No Longer in the Rough: A Review of the HTC Touch Diamond 2
Product Category: PDA phone
Where to Buy: Expansys [Affiliate]
Price: $524.99 USD
System Requirements: Comes with Windows Mobile 6.1 and HTC's TouchFlo 3D interface. Sorry, no word from HTC on 6.5 or 7 upgrade at this time.
Specifications: Qualcom MSM7200A running at 528MHz; 512Mb ROM, 288 Mb RAM; 3.2 inch TFT LCD screen in 480x800 resolution; Quad band GPRS/Edge + dual band (Europe/Asia only) HSPDA/WCDMA; 117.5g (4.1 oz) with battery; 108mm (4.3 in) x 53mm (2.1in) x 14mm (0.6in). Full specifications from HTC are available here.
- Huge, bright screen with vibrant colours;
- Sleek, professional look; good feel in the hand and very pocketable;
- TouchFlo 3D interface is very smooth, responsive and finger-friendly -- little need to use the stylus for most functions;
- GPS Receiver is Phenomenal!
- Soft reset button is located inside the unit so you have to take the back cover off if things get 'stuck';
- Really wish HTC would add a Tasks tab to TouchFlo.
Summary: Right from the top let me say I LOVE the Touch Diamond 2. It has a very classy look; the size and weight are very comfortable in the hand' and the WVGA screen is clear, vibrant and huge! HTC's TouchFlo interface is quicker and smoother in this version, with new features and greater depth into the Windows Mobile GUI. As a whole, everything about this phone just works exactly as you'd expect it to. Easy, Expected and Reliable is exactly what I'm looking for in a personal digital assistant and the Touch Diamond 2 has it all. I really hated to have to return this at the end of the review period.
The Touch Diamond 2 is the next generation of HTC's relatively successful Touch Diamond, which came out about a year ago. The focus of the Diamond series is on business professionals who want a powerful phone/PDA but don't require (or want!) the bulk of a slide-out keyboard.
When the Diamond first came out, it made quite a splash with its distinctive styling -- angular, glossy and black. The TD2 continues the basics of the look, but addresses many of the original's shortcomings.
Jason provides his usual excellent unboxing video here. HTC has always provided a pretty good kit of accessories with their units. The model we received for review is a European (UK) model, but I noticed that Expansys was good enough to include a North American plug adapter for the wall charger. Here's a shot of what was included in the box.
Figure 1: The Touch Diamond 2 package includes (from the top left): wall charger with North American plug adapter; the Touch Diamond 2 unit, including battery; HTC-branded leather slip case; screen protector (on top of the slip case); stereo earbuds, including microphone and foam covers; an extra stylus; and a mini-USB to USB charger/sync cable. The wall charger has a USB jack on the bottom, so you can use the same cable to charge from the wall as well.
According to the HTC website, the package should also come with a QuickStart Guide and the usual 'Getting Started' CD with the user-guide, Outlook and Activesync. It was missing from our package, but that could have been due to some other reviewer. ;-)
As you can see, the provided stylus is very small and difficult to handle, even in my smallish hands. To be honest though, I really didn't have much need for it during my 2 week trial. I think the only time I pulled it out was to reset the unit (to test how that looked) and to clear the unit before I shipped it back.
The View from the Outside
Again, HTC shows us that they believe in a minimalist approach when it comes to the overall look and use of their PDAs. External buttons and controls have been reduced to only what's necessary and blended in artfully to the overall look, so they are visible and recognizable, but not obtrusive.
Let's start with the 'business end' of the Touch Diamond 2.
Figure 2: The front of the TD2 is kept clear of clutter so you can focus on the huge, colourful WVGA screen! In the centre of the top is the earpiece for the phone. On the left side of that slot, you can just see the power/notification LED which glows orange while charging, green when it's charged, and flashing green if there is a message, email, etc. Flashing amber means you're down to 10% or less battery power. The right side of the same slot is the light sensor. To the right of that is the VGA camera for video calling. It's likely this will be disabled/removed on the North American models. At the bottom of the screen, you can just barely make out the zoom bar (magnifying glasses on the left and right side) which works in most image-based apps (Album, Opera, IE, and the camera for instance). Below the screen are the Call Pickup, Start Menu, Previous Screen, and Call End buttons. The Call End button doubles as a Home button when not in phone mode.
