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HTC Desire Z in use


  1. Introduction
  2. Design and Materials
  3. Display
  4. Ergonomics
  5. Keypad and Localization
  6. Performance
  7. HTC Sense
  8. Modding
  9. Music
  10. Video
  11. Camera
  12. Accessories
  13. Battery Life
  14. Impressions


For me HTC started from Universal the phone also known as Qtek 9000, iMate JasJar, Dopod 900 etc. Almost 300 g in weight, an excellent back then swivel 3.5" VGA screen, but, most importantly, the form factor of a laptop: two loudspeakers covered with metal grills, an excellent key pad, rubber feet, the fastest processor to date and so on. I still have warm feelings towards this device despite the fact that I never actually owned one.

From any point of view HTC has also had brilliant hardware. Unlike other manufacturers HTC has always been associated with smartphones and communicators Ц and this might be the reason why smartphones geeks love this brand. Amazing how in just a few years an ODM manufacturer has turned into one of the biggest players on the market. The credibility of the company in Russia is especially high and it is well grounded Ц just look at the latest announcements! All the products are "delicious", attractive with a business like design. Another important issue is the prices. In my opinion, Desire is one of the most attractive phones as of today. At least three people I know have bought it because I had recommended it to them Ц and it seems they are all happy with it.

I did not expect much from Desire Z since I had used its predecessor. Nonetheless, I have a lot of impressions and I think we shall start:

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Design and Materials

I very much like the form factors of the new HTC phones Ц Desire Z, Desire HD. These phones demonstrate very well that meticulous work has been carried out in every aspect. Take, for example, the rear panel. It opens by a special slider that unlocks two latches. Next to them is a special contraption that kicks the panel out of the slot. The panel is metal. On the top side it has textured vertical lines. At the top of it there is the loudspeaker hole covered by metal grill and the HTC logo below it.

As compared to Desire where you almost had to tear off the panel here it comes off easily and quietly. You can rarely see such a construction because it costs a hefty sum but in this case the manufacturer is not trying to save at your expense.

In my phone there was a little wobbling of the back panel in the bottom right corner but, as far as I know, this was a problem of my specimen only.

The main material of the body is gray Soft Touch plastic Ц very pleasant to touch. And the phone stays firm in your hand.

The front side features a metal rim around the glass that adds certain smartness to the phone's looks and makes it different. Below the screen there are the four usual buttons, below them is the black square of optic joystick with a shiny plastic rim.

The phone's appearance immediately leaves a print in your memory and the phone stands out on the shelves among other devices Ц the pleasant ascetic style, the unisex palette of colors (gray, metal, black) will go well with any outfit and will look appropriate at any social event.

Before me the phone has been tested by three other reviewers Ц a test not every phone can survive. But its body carries practically no traces of the turmoil it has gone through. The cover glass of the screen looks perfect except for one tine scratch (it was probably a durability test), which is, by the way, cannot be seen while the screen is on. I cannot find any other damage and his stands for the very high quality of the materials. The back panel has a few worn spots but they are almost invisible. It turns out the back panel is finished with some varnish that will eventually scale off. It is quite easy to scratch off the varnish with your nail or even remove it completely Ц then the cover becomes even shinier. How quickly will the varnish go off depends entirely on your treatment of the device Ц but it usually takes about six months. I am not sure whether this good or bad. On the one hand, worn spots on the back panel is not good a good thing. On the other hand, they are practically invisible and the varnish protects the metal for some time. Anyhow, varnished metal is money that could be used on something else, but in this case the manufacturer decided to think more about the users.

As for the rest the phone is in mint condition. I expected that the rim around the camera would wear off but it didn't.

The soft touch plastic holds well. I may conclude that this is one of the most durable devices I have ever tested. You can rest assured: even after a year or two it will still look good (if you treat it nice, of course).

During the test the phone did not experience any severe accidents except for once when it fell down in the subway Ц it fell down on the screen and I presumed the screen was totaled but it was not, as a matter of fact, it did not receive any damage at all. The thing is, the metal rim around the screen is a bit elevated - you do not notice it when you use the phone but it allows you to put the phone on the table with the screen facing down and not be afraid it will get scratched.

Let's have a look at the opening mechanism. Many people some why doubt its reliability. I can assure you that it is very durable and will last for many years. There are special little rubber dampers inside that compensate the clasping of the two halves. The clasping sound itself is very pleasant and reminds the sound of a closing macbook Ц and, honestly, I have been abusing this contraption. I open it with excessive force to make it clasp harder Ц and still there is no wobbling problem. Though, yes, there is some wobbling but it is minimal and unnoticeable when you use the phone. I will remind you that this phone has been tested for many months.

