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HTC Touch Diamond review

HTC Touch Diamond review
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Successor of the Touch, HTC Touch Diamond is also Windows Mobile Professional smartphone in candybar design. It features a VGA screen, 528MHz Qualcomm CPU, Windows Mobile 6.1, GPS, WiFi, HSDPA and HSUPA for 3G connectivity, a 3-megapixel camera, an accelerometer and next generation TouchFLO.
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Review On : HTC Touch Diamond
Review by Tan Kit Hoong
With the Touch Diamond, HTC packs a lot of features into a very small package, and wraps it all up in a pretty TouchFLO 3D interface.

FIRST there was the plain old HTC Touch, a slim but quite functional Pocket PC phone device. The thing about the HTC Touch was that it featured the proprietary TouchFLO interface, which was an attempt at making the plain Windows Mobile interface into something a little more sexy and functional.

Now HTC is back with the next generation, the HTC Touch Diamond.



Apart from being a slimmer and even sexier machine, the Touch Diamond addresses most of the shortcomings of the Touch (and its sibling, the Touch Dual) by adding in HSDPA, GPS, WiFi, a 3.2-­megapixel camera as well as a very high-resolution 2.8in 480 x 640-pixel screen.

However, the main talking point really, is the funky new interface which HTC has added to the Touch Diamond, which they call the TouchFLO 3D interface.

Inevitably, with an interface that tries to be really funky and/or ­innovative there’ll be comparisons to the iPhone. And yes, we’ll deal with that at the end of this review.

Multi-faceted

The first thing you’ll notice is that the Touch Diamond is a really ­stylish device — a lot of thought went into the Touch Diamond’s Design, from the multi-faceted back to the gently pulsating lights when you receive an SMS and of course the TouchFLO 3D interface.

Size-wise the Diamond feels ­really good — just the right width and thickness for its size, and with a nice heft that makes the phone feel like a very high-quality device in the hand.

Unfortunately, the finish is very glossy so it’ll really attract ­fingerprints, especially on the smooth black back.



MAGNETIC SILO, HIDDEN STYLUS: The HTC Touch Diamond's stylus is so well integrated with the design of the back of the device that it looks just like part of the multi-faceted design of the back.

Integrated into the bottom ­right-hand corner of the Touch Diamond is a small, but usable stylus — the stylus actually stays inside its silo using magnetic attraction, which actually works better than ­­friction-based silos which tend to get loose over time due to wear.

If there’s one word to describe the design of the Touch Diamond then it has to be “minimalist” — on the side there are only volume up and down buttons, and on the top there’s the power switch.

The front is also smooth and has what looks like a single button, but in actual fact four buttons inhabit this area (Home, Back, Call and Hangup) together with an ­integrated directional pad with a hidden surprise.

What’s the surprise, you ask? Well, the directional pad actually performs double duty as a touch-sensitive pad for the zoom feature — in the Opera browser and in the Picture Viewer, drawing a clockwise circle with your fingertip around the outer edge of the centre button of the directional pad actually zooms into a web page or photo, much like an old-style Apple iPod. An anti-clockwise motion zooms back out.



DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: A view of the multi-faceted back design of the HTC Diamond.

In actual use, this works quite well and I was left wishing that the Touch Diamond had implemented this for other uses as well, such as scrolling or navigation, instead of just being confined to the zooming action of a few applications.

The Touch Diamond does NOT have a memory expansion slot — however, it more than makes up for this by having a whopping 4GB of Internal storage for you to play around with. Kudos to HTC for this as it’s now possible to store music and videos right out of the box.

By the way, the Diamond’s 4GB of memory is accessible via Activesync as well as a much faster “Disk Drive” mode which has the device ­recognised as an external storage device instead of a Windows Mobile device. Doing this allows the Diamond to bypass the much ­slower transfer speeds of Activesync so you can transfer files over to the device at true USB 2.0 speeds.

We didn’t get a full boxed version of the Diamond, but we were ­handed an AC adapter and a wired stereo headset that connects via the mini-USB connector on the bottom of the device.

Even these two accessories have not escaped the designers at HTC — when you plug the AC adapter in and turn on the power, the HTC logo appears as a soft white glow ­underneath the shiny black surface of the charger. Even the stereo headset has a design in keeping with the multi-faceted look of the Diamond.

Turn on the device and you’ll be presented with a truly gorgeous screen — although it’s 2.8in like most smartphones today, the Touch Diamond’s screen has a VGA (480 x 640pixels) resolution — that’s a lot of pixels packed into a very small area and as such, makes for REALLY smooth text and photos.

Believe me, I was constantly blown away by how nice graphics and video looked on the Diamond.

Talking about screens, the Diamond also has a light sensor which automatically detects and adjusts screen brightness to suit your environment and also save battery life.

The phone also comes with built-in GPS, although since we didn’t get a full retail package, we can’t confirm whether any GPS Software is bundled with the device.

TouchFLO 3D

Getting right down to the crux of the matter — does the new TouchFLO 3D interface work? Well yes and no.

First the positives — TouchFLO 3D really looks incredible, with ­animations for anything you’re doing. For example, the weather application shows animated clouds and even virtual rain droplets when the forecast is rain, and the whole animation is even topped off with a windscreen wiper which wipes away the droplets!

Even the humble clock has had a makeover, with a retro, flip-style clock that looks really great. In fact, almost nothing escapes HTC’s ­attention in reworking the interface and hiding the dated Windows Mobile interface from the user.

The redesigned interface doesn’t end on the Today screen, however — it goes deeper than that, with most of the commonly accessed settings and programs (such as the wireless connections screen, the SMS ­application and the Picture Viewer) replaced by flashier versions.

