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Have No Fear, The Hero Is Here

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Having had the HTC Hero for over a week now, I think it’s time I put my final verdict on the handset in writing. Although a week may not be a long enough time to get an impression of a handset, the Hero has done a pretty stellar job in finally being able to convince me my Nokia N95 IS in fact out of order. That is quite a feat in itself.

Although I did put my views on it’s camera performance already, that was actually the only major negative I could find on the handset itself.

HTC Hero

The build quality on this is very impressive, there are no cracks, no creaking and everything feels very solid. The curve on the bottom of the device makes it more ergonomic to fit into back pockets. The right-handed design of the device’s physical keys may not be one appreciated for the left-handed person, but that’s just something they’ll have to get used to. The trackball is useful when scrolling and reading documents, although I still found myself using the touch-screen. Never actually got use to the trackball, but those who prefer it will enjoy it.

This is quite a nice surprise to find, not only does it support the usual microUSB cable to sync and charge via your PC, but will also charge using a microUSB cable from mains adaptor but you will have to have the device turned off to do so. The extUSB connection has optional audio and video out when used with additional peripherals. Thus you can have audio out and video out to your car, TV or Media Center.

The screen on the device is very very nice. It’s big enough to be able to watch videos all night (something I’ve gotten used to) and the capacitive screen which may not be as sensitive as the iPhone’s, but is good enough once one gets used to it. This brings me onto the lack of physical QWERTY keyboard. This is something I would have wanted initially and still would, but since I’ve been using it I have come to a conclusion; it’s not 100% necessary, although desirable.

In landscape mode the keys are big enough for most to use, and will be proficiently typing away pretty quickly. In portrait mode there is the choice of full QWERTY, Compact QWERTY or the typical Phone keys found in most handsets. In portrait mode I would advice those with bigger fingers to go for the Compact QWERTY mainly because the Hero contains a very impressive XT9 dictionary, which is 10x more intuitive and better at correcting your typos than T9. With the combination of the XT9 and compact QWERTY typing on the Hero becomes a pleasure rather than a chore, just be sure to watch for those tricky words at times.

The Hero may run on Android, but the SenseUI gives a lot more eye candy (finger candy too) it makes organizing the desktop easier, there is also a few more extra screens to utilize, which one would find comes in useful after accessing the Marketplace. The transitions and widgets designed by HTC make it that much more appealing. Android itself is actually pretty bland in comparison. So this is a very refreshing addition. There are also little tweaks which make the UI much more appealing, take for instance the Music player (which shockingly doesn’t have an EQ) which is integrated with the lock screen, so whilst the device is locked and the user is listening to their music, they can control the tracks being played without unlocking. The screen also shows the album art, track and artist info.

In my opinion Android does offer a great alternative to those bored with Symbian, Windows Mobile and looking for an alternative to the iPhone. Whilst multi-tasking, and stability are ensured, Android does have a few UI changes it takes time to get used to. There doesn’t seem to be a file manager built in (if it does, I still haven’t found one,) so looking for files and pictures and moving them to specific folders isn’t something I could do with the handset. Other than this one fault I found the rest of the OS very intuitive, the top notifications bar is very impressive, switching between apps, and notifications is easy using this or by long pressing the “Home” button which brings up a list of all the apps running on the device.

It may not have as many as the Appstore, but more isn’t always better. The apps in the marketplace are very impressive and finding and installing apps is a breeze. It’s simple, can be done on the device and the best thing I found was the uninstalling of the apps and notifications of updates available for currently installed apps. It’s a real simple process and one that’s been executed almost to perfection by Google. The choices of apps itself is huge, sorted in categories the user can filter by popularity or latest additions or just use search to find a specific application. The apps themselves come with a brief description before install, can be rated using stars, users can post a review of the app and also prompt the user to accept and notify which services it will be using on their handsets.

What I can say is the device performs amicably. The battery is quite impressive. It gets through a LOT of usage. With regular usage I find I didn’t have to charge it until I got home, mostly close to midnight. The actual battery indicator is pretty accurate, going from green, to amber and then orange and red with the bar decreasing it’s pretty accurate in what it says. There is no 5 bars to 1 scenario much like Nokia handsets tend to do.

On the whole the handset is impressive, it’s elegant and coped with various tasks which I put it through. The multi-tasking of the device is impressive too. Full HTML Mail, Twitter, Full web browsing with flash – it handles them all with pretty much ease. The lack of 3G video calling is a surprise, but considering barely anyone uses it, I didn’t even notice until it was pointed out to me.

If camera isn’t a major issue for you, then the Hero should be in any consideration of getting a new device. If Android is your preferred platform then I’d say it’s the only choice. This really is the best Android device on the market at this point. The overall design, solid build, UI appeal and choice of apps should make this an easy choice. It’s a device that’s ready for now and the coming future. This isn’t a concept, it’s already here and ready to move forward – that makes it easy for me to say, the Hero really is Here!

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