HTC has developed into one of the most exciting phone companies in the world. The relatively small Taiwanese company has worked with Microsoft and Google's operating systems to produce some of the best handsets we have ever seen. It's latest batch of phones includes the HTC Legend, a successor to the much-loved HTC Hero and the first HTC phone to feature a unibody aluminium casing. Read our review to see if it's worthy of its name.

What we like

The HTC Legend's unibody aluminium casing sits perfectly next to an aluminium Apple MacBook (pictured below). There's something about a single piece of metal that inspires a sense of quality and solidness, unmatched by plastic-based handsets. The Legend looks refined, it feels superb and yet it's not a flashy phone. Simple things are beautiful and the Legend is a minimalist work of art.

These days it's not enough that a phone looks good though, it has to deliver a good user experience too and fortunately the HTC Legend doesn't disappoint. The Legend's 3.2-inch AMOLED screen is incredibly vivid and responsive - it also supports multi-touch gestures. HTC swapped the Hero's trackball for an optical joystick that works well and every button and port is well-placed and well-designed.

All of HTC's new Android phones run the updated Sense interface, which makes Android a lot easier to digest. Sense contains useful widgets, for example, that allow you to access information really quickly. You can see weather updates, contacts, tweets and various other bits of information by simply flicking through through your customisable home screens.

A new Sense feature called 'leap' allows you to pinch the screen and see all your home screens in one go, which is really useful and something we'd love to see on the iPhone. HTC has also created a new widget called 'friend stream', which combines Twitter, Facebook and Flickr into an easy-to-view stream. You can use friend stream to reply to messages in Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to do more than update your various social networks, the Legend's web browser works as well as the iPhone's browser with the added benefit that it runs Adobe Flash 10.1 - flash videos don't always play very smoothly though. Being able to pinch in to zoom on web pages is great and copying text from web pages involves simply clicking on and selecting the desired text.

Depending on how you hold the Legend, the screen will automatically change from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa. When you're typing out an email or text message the keypad also switches orientation depending on how you're holding the handset, which is very handy. The Legend's on-screen keypad is one of the best we've ever used - similar to the iPhone, each key pops up so that you know you've hit the right one.

The Legend's music player pumps out a decent level of bass and sounds good compared to other mobile music players. The proprietary headphones come with an in-line remote to control your music but they're not great headphones unfortunately. You can connect your own headphones to the built-in 3.5mm headphone jack, which is what we did and it made a huge difference to sound quality.

Other features that kept us drooling include the Legend's GPS which worked well with Google Maps, and HSDPA which allowed us to browse the web with relative speed while we were out and about.

What we don't like

There isn't much we don't like about the Legend but it's not a perfect phone. For starters the 5-megapixel camera doesn't deliver an incredible picture, it's not bad but it's not better than the iPhone 3GS's 3-megapixel camera, which is a shame. Another issue that we, and other journalists, found is that Wi-Fi reception wasn't as strong as on certain other handsets, possibly due to the metal enclosure but further testing is required.

HTC has made a huge effort to make Android more user friendly and even created apps for it but the lack of quality Android apps in general is a downer. In the future we hope to see lots of cool Android apps but at the moment the Android market isn't bursting with as many good apps as you can get on the iPhone. We think that this is a short term issue but one worth mentioning.

Conclusion
The HTC Legend is our favourite HTC device to date. Yes, the Nexus One and incoming HTC Desire boast faster processors and larger screens than the Legend, and some people will say it's just a slightly better version of the Hero - but it's more than that. This is a phone made with love and attention, it's beautiful and it delivers a great user experience. We like it so much that we think it will be one of the phones of the year.