HTC Desire Z

Style and handling summary for HTC Desire Z review
At 180g, the HTC Desire Z is a bit of a heavyweight, but it does boast a 3.7inch S-LCD screen that proves brighter than Super AMOLED displays
HTC Desire Z

User friendliness summary for HTC Desire Z review
It might be a bit geeky, but this handset is easy to use, thanks to its simple setup and customisable home screens

Feature set summary for HTC Desire Z review
The five-megapixel snapper is a bonus, and we like the Car Panel app, which transforms the home screen into a sat nav dashboard

Performance summary for HTC Desire Z review
Surprisingly, considering the 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, the screen was sluggish in its responses

Battery power summary for HTC Desire Z review
You'll be charging this handset every night, as the battery power is average to say the least

Full Review and Specification for the HTC Desire Z

HTC has a long tradition of Windows-powered business handsets, so it is not surprising that an Android powered one has appeared. While the Desire Z has a respectable side, with its QWERTY keyboard, it also offers some fun with numerous media functions.

Back to basics

The Desire Z features the latest Android operating system, version 2.2, so there are some major new features to enjoy - as well as the HTC Sense interface, and some new widgets and apps. But HTC has still managed to retain the simple user-friendly interface. You'll find seven home screens, to which you can add shortcuts, apps, wallpapers and widgets. In the centre is the ‘home' screen. Here there is a default set of widgets and shortcuts (HTC dubs these ‘scenes' and there are a number of preselected ones to choose from). You can either customise these, or begin with a blank canvas and create your own. At the bottom of the display is a dock, which features a large swatch for Phone along with a pair of smaller tabs for personalisation and programs.

The personalisation menu is now uber-organised, with tabs for customising sound and display, as well as adding shortcuts to home screens. Turn on the handset for the first time and you'll be taken through a simple setup process that asks you to input all your social network and email accounts. The phone could be a bit geeky, but thanks to this straightforward setup, it is actually simple to use.

The Desire Z's HTML browser supports Flash, which enables the user to see web pages as they would appear on your desktop (and that includes embedded video), which puts it ahead of the likes of the iPhone and Windows 7 devices.

Looking good

The Desire Z weighs in at a quite hefty 180g. The battery sits behind a stainless steel cover that pops open when you press a spring-loaded button. The S-LCD display is 3.7inches, and proves brighter than the Super AMOLED displays. A narrow black bezel sits around its edge, and there are a total of four touch-sensitive areas for universal search, home, back and menu. The OK button takes the form of a black optical trackpad.

Along the sides of the device, you'll find a micro USB port and a volume rocker - right at the top there's a 3.5mm headphone jack. Memory can be expanded from 1.5GB up to 32GB thanks to a microSD slot. One thing we found annoying is that some of the apps - including the snapper - won't work unless a microSD is inserted, and you won't find one in the box.

Rather than the slider mechanism found on many QWERTY handsets, the Desire Z opens on a three-piece hinge. This offers the user the best possible space to use the four-line QWERTY keyboard, which is backlit for use in low light and has a number of nifty extras - there's a dedicated @ key, and you have the option of assigning two customisable keys to the apps of your choice. While the hinge opens and shuts with a snap, it's neither as smooth nor as controlled as that on the HTC Touch Pro2.

Android and power

With a 1GHz processor and a decent 512MB RAM under the bonnet, you'd expect this device to be pretty speedy, and yet we encountered quite a lag when using the screen. The display is still accurate and responsive, it can be sluggish to scroll and we waited a second for pinch to zoom to work. This may be down to the power-hungry Android 2.2 OS, as we encountered similar problems on the Desire when we updated it to 2.2 from its native Android 2.1

We also found ourselves having to force-close quite often - usually when we were running RAM-intensive features such as maps and the browser. If you want to close open apps without rummaging in the Settings menu, you'll have to download a task manager app from Android Market.

Thanks to its up-to-date OS, the Desire Z can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot - it does a clever trick where it transforms its 3G connection into a Wi-Fi network, to which you can connect other Wi-Fi devices. It's simple to achieve, and can be password-protected so all and sundry won't be using your network! However, be warned that this drains a lot of energy - and the battery has a very average life anyway. We found we had to charge up every night, and with the likes of 3G, Wi-Fi and sat-nav running, it didn't make it through the whole day.


HTC now has a server where you can back up all your data - Using their account, the user is able to back up everything from maps, links and contacts, to photos, searches and text messages. The nifty thing about this is that you can also transfer all this information onto another phone - so should you (heaven forbid) lose your phone, or upgrade to another Sense-Android phone, all these details can be downloaded onto the new desire. It is also possible to control your handset remotely using

Lost or left your phone somewhere? Choose from call and text forwarding options, a facility to lock your phone or - if you're sure it has gone forever - the remote wipe. It is also possible to make your phone ring on full; fantastic if you're in the habit of leaving it in silent mode and then putting it down ‘somewhere'. However, we didn't manage to get this to work while we were reviewing the device, and an HTC spokesman did state that this facility is a bit patchy at the moment.

You've got mail

One of the key highlights of the Desire Z is its universal inbox - this can stream your mail from a number of accounts (apart from Gmail). Like other Android handsets, there is a separate app for Gmail.

There is another mail app, entitled Mail, which allows you to add webmail and Microsoft Exchange. You could add Gmail in here if you wanted, but you'd end up getting two lots of notifications. Your mail notifications appear at the top of the display, as do other alerts. To see the full information, simply drag them down.

It is possible to view one mail account at a time, or you can look at them together. You are also able to sort messages by size, sender, date, subject or priority. The phone also allows you to look at other folders - such as trash, drafts or sent - but it only applies to mail that has been downloaded or created on the handset - so you won't be able to view everything you've ever sent, written or dumped. Each account's email is tagged with a different colour for identification, and you can choose to filter by mail with attachments, favourites or unread mail. But don't expect to see your responses, as you can on Gmail. If you're accessing Microsoft Exchange accounts, it's possible to add a facility that lets you flag mails as priority. Oddly, it won't work with invites from Google Calendar or sent from standalone Outlook accounts - we could, naturally, open them and go through to the Calendar app.

Application highlights

With the benefit of Google Maps and A-GPS, it has always been possible to use HTC Android handsets as sat navs, but now the Desire Z has something new in the shape of a Car Panel app, which transforms the home screen into a sat nav dashboard, complete with nearby points of interest, links to your finish point, a history of places visited - and there's also a shortcut to the dialler, so it's simple to use the phone. There's a free 30-day licence for voice navigation (we found the feminine voice quite soothing) but voice command is omitted. We did like the fact that you can put your handset in a car mount, and even if it's connected to neither a headset or car kit, the speakerphone will instantly turn on if you receive or make a call.

The phone's five-megapixel snapper is better than the one that was included on the Desire - daylight images are particularly good, with warm bright colours and decent clarity. Video records at 720p.

The verdict

There are a number of features that make the Desire Z an excellent business handset, but it will also appeal to Android fans thanks to its social networking, media and web facilities. Its top-notch touch-screen, access to Android apps and customisability make it stand out from the other QWERTY smartphones on the market.