Saturday, November 10, 2007

HTC S730 Review!

Specs and details

HTC S730
Qualcomm® MSM 7200, 400MHz CPU
Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 Standard (non touch-screen)
256Mb ROM, 64Mb RAM
Quad-band GSM/ GPRS / EDGE plus 3G and HSDPA on 2100Mhz
Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, WiFi (802.11b/g)
2 Megapixel camera and second VGA camera up front
microSD slot
Slide-out QWERTY keyboard

In the box

Power charger, headphones / handsfree kit, USB cable, manuals, CD's.

A few short months back we reviewed the HTC S710. It's still my phone of choice on a day-to-day basis. The HTC S710 had the Smartphone (Windows Mobile 6 Standard) OS, WiFi, a 2 megapixel camera, a slide-out keyboard and the new SDHC capability to allow massive data storage with microSD cards.

Now enter the HTC S730. More memory, a faster CPU and extra functionality has now been added. It's a little fatter and longer, but it packs the 3G and HSPDA connectivity that was missing in the HTC S710. As you'll see from our comparison shots the keyboard section is slightly fatter but it's still by no means unsightly.

You also get a ramped-up processor - 400Mhz instead of the 200Mhz in the previous model. A face-pointing camera allows for video calls and a newly redesigned QWERTY keyboard makes typing easier than before too. Have a look below and you should be able to see how the keyboard has now been re-aligned to make it more central - note where the letter "Q" now is - directly above the "A", where it should be really.

The design of the S730 is slightly chunkier - especially the numeric keypad. Gone are the polished keys of the S710 and in their place and thick, bold buttons which have been relocated to make using the softkeys easier. I like this layout actually. Neat.

Here's a few more comparison shots with the existing S710 (Orange SPV E650) on the right. You can see that the S730 is a little less rounded and the keyboard is more angular than before. These shots also show the increase in length.

The keys here are backlit in white with the call answer / release being green and red.

On the top of the screen is the video camera for your 3G calls plus, to the left is a circular earpiece with LED's representing network activity and power etc. This earpiece has a nice shiny button-like appearance about it.

On the left side of the phone is the standard volume up / down and a quick-access button into your comm manager. On the HTC S710 this was a voice-tag button, but I'm happier to see a comm manager button instead as it's a little more difficult to get to the Comm Manager application on the Smartphone. Press this and you can easily turn your WiFi on / off or switch to Flight Mode etc etc. I did mention also that the volume up / down buttons on the HTC S710 were a little tricky to find while you were on a call - these are much easier to locate.

On top there's a nice bold power button..

Then on the right wide we've got the camera button taking us into the camera / video application (with the same 2 megapixel shooter doing the work) and a microSD card slot sitting behind a rubber flap. This isn't an auto-focus camera but the shots are still decent enough and you can see the results later on in this review.

As you'll see above there's no flash but there is a mirror for taking self-portraits above the speaker.

At the bottom is the usual miniUSB port and a loop-hole for attaching your phone to a lanyard etc.

The auto-sliding keyboard pops out to reveal that the SIM-card slot is no longer beneath the screen as it was on the HTC S710. A chime is played when you open the keyboard is opened, although I quickly turned this off (Settings->Sounds->Keyboard Sliding->Off). The speed of the screen-switch is much improved thanks to the faster 400Mhz Qualcomm CPU.

On the top left you'll see two status lights. The first is the familiar "CAPS" light you'll have seen on your normal PC keyboard whilst the second indicates whether the FN key is in use. Press the FN key on the lower left and then you get access into the extra functions shown below in blue.

The keys themselves have been redesigned now and you'll find that the full stop "." is now on the top-left to make the keyboard more centralised. This is great because we spotted how difficult it could be to select a capital Q on the HTC S710 keyboard.


Example photos

Like the S710 this S730 will take photos in a portrait style - this makes photos "tall" instead of "wide" with a resolution of up to 1200x1600. I'm so glad that, yet again, the out-of-the-box setting is 1200x1600 (2 megapixel) as default - in years gone by I've picked up handsets and they've been set to resolutions lower than the maximum. Click on the pictures below for the full-sized versions direct from the phone itself.

