HTC Desire HD & Z: Hands-On First Impressions


Great day out at London yesterday attending the HTC unveiling besides a few shall we say ‘technical hiccups’ – My camera broke while recording the announcement & the wi-fi was severely overloaded… but I rolled with the punches.

Panorama 1

HTC chose a great venue (click pic above) right by the Thames River with a great view of Tower Bridge and lots of people from all parts of the world attending; now to the unveiling. As soon as the curtain was pulled there was a fantasticly huge screen showing HTC’s themes interactively on screen. HTC executives and staff appeared on stage showing off the new HTC Sense – “Sense 2.0” – and finally unveil the HTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z.

Check out my brief hands-on below with detailed textual analysis following:


My favourite of both phones – it made such an impression on me that this is my next  mobile when it launches. Packing a crispy yet natural looking super-LCD display measuring a whopping 4.3″,  a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 8 mega pixel camera capable of recording HD 720p video and duel LED flash.  Other technology includes Dolby surround sound both through the speakers and earphones, and an FM radio. All this is sculpted inside a solid aluminium block creating a practically seamless design just like the HTC Legend.

So how does it feel?  Gorgeous. It’s a large phone, HTC have mastered the balance of size and weight for it, it’s not too light and it’s no brick – it’s slim (11.8 mm in fact) – it feels nice to hold being seamless aluminium and it generally feels sturdy. A pleasure to hold and use – one thing that really interested me was the size of the virtual keyboard, helpfully a little bigger and nicer to use than the one on my HTC Magic and other phones that have a smaller screen.

HTC Desire HD_Front+Back+LeftHTC Desire HD_InsideP1000631P1000670


I like it! – Nice to handle, not that bad of a looker in my opinion and finally HTC give us another QWERTY phone! The feel of the phone is rather smooth, fits nicely in the hand and and easy to use one handed portrait. For a QWERTY phone it seems rather slim too and popping out the keyboard is swift with the hinged design, you push and it pops – quick and easy. The keyboard has obviously had some effort put into it. The general design and size is a real pro when you want to type and then interact on the screen because the keyboard is not so wide that you have to stretch your finger to touch the screen. Key spacing is quite important and the Desire Z does quite well, I especially like the 2 programmable buttons on the bottom right.

HTC Desire Z_3ViewsHTC Desire ZP1000638P1000648


In my opinion sense 2.0 brings some welcome both ‘under the bonnet’ and ‘front’ improvements and features. One of the biggest being interactive online at htcsense.com allowing functions such as online back up, installing apps from your pc, locating, tracking, locking and “self-destruct data” of the phone. Finding your Android phone near you even if it’s on silent, you can even set your phone on divert so if you ever leave it on your desk at work you can set it to divert calls to your home phone.

Other welcome features include:

  • 10 second Fastboot! needs no introduction…..
  • Themes! You can skin and theme your home screen and status bar with several designs and even preview the theme before applying it without the need for any other app.
  • The ability to flip the phone on it’s face to reject a call
  • The ability to pre-cache maps and use them offline I hate having to wait for the maps to load while zooming in and out – problem solved! They’ve also somewhat enhanced the compass by making it point to where you need to go say for navigating.
  • Long press on a word and you can highlight and search that particular word or phrase easily through Google, Wikipedia etc.
  • The phone ‘knows’ certain scenarios and adjusts the volume accordingly, so if it’s in your bag the phone will ring louder and if say it was out , the ring will be lower.
  • Extended caller info – a good idea. So when your friends or family call latest updates from social networking sites also appear on screen or if say they have a birthday coming up. I can see this being very useful.
  • If your using the maps/navigation app – when you receive a call instead of you being taken away from the app it will actually add a ‘layer’ at the bottom of the screen of the person calling. Wouldn’t it be awesome if  this feature was included for games etc too!
  • Being able to connect your device to a TV via DNLA
  • An improved camera and gallery app allowing you to digitally zoom using a bar on screen, a gallery that nicely displays your snaps and you can edit photos like cropping and adding effects. When you upload them to Facebook you can tag friends too – no longer do you have to upload it from your phone and use a pc to instantly tag your images.
  • A built in Ebook functionality– perfect as ebooks have been becoming more popular

Some of these functionalities are already available via apps on the market but it’s nice to actually have them incorporated in. Some other features should really have been in Android already – for example I dislike when I’m in the middle of playing a game or in an app and then the phone rings and I’m taken to the incoming call screen, a little bar layered on the bottom of the screen is definitely a good idea **hint hint Google & Modders**.

