HTC Touch Diamond2 Review
The HTC Touch Diamond hit the scene last year with hard-hitting features that led the smartphone pack at the time. We’re talking VGA touchscreen, a quality 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, GPS and 3G connectivity – all packed into a slim and trim package barely half an inch thick. So, how do you top that? With the HTC Touch Diamond2, of course.
The Diamond2 still hasn’t officially landed in the USofA, but expect AT&T (NYSE: T) to pick up the Diamond2 as the HTC Warhawk (awesome name!) in the near future. For the time being, you’ll have to make do with a European Diamond2 or just keep yourself busy with the review and photo gallery below! (Summary at end)
HTC Touch Diamond2
By HTC ($599.99)
- Operating system: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional (upgradeable to WM6.5 Professional)
- CPU: Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM)® MSM7200A™, 528 MHz
- RAM: 288MB
- ROM: 512MB of user-available memory for data and applications;
- Connectivity: microSD, Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP), ExtUSB, WiFi (b/g), GPS
Quad-band GSM/EDGE – 850/900/1800/1900Mhz
Dual-band 3G (WCDMA) – 900/1800Mhz for Europe/Asia and 850/1900Mhz for North America, allowing for HSDPA 7.2Mbps data speeds
- Display: 3.2-inch resistive touchscreen at 480 X 800 WVGA resolution
- Camera: 5.0-megapixel camera with auto-focus
- Dimensions: 107.85 X 53.1 X 13.7 mm (4.25 X 2.09 X 0.54 inches)
- Weight: 117.5 g (4.15 oz)
HTC’s second-take on the original Diamond resulted in the HTC Touch Diamond2 with double the RAM and ROM and a larger 3.2-inch VGA touchscreen. Gone are the diamond-pattern facets on the backside of the handset, replaced by a smooth glossy panel accented with brushed metal trim around the camera lens. The display bezel and chin of the Diamond2 are also trimmed in the same classy-yet-sassy brushed aluminum. But, the best thing about the Diamond2 may be the much-improved touchscreen display.
The HTC Touch Diamond2 rocks the slate form-factor, which makes for an incredibly slim profile. The Diamond2 eschews a slide-out QWERTY keyboard (the kind that older brother Touch Pro2 features) in favor of a 13.7 mm (0.54 inches) waistline that’s hard to ignore. Compared to the original Diamond, the Diamond2 is a bit taller to accommodate the larger touchscreen display.
Judicious use of brushed aluminum accents lend to a seriously high-quality feel. There’s plenty of plastic used throughout the Diamond2, but the you’ll be hard pressed to find any “plasticky” feeling components.
The “Diamond” moniker made sense when the Diamond had diamond-facet patterns adorning its backside. But, now that the Diamond2 has moved past the diamond pattern, the model name makes less sense – and we could care less. The Diamond2’s smooth and glossy backside lends to a more refined look, although it tends to pick up micro-scratches like a magnet. We’d recommend a full-body case or protective film if you’re the type to obsess over scratches and the like.
The bottom-right corner houses a magnetically-secured stylus. The magnet sucks the stylus in for the last couple millimeters of travel. It’s a really cool feature that probably goes largely unnoticed. The details, it’s all in the details.
The HTC Touch Diamond’s full–VGA touchscreen, despite being a smallish 2.8-inches, delivered sharp images that still manage to impress us today. Unfortunately, it suffered from the “squishy-screen” syndrome that affects most resistive touchscreens of its kind. This new-generation HTC Touch Diamond2 sports a new touchscreen that is more sensitive and more accurate when used with fingers. The Touch Diamond2 is still cursed with a hint of “squishy-screen,” but the improved touchscreen sensitivity and larger screen-size make it easy to ignore. It really is too bad that Windows Mobile 6.1’s microscopic UI elements preclude the use of capacitance touchscreens.
