we like HTC Sense a lot.
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