I got to admit, the lure of new toy is always so tempting. My Sony Ericsson X1 served me well for the last 8 months, and in fact is the longest holding mobile device I ever have for the last few years. In the current economy climate, it just does not make sense for me to switch to a new toy. Plus, if my verdict on X1 ever suggests, if there’s nothing better than, eh-hm, what else could have turned my head?
So 4 weeks ago when I sent in my X1 to the service center to have the keyboard and some parts repaired, never would I had expected that would be my last Xperia experience. It has to do with the infamous crack plastic housing that I requested to be replaced, but I shall not digress further. Fast forward to now, I ended up selling my X1 back to the service center, and gotten a black stone, a code name for HTC Touch HD.
First unboxing impression
HTC always does a great job in marketing their products, including their product packaging. Touch HD is not an exception. Upon opening up the box, the phone is sitting tightly on the velvet case, radiating a class of sparkles as if it is really a black gem stone. The phone itself is very well built, with a glass finishing on the front, and plastic with rubber texture finishing on its back. The 3.8″ screen size is a big welcome for me after enduring the small 2.8″ (or 3.0″ for X1) screen for the last few years. It was the same feeling I got when I upgraded my 29″ CRT with a 42″ plasma TV few years ago. No kidding! With a bigger screen, something has to give in, as it becomes wider to hold and may not be one-hand-friendly especially for ladies. Luckily the overall form factor is not at all compromised, as HTC designs the phone as a gemstone, not a brick. Perhaps I had my own taste of iPAQ 6300/6500/6900, I find it comfortable holding HD despite its wider screen.
The setup experience was somehow less desirable though. After going through the usual screen calibration and time setting, my first task was to set up Activesync Exchange connectivity, so that I can restore my contacts, email and appointments as I would always do when I get a new Windows Mobile phone. This is where my patience was seriously tested. For some reason, the sync download was slow (ok, blame it on the 3G connection I have), and at the half way mark, the device reported that service.exe has crashed and the sync got into a limbo stage. It took me a soft reset, to complete the sync, even then, the sync was painfully slow. It appears as if there is something running in the background, that slows down the whole sync process.
Unlike what the HTC sales manager had claimed 6 months ago during a Touch HD product introduction, the phone does not feel like it has been optimized for its performance. In fact, if there’s any indication that HTC has partnered with StarHub (Singapore telco that has exclusivity in Touch HD launch) to customize the ROM, it’s probably the StarHub logo display on the home page of TouchFlo interface.
Comparing to my previous X1, the Touch HD performance is just decent, and that’s after some tweaking using Schap’s Advanced Config Tool. The battery performance is far from what was promised. Sure, battery performance is subjective and depends on individual’s usage pattern. HTC had however, quite bullishly, claimed that watching TV (via StarHub TV mobile) on Touch HD would be much better than doing the same on other devices, as Touch HD would “intelligently turn off some services” to save battery power when one watches the TV online. It sounded like a complete sales “waste of male cow” (i.e. BS) but I gave the sales manager a benefit of doubt since I was not able to play with the phone until now. And my skeptic is finally backed by my own finding; after 1 hour of watching live soccer match on HD, the battery depleted by 25%. Hey I think my X1 can do a better job than this.
Second Life with Turbo-charging
So at the verge of selling the phone, and get something else (with Touch Pro 2 looming around), I decided to give HD a second chance by flashing a custom ROM (thanks to a mate’s suggestion). The steps to flash a custom ROM can be quite taunting. The last time I touched a custom ROM was when I had my iPAQ 6515, where we manipulated the ROM image with hex editor just to “hack” the storage management. With Touch HD and xda developers, the flashing process has been simplified dramatically. Within 15 minutes, I had turbo-charged my Touch HD, and I was wowed by the speed and memory management performance this time round. Set up was a breeze, the interface was even more refreshing (leveraging from Rhodium’s platform) and the screen was sensitive as usual without any trace of lag. If anybody were to ask for my advice, I would say custom ROM is the way to go, at least for Touch HD, if you really want to maximise your experience with the black stone.