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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

HTC Touch Diamond Review

To take the HTC Touch Diamond seriously, you’d have to consider that it’s meant to take on the tired and flawed reigns of the Windows Mobile platform rather than become yet another iPhone alternative. For what is meant to be the culmination of the Touch series’ form and function, the Diamond is decidedly understated in what is meant to be the most powerful and useable form of Windows Mobile to date.

The specifications certainly do it justice – great spread of available memory, a complete set of connectivity features that leave little for want, decent processing power and a spectacular VGA screen. Considering what you’re getting, it’s fairly impressive to be packing all of it in its tiny and light frame, which barely tips the scale at 110 g. It’s sharp angular looks isn’t as uncomfortable in the pants as it looks, as the back of the unit is angled off at the edges, although you’d find little to appreciate with regards to the diamond-like facet of the rear cover in which the phone gets its name from. It should also be said that the Diamond’s smooth surface is a fingerprint magnet, and no surface on the unit is safe from it, but that is something most people can live by, and users can take solace in the fact that build quality is sturdy.

Sporting a new TouchFlo Today screen this time around (named TouchFlo 3D), it’s certainly a quantum leap forward in usability and eye candy. Frequently accessed phone functions such as the calendar and contacts can be pulled up by scrolling across the function tab indicated by large icons or swiping your finger across the screen, something in which Touch users will be familiar with. It’s certainly a far easier system to use on a daily basis, and the smooth integration of finger swipes within system functions outside of the Today screen is a big step forward towards capturing approval for the Windows Mobile platform, examples include the ability to scroll by swiping your finger up or down the screen or look at the next email simply by swiping your fingers towards the left of the screen.

One of the biggest improvements to be seen in the Diamond is the inclusion of Opera 9.5, which tightly integrates double tapping to zoom in on web pages and utilizing the Diamond’s built-in accelerometer in effortlessly switching to landscape mode. Rendering is admittedly fast for a Windows Mobile device, and while there is nothing particularly spectacular to be said about it on paper, it is certainly something you will need to personally experience to fully appreciate the web experience this time around. All this is rounded up by the spectacular VGA screen, which goes a long way in keeping small text very crisp and legible.

192 MB of user memory affords the Diamond a lot more headroom to play with, and system performance is certainly nifty, although that takes a hit when it comes to the TouchFlo 3D system. As much as we’d like it, the new looks is offset by its poor performance in rendering and transitioning to new screens, and you will find yourself waiting for the system to respond with a request even when there is nothing running in the background. While the Diamond sports decent specifications, it just isn’t able to keep up with TouchFlo 3D at times, and its onset of sluggishness remains as HTC’s demon in envisioning iPhone-esque usability that tries to be as fast.

Perhaps the biggest downside to all of this is the fact that the Diamond is crippled with an incomprehensibly low battery capacity. At 900 mAh, the Diamond’s many connectivity options and VGA screen will not give you more than a day of usage under even the most moderate of use, and if you’re operating on 3G most of the time, expect standby time to fall even shorter. This will indeed by the deal breaker for most, as all of the Diamond’s wondrous features will not mean a thing if it does not last long enough for users to enjoy it on the road. HTC attempts to offset this by including a second battery in the package, but the lack of a car charger for use with GPS is a glaring omission. It should also be said that the speaker volume for the Diamond is downright unusable, and its low volume makes in car driving difficult as you would need to hold the device close to your ears to be able to hear what the tiny speaker is trying to output.

All said and done, the Diamond is quite possibly the most rounded off Windows Mobile device you can find, and if you were to exclude TouchFlo 3D, the Diamond perform well under pressure in a very small and light frame. Its exquisite VGA screen is a joy to view, and Touch integration certainly makes this the most useable Wndows Mobile 6.1 device to date, but the low battery capacity threatens to offset all of that, so careful usage of power is recommended. At a time where everything is judged against the iPhone, the HTC Touch Diamond is a refreshing, albeit flawed take at PDA usability – consider pricing and battery performance as your final purchasing decision.

HTC Touch Diamond Review

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