As always, it's the little added touches which take a PDA from being merely functional to elegant and supportive. For instance, on the Touch Diamond 2, there are LEDs behind the symbols on the buttons which light up when one of the buttons is pressed or the stylus is removed from the holder. Removing the stylus also wakes up the unit and activates the screen if it is sleep mode. Pressing and holding the end-call button locks the unit from taking input, which requires a two button sequence to unlock. The Zoom bar works in all the TouchFlo-based applications and in Opera and IE. Using it, you can zoom in and out of pictures, photos, and web pages.
Did you notice there's no d-pad? It took me a little while to get used to not having that available for screen navigation, but as we'll discuss below, the TouchFlo 3D interface is getting to the point where you don't really need the d-pad or the stylus.
Figure 3: Here's a shot of the left (as you look at it from the front) side of the unit. Only thing here is the volume up/down bar at the top of the unit.
Figure 4: At the bottom of the TD2, is the hole for the microphone (nope, it's not for soft-resetting the unit!) and the mini-USB power/sync/headphone port which has become trademark for HTC. You can just barely see the detent for the stylus in the lower right corner. I have no idea what the oblong hole to the left of the USB port is for (ventilation???)
Figure 5: Pretty bare on the right side of the unit. You can just see the detent for the stylus in the lower left of the picture. The slot on the right side of the picture is for the speaker.
Figure 6: Gone is the raised, angular back of the Touch Diamond. It's been replaced by a more traditional flat back. The case is still high gloss plastic, rather than the rubberized surface we've seen on other models, so it does attract fingerprints, but who cares? It's the back! The only distinguishing item on the back panel is the lens for the 5mp camera, located in the silver triangle at the top.
Figure 7: Here's a shot of the insides of the TD2. Just below the camera, at the top of the battery compartment, is the slot for the SIM card. Beside that, on the left side of the unit, is the slot for the microSD card -- a VERY welcome addition to the Diamond line. Although I couldn't test it, I would assume it's SDHC compatible and will accept the newer 8G and 16G microSD cards.
I didn't get a closeup of it, but the soft reset button is located in the lower left of the unit, under the stylus. It's a bit of pain having to take off the back cover to get to this, but I never had to reset the unit during the entire time I was testing/reviewing it. The only reset required was a hard reset to set it back to factory defaults just before I sent it back to the provider.
Figure 8: Only thing on the top of the unit is the power switch. If you quickly press it, the TD2 goes into normal sleep mode. If you press and hold it for 3 seconds, it will actually turn the device off which will cause it to go through a soft reset cycle when you turn it back on.
As you can see in the accompanying photos, HTC has done a masterful job of redesigning the controls interface on the Touch Diamond 2 so that it can accommodate the much larger screen without significantly increasing the overall size of the unit. My current daily workhorse is an AT&T Fuze (aka the Touch Pro) so I included it for size comparisons.
Figure 9: Here is the Touch Diamond 2 (on the left) side-by-side with the Touch Pro. You can see that the TD2 is only slightly longer than the TP. Although it looks slightly wider, it actually doesn't feel that way. The TD2 and TP feel the same width in the hand.
Figure 10: Yes, the TouchPro is thicker and heavier, mainly due to the slide out keyboard. Both are just about the same length.
Figure 11: Here's a shot comparing each of the screens. The TouchPro's screen looks to have deeper, richer colours, but I think that's due to the higher contrast provided by the black screen. Here you can see the benefit of the greater screen landscape on the Touch Diamond 2.
TouchFlo 3D - v2...
Although it's still called TouchFlo 3D by HTC, this is a much enhanced version from the ones we've seen on previous HTC models. This new version digs deeper into the WinMo GUI and makes the overall experience more fluid and finger friendly. For me, the interface is very intuitive and I was able to get productive in very short order. Everything works the way I expect it to, and I haven't found any hidden surprises. I even gave the phone to my wife to try for a while, just to see what would happen. She's not as much of a gadget geek as I am, but she's hating the Blackberry Pearl her work gave her. Without any prompting from me, she was happily reviewing calendar entries, calling friends and playing the games on the unit within a couple of minutes. To me, that says a lot about the interface design.
