HOME / PRINT
HTC Radar, Windows Phone Mango smartphone review
HTC’s Radar brings us our first taste of Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango. Although it has made its debut just a little while after Samsung’s Omnia W, claiming second place in the WP7 Mango handset category in India, it does seem to have what it takes to make it. Here’s a closer look at the handset and all that WP7 Mango brings to the party.
While the software is of course its defining feature and will get most of our attention, HTC has done an admirable job of crafting the phone itself. Its solid aluminum body feels reassuringly hefty, and its curves are perfectly defined to fit in the hand. Our silver-and-white review model looked clean and modern, though its minimalistic lines were a bit broken by the black sensor and camera (VGA resolution) patches.
Totally encased battery
The Radar has three standard touch-sensitive controls on the front, and extremely slim buttons along the top and right edges for sleep, volume control and camera shutter release. A 3.5mm headset socket is on top, a micro USB charging port on the left, and the rather large camera lens (5MP) and LED flash are at the rear. The battery is built in, the SIM card slips underneath a removable plastic chin, and there’s no microSD or other expansion slot, no different from any other WP7 handset.
Not the slimmest in the lot but quite well built
Front and center, the 3.8-inch-tall 800 x 480-pixel touchscreen is crisp and vibrant, with the OS’s stark neon icons standing out against their black background. The Radar comes with a matching white USB cord and headset, but strangely, a black charger.
The internals of the Radar consist of a 1 GHz Qualcomm CPU, 512 MB of RAM and 8 GB of storage space, which are decidedly mid-range for a smartphone today. Windows Phone 7 had only a half-hearted launch in India, which was perhaps fitting for a smartphone operating system that felt only half complete. Luckily for us, WP 7.5 “Mango” is now here in full force and it will be most peoples’ first taste of Windows Phone. Compared to the first WP7 release, Mango is an absolute pleasure to use, and it’s much more likely that new users will spend time getting to know the quirky OS without being put off by the fairly major omissions of the first generation.
Finally an option to multitask
WP’s iconic “Metro” visual style is a far cry from the grids, icons and lists we’re used to, making even iOS and Android feel rather dated. Still, it’s not for everyone—the look is stark and modern, text titles are stylistically blown up so that they fall off the screen’s edges, and it’ll take a while to get used to the way things are organized and laid out. Most notably, the traditional phone book has been transformed into a “People Hub”, with live updates from Facebook, Windows Live, and even Twitter. This lets you to focus on people, rather than the individual apps required for each kind of interaction. The downside is that things can quickly get cluttered, especially since Windows Phone combines the contact lists from all your email accounts, which tend to automatically add contacts you don’t really need to have saved. Luckily, you can filter out individual sources and link contacts across them. You can of course choose not to tie the phone into your various other accounts, but then you’d be losing out on its most unique and valuable capabilities.
The Messaging app lets you pick up a conversation via SMS, Facebook chat or Windows Live Messenger. The built-in Bing search can recognize voice commands and music lyrics, and you can even hold up the camera to a QR code or scan text for instant (though only semi accurate) language translation. “Attentive” features let you flip the phone to mute an alert or automatically switch to speakerphone, and you can make it ring louder when it detects that it’s in a pocket or bag. Even the soft keyboard is superbly designed, using the screen’s extra vertical real estate to space things out. A smart autocorrect system replaces obvious mistakes and also subtly suggests replacements when it isn’t sure.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest letdowns with this phone was call quality. Voices consistently sounded tinny and machine-like.
WP7.5 has a lot to offer, especially if you’re an Xbox Live or Hotmail user. Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for creating a completely new kind of experience, and it’s easy to see the amount of thought and effort that’s gone into it. The level of attention to detail is ridiculously high—even the ringtones have been designed to fit into a certain aesthetic sensibility—though that isn’t to say a lot of polish isn’t still needed. Some of the animations seem overdone, and after a while actually slow you down when moving between tasks.
New Twitter and upadted Xbox Live apps
The Zune app is a bit too convoluted if you just want to listen to music, and you can’t avoid the mess of Xbox-related options (including Avatars, requests and friends lists) even if you only want to play simple games. The browser hides too many frequently used controls, and even though the hard ‘Back’ button now behaves a little more consistently, it’s still a pain to backtrack through every step just to get where you want to be. The new Task Manager can be pulled up by pressing and holding the ‘Back’ button for a few seconds, but it usually shows only three or four options and often excludes the app you just switched from, for no apparent reason.
You get Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g/n, an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, and GPS positioning for Bing Maps. The Radar is a 3G capable handset and of course, runs EDGE/GPRS just as well if that’s what you’re on.
Slick looking device
HTC has added a few customizations, including an app that mimics its Sense UI on other platforms, a simple note taker, a photo editor and a DLNA controller that lets you stream media to compatible PCs or home theater streamers. The Radar didn’t feel underpowered at all during use; WP’s menus and animations were consistently smooth, and even the few games we tried were a pleasure to play. However, 8 GB of storage space will fill up very quickly. Online file storage options are available, but impractical due to the high cost of 3G data plans here.
Photos taken with the camera were slightly disappointing, with lots of noise and a lack of definition in anything but the most perfect light.
The gray option is quite a looker as well
The Radar easily lasted through a day of normal usage without needing a recharge. With Wi-Fi turned off and the brightness set to ‘Medium’, the Radar’s battery lasted an amazing 7 hours, 19 minutes in our looped video playback test before the phone shut down automatically (and actually lasted a good half hour after the critical battery warning first flashed on screen). A battery saver feature can progressively turn off features and background tasks as the battery depletes.
Microsoft is fully committed to improving its Windows Phone platform, which gives us faith that regular updates will bring a host of improvements to what is already a solid, feature-rich OS. More importantly, Windows Phone feels refreshing and exciting to use! HTC has done a fine job with the Radar, which will probably easily stand out amongst the host of mid-range Android phones (and the upcoming reduced-price 8 GB iPhone 4) it’s positioned against. If you’re looking for a unique, modern, social experience, you’ll be more than happy with this phone.