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A longterm Windows Mobile user switching to Android – Part 2: Review HTC Hero Hardware

Well it took a little more time than i originally planned for part 2 of my review series, because i have been quite busy at work with some new projects. Now i have finally found the time to start off with the hardware review of my brand new HTC Hero (white version with the hyped teflon coating). The next parts will go into Android OS details and of course also HTC Sense. During this review series i will try to answer some of the most interesting questions for previous Windows Mobile users: Can Android already replace Windows Mobile devices in every aspect? How good is the app market? How flexible is the Android OS? Is it usable without having an mobile internet flat? Are there enough business apps available? But more about that stuff later, this part is dealing with the hardware so lets start with the packaging and the accessories that come with the unbranded HTC Hero model. This is probably the part which will have the least differences for longterm Windows Mobile users, since nearly all interesting Windows Mobile devices like the Touch Pro 2 or the Touch Diamond 2 are also manufactured by HTC. Anyway i will mention any important differences compared to the Windows Mobile devices by HTC, if existent.

HTC Hero Packaging

The HTC Hero comes with a stylish little white box that is strongly reminiscent of apples packaging philosophy, but this is nothing new for HTC devices since it seems they take many pages out of apples general product strategy recently.

htchero package
htchero package

This works for me, because a good copy is still better than a bad selfmade solution, and apple is just doing a very good job with their whole mobile products. So there is nothing wrong in getting clues from apple in my opinion.

htchero package 2
htchero package 2

The devices comes with a 2GB micro-sd card, earphones, mini usb cable, an ac adaptor and a small booklet. No leather case or anything like that.

htchero shipment
htchero shipment

HTC Hero Hardware Design

The first Android device’s (G1) hardware design was already very controversial with the chin on the bottom, and the HTC Hero follows that direction. Many people complained about this, and i have read that a lot of people would see the HTC Hero as perfect device if it wouldn’t be for the ‘chin’. But in my case all of my past few devices had the usual IPhone like formfactor, and i was actually quite happy to get a device which follows another design philosophy.

htchero front
htchero front

And the first impression when holding the device is very good. First of all the HTC Hero is not as wide as the IPhone and, although a little bit thicker, is more comfortable to hold in your hand. The chin doesn’t really bother me at all, neither when holding the device nor when putting it in my pocket. And the overall built quality of the HTC Hero is great, every part is fitting tightly and the device has a very classy feel to it. Actually feels better than the IPhone 3GS in my opinion, which uses a cheap fingerprint magnet backcover.

htchero right side
htchero right side

But i can see that people wearing tight jeans all the time might have problems with it. One setback is that it’s neary impossible to use the device one-handed if it lies flat on the table, because pushing the bottom hardware buttons will cause the device to tilt. On the other hand, thanks to the chin you can always put the device on the table with the touchscreen facing down without having to worry about scratches. Speaking about the hardware buttons: i love the fact that they are there, because i don’t want to work with the touchscreen exclusively. Therefore it’s great to have some hardware buttons available and the trackball comes in handy also. There are many occasions where i just prefer to quickly scroll through some pages ‘blackberry style’ with the trackball. There is another setback with the HTC Hero hardware button layout though: as long as you use the device with your left hand, you will be able to reach each hardware button easily, but holding the device on your right hand will make it very uncomfortable to reach for the ‘search’ and ‘back’ buttons. Looking at other hardware aspects which stand out, you’ll notice that HTC finally implemented a standard earphone jack, so there is no need for mini-usb adaptors anymore. The micro-sd card slot is hidden beneath the backcover of the device, this is something which can bother people who swap their micro-sd cards a lot. Even more so since the opening of the backcover is not easy, and you’ll always be afraid that the backcover could be damaged.

htchero side
htchero side

The teflon coating is something which has been mentioned many times by HTC and i was very curious to see how it feels. While it really does feel very good in your hand and seems to be slip-proof, it’s not worlds apart from the black HTC Hero version.

htchero back
htchero back

The black version with the soft rubber finish provides the same sense of very high built quality. But i just didn’t want to have another black device, and therefore i’m completely happy with the white HTC Hero.

htchero back 2
htchero back 2

The reason for the teflon coating in the first place was to prevent the white color to start yellowing after it has been used for some time, so time will tell if this is really the case.

htchero back 4
htchero back 4

After one month of usage i can’t make a final verdict on that topic, but up to now it seems to work out fine. I can’t find the smallest color change compared to the first time i opened up the package.

