The HTC Desire Z is a bit of a throwback for HTC. In an age dominated by large 4.3 inch screen and virtual keyboards, the Desire Z steps up to the plate with a modest 3.7 inch display and a landscape physical keyboard. In a world of iPhones, Nexus Ones and Desire HD's, is the Z's form factor still worthy of your time? Let's find out.
Gallery: HTC Desire Z Photo Unboxing
When we first picked up the Desire Z, we were struck by it's build quality. Unlike other phones with their endless plastic, the Z feels like a mass of metal. This of course isn't entirely true, as metal is only used to encase the display and cover the battery door, but it's a testament to how sturdily the phone is built.
The Z's spec sheet is solid if unimpressive: 800MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, 3.7 inch 480x800 display, and Android 2.2 with HTC Sense.
The Z's face is primarily taken up by the screen, with the four main capacitive buttons (home, menu, back, search) and an optical trackpad sitting underneath. The a volume rocker and micro USB port sits on the phone's left side, a dedicated camera button (nice!) and a battery latch are on the right side, and the power button and 3.5 mm headset jack are up top.
The phone's standout feature is it's landscape keyboard, and the Desire Z doesn't disappoint, bringing a spacious four-rows to the game. And in all honesty, it's a good keyboard. They keys are raised and spaced enough for comfortable typing, and there are even two shift and function keys. Sure, we made a few typing errors, but that was mostly due to our lack of typing skill. Once we got used to the keyboard, we were flying.
The Z isn't a slider; instead the keyboard and screen are held together by a swinging hinge. Instead of sliding the screen up, you have to kind of swing it up and over. Think of it as a weird evolution of the T-Mobile G1 (which is probably why T-Mobile chose to make it the G2 in the United States). We were a little disappointed with the hinge, as it was looser than we anticipated, and it actually swung shut on us while we practiced typing while lying down. It's a minor gripe, but still one of those strange flaws that pop up in HTC phones.
The tradeoff with having a landscape keyboard is sacrificing thinness, and the Z certainly isn't the most svelte phone we've come across. It's pretty fat, comparable to the Touch Pro2 actually. While that's not a deterrent for us, we imagine those that exclusively wear skinny jeans will have pause.
Side note: We absolutely hated the Z's microSD slot. It's this crazy metal hinge under the battery that you have to slide out and swing up. The hinge was incredibly difficult to get out, felt like it was going to break at any moment, and didn't want to stay locked in place afterwards. Granted, we're not sure users go around changing their microSD cards on a daily basis, but we would have loved to have seen something a little less aggravating.
The Desire Z's display is magnificent. No really, it's like a glass of fine wine. Maybe we've been used to staring at plain old LCD screens, but the Z's SLCD screen is a thing of beauty. Colors pop, blacks are crisp, and everything just looks sharp. The Z may not have the biggest screen out there, but when the display is this good, you find yourself not caring.
The Desire Z comes loaded up with Android 2.2 and the newest version of HTC Sense. As we said in our initial impressions, the improvements made to the UI are subtle but welcome. Think of the jump from Froyo to Gingerbread and you'll catch our drift. Among the enhancements, we found ourselves loving the most recent programs being added to the notification bar. Landscape support is also added to most HTC apps, which makes sense (ha!) given that you'll be using this phone in landscape mode to type.
The Desire Z's processor may only be 800MHz, but don't be scared off; it stands tall. In our test we found ourselves shuffling from games like Angry Birds to the web browser to Twitter without any stutter or lag. Maybe our phones are so gummed up with crud that anything else feels fast, but we generally think that most users won't be disappointed by the Z's performance.
We were a little let down the Z's camera. Colors in photos tended to be a tad muted and photos had a bit of noise. Things were better in bright light, overall don't except this to be your main camera. Happily, HTC included extra photo filters in the camera app, so we had a dandy of a time playing with the depth of field filter.
The HTC Desire Z may not be HTC's global flagship, but it still a very solid phone in its own right. That's why we're not surprised that we're seeing so many different variants of it coming to American carriers. We loved the phone's display, liked its keyboard, and dug its strong performance. If you're in the market for a multimedia phone you'll probably still be served better by the bigger screened Desire HD, but if you're looking for a versatile, do-everything Android machine, the Desire Z is an excellent pick. We know HTC will eventually top it, but we're in no rush.
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