HTC Desire Z review:

HTC Desire Z

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Typical Price: £420.00
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 13 user reviews

The Good Bright, colourful display; robust construction; responsive touchscreen; comfortable physical keyboard; brilliant browser with Flash support.

The Bad Heavy; some keyboard components could break in time.

The Bottom Line The HTC Desire Z adds a high-quality, comfortable keyboard to an attractive touchscreen phone that's rammed with features. The keyboard makes the phone significantly bulkier than it would otherwise be, but those who are terrified of touchscreen typing should check it out.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall

Smart phones with slide-out keyboards don't have the same glamorous aura as their touchscreen-only cousins. That's partly because they tend to be fatter and partly because they have the stench of business about them. HTC is looking to change all that with the Desire Z, however. It's a snazzy-looking Android phone that will be available for around £420 SIM-free, or free on a £30-per-month contract.

Aluminium case

Just like its larger cousin, the HTC Desire HD, the Desire Z rocks a solid aluminium casing, which gives the phone a really sturdy feel. We wouldn't recommend hurling the Desire Z at the pavement, but you can feel it's a well-constructed device. The corollary is that it's also relatively weighty, at about 180g. That's 14g heavier than the Desire HD, which is also a hefty phone.

The Desire Z is also reasonably thick, due to the keyboard hidden away beneath its touchscreen. Measuring 60 by 119 by 14mm, it's a real slab of a phone. The question is this: is the Desire Z's Qwerty keyboard good enough to make us forget its hefty dimensions?

Qwerty keyboard

The short answer is 'yes'. Rather than slipping out on a sliding joint like most Qwerty keyboards, the Desire Z's keyboard swivels out on three separate hinges, so that, halfway through the Optimus Prime-like transformation, the touchscreen and keyboard are actually separated by about 10mm.

Pleasingly, this design means that the upper portion of the Desire Z fits right up to the edge of the deployed keyboard. There's a small space between the top line of the keyboard and the touchscreen, to prevent you bashing your thumbs when typing.

The small, rounded keys are decent, and they're separated from each other by a little sea of plastic. We didn't notice any disparity in the resistance of the individual keys, and none of them felt sticky or flimsy. We found the gap between the keys reduced the chances of us making typos. We also liked the large spacebar, as its size means both your thumbs will be able to reach it without too much hassle.

The keyboard has function and shift keys on each side. The shift keys let you type capital letters, and the function keys let you enter secondary symbols assigned to each key. Getting used to using the function keys to enter punctuation marks, for example, may take some getting used to.

The keyboard also features two keys that can be assigned to open particular apps or otherwise act as shortcuts. That's a handy feature, but you'll have to be careful not to hit them by mistake.

Typing on the keyboard is a comfortable experience. Our only real concern is that the hinge mechanism could prove fragile. Even though the parts involved appear to be made of metal rather than plastic, we're worried that they'll wear down more quickly than your 18- or 24-month contract does. We're also concerned that the delicate, flat cable that connects the two halves of the phone is exposed while the keyboard is sliding out, so dust or dirt could get trapped near it.

Around the edges of the handset, you'll find a lock button and a 3.5mm socket for plugging in your headphones. There are also mechanical volume keys, a micro-USB port and a camera button. On the front, you'll find the same four touch-sensitive buttons as can be seen on the Desire HD, as well as a touch-sensitive trackpad.

The deployed keyboard sits flush with the uppermost part of the phone, and its keys are a treat for the thumbs.

We're rather flummoxed by the trackpad. It's mostly used for scrolling around Web pages or blocks of editable text, but, after a few days of using the Desire Z, we can't see what real value it adds. The beautiful capacitive touchscreen makes scrolling a pleasure, and moving around text is simple -- a magnifying glass appears when you hold your finger on the screen for a moment, making it easy to find a specific word. The end result is that we never used the trackpad.

Touchscreen and processor

The Desire Z's 3.7-inch display is simply fantastic. It's not as large as the 4.3-inch screen of the Desire HD, but, with a maximum resolution of 480x800 pixels, it's so bright and colourful that you might not miss the extra real estate. Everything is rendered very sharply, and we noticed hardly any blurring around the edges of text and icons.

The Desire Z's 800MHz processor is weaker than the 1GHz processor offered by the Desire HD. But we thought the Desire Z ran smoothly nevertheless, making flicking through the various home screens and menus a real pleasure. We noticed the interface hanging occasionally, but only for a moment. The interface isn't as silky smooth as that of the iPhone, but it's a million miles from sluggish.

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