It's interesting that when you look at HTC's specification for the TD2, under 'Device Control', they only mention TF3D and the zoom bar. There's no mention of any of the other buttons on the unit.
The following screens provide a quick look at the tabs available from the Home screen.
Figure 12: Although this is a bit bigger than we normally show on PPCT, I thought I would include a screenshot of the TF3D Home screen in all its 480x800 glory. Yes, it looks this good.
Tapping the Start button in top left brings up a configurable screen of favorite applications, rather than usual start menu. You can still get to Settings though, from the button provided.
Figure 13: Here's a shot of HTC's Start screen, which comes up when you tap on the Start icon at the top of the Home screen. All the options except Home and Settings are configurable, so you an attach links to all your favorite applications.
Figure 14: Here's the Contacts/People screen. You move through the pictures of your favorite people by flicking up or down on the screen, or you can select directly from the thumbnails on the right. As each is selected, the icons below the picture change to allow you to call them, send an SMS, or compose an email, depending upon the information available in the contact entry.
Figure 15: The Internet browser provided is Opera v9.x. HTC has also provided a YouTube viewer and you can add URLs for your own favorites to this page for direct access. (I'm not exactly sure what they mean by a 'Push page here...)
Figure 16: The mail screen provides access to all your email inboxes. Only one Exchange email inbox is allowed, but you can have as many additional POP3 and IMAP4 accounts as you'd like. The top icon on the right (envelope with a pencil) allows you to compose a new email for the currently selected account.
TouchFlo 3D - v2 (Cont'd)
This version of TF3D has intercepted all the menus in applications and replaced them with more finger-friendly versions.
Figure 17: Here's an example of the new menu style HTC has created for the applications running under TF3D. Although I haven't tested this extensively, it seems to intercept and translate menus from other 3rd party applications as well, if they are run under TF3D.
Figure 18: When you first access the Music screen (also known as the Album), the TD2 will search all memory (on board and SD card) to find audio files and their associated album art. Somehow, it seems to be able to distinguish short audio files associated with ringtones and navigation prompts, etc. since these weren't included in the Library. The icon in the top right shows that Shuffle mode is active. Volume is controlled via the buttons on the left side of the unit, or you can tap the speaker icon in the top row.
Figure 19: You can even keep up to the minute with your favorite stocks!
Figure 20: I like this calendar format better than the one provided by Windows Mobile, but it doesn't use the traditional 4-quadrant markers to show what portion of each day is already booked (AM, PM, all day, etc.). When you tap on a particular day, it goes to the Windows Mobile Outlook 'daily' view which is not finger friendly. Maybe in the next version...
Figure 21: This tab allows you to flick through pictures and video on your TD2. Tapping on any image changes it to full screen view and in the case of video, plays the file. While viewing/playing, the zoom bar can be used to expand or pull back in the image. This photo, by the way, is an indoor shot, taken with incandescent lighting using the camera in portrait mode. The icons in the top right take you directly to the camera and video camera applications.
Figure 22: Current and forecast weather is available at any time for many of the major cities around the world, given you have an Internet data connection. I've set mine for manual update, but you can also set it to automatically update whenever you go to this screen.
The soft keyboard provided by HTC is much better designed for finger use and incorporates haptic feedback by vibrating the unit slightly when a key is pressed.
Figure 23: Here's shot of the soft keyboard provided by HTC. Notice at the middle of the left side, that you can select between predictive text (XT9) and normal QWERTY mode. Each keystroke is accompanies by a short vibration of the phone to provide positive feedback (sometimes called 'haptic') that a key has been registered. The pressed key is also displayed in an enlarged form.
The Touch Diamond 2 also sports a built in G-sensor/accelerometer to detect when the TD2 is rotated and automatically switch the screen to the appropriate portrait or landscape orientation. The transition was very smooth and there was just a little, hardly noticeable lag.