I can present my interim conclusion that the quality and solidity of this phone is almost perfect. It does not have any thin bendy plastic; it does not wobble or creak. All the materials are of very high quality, and the sliding mechanism is very durable. I will repeat once more Ц it is one of the most solid and expensive makes on the Android market. In the age of light plastic briquettes Desire Z proudly stands out.

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I am quite used to screens like this and they do not impress me anymore Ц but I will never myself a phone with the resolution lower than WVGA Ц I have got too used to it. All in all, the screen is nice, bright, with vivid colors and I am glad it is not a Super AMOLED or PenTile. It works great with YouTube videos, movies, pictures and so on. It is responsive and easily operated. Fingers immediately leave prints on the screen but are can also be easily wiped off. Briefly Ц I have no complaints.

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Ergonomics and Working Experience

To asses these qualities I always consider the size and the weight and they are as follows:

  Ўирина ¬ысота √лубина ¬ес, грамм
HTC Desire Z 60 119 14 180
Motorola Milestone 60 116 14 169

As compared to Motorola Milestone it is a tiny bit thicker and heavier. But Milestone sits worse in hand because of its sharper angles. Desire Z has a better streamlined body offering better grip that improves the general perception of the phone.

As to the weight of the phone Ц opinions differ. In my opinion it is not excessive and is adequate to the size. The phone feels more expensive because of the weight. It fits nice in a pants pocket partly thanks to the streamlined rear side. However, it is inconvenient to have it in your shirt pocket.

The camera button is placed very conveniently Ц not too far and not too close to the edge but just where it needed. But I cannot say it is very informative.

The sensor buttons at the front side work fine. I cannot recall whether they have ever missed responding. I practically did not use the optic joystick and I do not think it is necessary in this kind of devices. However, the phone could certainly do with a mechanical navigation button.

The first Desire had a rather sensible power button and I often had unwanted pressings while putting it in my jeans. There is no such problem in the Z. The power button works fine though it could also be more informative.

I am not happy with the sound volume of the loudspeakers. The ringtone loudspeaker has an average volume and you have to pick tunes to make it louder Ц however, it may not help you in public transport.

The call loudspeaker is really good but has too little margin. There is also another issue: the maximum volume spot is very small Ц if you move a bit sideways the volume gets much lower. I had to get used to this for a couple of days Ц I had to learn to hold the phone "the right way". Afterwards I had no problems Ц a habit is assumed very quickly.

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Keypad and Localization

Historically QWERTY solutions were popular only on selected markets. Around four years ago a traditional phone keypad was enough, because phones were used predominantly for calls and SMS. Business solutions were numerous largely in North America being produced by Blackberry and Palm. People with TYTN 2 or Nokia E90 always stood out from the crowd. In many countries you now have to choose only between HTC Desire Z, Motorola Milestone or Sony Ericsson X10 mini Pro. Similar devices on Symbian are difficult to find, WM is dead, while Windows Phone is likely to enjoy significant sales only in the US. Milestone (Droid) was launched as early as 2009, so our model under review has not many rivals on the QWERTY field. Automatically, Desire Z becomes the best solution in the segment. In this case the keypad is really nice. Buttons are large enough for convenient pressing. Add a dedicated key for the language switch, large space button, Enter, Tab and Shift to make for a nice keypad experience.

We cannot ignore two idle buttons, which can be associated with an application or special symbols. The localization is fine, especially as soon as Desire Z is one of the rare few similar offerings on some markets.

Ergonomically speaking, buttons are decent too. You do not have to press them too hard, but the click is not vivid. The distance between buttons is optimal and mistakes are rare. While using the top row of buttons fingers have enough of space for comfortable operation.

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I anticipated certain problems here. It is not a secret that Desire Z uses an 800 MHz Qualcomm. It is not Snapdragon with its impeccable reputation. Moreover, the clock speed is 20% lower, but in everyday life there is not much difference between Desire and Desire Z. The only complaint is that the videos are not always played well in the browser. In a standalone YouTube app there were no issues with the video speed though. The RAM is 512 MB, which is more than enough for all purposes including "heavy" 3G games. We should separately mention the amount of permanent memoryЦ 1.5 GB. The original Desire had the same 512 MB and it was not enough. Luckily, we can now capitalize on the feature of moving apps to memory cards. Before I had to uninstall games to use new ones. Desire Z does not have such a problem. The amount of memory is enough not to bother with transferring files to cards.

