Let's just get this out of the way first: the HTC Touch HD2 is by far the best Windows Mobile smartphone we've tested. In fact, we'd go as far as saying there is daylight between it and the next best Windows Mobile phone.

Updated, January 7, 2010:

Until the HTC HD2 arrived on the very last day of our tests, the Toshiba TG01 held the distinction of being the largest-screened, chunkiest smartphone we'd tried. The HD2 comes in at a scales-busting 157g - nearly as much as the Nokia N900.

However, unlike that particular device, the HD2 is a well-crafted, fantastic-screened smartphone that, despite its size, manages to exude quality and desirability. In fact, it's so well-assembled that we had real trouble getting inside to insert our SIM.

The 4.3in display is exceptionally fine, packing 480-x-800 pixels into its sensitive capacitive touchscreen. Of all the touchscreen models we tried, the HD2's was the best.

HTC HD2 review

A smart onscreen slider unlocks the screen and prevents you accidentally surfing the web from your handbag. Appointments scheduled, calls missed and messages incoming are notified here, so you don't have to constantly keeping checking for them.

HTC has done a great job with the overlay interface. As with all Windows Mobile devices, what you see onscreen is customisable both by you and the operator, but you'd be hard pushed to improve upon the default settings.

The current date is shown as a large flip-over calendar; the weather is made obvious by a huge sun or by raindrops dripping down the screen. The device automatically checks where you are, so you don't need to keep telling it you're not at home.

This location-aware feature is also used to good effect in both the compass and in Footsteps, where photos are automatically geo-tagged with where you are and saved as digital postcards.

Large, attractive icons offer one-click access to your calendar, messages, albums photo folder, camera and so on.

The Home button takes you to the unadorned and finger-friendly Windows Mobile 6.5 icons. The screen itself, however, is the real star of the show.

Swipe through the sample photos and you'll gawp at the quality. Zooming in and out is a matter of double-tapping. The decent camera has an autofocus and zoom, and even the speaker is above average.

NEXT: Original full review.

Sporting a massive 4.3in display that dwarfs the iPhone in both size and quality, HTC's superb Sense UI and a fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor combine to make the HTC Touch HD2 the most pleasing Windows smartphone we've ever used.

The HTC Touch HD2 has two main strengths: its hardware and HTC's Sense user interface. The Touch HD2's 4.3in capacitive screen is bright, clear and sharp and its performance outshines the iPhone 3GS'. Importantly, it's responsive to touch, though it doesn't handle fingerprints as well as the iPhone.

The HTC Touch HD2 is incredibly thin. Its build quality is superb, with a combination of glass, rock-hard plastic and an aluminium battery cover that doesn't rattle or creak. The dark grey and black finish looks professional and very stylish - it shouldn't just appeal to business users. Our only complaint is the camera lens, which protrudes slightly from the back of the phone and can catch the edge of your pants when you slide it in and out of your pocket.

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A capacitive display means the HTC Touch HD2 doesn't require a stylus to use, so almost all of the interaction involves the touch screen. A row of buttons at the bottom of the display includes answer and end call keys, as well as dedicated home, back and Start keys. The buttons offer next to no travel when pressed and don't provide the best tactility. Aside from perfectly placed volume controls on the left, these are the only physical buttons on the Touch HD2 - which is rather unusual for a Windows phone.

The HTC Touch HD2 has answer and end call keys, and dedicated home, back and Start keys. The buttons match the look and feel of the phone, but don't provide the best tactility.

HTC HD2 review

The HTC Touch HD2 is the first Windows phone to feature HTC's Sense UI, first seen on the Android-based Hero smartphone. Unlike many other interface layers that are often flimsily glued over the Windows Mobile UI, almost every aspect of the standard Windows interface has been upgraded or tweaked. Most of these changes not only look superb, but they make using the Touch HD2 a pleasant experience.

The HTC Touch HD2's home screen has a large flip-style clock and a widget underneath it that displays the current weather. The weather widget is location-based, so it automatically updates as you travel. We also loved the weather theme, which places clouds, rain, or sun in the background of the home screen depending on the current weather forecast. Below the weather icon is a calendar widget that shows the date as well as any upcoming appointments, along with nine customisable shortcuts that can include programs, contacts or Web bookmarks. Three shortcuts appear on the home screen, while swiping up reveals the remaining six.

The rest of the HTC Touch HD2's main functions sit in the familiar tabbed row of icons across the bottom of the screen. You can press down on the active tab and slide your finger left or right across the tabs, or simply tap an icon to select a function. The interface includes people, messages, mail, internet, calendar, photos and videos, music, weather, Twitter, stocks, footprints and settings menus. HTC also provides access to the regular Windows Start menu should you need it, available by tapping the Start button in the top-left corner or pressing the dedicated key below the display.

The most pleasing aspect of the Sense UI is just how responsive it is: normally taxing tasks such as opening the camera application, loading a web page or opening an email message are performed quickly and quietly. There is no lag or slowdown and the overall user experience is immensely satisfying.

Nine customisable shortcuts can include programs, contacts or web bookmarks, while the familiar tabbed row of icons across the bottom of the screen offers access to other key functions including contacts, email and the Web browser.

