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Sep 7, 2009

Review: HTC Touch Pro 2

TouchPro2 

Yes! He is here. The pro. The real pro. The Touch Pro 2!

The famous HTC device which many sites referred to as one of the best WinMo phones ever, has fallen into my hands recently and I had a chance to play with it for a while - here are some of my thoughts about it.


htc-touch-pro-2_468

Form Factor:

On one hand - the device looks AMAZING! A real eye candy!

On the other hand - I'm not crazy a about those sliding QWERTY keyboards, I usually find that it's not that practical to open the keyboard every time you need to type, and even though it's better for lots of texting - the cost of it is usually in the thickness and the weight of the phone, and indeed, TP2 has an unusual heavy weight. It's a heavy weight device, and a thick one as well - in fact it's as twice thicker than the iPhone. For many people - that's a serious problem.

Screen:

Beautiful WVGA - who can ask for more? (don't know what WVGA means? check out our mini screen resolutions guide).

The screen is great, and unlike the previous Touch Pro that was way too stiff and had had a terrible sensitivity - the new screen has a very sensitive screen which makes it easy to use kinetic scrolling, activate items, click on the annoying OK button etc.

Great stuff by HTC. Even Optimash Prime is happy.

IMG_0319 copy

Hardware Buttons:

Not sure why, but HTC insists on releasing Windows Mobile devices with no D-Pad: no traditional buttons, no joystick, no trackball like in the android / BlackBerry devices, no virtual mouse like the Samsung Omnia, nothing.

I think it's a big mistake because many of the Windows Mobile applications are not yet finger friendly, and although HTC wraps a lot of the standard functionality with their own TouchFlo UI - it does not cover everything, and for me - a device without a D-Pad is simply less useful. For example: you open a combo-box, with 30 items - you want to easily scroll down the combo box - but you cannot because there is no D-Pad.

That's one hell of a bummer and for me it's a show stopper that will probably prevent me from purchasing a device like the Pro.

Besides the D-Pad - TP2 comes with 4 useful buttons (End, Send, OK/Back, and Start) which makes operating the device very simple.

Keyboard: 

Oh, and there's that full QWERTY keyboard of course. Although it looks fantastic - I found that it's not that comfortable to type with it.

The reason is that many of the letters are too close to the edges of the surface, and you need to move your thumb too much to the left/right sides - I actually found that after 3-4 minutes of typing with it my thumbs began to hurt! Never happen to me before with any other phone. Am I getting too old for this? Probably, but for now, I prefer my BlackBerry Bold keyboard which is very comfortable for my finger size.

Zoom Bar:

For some reason, HTC thinks that a zoom bar which is only functional in very few applications (such as Internet and images) is with investing effort and real estate in a zoom surface.

I don't understand that approach, for me this zoom bar could be very well implemented by adding a special software that floats on top of any image or web page. I would easily replace this useless zoom surface with an optical D-Pad like in the first Samsung Omnia which can be used in all the applications (and can also act as a nice zoom surface if HTC insist of having this functionality).

TouchFlo 3D and other UI Improvements:

When HTC started with their work on the TouchFlo 3D - many people criticized them for the poor performance.

I can honestly say that in both the Touch HD and the new Touch Pro - this problem is definitely solved. The performance is great, the User Interface responds perfectly and the new version of TouchFlo has some nice additions on top of the old stuff.

The Programs tab was replaced with a substitute to the classic start menu that looks like... the Windows Mobile 6.5 one... (Who needs Microsoft when HTC are around?).

startmenu winmo65new2

A very important addition is the calendar tab that allows drilling into a specific date to view and edit the relevant appointments.

2009-06-11_22-21-03_0007_111a 

TF3D now has a much better support for the landscape mode - the entire TouchFlo is operational on both portrait and landscape modes which is nice.

Touch_Flo_3d_from_Touch_pro_II

The menus and popup menus were changed from just a big sized menu to a completely customized menu. The popup menus are open in the middle of the screen which is great, long menus support kinetic scrolling which also adds a lot to the overall experience. I really liked HTC's new menus - a small enhancement but an important one.

The virtual keyboard was also improved - I remember I couldn't use it in the diamond/fuze because the screen was too small and stiff - the new one feels much better and allows decent typing for those who are too lazy to slide out the full keyboard...

Last thing I've noticed was the new improved notifications bar - it's now much easier to click on the top caption bar to open the improved notification summary window.