Now for some niggley bits & bobs :

  • It’s a shame neither phone comes with a kickstand. Both have great quality screens and Dolby surround sound but what about when you want to watch a movie? we’ll have to lean it on something to enjoy watching it.
  • No front facing camera! Video calling is easier than ever with apps like Fring allowing free video calls, shame this was left out!
  • No Dedicated camera button – they’re just handy!
  • No fastboot if you pull the battery. I specifically asked about this one and the fast boot works by making the phone go into a very low-resourceful state – fantastic aspect but if the battery does get removed from the phone normal boot time remains. No complaints on this one really.

Overall I’m personally very pleased with both phones and would recommend them, during the time I had played with them the screens were very nice to use and responsive along with the UI. Below is the actual presentation video from the event:

We’re in the process of getting our hands on some demo units so keep an eye on Phandroid.com!
But if your looking forward to getting your own Desire HD or Z you can pre-order both now ready for October 11th!

P.S. Nokia were holding an event not far away and sent some of there cronies down with big red balloons advertising Nokia. They also gave away some very ummmm cheesy rubbish interesting stuff in there “HTC press conference survival kits”.

As I’m sure you could have guessed and as expected there were zero Nokia “Giant foam fingers” raised in the HTC audience!

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  1. Sounds like Nokia is in its bitterest stage. Sad

  2. New write-up! Are you able to confirm if the new HTC maps app is a replacement for Google Maps? I really like the Desire HD, but also love Google Maps just as it is. I don’t want to find HTC have ruined it by adding loads of bloated crap on top of it. As long as I can use the standard map app alongside HTCs preloaded map app, I’ll be happy.

  3. No kickstand so you can’t watch movies? Dude, I have a TV for watching movies…..Why would you want to use your phone for that? And don’t say “It would be nice while waiting on a bus, plane, or in line…” You need to get a book then. Reading…..It’s good for us.

  4. Reading over the feature list for the new Sense it’ll mean I can potentially remove at least one or two 3rd party apps!

  5. ZOMG Notification LEDs!!!!!!

  6. Having seen that the bigger screen of the HD can still only handle 4×4 icons at a time, I’ve decided there’s no need to buy the HD to replace my standard Desire. I can already accomplish everything the new Sense does, and the only glaring differences in the hardware are soft buttons, which annoy me; an 8-megapixel camera, which I guess is only ~25% better than the 5mp one; and slightly more RAM, which is not the better CPU (or devoted GPU) that the Desire really needs. Pass.

  7. @Simon

    The Desire HD has the MSM8255 SoC which is processed on 45nm and has the Adreno 205.

  8. How sad is that for Nokia? HTC are a much smaller company and they are producing phones which kick the N8 in the balls, Nokia’s “jokes” aren’t even funny….

  9. Question.. in the picture where someone is scrolling through apps on the Desire Z… is he scrolling in landscape mode?? Just curious if HTC has finally enabled this in their newest iteration of Sense. And don’t tell me to try LauncherPro or ADW – sorry, I just don’t like them very much. :)

  10. @Simon
    With ADW Launcher you can add up to 8 icons per row and column. I’ve been using 5 icons on my G1 for a while now.

  11. WTF is a “niggly bit”?

  12. Hey Nokia, you suck. Your stupid survival kit was lame and a poor attempt at putting down a much more innovative company. Crawl away and die now.

  13. @ Blade Brown A bit of British slang basically meaning I’m pointing out bits that could be a little better. ;)

  14. Hey — SILow and darkjuan, thanks for that. I wasn’t aware it actually had a different CPU. Also thanks for ADW launcher, other than Launcher2 I haven’t tried the alternatives yet. Acecakes, as I’m prone to say

  15. I agree that Nokia is starting to look a bit sad. A few years ago they would have felt confident enough to avoid stunts like this, now they are obviously feeling the heat and are getting pathetic.

  16. Does anyone even know why Nokia sent those flyers out? It was because they’ve had this date set up months in advance for their own event and HTC casually decided much later to have their event on the same day. And in the same city,no less. That’s like saying Apple holding an event on the same day and the same city as say Motorola. Not cool.

