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HTC Desire Z Review

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The HTC Desire Z is one of two follow ups to the phenomenally successful HTC Desire. The Desire Z packs the same size screen (3.7-inches) and the same resolution camera (5-megapixels) but comes with a nifty slide-out Qwerty keypad and improved HTC Sense features. Read on to see if this smartphone sequel is more The Empire Strikes Back than The Matrix Reloaded.


What we like

We love the effort that has gone into the presentation of the HTC Desire Z. Everything about the handset gleams, from the etched metal accents of its body and the polished touchscreen to the icon designs and menu layouts.

The layouts of the camera app and default browser are minimal with menus kept out of the way as much as possible. This gives you maximum screen space dedicated to taking your picture or viewing web pages.

The HTC Desire Z’s camera comes with a load of Hipstamatic-style artistic effects like vignette, vintage warm and posterize. While you can achieve similar effects with camera apps from the Android Market it’s nice to see this kind of thing included as standard.

Other noteworthy features of the camera include a tap to focus function ( focus on specific items or faces in a shot by tapping on the touchscreen) and automatic face detection software. On top of all this there’s a comprehensive array of camera controls (exposure, contrast, saturation, white balance and ISO).

Web pages look really crisp on the standard browser and scale to fit the Desire Z’s 3.7-inch screen quickly. Pictures and text sometimes appear a bit jagged and jerky when you pinch to zoom in or out but they quickly adjust themselves. Long pressing on any block of text on an article loads up a little square magnifying glass which is helpful when selecting specific phrases that you want to copy to the clipboard.

The slide-out Qwerty keypad pops open nicely and locks securely into place. The keys have a rubbery feel making them easy to grip and type with. We like that there are shift and function keys on either side of the keypad; this means that you can hold down shift for upper/lower case and select symbols using either hand. Perhaps best of all, the Qwerty pad doesn’t really bulk out the HTC Desire Z much. It’s really not that much bigger than the original Desire depth-wise. There really isn’t anything bad to say about the keyboard at all.

Similar to the original HTC Desire a quick tap of the menu key activates ‘leap mode’ allowing you to quickly jump between any of the Desire Z’s seven homescreens. This is a really useful feature so we’re glad to see it returning here.

Along with the HTC Desire HD, the Desire Z is one of the HTC phones that launches alongside the newly launched HTCSense.com wesbite. This is the first handset we’ve reviewed that makes use of this so we’re going to talk a little bit about it here.

With HTCSense.com you can browse for Android apps from your computer and, if you’ve misplaced your phone, search for it via Google Maps and make it ring on maximum volume.

You can’t buy apps directly from your desktop a la iTunes, but by clicking on an app it’ll send a download link to your Desire Z and you can proceed from there. As Android doesn’t have an equivalent of iTunes and MobileMe that’s available to iPhone users, it’s great to see a handset manufacturer attempting to do more with Android.

There’s also the HTC Hub and HTC Likes; these are recommendation apps that allow you to download a range of custom wallpapers, widgets and skins from HTC and recommended apps and games from the Android Market.

We’ll be honest, there’s a lot of pretty awful apps and wallpapers out there on the Market. So it’s nice to see a recommendations system in place for first timers who don’t know where to start with Android apps.


What we don’t like

Like the original HTC Desire, we found that the HTC Desire Z is a very hungry caterpillar battery-wise. Daily charges are an absolute must. You’d be able to get away with charging it from your computer if you work in an office but if you don’t, or will be out of office for a day or so, this is something you’ll need to keep an eye on.

While we love all the additions HTC has brought to Android with HTC Sense.com and the HTC Hub we feel that Android veterans will feel a bit bemused by all of these extra bells and whistles. Vanilla Android is something of a blank canvas on which you can scrawl your own designs. An Android phone with HTC Sense is something more like paint by numbers (albeit a very nice paint by numbers).

In getting things like HTCSense.com and the HTC Hub to work you’ve got to set up an HTC Sense account. You’ll need to set up a Google Account to get started in the first place. Then, if you want to buy apps from the Android Market, you’ve got to enter credit or debit card details into your Google Checkout account. To get cracking with HTCSense.com you’re being asked to register details a third time. First-time Android users, the people who’d most benefit from something like HTCSense.com, might be put off by all this registering.

Lastly, we found that the HTC Desire Z’s screen wouldn’t always automatically rotate between portrait and landscape. We think that this could be something to do with our review model, which is why we’re mentioning it last in this section.


Conclusion

The Desire Z is another great Android phone from HTC. It’s got a beautiful design, the Qwerty keypad works well and the powerful 5-megapixel camera comes with a decent range of settings. First-time smartphone users will find the extras available from HTCSense.com useful but it might put off experienced Android users. Battery life isn’t great but so long as you charge your phone daily this won’t be a problem.

Specification

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