Touch Pro 2 vs. Touch Pro 1

tpvstp2-thumb

Before ending this review, I went back to my first Touch Pro review to see if the major problem were solved. Here's my conclusion:

Screen sensitivity: One of my biggest pains with the first Touch Pro was definitely solved in the new version - the screen is not only bigger, it's also much more sensitive which makes using it almost as simple as using a capacitive screen.

D-Pad: Another serious pain I had with the previous Pro/Diamond/Fuze - that freaking D-Pad which was not only too hard and stiff to use, but also used to activate other buttons instead of the arrows because of the horrible structure it was made on.

I cannot say this problem was fixed, because now there is no D-Pad at all...

You know what they say: If you can't beat them - remove them...

Performance: Fixed. TouchFlo is at last responsive and working fast, life is great.

No tilting screen: For all of you Tilt fans out there - the tilt is back! the TP2 has a very stylish tilting screen.

UI: In the first version of the TouchFlo there were many incomplete areas which needed to be tuned. I think that many of the things were polished in the second version, and of course there are some important additions.

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Summary

Touch Pro 2 is much much better than the first version. Many of the first release flaws were completely fixed or improved and the device looks and feels much better than the old version.

It is definitely one of the best Windows Mobile phones I've tried, but a small question I must raise involves the timing of it. With Windows Mobile 6.5 just around the corner - it may be a wise move to wait before purchasing the new Pro and see what devices are being released with the new OS.

It's true hat this device is 6.5 compatible (supports an upgrade) but you know software. It sucks. It has bugs, problems, issues, and you can never know if a 6.1 device that was upgraded to 6.5 will act as good as a native 6.5 device...

Something to think about. 

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6 comments:

Parrotlover77 said...

Great review!  You nailed every one of my pet peeves with this device as I'm sure you are well aware! (zoom strip?  no dpad?  wtf?)

However, I have to interject about the screen sensitivity.  I've never had a problem with my Touch Pro's screen sensitivity.  It's very responsive even with the slightest lightest touch.  Of course, I'm running a custom ROM and have done inenumerable tweaks, so it's admittedly been a long time since I touched an "out of the box" TP.  There's a possibility that I've "fixed" the problem due to that.  But I just had to make that comment because as far as I can tell, it was never the screen hardware, but more probably poorly configured driver.

As for keyboards, the horizontal slider is better than it used to be.  A few generations ago (I'm looking at you, HTC 8125) it took so freaking long to go in and out of landscape view that it was a lot more of a time investment than even what you indicated above.  I remember going both directions would take a total of 10-15 seconds on that device.  Also, in addition, the control focus (which textbox/combobox/etc) would always get messed up on that device, although that might have been a WM5 issue more than a device-specific issue.

To me, the Palm Pre form factor is the ultimate compromise.  You get a tall screen unlike the Treos/Blackberries, but you still get a keyboard without requiring the screen to flip and interrupt your flow of typing.  I thought about that type of slider all the back when I had the aforementioned 8125 device.  I had seen slider phones, but only a numpad would drop down.  When the Palm Pre came out, I was absolutely jonesing for that type of keyboard again!!  I should have patented the idea back then. ;)

Mobile Spoon said...

I agree that the Pre's form factor looks perfect.
I haven't used it yet (did you hear that Palm? Send me a device and get yourself a friend for life!) - but I read somewhere that the first lines of buttons are too close to the cover which makes it a bit problematic to type.

Have to feel it myself though...

Guest said...

Syntax and spell check. :-P

Parrotlover77 said...

A colleague of mine has one.  It feels really good.  I didn't notice the keys being too close to anything, but side-sliders do the same thing, so maybe I'm used to it.  Either way, it's something that I'm sure could be addressed in future phones that use that form factor.  I can imagine if you came from a Crackberry/Treo, it might take some geting used to.  The Pre could really use some more "app buttons" on the front of the device without having to slide (as is my usual complaint), but otherwise, it's a great form factor.  The tilting screen was always an awkward experience, even when it worked well, such as in the Touch Pro.

Bg said...

How do you make the TouchPro less sensitive?  This phone drives me nuts... a gently nudge will completely send me off into oblivion, never to return! The postion of the send when in landscape is awkward. I've sent many messages before I was done. And the web can be slow along w/ many other functions. If I can make it less sensitive, I can tolerate the rest of the issues

HTC Touch said...

Good Day my friend, you have cool info here, i appreciate your knowledge. Thanks alot!.

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