The HTC Touch Diamond 2 comes fully loaded with quad band GPRS/Edge, dual band HSPDA/WCDMA, BT, WiFi, GPS and regular FM radio. Typically, there are compromises required when you have this many receivers/transmitters in a single package and each manufacturer has to balance quality with battery life. HTC seems to have done a pretty good job with the Touch Diamond 2. All the radios worked flawlessly for me.
The cellular radio was easily able to connect into my GSM provider, Rogers, here in Canada. Radio sensitivity and lock (the 'bars' at the top) were equivalent to all of the other phones I have in the house. Unfortunately, this was a UK model, so I wasn't able to get 3G or H working on Rogers (wrong frequency). The audio volume is OK, but not spectacular. Able to hear clearly indoors and out, although there wasn't a lot of headroom for outdoor listening. There were no dropped calls at any time, even at fringe areas out in the country.
Figure 24: Here's a screenshot of HTC's dialer for the Touch Diamond 2. This is much easier to use than the one that comes standard with Windows Mobile 6.1. At the top of the screen are the last few entries of the Call History. Touching the icons to the right of each entry goes to their contact cards or allows you to add them to your contacts. The button in the lower left lets you switch between audio and video calling.
Figure 25: The menu of options available from the dialer screen. Note, the little arrow at the bottom signifies that there are more entries, which can be viewed by pushing up the screen with your finger.
Figure 26: The full Contact History screen. Again, this is scrollable by pushing it up and down with your finger. The thin bar at the right side of the screen shows approximately where you are.
The Touch Diamond 2 supports BT 2.0 with EDR and A2DP for stereo headphones. I had no problem pairing it with my Helium headset or Motorola stereo headphones. There was a bit of a glitch in trying to get the TD2 paired up with my the Hands Free profile of the Toyota Prius though. I initially tried to connect using HTC's 'Add New Headset' option, but it would go away for a while, then come back and say it couldn't connect. My guess is that the headset setup assumes the normal '0000' PIN code. Since this isn't the PIN we have established in the Prius, I was surprised to not get a prompt for the PIN, and hence, no connection to the Prius. When I went to the WinMo BT interface and 'Add[ed] a New Device'. I was prompted for a PIN and everything proceeded very smoothly. It paired up quickly and worked perfectly.
Volume on the headset and stereo headphones was good, but a little low for outdoor/street use. Callers stated that I sounded 'far away' when using the Helium headset, which I've never heard using it on any other of my phones.
BT range was typical for most other phones.
I couldn't get AVRCP (remote control of media players, etc.) working from my stereo headphones, but it wasn't marked as supported anyway.
802.11 b/g support is provided with WPA2/PSK security. It was easily able to connect up to my b/g/n router which provided very good throughput for web browsing, video and audio streaming. Range wasn't anything special -- about on par for most PDAs I've tested. I wish the manufacturers would include better WiFi receivers in these units. My laptops get much better signals/connections throughout my house than any of the phones!
The GPS receiver on the TD2 is phenomenal! It's way better than anything I've seen on a stock HTC unit, and better than the ones I've tested on the Pharos units which are specifically tuned for navigation and location support. Time to First Fix (TTFF) was an amazing 10 to 15 seconds, even inside a building. I was even able to get a fix standing at the central core of a steel-frame office building -- well away from windows, etc.
OCN/iGo8 installed quickly and found the GPS receiver right away. The application didn't fill the full screen, since it was built for 640x480, but that wasn't a big deal. Once it had a fix, it was rock solid stable with no drifting or lag as I navigated around town with the unit sitting in the centre console between the two front seats.
About the only oddity was that the firmware seems to be attempting to lock when only 3 satellites are providing data. That's possible (using some assumptions in the spherical geometry) but it doesn't provide an accurate or stable position fix. Fortunately, the receiver quickly acquires additional satellites and gets itself properly locked in.
The FM radio application provided by HTC is exactly the same as the one that came with the Touch Pro. It has about the same sensitivity as the Touch Pro one as well. The reception was not really usable inside an office building.
