Review: HTC Desire Hardware Impressions

Shortly after Google presented the Nexus One (manufactured by HTC), the HTC Desire was also officially announced as another Android flagship device. Both smartphones might have very similar hardware specs, but looking at the software side it’s clear that we are talking about two different approaches. On the HTC Desire you’ll get HTC Sense, which builds on the regular Android 2.1 version, and enhances it with many new apps/widgets as well as additional homescreen functionalities and a lot of design/layout changes for most applications like contacts and calendar. There are still some noteworthy changes on the hardware front too, so let’s start out with the HTC Desire’s front.

htc desire front

One of the things you’ll notice is that HTC decided to use 4 hardware buttons for the HTC Desire, instead of the touch sensitive buttons on the Nexus One. I think this is a good decision as touch sensitive buttons tend to be less reliable, and i.e. can’t be used with gloves at all. Furthermore there are some reports claiming that the buttons on the Nexus One have to be touched very precisely in order to recognize the input, so having real hardware buttons just seems to be the better option. All hardware buttons on the HTC Desire are big enough to be comfortably used, and have a nice pressure point. What i don’t like is the fact that the buttons are positioned a little bit too far at the bottom of the device. So using the device with one hand while trying to reach the hardware buttons with your thumb can be a little bit awkward. In this case i found the HTC Hero and the Nexus One button layout to be much better, as all buttons are positioned higher which makes them easier to reach. And it seems to me that the good old trackball on the HTC Hero was much more precise than the new optical trackpad, which will recognize your thumbs movement. Especially when i had slightly sweaty hands, the optical trackpad just didn’t notice any movement. So it can be quite frustating to work with the trackpad, especially if you have been used to the much better trackball. The only thing were the optical pad is actually better is durability, as trackballs tend to get dirty quickly and some people complain about nonfunctional trackballs after a while. I never had such kind of problems though.

htc desire front display turned on

The touchscreen is identical to the Nexus One, being an WVGA 3,7″ AMOLED capacitive display. Colors are very bright (too saturated for my taste) and the touch sensivity of the screen is great. But this screen is also one of the most controversial aspects of HTC’s new Android smartphone generation. Mainly because it utilizes the so called PenTile Matrix to render the pixels onscreen. This results in a worse resolution quality compared to regular LCD screens like Motorola used for their Milestone/Droid. The reason for this is that each PenTile Matrix pixel only contains TWO color informations, while normally each pixel has three color informations (RGB=Red Green Blue). Basically this means that especially straight lines look somehow blurry, as it’s not possible to draw a perfectly straight line using the PenTile approach. Check out this very detailed article to learn more about the whole AMOLED screen issues, and comparisons to the Motorola Droid display. You can also find a seperate page about the Nexus One Display and PenTile Matrix on the same website. Since the display on the HTC Desire is exactly the same as the one used on the Nexus One, all problems mentioned in the above articles are also true for the HTC Desire screen. Sadly WVGA on the HTC Desire is not ‘real’ WVGA with the full 800*480 resolution because of the PenTile Matrix approach.

For me this problem is especially noticeable on text, while pictures don’t suffer that much from this technology. And since i had a Motorola Milestone/Droid testdevice for two months i can say that the difference is really obvious. On the Milestone/Droid it’s even possible to read websites in fully zoomed out view, because the screen is just that sharp. This is not the case on the HTC Desire. Of course nobody will really read websites in fully zoomed out mode, but it’s just an easy way to see how much better the Motorola Milestone/Droid display performs. You will also clearly notice the difference with bigger text sizes, so it’s definetly not an superfluous issue. Another aspect where the Motorola Milestone screen excels is color reproduction. Colors are very natural looking on the Milestone/Droid, while the HTC Desire produces highly saturated colors. On a side note, i wasn’t able to see any big difference regarding power consumption between the AMOLED screen on the HTC Desire and the LCD screen used on the Milestone/Droid. Both devices can last for not much more than one day if used frequently. So in my opinion the point of using AMOLED screens in order to have a longer lasting battery life is currently more of a marketing gag than anything else. This might change with future generations of this screen technology though.

The left side of the HTC Desire only sports volume controls, as we are already used to on most HTC smartphones. As you can see on the next screenshot the HTC Desire is really a very slim device.


