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HTC Touch Diamond
If it is are our first take on the HTC Touch Diamond that you are after, then you’ll find it all in our special write-up. The thing is, we are going to omit this part in the today's article, which will be rather a quick run-through, a round-up after a day of quality time with the Diamond. Also we are going to answer some frequently asked questions about the Touch Diamond at the end. Without further ado, here goes.
Casing and materials
The main material employed in the Touch Diamond’s design is plastic – the rear is decked out in snazzy glossy plastic, although its utilitarian merits are thin on the ground (which is something we always grumble about). The back cover is the epitome of “fingerprint-magnet”, plus it will pick up scuffs and scratches with time, which is also a generic trait of this type of surfaces.
But speaking of wear and tear, it is worth noting that with its Diamond HTC is following in the footsteps of Nokia in many ways, offering the market a fashion-conscious solution (even if running Windows Mobile) and realizing that users are very likely to overlook some glitches as long as it retains a unique style and face. The glossy surface is exactly that sacrifice of substance in favor of style.
The complex edgy surface of the rear, contrary to the popular opinion, isn’t just a visual effect – there are numerous facets and edges over there indeed.
The front fascia is composed of a plastic part at the base (the navigation cluster) and glass coating the display, which proves to be quite responsive both when using the stylus and fingers. However, it’s a bit too early to say our final word on its sensitivity – by the Diamond’s release date this parameter may well get tuned in some ways. The side-frame of the phone’s casing is in fact all metal, painted in black.
Another feature of note is the Diamond’s ability to “suck” the stylus in. The implementation doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, however it is certainly questionable. The tip of the stylus is magnetized and inside the silo there is a tiny magnet strip that draws it in whenever you attempt to put the stylus where it belongs. While this setup is handy, make no mistake about that, we have certain doubts about how long it will actually serve the user. Obviously, the magnet is pretty much the only thing that keeps the stylus inside, but it will lose its power with time and therefore its grip won’t be just as firm.
Size-wise, the HTC Touch Diamond raises the bar, and we aren’t exaggerating it by any means. The phone’s casing is so pocketable, that it’d be an insult to compare it to communicators or other Windows Mobile powered devices – it trumps them hands down on this front.
While its dimensions are more or less comparable with those of the Touch, in reality it feels smaller in the hand and its svelte profile puts it in one boat with feature phones. Furthermore, apart from being one of the most diminutive offerings in its class, the Diamond is also among the most miniscule solutions in the Windows Mobile segment, bar the Neonode.
The HTC Touch Diamond is the first device to bring VGA resolution and a 2.8-inch display together – before that moment HTC employed a VGA-enabled screen only in the X7500 and the Universal platform. In terms of quality the Diamond is a head above the competition. We faced it off against some Glofiish devices and found out that despite offering the same specifications (resolution, colors, diagonal), the Diamond’s display looked way better than the Glofiish M800. Probably it will fare just as well against VGA-armed solutions from Gigabyte.
The Touch Diamond’s display also sports great viewing angles, decent color reproduction and brightness – expect more in our in-depth review.
The HTC Touch Diamond employs an updated Qualcomm MSM 7201A platform with the CPU running at 528 Mhz. It doesn’t differ much from the MSM 7200 bar the manufacturing method that has allowed for the leap in the CPU clock rate and lower power consumption.
Now for the platform’s speed, since it carries a VGA display onboard. Again, we will reserve our final judgment until we get hold of a commercial unit, but on the whole, as it is, the Diamond doesn’t seem sluggish at all. The graphics accelerator that was built into the previous version of the chipset hasn’t undergone any changes at all, but the main thing here is that it will be engaged for some applications at last. That is, it makes for speedy top-notch animation in TouchFLO 3D (weather forecast, transitions in the menu, pop-up windows).
For video sessions, as long as you use Coreplayer with support for Qtv, you’ll get pretty good speed too – below are the charts with our preliminary video tests (where the Diamond goes up against the Glofiish M800 that comes equipped with a VGA display as well).
The Diamond ships with 192 Mb of RAM, all system processes eat up to half of that volume, which is why they have dumped the idea of implementing just 128 Mb. With current firmware versions we got around 90 Mb of memory at our disposal and we didn’t count the TouchFLO 3D interface at that (supposedly it takes around 20-30 Mb more to run).
To be frank, we are torn apart by this dilemma – to tell or not to tell. Of course it’s all about the Diamond’s 3D interface. While we want to review it here because TouchFLO 3D sets new standards for Windows Mobile based devices in the perception of the user, on the other hand, it deserves a much more thorough close-up. That why we are going to keep mum on it, being unable to cover all aspects of TouchFLO 3D here, and will rather reserve it for the full version of this review.
One more thing of note, power users won’t find it all that fascinating, all though it makes for much faster and easier access to all basic features of the phone.
Below is a series of video clips showcasing the Diamond’s TouchFLO 3D in action; also they can give you a general idea of the device’s performance, but don’t forget that what we played with was an early engineering sample.
We will go though all traits and feats of the Diamond in detail in our full review, and here we will address some of the hottest questions that have been popping up around the Web.
Sales package. It’s very likely that the Diamond will come in a lackluster package, just like most other offerings from HTC, that is, it will include a headset, charger, data cable and the communicator itself. Extra accessories for the Touch Diamond will include a slip case, desk stand and a more capacious battery that will come with a bigger back cover, that will certainly add a couple of millimeters to its girth.
Performance. Even in the state it is these days, the Diamond is a pretty good performer, being no different from other HTC’s solutions in this department at all (navigation, application start-up time etc.)
Battery time. Many users are currently nervous about the Touch Diamond’s battery time, thinking that it won’t last long on a single charge. While we don’t have enough data on our hands to speak with due confidence as yet, it’s worth mentioning that the Diamond employs a less power-hungry platform, which, in theory, should make up for its low-capacity battery at least partly. On the other hand, it is obvious that the Touch Diamond won’t be a marvel on this front and the fact that the maker is going to realize high-capacity batteries for it is just another proof of that.
The Touch Diamond gets the company as close to the concept of a mass-market Windows Mobile powered device as they have never been before. And if the Diamond will turn out to be a flop for some strange reasons, the next generation model, its follow-up, will be popular for sure.
The truth is, there aren’t that many factors that may hinder the Touch Diamond’s success. Among them are a quite hefty price tag and HTC being a relatively unknown brand (obviously the average user will never put it in one league with Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung). As for the rest, the Diamond is free of almost all constraints and limitations that hampered its predecessors (and defined Windows Mobile a platform for mobile professionals alone).
Already today, judging by the Diamond’s engineering samples, it’s safe to say that HTC has come up with a decent offering – probably, it’s a mixed bag design-wise, but it represents a logical leap forward in all other departments, aimed to hit the mass-market hard and appeal the users outside the circle of Windows Mobile specialists. Honestly speaking, we could hardly imagine the Touch Diamond was a communicator during our quality time with it. “A phone with beefed up functionality” would be a more fitting definition (or, as many users normally call it, a “smartphone”)
We will have a detailed review of the HTC Touch Diamond up in a few weeks. Don’t forget to check back for more!
Published 14 May 2008
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