After the Magic, the HTC Hero, with its Sense UI is one of HTC’s most impressive offerings this year.
Features & Design
Design-wise, the Hero with its chin has a better look, style and much sturdier build than the Magic. It has the same 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen with 320x480 pixels (HVGA) resolution as the Magic. It also has multitouch support for browsing and photos. The trackball and Home, menu, call handling, back and search buttons are just below the screen. There is one ext USB ( compatible with miniUSB) port for the data cable and charger at the bottom while a 3.5mm port for headphones is at the top. The back has a 5MP camera with auto focus but with no LED flash nor a dedicated shortcut button.
Design-wise, the Hero with its chin has a better look, style and much sturdier build than the Magic.
Despite the visual overhaul, Hero has the same Qualcomm 528 MHz processor with 288MB RAM found on the Magic. This same spec with more power-hungry interface took its toll on the phone when it comes to overall speed during our usage. The phone has 3G with HSDPA, Wi-Fi, EDGE and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity thoug the bluetooth is limited only to pairing with the headset only ( like the iPhone). The built-in GPS with A-GPS support powered by Google Maps is also present. Footprints, a geotagging application is also included. There is also a built-in accelerometer.
The Sense UI has seven home screens which are fully customizable using HTC’s own widgets and Android’s widget. Pre-installed apps include QuickOffice (view-only), Gmail, Gtalk and YouTube. Widgets for Facebook, and Twitter along with a standalone Twitter client called Peep take care of the online social networking. Facebook contacts can be integrated into the phone’s contacts as well. It also supports uploading picture to Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, Picasa and Twitter. The built-in Web-kit based browser has Flash support and Android’s Marketplace which has a host of useful applications came preinstalled.
Performance & Usability
The Hero’s interface is definitely a step forward over the younger Magic. It has a fluid graphics that worked seamlessly. We hardly felt the need to use the trackball. The phone’s consistent and straightforward interface design is definitely a plus. But its overall response could have been better. Launching applications, automatic screen orientation and typing on the onscreen keyboard happened with a few milliseconds delay. Though this is manageable, it becomes more apparent when comparing against phones like the iPhone 3G and the Samsung Omnia HD. The onscreen keyboard worked well , thanks to the handy auto-suggestion but we just wished the phone responded a bit faster.
Call quality and reception were decent. Browsing was quite remarkable with page rendering happening smoothly and the multi-page browsing support came in handy. Flash videos were played smoothly as well. Support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and POP3/IMAP mail is a plus. Synching our Google mail, contacts and calendar required just entering username and password and hitting the sync button.
In terms of multimedia, the rather plain music player that plays MP3, WMA and AAC did not offer any audio enhancements but the audio output is very well-balanced. Video playback was smooth and the screen offered excellent refresh rate with crispy details. The 5MP camera on the other hand captured dull and less detailed images. Focusing was slow and images turned out blurry pretty quick. We were not impressed by dodgy video captured either. The GPS feature using the Google Maps is quite effective one with satellite happening within a minute. Battery life is decent and lasted us for one-and-half days under normal usage that includes GPS, Wi-Fi and making a few calls.
Even with a few pitfalls on the speed and the mediocre camera, the Hero still is something you should seriously consider if you are in for the high-end touchscreen phone.
Excellent design and interface made the Hero a top notch Android's phone.