Review: HTC Desire Z Best Of Keypad & Touch Worlds

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In theory, the HTC Desire Z brings together the best of both worlds with touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard inputs – in practice, the keyboard seems a little too muddled to be the best of its world.

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Don’t get me wrong, the Desire Z is a great phone that greatly benefits from having the option of using a physical keyboard for those who still fancy a bit of texture at the fingertips. 

It’s just that the keyboard doesn’t quite feel right compared to other smartphones still fiddling with keys – and I’ll explain why.

But first: a bit about the phone itself. The Desire Z is a 3.7inch touchscreen handset that runs on Android 2.2 with the typical HTC-specific Sense interface. 

Under the screen is a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom so the phone can be used side-on like a miniature netbook.

As it’s single solid button (apart from the keyboard, of course) is a touch-sensitive black button that can be pressed as a sort of enter key and can be scrolled across with the finger in place of directional buttons on older phones. 

This comes especially in handy when typing exclusively with the keypad and not wanting to tap on the screen to move up and down the text you’re typing to fix up mistakes.

 
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It also features a 5MP camera that takes some nice shots for a phone camera, with little of the visual noise you get from the typical iPhone shot. 

It also does a top job of video recording at up to 720p resolution.

The Desire Z runs fluidly across the menu and through apps, though is slightly slower than the Desire HD by comparison. 

There can be a slight delay on screen function when you open and close the keypad, but otherwise it runs near faultless. 
As a smaller phone than the HD, this model features an 800MHz rather than a 1GHz processor, and fits in 512 MB of RAM as opposed to 768 MB.

The reason I make the comparison is that while the Desire HD is a pretty hefty phone, the Desire Z is even chunkier, sitting at 14mm thick and weighing 180 grams thanks to its in-built keypad.

Now, onto the keypad – a convoluted beast. While the typical keyboard will feature the central F and J keys in the centre of the key map with the spacebar directly below, the Desire Z awkwardly props the small spacebar a few spaces to the left. 

This is to make way for two programmable hotkeys that are otherwise useless for typing. In effect, you may find yourself spamming the full-stop key half the time when you’re trying to enter a space.

Another nitpick at the keyboard is the placement of the earphone jack on the left side of the keyboard that tended to get in the way when listening to music/watching videos on the phone and typing at the same time – another poor placement option.

 
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Rather than how other models of keyboard built-in phones (like many Nokia phones) slide out, the Desire Z pops up and out in a way that is good for locking the keyboard away and stopping accidental openings. 

While that’s a plus, the downside is that pulling out the keyboard feels awkward and cumbersome.

Once you get used to this keyboard (which isn’t as much of a joy to use as others) the option of having touchscreen and keys together on one Android phone makes this a very appealing buy.

On the speaker side, calls sound great on this phone thanks to an extra clear and loud receiving speaker. The in-built speaker can also play content fairly loudly.

You won’t want to be watching too much content though, since battery life isn’t this phone’s big feature. Like many other app-happy Android phones, battery life can be as low as six hours if you use a constant stream of apps and social networks.

A handy little extra thrown in is the ability to turn the phone into a wireless hot spot so you can connect multiple gadgets to the Desire Z’s data connection.

The keyboard might be a little bit clunky to navigate, but once you’re used to it the joys of having an Android phone with a keypad and touchscreen together start to shine.

The HTC Desire Z is currently available exclusively through Vodafone on a $65 Infinite Plan over 24 months or for $5 per month on a $49 cap.

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