The downside is that there’s quite a Performance hit and the whole TouchFLO 3D interface now can’t keep up with the speed at which we NEED to do things — I found that I could click the directional pad a few times and TouchFLO would be lagging behind because it was too busy doing all its funky animation for me.

IMHO, having animation is fine and definitely desirable, but ­certainly should not be at the expense of slowing the whole device down.

In fact, the slowdown of TouchFLO 3D sometimes reached quite ­intolerable levels especially when you have a couple of ­applications open in the ­background. Soon I found myself forcibly closing down apps just to get it back up to speed.

Software

One of the plus points is that HTC has chosen to include the latest Opera Mobile 9.5 browser on the Diamond.

It really improves web browsing a lot compared to Internet Explorer — for one thing, you can view a whole page with formatting and layout intact and then double tap (or make the zoom gesture on the directional pad as mentioned before) to zoom into a particular column you want to see.

Yes, it is a bit like the iPhone, except that Opera 9.5 also supports Adobe Flash and will display all Flash content properly on a page.

Opera 9.5 does a pretty good job of getting a mobile browser to work properly on a tiny screen, although I still feel it doesn’t quite auto-fit the columns right in some situations.

The Diamond also comes with an accelerometer to detect the ­orientation of the device, so when you turn the device sideways, the webpage you’re viewing will also rotate into ­landscape mode. Same goes for viewing photos in the picture viewer.

Amongst the more ­interesting extras that HTC has included in the ROM of the Touch Diamond is a YouTube application which allows you to search, ­bookmark, upload and of course view videos on the popular video-sharing site. The YouTube application is also integrated into Opera and will automatically launch when you tap on a video at the YouTube website.

There’s also a more ­interesting application of the accelerometer in the Diamond — HTC has included a game called Teeter which mimics the famous game where you tilt a board to navigate a metal ball through an maze to reach a particular goal.

The game really shows off what you can do with the accelerometer on the Diamond and the phone even takes advantage of the phone’s vibration mode to give you a little buzz when the ball hits the virtual walls in the maze.

Of course, being a Windows Mobile device, the Diamond comes with all the other Microsoft Office Mobile ­applications — Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint.

The phone bit

With all these flashy features, it’s easy to forget that we’re talking about a phone here, and as such it would be remiss of me not to talk about how the Diamond performs in this area.

As far as audio quality goes, the phone sounds ­pretty good when you put it up to your ear to make calls.

However, the ­speakerphone function isn’t as great — audio quality on the speakerphone is frankly horrendous and there was so much distortion I could ­barely make out (at all volume levels) what the other side was saying. I’m not joking, it was so bad I’d ­usually turn off ­speakerphone and just stick with putting the phone up to my ear or using the wired headset in a call.

Audio is acceptable, ­however, when playing music although there’s a distinct lack of bass and midrange.

What about typing out an SMS? Well, there’s good news and bad news here — the Touch Diamond actually groups your SMS ­conversations together based on the contact so you can see your SMSes arranged much like in a chat client.

I really liked this feature as I’ve often gotten answers to my SMS so long after that I’d already forgotten the ­question! :D

The downside is in the text input — the Touch Diamond comes with a variety of keyboards in addition to the ones built-in to Windows Mobile but none of them really worked satisfactorily for me.

You get a choice of a ­standard T9 alphanumeric input pad, a Compact Qwerty (which groups letters into “QW”, “ER” and “TY” etc) and finally, a full Qwerty keyboard.

The problem with the input methods was mostly because the screen is a tad too small to really make the keys large enough for finger tapping.

In the end, I had to resort to using the old Block Recogniser input method together with the stylus for quick text input.

Battery life on the Touch Diamond is also a little dodgy — in my tests, I started out the morning with a fully charged Diamond, then connected to WiFi to surf the Net for about an hour and then turned off WiFi and used it as a phone the rest of the day.

Even with moderate use (I did a lot of SMSing but very little calling), the phone ran out of juice by about 9pm and spontaneously turned itself off.

I’d have to say that if you’re a heavy user, the phone is likely to turn off before the end of your work day unless you connect it up to a USB port to charge when you’re at the office.

Conclusion

Just like the Touch and the Touch Dual, the Touch Diamond has really taken great strides in making the whole Windows Mobile ­interface a lot nicer to look at, if not necessarily easier to use.

In fact, if the Touch Diamond is anything to go by, HTC will soon get all aspects of the interface down pat.

However, for right now, I have to say that while the Diamond looks really nice, it needs a ­processor boost and a bit more RAM to speed things up so that it can keep up with me.

So while I give HTC top marks for making the effort and for going a lot further with the interface than the original Touch, it still has a long way to go before it gets to the level of the Apple iPhone’s ease-of-use.

Pros: Nice size; TouchFLO 3D interface looks really good.

Cons: TouchFLO 3D slows down when there’s a lot of applications running in the background; battery life could be better; ­speakerphone ­function next to useless.

TOUCH DIAMOND
(HTC Corp)
HSDPA Windows Mobile phone
Camera: 3.2-megapixels autofocus
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
Display: 2.8in VGA (640 x 480pixels) touch-sensitive TFT LCD
Messaging: MMS, SMS, E-mail, MSN Messenger Mobile
Connectivity: Bluetooth, dual-band HSDPA, tri-band GSM
Phone memory: 256MB ROM, 192MB RAM, 4GB internal Flash storage
Expansion slot: None
Battery type: Lithium-ion 900mAh
Standby/talk time: 396 hours/270 minutes
Other features: TouchFLO 3D interface, FM radio, Windows Media Player, Microsoft Office Mobile, Java applications, Opera 9.5 web browser, built-in GPS
Weight: 110g
Dimensions (w x d x h): 51mm x 11.35mm x 102mm
Price: RM2,799
Review unit courtesy of SiS Distribution (M) Sdn Bhd, (03) 5569-8878

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