HTC Touch Diamond First Impressions

I’ve been looking forward to the arrival of the Touch Diamond for quite some time. Windows Mobile used to be my mobile platform of choice, but since using the Nokia N95 and N95 8GB, I have been swayed over to the Series 60 OS. The N95 8GB has been my main phone for about 6mths now, and it’s been great. It was faster, more stable, had much better signal and camera than any Windows Mobile device I had used. My hope with the Diamond was that Windows Mobile had caught up to provide the easy and speedy experience that other phones provide these days.

Straight out of the box the Touch Diamond feels special. It’s not only small for a Windows Mobile device, it is small full stop! It is absolutely tiny, yet still packs in HSDPA, WiFi, BT, GPS and FM radios, underneath a VGA display! It is a fanastic achievement, and shows that a Windows Mobile device can be good looking, thin and capable at the same time.

Nokia N95 8GB, HTC Touch Diamond, iPod Touch

The front of the unit is completely flat, with a flush screen and buttons. A flush mounted screen is sooooo much better than the quarter inch high frame around the screens on previous HTC devices, especially when it’s going to get dirty from being poked every few seconds.

I can’t help wishing the four buttons and the d-pad at the bottom were touch-sensitive as opposed to physical buttons. That was it would have been one contiunous slab of glass from top to bottom, instead of getting cut short to continue with plastic. Still the buttons have a solid feel, and the d-pad button is rather clever. In the Camera application, a light touch (not a press) on the centre button will focus the camera!

The VGA display is absolutely stunning, undoubtedly the best I’ve seen on a Windows Mobile device. Compared to my iPod Touch it is not quite as bright, but it is so very close. Where it does one-up the iPod Touch (and more importantly the iPhone) is on resolution, a fabulous 640×480 pixels squeezed into 2.8″. My N95 8GB has a 2.8″ screen, which up until now looked pretty good. In comparison to the pin-sharp display on the Diamond it is just left for dead.

To be honest though, I’m finding the beauty to be only skin deep. The TouchFlo 3D interface looks quite nice, but I’m not sure how functional it is. Anything that can be done in TouchFlo 3D can be done elsewhere, and often without the lag that is constantly hurting the experience. Obviously it’s been designed to go up against the interface on the iPhone, but the performance makes it more of a hassle to use than a help.

The Opera browser suffers from similar performance issues. Opening the browser is sluggish, and results in long pauses. The zooming isn’t particularly smooth either, and has a weird bug that chops of the top and/or bottom of some pages (like Gmail).

Signal strength isn’t great either. Compared to my N95 8GB is quite poor actually. I run my phones locked onto 3G, because when I drop back to GPRS/EDGE I am roaming (hence data is very expensive). I don’t have very good signal in the house, but it was never an issue for the N95 8GB. With the Diamond, I am forever seeing the “searching for network” icon, which obviously means emails, messages and calls don’t come through.

I’m posting this in the afternoon, so I can speak about the battery life, and the news is “ok”. I disconnected the Diamond from it’s charger at 6:30am, and by 12pm (as you can see in these photos) I had the low battery warning indicator showing in the menu bar. I was at work so it hardly got thrashed. The unit I have is absolutely brand new, so the battery may take a few charges to wear in. I will reserve judgement for now.

On the whole I’m a bit disappointed at this point. It just feels too slow, and the signal issues are driving me crazy. Perhaps a ROM update will come out soon to fix these things, it has happened before. I will report back when I have used the Diamond for a bit longer.

EDIT: This device was given to Judie at Mobius, who sent it on to me because it’s a Euro/Asian model that is less compatible with the US 3G networks. For those interested the ROM version on my Diamond is 1.37.707.1WWE

EDIT 2: Photos taken on my new Canon EOS 400D DSLR. Thoughts?

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16 replies

  1. Thanks for the first impressions. I like the looks of this but your comments are pretty much what I was expecting.

  2. Nice job, Mitchell. I have been fantasizing about this one for a while. Sorry to hear that it is (once again for HTC) not up to snuff in certain areas. :(


  3. Mitchell, I had the same impressions and results as you. eBay was my friend. :)

    Hurry up with my iPhone 3G, Steve!

  4. Hi Mitchell, Have you had a chance yet to install the performance upgrade,curious to see your impressions after that..

    I had a chance to play with one a couple of weeks ago and try to see if they have fixed the iPod like function with the touch wheel. It didn’t work in all apps on a pre-rpoduction model..

