For my regular readers, you will have already seen my video footage of the HTC Hero. It was a fun time, to finally try and give up my iPhone for an alternative platform. For all of you who haven't seen the video footage, you will find it on my YouTube Channel or throughout this review.
To kick things off, I must say that I was very impressed with the build quality. This is a sleek mobile phone, with a distinct angle near the microphone and of the unit. People cutely refer to this as 'the chin'. The design is an acquired taste, but I think that most people will find it endearing. The size is also very nice. Although not much smaller than an iPhone, it has some nice bevels and curves, so feels a lot smaller, and dare I say it 'more mobile phone-like'. This is also down to the slightly smaller 3.2-inch (320x480) screen. However, this sort of size is ideal for general use and also looks very good for web and movie browsing too. In the box you get a handsfree kit, USB cable, wall charger, quickstart guide and the Hero itself. We were lucky enough to get sent a white unlocked version from Clove Technology. This has an ultra smooth finish with a teflon coating (the white is the only colour to have this). The special coating is meant to repel greasy fingerprints... in my tests it certainly did.
Out of the box, setting up the Hero is very simple. This handset runs on the Google Android platform. As such it is very friendly to you, if you use Google's services, such as Gmail. Luckily I do, so tapping in my account settings had me up and running with my email in about 90 seconds. To say I was impressed with the ease of this initial setup is an understatement.
With the Hero up and running, you are presented with your home screen. Swiping ones finger across the screen reveals a further six screens, so that's seven in total, that can be customised. You can put shortcuts to applications, plus a whole load of widgets. Widgets are like tiny applications, for things like the weather, clocks, music, Twitter, etc. What makes this a pretty astonishing achievement is that they all 'live update'. So, flicking you finger across to your email widget, shows you your latest emails. The speed of the Hero is pretty good. With a small amount of widgets, there is hardly any lag. If you fill up every screen with a live widget, then you will notice some slowdown. Having said that, any phone that is running loads of processes will exhibit this too.
The camera on this baby is a 5-megapixel offering. There is no flash, but it performs pretty well without it. Very low light situations will mean you get grainy pics. In room light the camera performs great, with good detail. Outdoors it produces well exposed photos, that are very colourful too. Video is not so good, mainly due to the low resolution, but how often are you really going to use it for video? At first (and I mention this is in the video), I was not a great fan of the one-push photo taking. You don't push down halfway with the trackball to focus, then the rest of the way to take the photo, as you would expect. It is all in one action. You push, the focus then locks on and the Hero takes the photo, all in one action. The reason I did not like this at first is because of my passion for photography. It just didn't feel natural. However, now I have got used to the idea, it makes sense. You can hold the mobile more steadily, without fiddling with the buttons to much. A firm push on the trackball and the Hero does its job.
I mentioned the widgets earlier in my review. Well, there really are loads. HTC have done a wonderful job in making the Hero stand out from the crowd. The weather widgets look wonderful. The music widget also looks great and performs well too. I won't list them all here, check out the fourth part of my video coverage below to see what the Sense UI has to offer.