HTC Hero Hardware specs

The HTC Hero hardware comes packed with nearly everything a modern mobile device can have nowadays. Starting with GPS and digital compass as well as light sensors and accelerometer. There are some complaints about the Qualcomm CPU which has ‘only’ 528MHz, but actually i think that the reported problems with lags are not really the CPUs fault, but primarily a software (HTCSense) issue. Of course a blazing fast CPU can overcome software issues, but that’s not how it is supposed to be. Since HTC already announced an firmware update being released in september, i’m pretty sure the lag issues will be minimized. Furthermore the devices comes with 512MB of ROM and 288 MB of RAM. And 288MB Ram is really a lot, i played around with my HTC Hero having about 15 apps open at once, and i never got any RAM shortage. Overall i think the HTC Hero has enough horsepower to last for some years. So here is the rundown of the official HTC Hero specs:

Processor Qualcomm® MSM7200A™ 528 MHz
Operating System: Android™
Memory ROM: 512 MB
RAM: 288 MB
Dimensions (LxWxT): 112 x 56.2 x 14.35 mm ( 4.41 x 2.21 x 0.57 inches)
Weight: 135 grams ( 4.76 ounces) with battery
Display: 3.2-inch TFT-LCD touch-sensitive screen with 320×480 HVGA resolution
Network HSPA/WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz
Up to 2 Mbps up-link and 7.2 Mbps down-link speeds
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Device Control: Trackball with Enter button
GPS: Internal GPS antenna
Connectivity: Bluetooth® 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate and A2DP for wireless stereo headsets, HTC ExtUSB™ (11-pin mini-USB 2.0 and audio jack in one), 3.5 mm audio jack
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
Camera: 5.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus
Audio supported formats: MP3, AAC(AAC, AAC+, AAC-LC), AMR-NB, WAV, MIDI and Windows Media® Audio 9
Video supported formats: MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 and Windows Media® Video 9
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
Capacity: 1350 mAh
Talk time: Up to 420 minutes for WCDMA
Up to 470 minutes for GSM
Standby time: Up to 750 hours for WCDMA
Up to 440 hours for GSM
Expansion Slot: microSD™ memory card (SD 2.0 compatible)
Special Features: G-sensor
Digital Compass

I will get a HTC G1 device and also a HTC Touch Diamond 2 in a few days in order to make some comparison shots with the HTC Hero, and add them to this review during the next week.

HTC Hero Touchscreen

I could have mentioned the touchscreen in the hardware design chapter, but since the touchscreen is one of the most spoken about parts, which get the most attention and comparisons with the IPhone i figured it makes sense to have a seperate little chapter about this.

htchero touchscreen
htchero touchscreen

The first impression is incredible, the colors on the screen are bright, and the responsiveness is great. This is one aspect where especially prior Windows Mobile users will notice the BIG difference a capacitive touchscreen makes. After using the HTC Hero for a while i needed to search for something on my old XDA Orbit 2 device, and couldn’t believe how hard i had to press the screen until it reacts. Even though i already tuned the registries on the XDA Orbit to get the highest possible sensitivity. Up to now Windows Mobile devices had more like a “Press-Screen” than a “Touchscreen” since they only use resistive touchscreens. Those screens have the advantage to support stylus usage as well, while capacitive touchscreens can’t do that right now. But HTC is already working on a capacitive stylus solution. Using the HTC Hero you’ll really only need to touch the screen slightly in order to get a reaction. But i have to admit that the Iphone 3GS has still a little advantage on that front, it’s not a big difference but it’s still noticable that the touchscreen on the IPhone does react a tad better. More important is the usability in bright sunlight, and that’s where the IPhone has a bigger advantage. While you can’t nearly see anything on the HTC Hero touchscreen in bright sunlight, the Apple product does a much better job. While even the results on an IPhone are far from good, you can at least see whats on the screen and work with it in sunlight. The HTC Hero touchscreen has just too much reflexions to be comfortably usable in sunlight.

Concluding my second part of the Android review series let me say that i’m using the HTC Hero as my main device for some time now, and i’m very happy with my decision to try out an Android device. The hardware built quality is great, and the Android OS already has matured a lot. I will go into Android OS and HTCSense details in my 3rd and 4th review parts in the following days, so stay tuned. Based on the hardware aspects only the HTC Hero deserves a 4,5/5 rating, since the qualcomm CPU, bad readability in sunlight and the hardware button layout keep it from being the perfect currently available device.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Check also out: A longterm Windows Mobile user switching to Android – Part 3: HTC Hero size comparison picture gallery for some comparison shots with the TMobile G1.