On occasion, we found certain images lacked contrast and vibrance, but this generally correlated to the lack of light in a given scene. One notable situation where the camera is sure to let you down is with mixed-light conditions, where shaded areas appear unnecessarily dark and well-lit areas are slightly over-exposed. In these scenes, our shots ranged from bad to unusable. Sadly, Mango's support for wide dynamic range mode is nowhere to be found. Sometimes you'll be able to frame a shot in a way that makes this less of an issue. Other times, your best bet will be to rely on software enhancement if you're really in a pinch. One notable feature that's built into the camera app is the ability to capture burst shots. You shouldn't expect miracles, but it'll take five pictures in what we'd approximate as a two-second timespan. Just for kicks, we tested this feature with a traffic scene.
If you've been paying attention, you might've noticed that we've yet to mention the front-facing VGA cam. Yep... it has one, and we've included a samples from it, too. The feature is nice to have, but the results are comparatively poor and you'll want to avoid this option unless your situation necessitates its use.
By default, the primary camera captures video at VGA (640 x 480) resolution, though 720p (1280 x 720) and QVGA (320 x 240) are also options. We tested the camcorder mode with both VGA and 720p and were pleasantly surprised with the Radar's abilities. One feature we're especially pleased with is the camera's ability to continually auto-focus throughout shooting. Like still photos, however, you'll encounter similar exposure issues when filming movies in mixed-light conditions.
Windows Phone 7.5 has arrived, and it's certainly a welcome addition to HTC's lineup. We've exhaustively covered Mango's numerous improvements in our in-depth preview
, so most of this area will be dedicated to the manufacturer's added software. That said, Microsoft has done its utmost to provide users with a tightly integrated ecosystem and the end result definitely pays off -- both in terms of usability and performance. Sure, third-party apps don't run quite a quickly as their Mango counterparts, but with functionality for applications such as Yelp, Shazam and Google Goggles built right into the system -- not to mention Zune Pass, Facebook and Twitter -- many users will have little reason to look elsewhere (much to the chagrin of developers, that is). Microsoft's approach also ensures that its system remains nimble on hardware that's unquestionably falling behind the curve, which certainly makes the Radar's spec sheet less of an issue.
With respect to HTC's customizations, you can either think of them as icing on the cake or unnecessary distractions. It's hard to consider any of it bloat, however, and users looking for a pure Mango experience will be glad to know that each of the apps may be uninstalled without fanfare. HTC Hub, HTC Watch, Photo Enhancer, Connected Media, Locations and Notes all appear on the home screen, where they make quite the stand against the clean tiles of the Metro UI. Perhaps the manufacturer could've given greater consideration to Windows Phone's design philosophy, although it certainly helps break up the monotony of single hue squares. We also found it slightly arrogant on HTC's part to place Watch and Photo Enhancer more prominently than essentials such as Internet Explorer. At any rate, it'll be a good opportunity for users to re-arrange their home screen.
HTC Hub is essentially a weather app and live tile that smacks heavily of Sense -- they're so damn proud of it, they just can't go Metro. In addition to displaying the local time, date and weather, the main screen can be customized to deliver current conditions and temperatures in a host of other locations. Clicking on a city brings up additional (and useful) information from AccuWeather -- all presented atop some chintzy animated backgrounds. Weather junkies will likely dig the ability to view an expanded hourly forecast that's delivered in the form of a scrollable line chart. A flick of the screen to the right or left within HTC Hub also reveals stock quotes and an RSS news reader -- though without visual cues, you might've never known this if we hadn't mentioned it. HTC Watch, the company's pay-to-play portal for video rentals and purchases, also makes an appearance on the Radar. Unfortunately, we couldn't gain access to any content beyond the free movie trailers. Somehow, we'll live...
HTC's Photo Enhancer application is rather self-explanatory, which allows users to apply one-click adjustments to their images. As a nice surprise, not only were we able to apply filters to photos stored locally on our phone, but also to those in our Facebook albums. Connected Media is used for establishing a link to other DLNA-enabled devices, which allows users to stream audio, video and photos from their phone. We didn't get to test this one, although it does integrate nicely with the media hub. Locations is essentially a breadcrumb application that allows you to store coordinates, pictures and descriptions of places you've been. If you're looking for something a bit simpler, Notes is meant solely for text. Dig a bit deeper into the applications menu and you'll also discover that HTC has also included a handy flashlight app that controls the phone's built-in LED flash.
With its smaller screen, slower CPU and lower-res camera, it was easy to overlook the Radar as it debuted alongside its larger, bulkier sibling, the HTC Titan. Even we were blinded by shock and awe, but after spending time with the little guy, we must say we're quite smitten. Moreover, it's going to be a tearful goodbye when we're forced to send the little runt back home. Still, whether it's the best phone for you is a different question entirely. If you find yourself in need of a removable battery or more than 8GB of storage, the Radar is out of the question. Its price on contract at T-Mobile is another unknown, but even if it debuts at $100, it'll have a hard time delivering a compelling argument against LG's G2x
. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a Windows Phone and are undeterred by the Radar's few shortcomings, its support for HSPA+ alone will make an excellent holiday gift for yourself or someone you wanna see smile.