No smartphone platform is complete without a phone big enough to double as an ice scraper. The hulking HD7 is that phone for Windows Phone 7.
Price: $199 w/ 2-year contract on T-Mobile
Display: 4.3 inches @ 800x480
Processor: 1GHz Snapdragon
Memory and Storage: 512MB RAM, 16GB built-in storage
Camera: 5MP stills, 720p video
There's a small army of Windows phones to choose from which all more or less look, work and feel the same. The HD7 is simply the biggest, with a massive, 4.3-inch screen. It's also essentially a greatest hits edition phone for HTC, mixing up various bits of its past steroidal slabs, the HD2 and Evo 4G. It's got a kickstand. It should be a slam dunk.
Before you go any further, you should read our Windows Phone 7 review, which'll tell you all about the software.
In a phone that's all about the screen, it should be using a good screen, and the one here is middling, with some seriously crummy viewing angles. A slight tilt off-axis and colors get shimmery and washed out—it's particularly noticeable with Windows Phone's in-your-face primary colors. The color temp's really warm, so the stark white backgrounds of Outlook makes you think "peeeeee." Still, having all that space is a small luxury, particularly when you're web browsing, watching videos, typing or with certain information-dense apps, like Facebook.
The best photo I managed to take with the HD7.
The five-megapixel camera is disappointing. Sometimes it'll shoot perfectly acceptable pictures. Sometimes it'll shoot totally washed out crap, rather than exposing it properly. The number of camera settings you're allowed to tweak pales in comparison to the laundry list you're able to adjust on Samsung's Focus. (Though since a nasty Windows Phone bug resets all of them to the default settings anyway, maybe it doesn't matter that much.) And while all of the buttons on the HD7 are a little too flush with the body, it's most annoying with the camera button, since half the time you're just trying to focus, it ends up taking a shot.
It runs Windows Phone 7 as excellently as it can be run, but it's not breaking any new ground in the same way that HTC phones have pushed phone specs in the past. Since Microsoft's calling the shots here, that's mostly on them. (As are the times when apps take forever to load, since epic load and resume times are common to all Windows Phones right now.) In their limited capacity to add on to Windows Phone, some of what T-Mobile and HTC have tacked on is good (Netflix, Slacker Radio, Flashlight) and some of it's useless. HTC's tried to make the phone's sound stand out by etching speakers into the top and bottom of the face and boasting that it's got Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound, but what warbles forth is harsh and tinny.
Maybe I've just used too many gigant-o-phones at this point and gotten used to them, but the HD7 seems less obnoxiously large than other phones this size, and simply natural. The screen's bigness, which is the whole reason to buy this phone. Kickstand!
Poor viewing angle on the display. The battery life is weak, pulling me only through 2/3 of a day, thanks to a wussy-sized 1230 mAh pack. The headphone jack's on the bottom of the phone, instead of the top.
This could be a much better phone than it is, the Windows Phone to get, simply by flawlessly delivering on technical excellence. But its headline feature—the neverending display—is compromised by being less-than-stellar in other respects. And, like my ex-girlfriend told me until she dumped me, size ain't everything. Overall, the HD7 is not a bad phone, and it's a perfect serviceable vehicle for Windows Phone 7. It's just not a great phone.
Update: We've introduced a new "Meh" rating.