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HTC Sense

Apart from hardware success HTC must be complimented for coming up with interesting software. The accolade obviously goes to HTC Sense. It is an open secret that best virtual keypads for Android are developed by HTC. The same epithets can be used for their dialer. A weather forecast widget became a benchmark. Its copies can be found in many Bada devices. In Android Market we can see numerous analogues from other companies, which copy original HTC solutions. Owners of Motorola, Samsung and LG handsets install these apps independently, which confirms the success of HTC in the area. It is encouraging to see HTC moving in this direction and I hope one day we will get the OS from HTC. As to the use of the Sense in real life I have to start with desktop themes. Several clicks allow you selecting any theme out of available 10. They can be changed every day depending on your mood. This operation takes several seconds.

Then come widgets. I use only calendar, calculator, weather forecast with the clock and shares fluctuations (I do not know why, but I check them out daily).

If you open the status bar the latest run apps are displayed at the top. It is quite handy that you do not have to go back to the home screen.

I am not sure if it is connected with HTC Sense, but there is a fast start option available from settings. As we know Android phones do not work for too long from one charge and the power use is an urgent issue. Courtesy of the abovementioned option the phone starts in 1 second and can be switched off within 5 seconds. I use this feature when the battery is running low. When I enter the subway I disable the phone and turn it on when I emerge from the underground. It helped me on many occasions. I think it represents 10% of the shell peculiarities. I have not described Peep Twitter client, inbuilt translation tool, widgets for social networks, wonderful night clock, phone location with the help of a PC and many other things.

I cannot say that all additions I mentioned are musts, but they help to enjoy the use of a handset.

I have to draw your attention to another fact too. The apps list in Android looks gloomy without add-ons. The only filter is the alphabetic sorting, which is not always ideal. You cannot locate icons where you want or change the list. Samsung and LG have already solved this issue and it would be nice to see alterations in the next version of SenseMe. An inbuilt utility for screenshots would be welcome too.

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I use the full access to the files system for different purposes, but the key one is making screenshots. With Desire Z I ran into unexpected trouble and had to downgrade the software to 1.34, disable the protection, receive the necessary rights and update the firmware again. I managed to succeed, but the task happened to be too arduous. There are only three "custom" pieces of firmware for the model including CyanogenMOD 7. I cannot recommend any of them, because any "custom" software is error prone and the most interesting CyanogenMOD 7 wastes the battery power. The operation time goes down dramatically. And finally not every independent firmware has HTC Sense (many people get rid of it on purpose). "Custom" firmware can be recommended only to experienced users, who know what they are doing and see the point in the procedure.

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Despite a decent interface in all HTC handsets they do not play music well similarly to other Android devices. Samsung Wave can do the same task much better. Desire Z can replace a player only for music fans with extremely low requirements. Nevertheless, it can be used for podcasts. The sound quality will be enough for this.

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The results are excellent here with the processor speed handling unconverted video easily. Move files to a memory card and it is ready to go. A 3.7″ screen is good enough for the video playback. You can watch video when travelling, but do not forget about the battery.

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Android phones are not made for taking pictures and Desire Z is not an exception, though you can add various effects.

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I sincerely believe that protective film for modern phones is a waste of effort and money, but some still use it. An original accessory will cost around $20-30.

A battery cover can be replaced for around $50.

A spare battery will be handy, but it costs $70, which is a bit too much.

Some users may be interested in purchasing a DLNA multimedia module. It helps to watch phone or PC content on a TV screen. The connection is obviously wireless. The price is $140.

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Battery Life

During the first several days the battery became dead by 6 pm, though I charged it until 8 am. This was caused by heavy use and active Skype app, which consumes a lot of power. After a week the use intensity went down, while Skype was uninstalled. After that one charge was enough for a day and a half. My daily routine was 20 minutes of calls, 2-3 short messages, two mail boxes with push mail option (10-20 messages a day), Twitter (checking for new messages every 15 minutes), GTalk and a lot of web surfing. I was satisfied with the operation time, which considerably exceeds that of the original Desire and almost equals Motorola Milestone.

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My conclusions will be straightforward. Desire Z is one of my current favorites among Android devices. Wonderful materials, solid build, HTC Sense, which improves the Android interface a lot, good operation times and impressive screen. In October of last year I was glad to have Desire, but now I appreciate Desire Z more. I could not find serious weaknesses. The model is good for everyday use and dealing with various tasks. I recommend it to users looking for a QWERTY solution and a durable phone. This summer HTC will release a firmware with Android 2.3 to boost the operation speed and add features. I expect new themes for the interface to appear as well. The official price is $870, but it does not look excessive due to excellent materials. You can purchase the model online for $600, which is a bargain, so do not hesitate if you feel like buying it as Desire Z is a perfect choice.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion to be known to the author and everybody else.

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Alexey Ikonnikov (ikonnikovalexey@yandex.ru)
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 23 March 2011

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