  17. Nice write-up Carl! Good read and got me psyched for the phone’s release. Although some specs for the Desire Z included in its description would have been nice.

  18. Nice review but I agree with Shirley, If you read more books it may help your poor use of English. Don’t trust spell-checkers when it comes to “your/you’re” or “there/their”

  19. @Hans, the HTC press conference was on the day after the first day of Nokiaworld when all the major handset announcements took place.

    Nokia are increasingly looking like they are washed up, every time you talk to a Nokia fan about the state of their phones, they always tell you that improvements are just around the corner. We’ve been waiting 2 years and the touch UI still sucks.

  20. How they can call something with the same screen resolution, but with a bigger screen size the “Desire HD” is beyond me.

    Surely that gives the screen a lower pixel density (ie. lower definition) than the desire.

    They should name it the ‘Desire LD’, or ‘Desire -bigger screen’, so as not to mislead customers :P


  22. So both phones have new cpus? i thought only the Z had a new cpu/gpu….so i assume the desire HD is better???

  23. @SiLow So which cpu does the Desire Z have ?

  24. I’ll nab the Z as soon as it’s available in Canada. Heck, I might just take a road trip and grab the G2 in its place if I gotta. I love the heck out of my ole grandpappy Dream, but I really want something faster to tide me over for a year or two, till HTC slaps us with a quad-core 2.5Ghz QWERTY.

  25. that panoramic picture looks really cool on my wrapped triple monitor display

  26. @MaxB
    The Desire Z (as does the G2) has the MSM7230.

    The CPUs on both these phones are 2nd gen Snapdragons. 1st gen Snapdragons were built on 65nm processing with the Adreno 200 gpu. These 2nd gen cpus are built on 45nm processing with the Adreno 205 gpu. The Z/G2 has a 800mhz clocked 2nd gen Snapdragon and the HD has a 1ghz clocked 2nd gen Snapdragon.

    With the combination of a lot of RAM and the new SoC(from all the speculations and rumors from leaked benchmarks etc.), I would expect the Desire HD to rival if not be slightly faster than the Droid X and Samsung Galaxy S.

    But then again if the phones are packaged with slow NAND and/or a shitty file system (cough… Samsung I’m looking at you…) who knows. The SoC is only 1 piece of the puzzle.

  27. So why have they put a slower clocked CPU in the desire Z? am i missing something here?

  28. @Ben: It has an 800Mhz CPU to save battery. Since the GPU is much better than that of the Desire, it will run equally fast, so you will be quite pleased with it. In addition to that, it’s a phone that is aimed at business customers, so there is no need for absolutely high end performance like you will get on the HD.

    Look here: http://www.droiddog.com/android-blog/2010/09/why-the-t-mobile-g2-is-my-next-android-device/

  29. The once mighty Nokia have now come to embarrassing ways to get attention. From the videos I have seen, after years of using symbian they still lag in their latest phones. The new nokias look good and probably are built well but software wise no match for android or ios. Meego can’t come sooner for them

  30. literally i would expect a frontal camera just like the evo but this phone is good but why get a desire when you can just get a droid x. if they had a front camera then i would definitely buy it. besides that this phone is the same as the incredible in many ways just a little better.

  31. Nokia is acting like a heroin junkie desperate for a hit, bitching he can’t get any…

  32. @SiLow damn, so the HD Desire will always be better, i wonder if the Z cpu is downclocked, and whats the real difference between the two cpus since both have the same ameno 205 gpu

  33. Damn the HD has 768 MB of RAM….that almost one GB….:S

  34. This HD desire doesnt have HDMI, strange.

  35. Any screenshots of the different skins?

  36. actually i think the kickstand is not necessary… since you can stream media to the TV.. i think that is the reason HTC thought a kickstand wasn’t needed.. why whatch a movie on the phone when you can stream it into a TV…
    i heard some rummours that the Z didnt go into landscape mode unless the keyboar was open, can you confirm this??… how about the Z’s onscreen keyborad?..

  37. I would like one of those BIG foam fingers and poke Nokia’s CEO in the face :D

  38. Nokia , Why you are so jealous ?? It is time !!! Sadly , you’re going down !!! HTC makes real smart phones , very very better than your garbages !!!

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