Media and the web
In previous Android reviews, we've complained about the various media capabilities of earlier devices, but the Desire features a media player of a high enough quality to keep us quiet this time around. This is by no means a show-stopping piece of software, but it does the job of organising and playing media files, and it looks good doing it. Media file recognition is marginally better than previous HTC Androids, adding Windows Media video and audio files to the usual assortment of MP4 videos and MP3 and AAC music.
We mentioned it before but we'll say it again: this web browser is a winner. Pages load quickly and render correctly, scrolling over long pages is smooth and fluid, and the browser supports some Adobe Flash content too via its Flash Lite plugin. To be honest, we were never really too concerned about the iPhone not supporting Flash content, but now that we've watched videos in the browser, we never want to go back to Apple's restrictive web experience. Also to Apple's ire, the Desire features multitouch pinch-zooming in the browser, as well as in the photo gallery and apps like Google Maps.
The only let-down in the media experience is the content you create yourself, namely photos and videos shot with the Desire's 5-megapixel camera. On paper this camera passes muster with its decent image resolution, touchscreen auto-focus and bright LED flash, but the end results aren't nearly as exciting. Our photographs look colder than in real life, with a chilly blue hue produced by the flash, and the auto-focus really struggles, especially with subjects that are prone to moving. Of our thirty-plus test images, only a small selection of them were captured clearly.
Performance and battery
Not only is the Desire a sexy phone full of excellent features, it is also a veritable powerhouse, packing a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a huge 576MB of RAM. The results speak for themselves, with consistently zippy performance in the complex menus and inside the various apps we installed. We should point out that we turned down the animations in the display settings from 'All animations' to 'Some animations' to iron out some subtle jaggedness in the homescreen animations, specifically some tiny pauses when scrolling in the 'All programs' shortcuts list.
Importantly, the Desire also makes the grade as a mobile phone. Our test calls sounded clear in a variety of situations, and messaging is a breeze with the great on-screen keyboard.
With the top-line hardware and the large touch display, it's not surprising that battery life maxes out at a single work day, though this can be as low as eight or 10 hours depending on how you use the phone. The good news is that HTC provides you with a variety of widgets to manage the battery consumption as much as is possible with a phone of this calibre. There's a standard power settings widget that switches the Wi-Fi and GPS on and off, as well as controlling the auto-sync schedule and screen brightness. There's also a mobile network widget that turns mobile data on and off, a great way to save battery and make sure you're not overspending on your monthly data allowance.
HTC is onto a real winner with the Desire, striking a perfect balance between design, features and performance. The screen is fantastic, the software is best-in-class and the performance throughout the phone is mostly flawless. There are a few shortcomings, the 5-megapixel camera needs work and the phone could do with the addition of some substantial internal storage, but these issues are easily forgotten while surfing the web or communicating with friends using a wide variety of different protocols or social networks. You will have to manage the battery to get the most out of it, but HTC makes this task simple with its custom-designed homescreen widgets. Best of all, the Desire is priced aggressively at AU$779 outright and unlocked, but don't forget you'll probably want to upgrade the included 2GB microSD card, so you'll need to budget that into the cost.