Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
As we head into the end of 2011, we're seeing smartphone makers launching their devices in time for the big holiday shopping season. In the Android space, we're seeing super-smartphones by the bunches including Google's chosen one, the Galaxy Nexus, Motorola's resurgent RAZR, LG's resplendent Optimus LTE and HTC has delivered the Raider and Amaze flagship phones. We look at what looks to be one of the strongest devices we've seen so far, the HTC Raider.
We look at the HTC Raider (available on both Bell and Rogers) and get the feeling that if Google had gone with HTC for this year's Nexus device, this would have been it.
Google has tapped HTC twice in the past for its flagship phones so maybe it has a two-year deal with each of its partners.
The HTC Raider has all the key ingredients of a flagship Google smartphone save for the flavour of Ice Cream Sandwich, the next and best version of the Android OS.
The Raider does have LTE data capability and is replete with killer features such as a 1.2Ghz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM an eye-popping 4.5-inch qHD super LCD screen, an uncompromising 8 megapixel camera with auto focus, dual-LED flash, f/2.2, 28mm lens and a 1.3 MP front facing camera plus 720p HD video capture.
Do these specs overtake Google's own Galaxy Nexus, in a lot of areas they are evenly matched. The HTC Raider even has a higher pixel density, larger capacity camera and expandable memory via microSD. In terms of build, this is one of the heftier HTC smartphones we've reviewed but it does feel solid all around.
With HTC's products, specially the more premium ones, you do get the feeling that you get your money's worth in the sense that the design and materials are always above par. Some of the designs may seem too flamboyant, the treatments a little to fanciful but for the most part they are enduring statements of design.
In the case of the HTC Raider ($574 for no term price at Rogers ($149 with a plan), $599 no term on Bell ($149 with a plan), the look is a bit more stark, black plastic seems to coat a magnesium chassis which gives the device good weight. The corners are a bit too slippery for my liking but it looks and feels like this device can take a bit of a beating and it will certainly appeal to the business class.
The Sense UI is evident and clearly runs the show. We think HTC's Sense is starting to show its age, while we see value in having widgets easily available, the look and feel of a lot of these could use some spiffing up. Aside from this there are carrier specific applications.
The Bell model, for example, offers up prepaid access to TV content. There is no demo or trial mode to these channels which forces users to pay up front to try the service and then have to decide whether they want to cancel later on.
We are still testing the LTE connectivity for both Rogers and Bell as well as various other features which will be udpated in the coming weeks.
Users looking for a flagship Android smartphone that's available right now and that brings a blend of power, functionality and abundant features, rocklike build quality and a large screen should definitely check out the HTC Raider. It might be the device to help some users make the LTE leap.
Rating: to follow