By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Earlier this year, we reviewed the Google Nexus One, an HTC designed smartphone whose specs and feature set defined it as the ultimate Google Android phone in a touch-screen form factor. Now, many month's later, the HTC Desire Z (AKA the T-Mobile G2) iterates on the look, feel and functionality of the Nexus One and adds a stunning QWERTY pop-out keyboard for good measure.
Unboxing the HTC Desire Z ($129.95 on a three-year Bell plan, $500 without) reveals one of the sturdiest and best constructed devices we've seen in a long time. Sure, it is slightly heavier than most smartphones in its class but if you consider the size and quality of the slide out keyboard, it is thoroughly acceptable.
HTC gets good design, they understand texture, nuance and materials and this is evident with the HTC Desire Z. Nothing about this smartphone is streaky, unnecessarily glossy or smudgy. Even the bright 3'7 inch screen seems to have been treated to resist smudges and facial oils a bit better. Aside from said screen, which uses a high contrast and super saturated WVGA 480x800 resolution spec, users have the benefit of the pop-out keyboard which handily swings into action once you need to do some serious typing.
Starting up the smartphone is surprisingly quick. It comes with Android 2.2 Froyo, which is the best performing version of the OS provided you have the hardware to support it and the HTC Desire Z has them all. An 800MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 590 minutes talktime on GSM, a 5 Megapixel camera with an LED flash, GPS, Wi-Fi, accelerometers, digital compass, ambient light sensors and a microSD expansion slot to boot.
HTC's Sense UI runs on top of the Android OS which serves as a digital dashboard that keeps users abreast of important information like weather (done in dramatic animations), social connections, contacts and news feeds. HTC's Sense has developed nicely and no seems faster and better to use. You can also download additional widgets from the HTC HUB which is their own app store where you can download free items.
Back to the Desire Z's keyboard, it is made up of well spaced oval "squircle" keys that have a good amount of play. While the on screen software keyboard is usable, there's just nothing like the feel of a tactile keyboard and HTC has managed to cleverly integrate a number of shortcuts and function keys within this space.
One of the benefits of the Android OS is the ease of migration from one device to another. We used to use an Android phone as our primary device and purchased a number of applications to test and review. Once we signed in through our HTCS Desire Z test unit and accessed the Android Marketplace, all our previous and paid-for downloads were accounted for and readily available..
We were able to download all our favourite apps simultaneously and not get hassled with login screens and passwords. We had our old system and familiar applications loaded up within a few minutes, no computer sync required! Credit this to Google's mastery of cloud-enabled synching and the maturity of the Android OS backend, which seems to be working in the background to keep things in place. What an elegant solution.
To do the same thing on an iOS device would require you seeking each individual app and "repurchasing" each of them only to be told that you have already purchased the app before it downloads to the device. You also need to input your password multiple times for each app. What a hassle.
The HTC Desire Z is really designed for avid typists, business users who need more than just a glancing type-and-go solution and who do a lot of e-mail and messaging. Motorola's Milestone was, for a long time, the QWERTY handset to consider on Android and now we feel that the Desire Z has rightfully claimed this pole position.
Call quality was good to great and data connection via Bell's HSPA system ( touting 14.4 Mbps download speeds) was assuringly quick to access websites, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos around the GTA. With its large screen, useful pop-out keyboard and top-shelf design and construction, the HTC Desire Z is easily one of the most complete Android smartphone solutions in the market today.
Rating 4.5 out of 5