Verizon's matching AT&T tit-for-tat in the race to get the first Windows Mobile 6.5 devices out of the door with the launch of the HTC Imagio, a phone that essentially amounts to a more deluxe version of the Touch Diamond2 with a larger screen, 3.5mm headphone jack, combo CDMA and GSM radios (both with 3G) for global roaming, and a FLO TV tuner to support Verizon's VCAST TV service. We've had just a few brief moments to play with the Imagio so far, but after coming from the Pure -- the AT&T-branded model that we used to compile our initial impressions of WinMo 6.5 -- it's a real treat. It looks and feels like a higher-end device thanks to a proliferation of soft-touch plastic (as opposed to the Pure's glossy cover) and the kickstand is a cute touch, perfect for when you've got a few minutes to kill and you want to fire up the FLO-powered tube.

Follow the break for video and more impressions!

HTC Imagio for Verizon unboxing and hands-on

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The Imagio actually feels high-end enough to justify Snapdragon power, but alas, it's still stuck on the same old 528MHz MSM7600 core -- part of a family of aging processors that has powered many WinMo and Android devices of the past couple years. What this means for you is that you're going to experience some lag navigating through some TouchFLO and stock WinMo 6.5 user elements and web browsing won't be quite as snappy as you'd like (alas, there's no such thing as "fast enough" mobile browsing, is there?), but generally speaking, it's never unbearably slow. We're also not a huge fan of the Imagio's physical buttons below the screen -- though they're separated, they've actually got virtually no feel, so it can be tricky to tease out whether your finger's currently on a button (and if so, which one) without glancing down. Of course, we attribute that to rookie jitters -- we suppose you'd have them memorized within a few days of actually using the phone full-time.

VCAST TV works well with plenty of volume for enjoying from a few feet away, but the Imagio's big, high-res display is pretty adept at picking out FLO's flaws; the tech was always designed for small screens, after all, and you start to realize just how low-bandwidth the broadcast really is when you see it here. For a few minutes of news, weather, or sports here and there, it's not an issue, but we can't imagine trying to watch a movie this way -- for that, we'd rather just copy down a video from our PC.

By design, the overall software experience here is virtually identical to that on the Pure, so it really comes down to hardware and carrier; in our opinion, the 3.5mm jack alone is worth the extra $50 that you'll pay for the Imagio, and you won't find many people arguing that Verizon's network sucks compared to AT&T's -- especially when you consider that you've got EDGE / HSDPA in there for global use. Add in the better, more substantial feel to the device, the larger screen, and the trick FLO tuner, and Verizon's entry wins the head-to-head battle here pretty handily; sure, it's still WinMo, but at least it's sucking on some very competitive hardware.

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HTC Imagio for Verizon unboxing and hands-on