HTC HD7S (AT&T)
Editors’ note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the HTC HD7.
Introduced at CTIA 2011, the HTC HD7S is AT&T’s fourth Windows Phone 7 device, joining the Samsung Focus, HTC Surround, and LG Quantum. Like the rest, the HD7S has a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera, but it most resembles a smartphone from another carrier: the HTC HD7 for T-Mobile. In fact, the two are exactly the same except that the HD7S features a sharper 4.3-inch Super LCD, which was much needed. It certainly adds to the choice of Windows Phone handsets, but is it the best option out there? That depends on what you’re looking for.
When we reviewed the HTC HD7, one of our only complaints about it was the outdated hardware, so it’s nice to see that HTC addressed at least one aspect of that problem in the HD7S. Switching out the old TFT screen for a WVGA Super LCD brings a sharper and more vibrant picture. The pixels aren’t as visible as before and colors look richer. Plus, the 4.3 inches of screen real estate is great when you’re viewing Web sites and video.
The HD7S’ Super LCD touch screen provides a sharper picture and richer colors.
The touch screen also felt responsive, as we easily navigated through the various screens and menus. It is a fingerprint magnet though–more than most–and if we’re comparing screens, the Samsung Focus’ Super AMOLED display is still better, as it offers even more saturated colors, finer detail, and better outdoor visibility. That said, you’re not going to have problems seeing what’s on the HD7S’ screen and we very much appreciate the improved display.
The rest of the smartphone’s design is pretty much the same as the HD7’s. You still get a built-in kickstand on the back, this time with some metallic gold accents. The handset is on the larger and heavier side, with HTC’s solid build quality. One thing we noticed, however, is there is a slim gap between the bottom of the battery door and the rest of the phone, leaving room for dust, dirt, and other debris to get in there. We wouldn’t say it’s a dealbreaker, but it’s definitely not something we were expecting from a company that pays so much attention to detail.
The built-in kickstand is sturdy and comes in quite handy for watching videos on the phone or when using it as a picture viewer.
For more on the smartphone’s design, please check out our review of the HTC HD7. AT&T ships the HD7S with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The HTC HD7S ships running the Windows Phone 7 operating system with the latest NoDo update, which includes copy-and-paste support and performance improvements. As a phone, the HD7S offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone is 3G-capable and has Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, and GPS, but Windows Phone currently doesn’t support tethering capabilities.
Though customization is limited in Windows Phone 7, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and carrier partners can still put their own spin on the devices, and AT&T and HTC have done so. HTC has added its own HTC Hub (also available as a live tile) where you will find some old HTC favorites like applications and its animated clock and weather widget.
Meanwhile, AT&T has preloaded the smartphone with a number of its services, including AT&T U-verse Mobile, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and AT&T Family Map. Unlike on the carrier’s other smartphones, you can actually uninstall any of the unwanted carrier apps–not just remove them from the Start menu but actually uninstall them. To do so, just select the app with a long press and choose the uninstall option. This is great news if you don’t like all that bloatware tying up precious resources. Just note that if you hard-reset the phone, the apps will reinstall after the reboot.
Of course, you can download more apps from the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. There are currently more than 18,000 apps in the catalog. Just be aware that the HTC HD7 has 16GB of internal memory but no expansion slot. This should be enough for most people, but if you’ve got a huge multimedia library or like to load up your phone with apps and games, keep an eye on your available memory.
The minimum camera requirement for Windows Phone 7 is 5 megapixels, and that’s exactly what you get with the HTC HD7S. The camera settings include six different resolutions, effects, scenes, and flicker adjustment. HTC also offers a Photo Enhancer app–available as a free download from the HTC Hub or Windows Phone 7 Marketplace–with which you can touch up photos and add effects.
The smartphone’s 5-megapixel camera didn’t exactly knock our socks off.
HTC does a lot of things well, but one area where it really needs to improve is camera software. As we’ve seen on a number of the company’s other smartphones, the HD7S’ picture quality left much to be desired. Though we could make out the objects in the photos, the images looked flat with washed-out colors and a grayish overtone. The camera did slightly better with outdoor scenes, but also struggled in camcorder mode, as our 720p HD video clips looked discolored and murky.
We tested the quad-band HTC HD7S in New York using AT&T service, and call quality was an issue. Though our callers reported good results, we could hear a constant hissing in the background on our end. It wasn’t bad enough that we couldn’t hear voices, but it was noticeable and at times distracting.
HTC HD7S call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was OK. The hissing was gone once we activated the speakerphone, and though slightly tinny the sound was clear. When volume was set to the highest level, it was just enough so we could hear our callers in a noisier environment. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Using AT&T’s 3G network, CNET’s full site loaded in 40 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 5 seconds and 12 seconds. YouTube videos took a few seconds to load, but played back continuously after buffering.
With its 1GHz Snapdragon processor and NoDo performance improvements, the HTC HD7S proved to be a very capable performer during our test period. There was very little delay when launching apps and navigating through the menus. The load time for games was much faster than we saw on the first batch of Windows Phone devices, and gameplay was smooth.
The HTC HD7S ships with a 1,230mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 4.5 hours and up to 11 days of standby time. As we stated in our HD7 review, it’s disappointing to see such a small battery in a larger device, but so far battery life hasn’t been an issue. With moderate usage (checking e-mail and Facebook, few calls, and occasional browsing), we were able to get through a full work day before needing to recharge. We are still conducting our battery drain tests, and will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the HD7S has a digital SAR rating of 0.956W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3.
The HTC HD7S delivers on many fronts, including a large, crisp display and fast performance. Unfortunately, the subpar camera and call quality prevent us from giving it a higher score. Unless you absolutely crave the larger screen, the Samsung Focus is still our top pick of AT&T’s Windows Phone devices. The HTC HD7S will be available starting June 5 for $199.99 with a two-year contract.