The HTC 2 megapixel camera can struggle a little in lower light, although the faster CPU does process the low-light preview screen quicker so you don't get so much "judder" when moving the camera around in low-light conditions. There is still a need to hold the phone incredibly still in lower light conditions.

The familiar shortcut keys are here to help you out, with the number "1" rotating through the capture types (video, MMS video, camera),"2" will alter the resolution, "3" will change the exposure setting and so on. You can also use up / down on your navigation pad to zoom and left / right to increase the brightness.

For advanced users you can try out the "Metering Mode" setting to detect the light at the centre of the shot or the entire shot. This helps when you're taking pictures with a combination of light and dark. The camera application will also detect when you've inserted a microSD card and will ask you if you'd like to store your photos onto that instead of the phones internal memory.


Inside

We've got one of the first S730 phones here in the UK and it's running a test build of the software. There's been a lot of rumours about the GPS and it's a hotly debated topic. I tested it and got a couple of fixes on the test tools, so something inside does appear to be responding on COM4 at 57600 bps, but I couldn't get a fix with any software. Whether this is due to the GPS configuration or lack of GPS antenna I'm not sure, but Google Maps and several other navigation programs fail to get a fix.

The best I could get was three satellites, so it may be lacking an antenna. The official specs for this phone have no mention of GPS so it may perhaps be something that could be included later, I'm really not sure at this stage.

As we're using an early test build I'm going to skim over the internals of the phone. HTC have bundled some of their excellent applications in this build with MP3 trimmer included for creating ringtones from the best bits of your MP3's. Other applications such as Java, Adobe reader and Flash Lite are on board to let you work and play hard.

HTC have also added their excellent customized homescreen which lets you easily set alarms, check your weather, change your profile and instantly check whether you've had any missed calls, text messages, voicemails, appointments and more.

To show off the faster CPU and to give you a tour around the device in real-time I've recorded this quick video. I'm actually watching a live TV stream of some childrens TV show over the WiFi, then I browse a bit (notice how quick this is), listen to some internet radio and show you around the phone...

The keys aren't seperated, however each key is raised slightly to make locating a simple affair. Typing is very easy and texting, emailing and using instant messaging applications like Windows Live are made easier with the slide-out keyboard.

The easy data entry is great with Microsoft Mobile Office, which is on board to edit Office documents. Although it won't let you create new documents you can copy across a blank document and then save this under a different name as a work-around.

Conclusion

I started this site back in 2002 when I bought my first Microsoft Smartphone. At heart I still love the Smartphone shape - a normal-looking phone that does a lot more than any normal phone. I own a HTC S710 right now and I'd love for it to have the increased speed, increased capacity and increased bandwidth that this new HTC S730 has. Let's not forget what I said about the previous S710 - "Yes, it lacks 3G, yes, there's no Zip application yes, the 200Mhz CPU can sometimes drag a little on screen switching." HTC have nailed these little issues and now I'm a very happy bunny. The HTC S730 is a hugely capable and rapid Windows Mobile which truly combines your work and home life.

Personally speaking I love phones with standard keypads. Anyone can pick this phone up, punch in a number and use it - then they'll start learning about the not-so-hidden bonus features - the stereo Bluetooth, instant messaging, mobile office, instant email, WiFi, 3G video calling, ultra-fast connectivity and speedy data entry thanks to the pop-out QWERTY keyboard.

The S730 we're reviewing here is network free - a lot more people are buying phones direct now to avoid the hefty 18 and 24-month contracts. Pop your SIM card in and the S730 will configure itself swiftly to use your MMS and 3G settings, then you're free to play.

I know I may start to sound like a complete HTC fan-boy here, but every time I review one of their handsets I'm increasingly impressed with the software developments, the design, the build-quality and the speed at which they fix and improve any details we've not liked. Right now, from us, we can find nothing to moan about. If the GPS does work in the final build I'll be saving hard to buy one of these because, quite simply, it does everything it says on the tin perfectly.

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