There are no buttons or controls on the right side of the device.


On the top you’ll find the headphone jack as well as the power button. Beneath the power button there is a small gap which is used to open the backcover with your fingernails. Sadly this approach is nearly the same as on the HTC Hero and doesn’t feel very sturdy, because you have to bend the back cover quite a bit until it opens up. In this regard the Nexus One is better, because you just have to slide the back cover to open it.


An micro usb connector for charging and data transfer purposes is placed at the bottom of the device.


The HTC Desire has an LED light besides a 5 megapixel cam on the back, and a loudspeaker for sound playback. Since the backcover is made of soft rubber, it has a really nice grip and good quality feel to it.


Opening the back cover will reveal the battery, sim card and micro-sd card slots. And sadly it’s even more complicated to swap micro-sd cards than on the HTC Hero, because this time you have to take the battery out too in order to use another micro-sd card. On the HTC Hero you ‘only’ needed to open the back cover and the micro-sd card slot was at the side of the device, so there was no need to take the battery out.


The HTC Desire is a great device with strong hardware specs and good built quality, which we are used to get from HTC by now. One major setback is the AMOLED screen which oversaturates colors and the PenTile technology used for pixels which results in blurry text on-screen. Especially after the competition like Motorola and Apple present real high-end displays with incredible resolutions and great color reproduction, i think HTC should change the used displays on their new devices in order to stay competitive. Before i got my HTC Desire i had a Motorola Milestone testdevice for about 2 months, and the difference is really noticable, as the Milestone’s screen is just so much better. I also don’t like the fact that the power button to wake the screen is at the top of the device, because it’s harder to reach it compared to the comfortable button placement on the HTC Hero.

On the other hand the HTC Desire has better overall specs like a faster CPU and more RAM. This is also the reason why i would chose the HTC Desire over the Motorola Milestone in the end because i think the Desire will be able to handle new Android versions better. And having hardware buttons instead of touch sensitive buttons is definitive another pro. Overall i’m very satisfied with the performance of the HTC Desire, despite some issues regarding the display quality. Still i think that the HTC Hero was a better product when it was released, because the only problem the HTC Hero had was performance, and that was addressed by HTC with an ROM upgrade which made the experience much better. The Desire’s biggest flaw is the PenTile Matrix AMOLED screen, and this is something which can’t be fixed with an software/firmware update.

[xrr rating=4/5]

HTC Desire hardware specification

Processor: Qualcomm 1 GHz Snapdragon
Operating System: Android 2.1 (Eclair) with HTC Sense
Memory ROM: 512 MB
RAM: 576 MB
Dimensions (LxWxT): 119 x 60 x 11,9 mm
Weight: 135 grams with battery
Display: 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen with 480 x 800 Pixel (WVGA) resolution
Network HSPA/WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz
Quad-band GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
GPS: Internal GPS antenna
Connectivity: Bluetooth® 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate and A2DP for wireless stereo headsets; FTP and OPP (object push) for file transfer; Other supported profiles: AVRCP, GAP, GOEP, HFP, HSP, PBAP, SPP, Service Discovery Application Profile
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
3G Up to 7.2 Mbps download speed, Up to 2 Mbps upload speed
GPRS Up to 114 kbps downloading
EDGE Up to 560 kbps downloading
Camera: 5.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus and flash; Face detection capability; Widescreen photo capture; Geotagging
Audio supported formats: Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma; Recording: .amr
Video supported formats: Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv; Recording: .3gp
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
Capacity: 1400 mAh
Talk time: Up to 390 minutes for WCDMA
Up to 400 minutes for GSM
Standby time: Up to 360 hours for WCDMA
Up to 340 hours for GSM
Connectors 3.5 mm stereo audio jack; Standard micro-USB
(5-pin micro-USB 2.0)
Expansion Slot: microSD™ memory card (SD 2.0 compatible); Supports up to 32 GB
Sensors: G-sensor
Digital Compass
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Tethering: Internet sharing through USB
HTC Widgets: Bookmarks, Calendar, Clock, Footprints, Friend Stream, Mail, Messages, Music, News, People, Photo Album, Photo Frame, Search, Settings, Stocks, Twitter, Weather, Downloadable widgets

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