- Strong unibody construction
- Snappy OS performance
- Enhanced Sense UI
- Weak WiFi reception
- Average camera quality
- Screen too reflective outdoors
Features and build quality
Those who've used the Hero for some time will spot many similarities on the slimmer Legend. The phone's general anatomy on the front and sides remains unchanged, except for the keys below the screen -- the Search and Back buttons have pushed the entire row to the left, thus killing the pick-up-call key and flicking the power button to the top of the phone (near the 3.5mm headphone jack). Naturally, some may miss the ability to jump straight to the dialer, and the keys' occasional stickiness on our unit don't help, either, although this might be an isolated issue. The volume buttons -- now in the form of a thin silver bar that sticks out slightly -- have been moved up from the slope underneath to the straight side, making them more reachable and less prone to accidental presses. On the contrary, we found the new earpiece to be a tad higher than where we'd like it to be, so we often had to deliberately hold the phone lower on our ear to hear the call. The speaker on the back was amazingly loud, so good thing that we can quickly mute the ringer by placing the Legend face down (courtesy of the G-sensor, of course).
Moving on to the backside: due to the aluminum unibody construction, we no longer have a big battery cover that required some skillful hands and long nails to pry open on the Hero; instead, we access the battery, SIM card and microSDHC card (spring-loaded slot) under a smaller rubber cover at bottom, while the camera, LED flash and speaker near the top are padded with some rubber. Here's an advanced warning, though: the battery cover is actually part of the cellular radio antenna, so removing it while your phone's still on means you'll be temporarily out of reach. Obviously, letting the kids or the dogs get near your rubber cover may render your Legend useless. Flipping open the inner cover underneath will also loosen the battery thus killing the power. Naturally, this slide-in design for the battery bay means third-party manufacturers will struggle to produce batteries of larger capacity. As for the general feel of the Legend's metallic body, it wasn't as slippery as we had initially expected, but understandably the Hero's back has better grip and provides a warmer touch.
As we've seen at MWC, HTC's made some pretty neat changes to the Sense UI for Android 2.1, and we're not just talking about those fancy colors and icons. First is the handy Leap feature that lets you view all seven homescreens in one go (similar idea to the XPERIA X1's panel interface), and this can be triggered by pinch-zooming any of the homescreens or by pressing the Home button when you're on the main screen. Leap's been responding pretty well all this time with both input methods, but we've noticed that the panels are actually just stills of each homescreen as last viewed -- it would be nice if HTC can make them all live, or at least auto-update the panels every now and then. Next up is Friend Stream -- an aggregator app (with widget) essentially for stalking people by the means of Facebook statuses, Flickr and Twitter (which launches Peep when you click on a tweet). While this isn't exactly a breakthrough feature -- Motoblur already does this with its Happenings app -- it's no doubt a welcomed addition to HTC fans.
Even though the Legend (Qualcomm MSM7227 at 600MHz) is clocked at just 72MHz more than the Hero (MSM7200A at 528MHz), we thought it'd be interesting to compare boot-up times, and behold: the Legend only needed about 20 seconds, whereas the Hero took almost twice as long. Nice work, Qualcomm! We then decided to test the Legend's battery and camera by treating it to a rare sunny trip around London. As fun as it sounds, the reflective nature of the AMOLED screen meant we had to keep web surfing to the minimal while out in the open -- perhaps some Super AMOLED could fix this.
We've also spent a few nights with the Legend in bed. First thing we noticed was that with the brightness turned down to minimal level, the AMOLED screen was suddenly given a brown tint and some noise pixels. Again, this could be just the general disadvantage of AMOLED that could be fixed by coping with one or two brightness levels up. A more pressing matter that we discovered on the Legend was the weaker WiFi (802.11 b/g) reception compared to the Hero and many other phones -- in the same spot, the Hero managed two bars while the Legend struggled with one or none at all, which ruined our bedtime web surfing routine. That said, there's always the good old 3G if you're on an unlimited data plan.
It isn't a nice thing to say, but we do have just a bit more hate than love for the Legend's camera. The 5 megapixel pictures taken during the day turned out pretty good, but night shots were hard to focus and some were terribly noisy -- it's what you get with small sensors anyway so we'll leave it there. However, the 640 x 480 videos were just choppy in general, and they became much worse when filmed in the dark. We've seen better filming performance on other smartphones so there's clearly some work to be done. To cheer things up a bit, the LED flash may be small but it did its job well with objects within two meters. You can see all the camera's good and bad below.
Video filmed during the day:
Video filmed at night:
It's safe to say that HTC's broken yet another mold with the Legend, stunning the world with both its hardware and software design. There's no question about the unibody's toughness, and many other features we've seen here are of significant improvements over the Hero, namely the AMOLED screen (in general), FM radio, optical trackpad (debatable), still camera and the new goodies plus performance boost in Sense UI. Sure, there are major flaws in the battery life and video recording performance, but there's a chance that these can be fixed via a software upgrade, if they weren't of hardware glitches. Some may have hoped for some 720p video capture capability, but hey, isn't that what the Desire's for? We hope so. Anyway, we'll know which one's of the best value when both phones are available in European shops.