Gone is the touch-sensitive navigation area that the original Diamond featured below the touchscreen. The Diamond2 replaced the circular-zooming control with a “Zoom Bar” that resides just south of the display. Drag your finger left across the Zoom Bar to zoom out, dragging it rightward to zoom in. From text to pictures to websites, the Zoom Bar should make it easier to zoom in and out of the display.
TouchFLO 3D II
HTC did a bang up job with their latest iteration of the TouchFLO 3D Windows Mobile overlay. Rather than use WinMo’s out-of-the-box UI, HTC replaces the traditional Windows Mobile homescreen with a finger-friendly, slide-scrolling, 3D-tastic interface. The result? A slick homescreen that gives at-a-glance access to all your information – weather, stocks, email, contacts (HTC refers to it as “People,” as part of their “people-centric” philosophy), time, web browser, camera, and music. It’s like a gift from the smartphone gods… and HTC.
The one problem with older TouchFLO variants is that you still had to interact with the Windows Mobile UI whenever you ventured past the homescreen. HTC solved that problem in their newest WinMo smartphone by effectively disguising most Windows Mobile 6.1 menus and UI elements with their own finger-optimized creations. Hit the “Start” button and you’ll be taken to HTC’s custom application-launcher. Changing system settings rarely requires any interaction with Windows Mobile screens. The new TouchFLO 3D II UI is like an oasis in the middle of a desert designed by Windows Mobile.
Music playback is accessible right from the homescreen. Just scroll your finger over to the “music” icon to flip through your musical library (on both on-board storage as well as your microSD card), complete with cover art. Or, if a list-view is more your style, just tap the “library” tab and there you go. HTC’s media player UI is consistent with the main HTC TouchFLO 3D UI, making use of slide-scrolling categories and menus.
The Diamond2 sports full Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) support, allowing all that sweet music of yours to be beamed directly to your Bluetooth headphones. The quality of sound over Bluetooth has been a sticking point with some, but the Diamond2’s Stereo Bluetooth connection isn’t going to muck up the sound of your music more than the MP3 compression already has.
Video playback isn’t as easy to access. You’ll have to fire up Windows Mobile’s Windows Mobile Player in order to play any videos. Depending on the quality of your video, playback on the large 3.2-inch WVGA display can be nothing short of stunning. High-resolution displays might not be high on your list of gotta-have features, but that’s only because you haven’t seen high-resolution media displayed on a capable screen.
The Diamond2 supports a dizzying array of media file formats. Chances are good that all your music and videos will play just fine on the Diamond2 without any conversion required.
The camera is impressive. With a quality 5.0-megapixel image sensor, the Diamond2’s camera takes some really impressive pictures. Low-light performance is still a bit lacking, made worse by the lack of a photo-flash, but we never expect any cameraphone to do well in dimly-light environs.
Auto-focus is fast and accurate. You know all those fancy out-of-focus pictures you always see coming from DSLR cameras? Yeah, the Diamond2 can do that. And, you can direct the Diamond2’s camera to focus on any point in the frame by tapping a focus-target on the touchscreen viewfinder.
No flash. Too bad. We would have liked to have seen a flash in there.
Videos are captured at up to VGA resolutions. The auto-focus feature focuses the camera only once when you start capturing video. If you change from close-up to far-away focus in the middle of your video, don’t expect the auto-focus to follow suit. You’ll have to stop and re-start recording. Still, for the quality video that we get from the Diamond2, it’s hard to whine about auto-focus not working on the fly.
HTC is touting their “Push Internet” technology as a way to get quick and convenient access to your favorite websites, without having to wait for the phone to load the webpage. The “Push Internet” feature will automatically download data from your favorite websites at pre-set intervals throughout the day. The idea is to deliver your most-frequented websites to your phone first thing in the morning (or whenever you’d like it to deliver the data). But, it’ll eat into your battery life, so use it sparingly.