    I understand that Telstra is picking up the Diamond on an exclusive starting in August, but can’t confirm.. Hope things improve… ๐Ÿ˜›

    Seems no one can keep with Nokia and Motorola when it comes to radio strength and call quality.. Really too bad.. :-(

  5. My Diamond is loaded with the latest ROM, which apparently improved performance, in which case I’m very glad never to have used the previous version.

    The touch wheel functionality seems to be very limited. The only place I have found it to do anything is in Opera. It zooms the pages in and out.

    Yes Telstra are bring it out, I would have been at the launch but I had to work. Mid-August for $999 outright or on an $80 plan for 24mths.

    Nokia are simply the best, no doubt about it. No other manufacturer can touch them (no pun intended) in that area at the moment.

  6. Glad to see another HTC Diamond review that is honest about issues

  7. For the cost of this device, I’m very disappointed with the performance it delivers. This is meant to compete DIRECTLY with Apple/AT&T’s iPhone and iPhone 3G. Its not going to do well unless there are some very serious performance increases here. I don’t think this is an OS related issue. Its likely the enhancements that HTC has layered on it. They need to do some SERIOUS optimization or this thing is going to crash and burn. While the Diamond offers some really cool hardware designs, its specs aren’t that stellar and seem to be stuck in the same ol’-same ol’ category.

    This device didn’t live up to the hype and I’m disappointed…

  8. It’s interesting. Despite the higher-res VGA screen, the Diamond only has a 65K (16 bit) color depth as opposed to the iPhon’es 24bit (over 1 million colors) color depth. Why does this matter? It’s part of what adds to the smooth look of the Apple screen. It makes photos and video look better on the iPhone, despite the resolution difference. The Nokia, despite a mediocre 240*320 disply boasts an even higher color depth, which again, helps make up for the resolution differences. People often downplay the importance of color depth when considering how we perceive the display. It’s nearly as important (when used properly) as resolution.

    The other thing I find interesting is that there is a review and discussion over on another website about how, if we’re being truly objective, that Opera 9.5 is a better browser than Safari and is more standards compliant (even though at least one standards organization says otherwise). That discussion mentions nothing of these glitches/problems.

    I was hoping for more from the Diamond as well. Perhaps things will improve as patches become available for it. It will be interesting to see how well it sells here in the North America, where the Blackberry is king of the Smartphones, iPhone outsells WM devices, and Nokia is a much smaller player than elsewhere.

  9. I have re-read this about five times and still can’t believe what I am reading: “I disconnected the Diamond from itโ€™s charger at 6:30am, and by 12pm … I had the low battery warning indicator showing in the menu bar.”

    What’s astounding is 1) You were at work so it wasn’t being hammered, 2) It’s a relatively new battery so should have some legs.

    Given this info, 5-6 hours (under minimal use) is all that we can expect from this device? Even with the 3g radio on it should stretch out….

    What’s the gas tank (mAh)?

  10. The things I’ve seen indicate it has a 900mAh battery.

  11. Very curious. Was this first impression review from in the U.S. or Europe? Considering that the only Touch Diamond currently available is for European/Asian markets, and the 3G bands for it don’t work in the U.S., that might explain the poor signal quality (assuming Mitchell is in the U.S.).

    If Mitchell is in the U.S., I don’t think it is fair to criticize the signal quality, since the device is not meant for the U.S. market.

    Admittedly, I have yet to see the device first-hand, so I’ll reserve judgment until I can hold and play with one myself; however, all of the video reviews I’ve seen suggest that the device is quite responsive. Of course, those reviews were done in Europe where the device has access to the proper signals.

  12. Indeed, it has a 900mAh battery, but if it was searching for signal the whole time, any size battery would die under those conditions.

  13. Okay, I just re-read the post and see that Mitchell mentions Telstra (an Australian provider). I’m not positive, but I believe their 3G operates in the 850MHz band, which is not compatible the the European Touch Diamond. That would explain the poor signal.

  14. Yes the battery is 900mAh, which isn’t very big, especially compare to some Windows Mobile devices. It is very small though…

    Insp_Gadget, we have both 2100Mhz and 850Mhz 3G here (stupid carriers….). Telstra uses the 850Mhz network (which I have to admit is absolutely brilliant), and the other carriers (Vodafone, Optus and Three) use the 2100Mhz band. I’m on Three simply because their data rates are CONSIDERABLY cheaper than everyone elses. If money wasn’t such an issue, I’d be very much in the Telstra camp.

    With regards to the signal, I don’t get very good signal inside my house, but the Nokia never had any issues with it. The Diamond must have a weaker radio, which frankly is disappointing.

    That word contiunously rolls through my mind when using the Diamond. They should have called it the HTC Touch Disappointment. May seem harsh, but alas it’s true.


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