Hands-On with the HTC Diamond

We had a few minutes to sit down and play around with the new HTC Diamond and found it to be a pretty decent phone. (Our apologies if we’re picking up the English penchant for understatement.) Picking it up, it’s quite light and slim, a bit smaller and lighter than the iPhone. While the entire front isn’t a touchscreen, it has a glossy finish that picks up fingerprints quite well. Below the touchscreen are four push buttons that surround a nav-pad that, too, is touch-activated. The screen itself was fairly easy to use, although we noticed a little bit of lag when scrolling through the various menu items at the bottom of the page. HTC reps didn’t have these problems, so we’ll chalk it up to inexperience. For the hardware geeks out there, the phone uses a Qualcomm 7201A chip running at 528 MHz. It has 128MB of RAM and a 640 x 480-pixel resolution screen with 65,000 colors. It includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, something I’m sure every iPhone user would enjoy. Unfortunately, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack—you’ll need to use a proprietary mini-USB connector for that—this is one of the sacrifices that was made for the sake of slimness. Typing on the Diamond takes some getting used to. You can choose from several different keyboard layouts: a full, traditional QWERTY (best for use with the stylus), a slightly larger but condensed QWERTY, and the 20-key QWERTY, which is most reminiscent of the BlackBerry Pearl’s keypad. The 20-key layout, which has a predictive text feature, is clearly the one that HTC’s designers intend for you to use. It’s a little bit awkward at first, but after several minutes, we were getting the hang of it. It remains to be seen how well it’ll do in our rigorous, highly scientific type-off. Arrayed along the bottom of the touchscreen are icons that give you access to the phone’s various programs and features, such as weather (a popular carryover from the Touch), photos and videos, contacts, messaging, mail, Web browser, and settings. It’s remarkable how little of Windows Mobile is evident. With the Diamond properly set up, a user wouldn’t have to click on the Windows icon in the upper left-hand corner at all. The connectivity settings screen were particularly intuitive: Listed on the screen are Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, among others. Activating one of them is as simple as pressing on it: A small “switch” to the right of each flicks from Off to On. The Diamond supports Microsoft’s push e-mail. Selecting the e-mail option, users are presented with an icon of an open envelope that’s tilted away from the screen, and reveals a letter with the header and the first few lines of an email. You can scroll through all your emails this way; after you’ve found the one you want, you click on it to reveal the entire e-mail. While we give HTC style points for the envelope view, the angle of the letter is such so that text at the end of a line, heading away from the user, gets rather small, and hard to read. When zooming in and out of pages and photos, we found it far easier to use the nav pad than the swirling motions that were carried over from the Touch; it feels a lot more precise. However, using the touchscreen to zoom allows you to more easily zoom into particular areas. If you want to see a feature in the upper right-hand corner of an image, you merely need to swirl you finger in that area. Photos and videos taken with the camera’s 3.2-megapixel lens were decent, if unspectacular. An MPEG-4 video shot in a dark room came out well enough, and users can select different resolutions from a few presets. The phone also automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode when using the camera, which is a nice feature. While the Diamond has yet to take full advantage of its accelerometer (except for viewing Web pages and photos), a simple game demonstrated its potential: Users can tilt the Diamond to move a ball through a maze, avoid holes, and get the ball to the finish. It takes a very steady hand to move beyond the first few levels, and the Diamond vibrates with eerie accuracy when the ball bounces off a wall or goes down the wrong hole. It’s one of those simple games that could suck you in very easily. Well, that’s what we have so far. Stay tuned for our full review. In the meantime, check out our hands-on video with the Diamond. [flq:ce1c4b9fbb084fa1ba54cf71ea631d78]

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