HTC doesn't go out of its way to provide a huge batch of additional software, but what they do add provides improvements and extensions beyond what is found within the Windows Mobile operating system. For the Touch Diamond 2 package, HTC added:
- Opera Mobile;
- Windows Live;
- RSS Hub;
- Google Maps;
- JBlend (midlet manager); and
- SIM Manager.
The Touch Diamond 2 is powered by a 1100mAh LiIon battery. Having heard the complaints about the original Touch Diamond's dismal battery life, HTC has upped the ante by over 20% to meet the extra power demands of the larger screen, and keep things running through a busy work day. For my own experience, I found the battery lasted between 3 and 4 days between charges, but I never let it drain below about 15%. GPS is always a battery burner and life will be shorter if 3G phone/data connections are implemented. I think mine may have lasted longer because I was only able to make Edge connections. Recharging with the wall charger from about 20% to full took about 4 hours. Charging via USB took considerably longer, but that's to be expected, since the screen stays on.
Two cameras are included in the model provided for our review -- the 5mp with autofocus and zoom on the back, and a smaller VGA front-facing one for video calling. (I imagine the front one will probably be excluded on the North American models.)
The 5 megapixel camera on the back is very good for a phone. It takes clear pictures and is very easy to use, with intuitive controls.
Figure 27: Here is the main screen of the camera application. I don't know about you, but I understood these icons immediately. From left to right they are: Album, Video, Settings, Advanced, Take Picture (middle of right) and Exit. In the top right is the current time which can be stamped on each image, if desired. To use the zoom feature of the camera, you touch and move the zoom bar at the (now) right side of the screen.
Figure 28: Here's a picture taken by the 5mp camera. It's indoors, with only fluorescent lighting and the camera's white balance set to 'auto'.
Figure 29: Here's the same picture, with the white balance set to 'fluorescent'. Hmmmm, I thought the white balance was supposed to remove/compensate for the blue cast of fluorescent lights?
The extra width of the pictures provides almost a panoramic view capability.
Figure 30: Another indoor shot, but this time with natural light coming in through a window behind me.
Another neat feature I found was that when I attempted to use the above shot of my son as a Contact image, the application automatically created a transparent-grey frame around my son, with the option to move the frame if I wanted!
Figure 31: The first of five screens of advanced camera options/configuration. There isn't a lot that's unavailable to set up the way you want it.
Ah yes, the ongoing saga of HTC and its combined USB sync/headphone jack. I won't repeat the rant about that since it seems HTC has seen the light. Unfortunately, the TD2 still has the combined jack and there's no adapter included in the kit. So, you either use the included earbuds or find an adapter.
Generally, the audio quality is good. The volume is sufficient for both indoor and outdoor use, although there isn't a lot of headroom available and that could cause problems outdoors on a moderately noisy street. The included earbuds are fine for general music listening, but to get better dynamic and frequency range, you'll need to invest in a set of stereo headphones. There is an Audio Booster application provided (which only works if a headset is plugged into the USB port) which allows you to play with an equalizer to adjust the profile. I found it to be inaccurate and of limited use. For me, it's better to leave the sound running straight, unaltered from the source.
There's no mention of any graphics processors mentioned in the Touch Diamond 2, but obviously there's enough horsepower provided since all the test videos I have played smoothly at all resolutions and types. According to the specifications, the Touch Diamond 2 supports WMV, ASF, MP4, 3GP, 3G2, M4V and AVI formats. YouTube played through the supplied viewer with no problems at all.
The short time I had with the Touch Diamond 2 convinced me that this is definitely going to be the benchmark for Windows Mobile devices for a while. I was more productive with this unit in the last 2 weeks than with any of the other units I've tested/used in the last year. I was concerned that not having a slide out keyboard would slow me down on emails and messaging, and yes, it does (a bit). But I quickly found that I was able to navigate around the soft keyboard pretty quickly and the haptic feedback really helped.
The Touch Pro 2 is going to have some pretty big shoes to fill to match up with this baby!
Don is an Associate Director and Enterprise Mobility Lead for Fujitsu Consulting. He and his very understanding wife are raising two more gadget geeks who love to play with the latest and greatest phone and video game technologies.
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