The HD7 combines the excellent audio credentials of the Mozart and the vast screen found on the Desire HD. This 4.3in display sports the same 480x800-pixel resolution as the other 3.7in-plus-screen handsets we looked at in our recent smartphones group test, but detail levels are sufficiently high that there’s no obvious loss of sharpness caused by the fractional scaling up of pixel size.
The Omnia 7 has a more impressive display, but the HD7 has more than enough colour depth to pack a visual punch. We were pleased to find support for HD recording and playback (at 720p). If you’re in the mood for some mobile entertainment, there’s even a kickstand on the HD7’s rear so you can catch up on your favourite shows in comfort.
With a 1GHz Qualcomm processor powering things along, onscreen navigation is pretty snappy. We didn’t experience a single crash or lock-up. It has to be said, though, that the stripped-back interface and paucity of apps to self-install may soon leave you wondering what else there is to explore here.
For practical purposes, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 3G, HSDPA and Bluetooth are all covered. As with all Windows handsets, Internet Explorer is the default browser, with Microsoft Bing springing into action to hunt down whatever you need to know online. We hope tabbed browsing comes to the platform soon, though.
Putting Microsoft back on the smartphone map
Windows Phone 7 is putting Microsoft back on the smartphone map, but swish software can go only so far in convincing customers to snap up a new handset. Third-party hardware needs to live up to the promise of the operating system, and HTC's HD7 certainly fulfils its part of the bargain.
As its name suggested, the HD7 touts the ability to record high-definition video as one of its main selling points, but the most striking feature upon unpacking the handset is the screen. HTC has built a 4.3in, 800x480 capacitive touchscreen into the device - that's about as large as phone screens get before they move into the mini tablet territory currently occupied by Dell's 5in Streak.
Display quality is up there with competing handsets on the market, but it's not the best we've seen. Samsung's Windows Phone 7-based Omnia 7 makes use of a Super Amoled that produces incredibly vibrant colours to put this and many other phones to shame.
But the HD7's large viewing area makes Windows Phone 7 applications a joy to use. Emails are displayed clearly, and other Office apps, such as Word and Excel, are presented in an accessible way.
And while the 4.3in screen means the HD7 is among the largest, and least-pocketable, smartphones on the market, HTC has done a good job in keeping bulk to a minimum. It's the same depth as the 3.5in iPhone 3GS, and only 25g heavier.
In portrait mode, above the screen is an 8mm strip that includes a small speaker, and the 15mm bezel below houses another speaker and the three buttons common on Windows Phone 7 handsets - back, home and search. These touch-sensitive buttons are highly responsive, although arguably too much so given that we regularly fired up the built-in Bing search tool by accidently brushing the appropriate button. The back button is likely to be the most used; it's necessary to navigate back through Windows Phone 7 menus, as well as in applications such as Internet Explorer, which doesn't have traditional back button built in. Internet Explorer's forward button is accessible via a menu at the bottom-right of the screen.
Aided by the sensitive screen, browsing the web is straightforward, although you'll need to use multitouch zoom to expand web pages that aren’t optimised for mobile in order to click links with precision.
To the rear of the HD7 is a retractable kickstand allowing you to securely balance the device when in landscape mode - handy for watching videos - as well as the 5Mp camera that's capable of 720p HD recording. We weren't overly impressed with the photo and video quality, given the handset's HD credentials, but both were comparable with competing smartphones.
Running on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the HD7 is a speedy performer, gliding quickly through Windows Phone 7 menus and tasks with no lag. HTC claims the HD7’s battery lasts for over five hours of talk time, but we found it barely lasted a day with moderate web use.