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HTC HD7 Product Reviews

High Technology Product Reviews | Trends and News | HTC HD7 Product Reviews
The first Windows Phone for T-Mobile, the HTC HD7 ($199 with contract) is a big, beautiful device well-suited for media and gaming. Like AT&T's Samsung Focus ($199, 4 stars), it steps out of the way to let Windows Phone 7's beautiful graphic design take center stage. But the HD7 still needs a few improvements, and we still recommend T-Mobile's more mature Android devices over this first-generation Windows phone.

Physical Features and Call Quality
The HD7's defining feature is its huge, 800-by-480, 4.3-inch LCD screen. It's big, all right, but it's no higher-resolution than any other Windows Phone 7 screen (even those that are physically smaller), and it's dimmer than the Samsung Focus's AMOLED screen. The phone itself is big at 4.8 by 2.7 by 0.4 inches (HWD), but not quite as big as Verizon's huge Motorola Droid X ($199, 4.5 stars). At 5.7 ounces, it's plenty hefty as well.

Specifications
Service Provider
T-Mobile
Operating System
Windows Phone 7
Screen Size
4.3 inches
Screen Details
800-by-480 TFT LCD capacitive touch screen
Camera
Yes
Network
GSM, UMTS
Bands
850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100
High-Speed Data
GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA
Processor Speed
1 GHz
Reception was average on the HD7—it's a good voice phone, but not a great one. The earpiece and speakerphone are both clear, though the speakerphone could be a bit louder. Bits of background noise come through the mic, but not much; voices sound very clear. The phone connected to our Aliph Jawbone Icon ($99, 4 stars) Bluetooth headset easily, made clear calls, and activated the accurate, easy-to-use TellMe-powered voice dialing.

Talk time, at 4 hours and 3 minutes in 3G mode, was acceptable but not great for a 3G device.

The HD7 is a 3G, HSPA 7.2 phone that works on T-Mobile's and foreign networks; it also has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. While I got strong download speeds of 1.6-2Mbps using the DSLReports.com speed test suite, it was very disappointing that the HD7 doesn't support T-Mobile's new "4G" HSPA+ network. T-Mobile is advertising the higher HSPA+ speeds heavily, and it's frustrating to see a supposedly top-of-the-line smartphone that doesn't use the carrier's fastest network.

Like all of the first-run Windows phones, the HD7 does not offer a Wi-Fi hotspot or tethering option. That's a pity, especially since T-Mobile just introduced an affordable tethering plan, and even much lower-end phones like the $9.99 T-Mobile Comet feature hotspot mode now.

OS, Web, and Apps
The HTC HD7 runs Windows Phone 7, and for now, all Windows Phone 7 handsets work pretty much the same. They all have first-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 1 Ghz processors, 800-by-480 screens, and the same interface of "live tiles." For more about the OS itself, check out our full review of the Windows Phone 7 OS.

T-Mobile and HTC add a few extra apps to the HD7, of course. T-Mobile adds Telenav GPS naigation, Slacker radio, T-Mobile TV, Netflix, and Family Room. See below for discussion of the two streaming video apps. Family Room is an interesting app which lets ad-hoc groups share a group calendar and private "chalkboard," but everyone involved has to have a Windows Phone 7 device—it would be much better if the app supported Android phones as well. HTC adds HTC Hub, with its 3D weather display and custom sub-apps, including a sound equalizer and photo enhancer. The equalizer lets you put Dolby, SRS or various other effects on your audio and video tracks.

I'm happy to see that the Windows Marketplace is filling in nicely, making the HD7 and any other Windows Phone 7 device more compelling. The app store broke 1,000 apps recently, and it's chock-full especially of good-looking casual games from big-name publishers. Frustratingly, though, the HD7 doesn't have carrier billing, which makes it very easy to buy apps on AT&T's Windows Phone 7 devices. Instead, you'll have to add credit card details to your Windows Live account through a Web interface, which adds a few steps to the process.

The HD7 plays Windows Phone's XBOX Live games, using your XBOX Live gamer tag and achievements while playing Windows Phone 7 games. In the future, gamers will be able to play turn-by-turn multiplayer and casual games using the XBOX Live network, on Windows Phone 7 handsets and a variety of other platforms as well. Games look beautiful and smooth, and the 4.3-inch screen gives gaming a bit of a cinematic feel.

Media
Like all Windows Phones, the HD7 is also a Zune. It syncs with the Zune client on PCs to transfer music and video, both of which sound great through wired headphones. There's 16GB of onboard, non-expandable storage, and a kickstand on the back to prop the HD7 at an ideal video-watching angle. The HD7's speaker isn't especially loud, so you have to be in a pretty quiet room or wear headphones to hear anything. Music quality sounded gorgeous through wired or Bluetooth headphones—so good, in fact, that I'm listening to music on the HD7 as I write this review.

Videos looked fine in full screen mode. Frustratingly, though, the sound from videos won't play through stereo Bluetooth headphones—you'll need a wired set.

Bundled with the HD7 are T-Mobile TV and Netflix video streaming apps. Netflix looked terrific, smooth and clear in full screen. T-Mobile TV, which is operated by MobiTV, had more problems. While it has a great selection of major-network TV shows and live channels, video was often intensely blocky and low-resolution.

The HD7's camera has some serious problems. Still images often looked a bit out of focus, with visible compression halos and horrible blur in low light. While the HD7 says it takes 720p video, HD video was jerky to the point of being unwatchable indoors, and had an occasional pulsing autofocus problem outdoors. Ratcheting down the video resolution to 640x480 fixed the video problems, but the still images still looked much too soft.

Conclusions
The HTC HD7 is a big, good-looking phone, and Windows Phone 7 is a great-looking OS. But the HD7 falls behind our Editor's Choice, the T-Mobile myTouch 4G ($199, 4 stars), on a range of measures. The myTouch 4G has faster Internet speeds, a newer and faster processor, Wi-Fi hotspot mode, a front-facing camera, a better main camera, really awesome voice commands, and more. The myTouch 4G is just a better phone all around.

Of all the current Windows Phone 7 devices, we like the Samsung Focus on AT&T best for its expandable memory, smooth form, better camera, and stunning Super AMOLED screen. We're also holding out to check out the Dell Venue Pro, an intriguing Windows Phone for T-Mobile with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. The HD7 is the first chapter in the Windows Phone 7 story at T-Mobile, and it's an interesting tale, but we're waiting to hear more.

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