By eschewing a physical QWERTY keyboard in favor of a virtual, on-screen keyboard, the Touch Diamond2 manages to keep slim and trim. Unfortunately, like most super-small gadgets, the attractive size comes with compromises. The on-screen keyboard is fairly accurate, thanks to a completely refreshed resistive touchscreen design. And, the vibration feedback that accompanies each key press makes for a decent typing experience. But, if you’re a heavy into text messaging, instant messaging or you just have to deal with a lot of emails, the Diamond2’s virtual keyboard is going to be a major pain. The virtual keyboard’s keys are small enough to occasionally confound even the most nimble of fingers.
It all comes down to how much you use the keyboard. If you’re not a heavy typer, then the Diamond2’s slick styling and oh-so-thin waistline are hard to pass up. The keyboard power-users out there will probably want to go with the HTC Touch Pro2 (which we’ll be reviewing in short order!).
The zoom bar is awesome! It’s much more intuitive and “usable” than the “circle zoom” feature on the original HTC Touch Diamond. As long as the Diamond2 isn’t busy crunching numbers elsewhere, the zoom feature responds almost instantly. If your Diamond2 is bogged down with other tasks, however, don’t expect the zoom bar to respond immediately.
Still, the zoom bar gets high marks from us! The zoom bar is so good, in fact, that it rivals the iPhone’s pinch-to-zoom feature in terms of intuitiveness and accurate zooming.
MicroSD card slot
It’s a minor detail, but it makes for a huge difference in usability. The microSD card slot isn’t buried under the battery. Instead, it sits just next to the battery, under the battery cover – allowing the user to hot-swap microSD cards without powering down the device. Minor, but incredibly convenient!
Windows Mobile menus
Windows Mobile has been the bane of HTC’s smartphones for as long as we can remember. Back when Windows Mobile was the de facto smartphone platform, there wasn’t much competition to drive UI innovation. But, now that the iPhone OS has shown the world what a finger-friendly UI should look like, Windows Mobile’s flaws are that much more evident. HTC did as much as they could to hide the Diamond2’s Windows Mobile underpinnings, what with the new HTC TouchFLO 3D UI, but you still have to interact with WinMo on occassion. When you do, you’ll need to bust out the stylus in order to effectively navigate the myriad tiny buttons and check boxes that Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) as been using for years and years. Needless to say, Windows Mobile gets low marks for usability and ergonomics.
In the end, the HTC Touch Diamond2 has proven itself worth of the Diamond moniker. The aluminum-trimmed Diamond2 shines on almost every measure of what a smartphone should be. It’s got ample RAM to run all your applications with little lag. The intuitive zoom bar is a huge improvement (usability wise). The Diamond2’s microSD card slot that is accessible without removing the battery is a huge plus as well.
But, perhaps most importantly, the Diamond2 uses the latest HTC TouchFLO 3D UI that almost completely hides Windows Mobile’s ancient interface. TouchFLO 3D is quite possibly the best Windows Mobile overlay, and it’s clear that HTC has put a lot of thought into how the UI works.
The downsides, however, are short-ish battery life, no flash for the camera, and no standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The photo-flash and headphone jack are just going to be things you’ll have to live with. But, battery could be improved by turning off 3G, WiFi GPS and Bluetooth radios, as well as turning off “Push Internet.” Otherwise, don’t expect more than a couple days of moderate-to-heavy use without charging your Diamond2.
- 5-megapixel camera with touch-controlled auto-focus
- Much-improved touchscreen feel (less squishy, more accurate)
- Beefy memory stores (RAM/ROM)
- Intuitive zoom bar
- Classy brushed aluminum trim
- Refreshed TouchFLO 3D II – HTC made the best WinMo overlay even better
- Vibration feedback
- microSD accessible without removing battery
- Intermittent zoom bar lag when running multiple programs
- No camera flash
- No standard 3.5mm headphone jack
- Hard to remove battery cover
- Short-ish battery life