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HTC Desire Z (also called Vision) review

Not long after I bought my HTC Desire the Desire Z popped onto the scene. I love my Desire. It’s probably the best phone I have owned to date. In the past there were so many trade offs that you had to make. The Desire is an incredible device. It’s major short comings are the following (IMHO)
1) no keyboard
2) batter life
3) can’t do edge because of Telus

I’ve been using my device a lot more for entering texts and emails on the go lately and as good as the on screen keyboard is, it is no substitute for a real keyboard. HTC have done a great job and it is as good if not better than the iPhone’s which is saying a lot. It also tries to learn which is good and bad. If your not paying attention and you mistype something you can inadvertently add the misspelling to your dictionary. And auto correct can make you look like an idiot if you don’t pay attention to what it has corrected for you. The lack of a keyboard was THE first and foremost thing I missed with from my G1.

So with that in mind this phone caught my attention and has for a while. So I took a quick look on Kijiji and found that since this device has been on the market for a while there were a number available used. I’ve used ebay in the past, and Craig’s list. This was my first experience with Kijiji and it worked out well. Because I bought it from someone in person I was able to touch the device and have instant gratification. The price also seems to be more reasonable than on ebay.

Right off the bat when you look at this device you see it is far more of a traditional design. Gone are the silly raised chin of the G1 that HTC brought in. This raised chin made finding a case challenging. This one is clean on the front. The ball on the Nexus is raised which also presented challenges for cases. This phone has a flat almost Blackberry like pointer and it works well. So this phone is case friendly.

On the Nexus one HTC went to touch buttons on the front of the device for Home, Back, and menu. They did it poorly in that the pressure you had to use was different than on the rest of the screen leading to constant errors. On the Desire they went to physical buttons and they worked well. The Desire Z has gone back to touch buttons but they have done it right and the pressure is the same as the rest of the screen. All in all I prefer the physical buttons but it’s not a show stopper.

The sliding mechanism on this phone can best be called bizarre. It comes up and then slides open. The up motion means that if you are pushing down while you are trying to slide it will not open. Once open the keyboard is quite usable but a few of the keys are in odd places so it will take some getting use to. The back lighting on the keyboard does not come on as often as I like making it hard to find the keys some times. The sliding mechanism looks like it might be frail while it’s transitioning from up to down so one needs to be careful.

The track point has a nice light around it that glows when a call comes in. Shame it does not do the same for emails. The sole LED on the front of the screen flashes for all incoming notifications but can not be different colors (always green). On the Desire it went Blue for texts which was nice. It does go orange for low battery and red for critical battery.

The unit is heavy. 180g Vs 135 or 33% heavier and it is noticeable. This thing is solid. The added mass means when it falls it’s going to be a bigger thud. Drops will likely lead to dints in the case.

The screen is pretty much the same as the Desire. While not as visually stunning as say a Smasung Vibrant (good name Samsung) but it is crisp and clear.

One of the things I didn’t like about the Desire but was a nit pick was the back door. Since this unit can chew threw batteries at an alarming rate I always carried a spare battery. So this meant once or twice a week I changed the battery. The back battery door on the desire ALWAYS feels like you could break it. Not a good feel at all. The door on the Desire Z is much nicer and is solid metal. A welcome improvement. The battery on the Desire was the same one as the Nexus one so very available. The Desire Z however is a unique battery.

The top of the phone near the speaker has a VERY sharp edge. So sharp it feels like it could cut. No idea if that is unique to my phone or all Desire Z’s.

The phone comes with the usual assortment, an average headset with forward, reverse and play/pause on it. Still no volume control. You have to go back to the phone for the volume control. The headset is reasonably comfortable and sounds ok. You also get a Micro USB cable and a AC USB charger that seems like a direct rip from Apple’s iPhone charger, which is not a bad thing.

On ebay I had no problem finding accessories for the device. Everything from an extra life battery, spare batteries, custom car holder, desk cradle etc. All reasonably priced and very available. A benefit to not having bought this phone when it first came out.

The phone is carried exclusively by Bell (my Desire was from Telus and exclusive to them). The phone works on the same 850/1900 3G frequencies that Rogers/Fido use. A quick trip by ebay got me an unlock code for $25.

Spec wise the device is an improvement on the Desire in all but one area. The processor is 800MHZ Vs 1G. So far I can feel the slower speed but it is more than usable.

The device comes with 1.9G of ROM Vs 512M on the Desire so there is lots of room for storing programs. Top this off with the ability in Android 2.2 to install to SD card and this puppy is just itchin for apps.

You can add a micro SD card to expand it, as with the Desire it is located behind the battery so you have to power it off to change it. Not a great choice.

WIFI is upgraded to support N.

Camera is the same 5 Mp as the desire but it seems to be crisper, likely a software improvement.

The version of HTC Sense UI is slightly newer so some nice improvements.

The software load from Bell is quite reasonable with lots of nice programs added. Live wallpapers from the Nexus on are also on the device.

Bell and Telus do not have an Edge or 2G data network. Theirs is CDMA. They use only 3G. On my Telus this meant there was no way to set the phone to only use 2G which can save a ton of battery life. Oddly on the Desire Z I have the 2G actually works! Improving battery life, dramatically. The battery on the Desire Z is 1300 MaH Vs 1400 for the Desire. Battery life seems similar which is not great. It’s the Achilles heal of these phone from HTC. Oddly the Samsung Vibrant is SIGNIFICANTLY better according to my colleagues. I am lucky to get a day out of mine. He gets almost 2. Wow. The Desire Z gets under a day on a battery on 3G, but backed off to Edge I can get well over day.

They have moved the power button onto the same side as the iPhone. Of course now I got use to it being on the other side with the Desire 🙂

They have happily included an additional button on the side of the phone which can be used for the camera or anything else you want to assign it to. Extra buttons are always handy.

The quick menu on the device includes restart! A welcome feature. Sometimes it’s the little things.

All in all this is an amazing device. A nice incremental improvement on devices of the past. There is nothing revolutionary or startlingly better on this device. But it works well. The keyboard really does fill in a nice missing piece. So far I quite like the device. I have to say this now displaces the Desire as my all time favorite phone! I can’t get over the pace of improvement. I can not imagine going back to all the limitations of an iPhone!

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February 4, 2011 - Posted by | Android

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