Text input has long a source of frustration when using Windows Mobile phones, but HTC has nailed it with the HTC Touch HD2. Aided by the large screen, the virtual keyboard is comfortable to type on in both landscape and portrait modes, though we preferred the latter due to the positioning of entire keyboard to the left of the screen in landscape mode. Text correction is excellent and definitely on par with the iPhone, while haptic feedback is helpful for people uncomfortable using a touch-screen keyboard.

The HTC Touch HD2 also includes multitouch, which works in the Web browser, Google Maps and photo applications. You can pinch to zoom in and out, double tap to hone in on a particular area and drag you finger around to move. It's not as slick or smooth as the iPhone, but its pretty damn close.

This is still a Windows Mobile phone though, so it's not perfect. The Sense UI does a great job of hiding the regular Windows interface, which is largely designed for use with a stylus. However, there are still times when you end up using the regular UI - for example, when opening and replying to emails, adding music tracks to HTC's music player, and adjusting advanced settings.

In addition, we'd prefer the main screen of HTC's people menu to display the entire phonebook, as each contact listing integrates not only contact information, but messages, email, Facebook updates and events and call history. The default main screen for the people widget is simply your favourite contacts. It lets you press once to call, message or email a contact of your choice.

The HTC Touch HD2 is a high-end smartphone, so it includes all the bells and whistles. This HSDPA-capable phone includes a GPS receiver, a digital compass, 802.11g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with A2DP streaming capabilities, an FM radio and a 5-megapixel, autofocus camera with a dual LED flash. The extra-large screen makes the camera application incredibly easy to use, and just like the iPhone you can tap the screen to focus on a particular area. Photos are of reasonable quality, with good colours and minimal image noise, but the flash isn't powerful enough to overcome overly dark environments. A microSD card slot allows you to expand the memory of the Touch HD2, though it's located beneath the rear battery cover. We appreciated the inclusion of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging and synchronising with a PC.

For business users, the HTC Touch HD2 includes the Office Mobile suite (Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote Mobile), support for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, and Microsoft's MyPhone service, which automatically backs up data such as calendar appointments, photos, contacts, music, text messages and video to a password-protected Web site.

The HTC Touch HD2 comes with Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live applications preloaded. The apps for Facebook and Twitter (Peep) work well enough and the Twitter widget on the home screen is a nice touch. However, the diverse range of Twitter apps available on the iPhone app store make Peep look rather limited - for example, it can't handle multiple Twitter accounts. The Windows Facebook app takes longer to load than the iPhone version and functions like commenting on status updates and viewing posted photos aren't as straightforward as they should be. Though Windows Marketplace has only recently launched and will continue to grow, it can't compare with the number and quality of apps available for the iPhone or even Google's Android platform.

The HTC Touch HD2's battery life isn't great, but considering the large display, we are prepared to cut it some slack. You'll get similar figures to the iPhone - that is, with any half serious use, you'll need to charge the phone every day. Our review unit just managed to last a full day, though this was with hourly push email, Twitter and Wi-Fi all running.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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HTC Touch HD2: Specs

  • 5Mp cameraphone
  • Flash, dual LED, focus
  • geotagging
  • video
  • accelerometer, 4.3in TFT 480x800 capacitive touchscreen, 16700000 colours
  • proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
  • GPS
  • digital compass
  • Email, MMS, SMS
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • attachment editing/viewing
  • 448MB RAM, 512MB ROM
  • data tethering
  • 1800MHz (2G), 1900MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), 850MHz (2G), 900MHz (2G), 900MHz (3G)
  • FM radio support
  • voice recorder
  • video playback
  • music playback
  • FM transmitter
  • Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 11x120.5x67mm
  • 157g
  • Windows Mobile 6.5
  • supports microSD, AAC, AAC+, AMR, eAAC+, MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA, HTML, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, PDF, Text, 3GP, ASF, AVI, MPEG-4, WMV, JPEG
  • A2DP Bluetooth, 3G, Bluetooth, Wireless 802.11b, Wireless 802.11g
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 2.0
  • 5Mp cameraphone
  • Flash, dual LED, focus
  • geotagging
  • video
  • accelerometer, 4.3in TFT 480x800 capacitive touchscreen, 16700000 colours
  • proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
  • GPS
  • digital compass
  • Email, MMS, SMS
  • Microsoft Exchange support
  • attachment editing/viewing
  • 448MB RAM, 512MB ROM
  • data tethering
  • 1800MHz (2G), 1900MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), 850MHz (2G), 900MHz (2G), 900MHz (3G)
  • FM radio support
  • voice recorder
  • video playback
  • music playback
  • FM transmitter
  • Alarm, Calculator, Calendar, Notes
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 11x120.5x67mm
  • 157g
  • Windows Mobile 6.5
  • supports microSD, AAC, AAC+, AMR, eAAC+, MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA, HTML, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, PDF, Text, 3GP, ASF, AVI, MPEG-4, WMV, JPEG
  • A2DP Bluetooth, 3G, Bluetooth, Wireless 802.11b, Wireless 802.11g
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 2.0

OUR VERDICT

The HTC Touch HD2 is quite simply an outstanding smartphone. The superb construction and gorgeous display combine with HTC's Sense UI to create an excellent user experience. You'll still be frustrated from time to time with the Windows UI lurking in the background, but this is by far the best Windows phone on the market.

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