HTC Desire S

Metal case

The original Desire was hardly an ugly device, but the Desire S makes it look positively dumpy by comparison. The Desire S boasts an aluminium ‘unibody’ chassis, like the HTC Legend. That means its entire body is machined out of one complete piece of metal, giving it a reassuringly solid feel. There’s a plastic slide-off cover, so you can insert a SIM card and external memory card, but this takes up only a small part of the casing and doesn’t really affect the phone’s robust build quality.

The Desire S’ unibody design means HTC has had to be inventive when it comes to providing SIM card and battery access, but the solution is elegant.

While the Desire S’ new bodywork makes it feel like a completely different phone to the original Desire, the same can’t be said of the touchscreen. Its size and resolution remain unchanged, at 3.7 inches and 480×800 pixels respectively.

Touchscreen

Those of you expecting something along the lines of the Desire HD‘s massive 4.3-inch touchscreen will be disappointed, but 3.7 inches will be enough for most people. The screen may not rival the iPhone 4‘s razor-sharp display in terms of resolution, but it’s larger in terms of size.

Although the screen hasn’t changed, the buttons which run along its bottom have. Instead of physical keys, the Desire S has touch-sensitive buttons, similar to those seen on the Google Nexus One and Nexus S. Another alteration is the removal of the optical trackpad, although we can’t imagine many people will shed a tear about this — we’ve always found this sort of trackpad rather redundant on Android handsets.

Snapdragon chip

Beneath the gorgeous aluminium exterior, the Desire S offers only a handful of improvements on its predecessor. The Snapdragon processor remains clocked at 1GHz, but this time it’s a second-generation model and is aided by 768MB of RAM. This ensures a smoother, faster user experience, but, in terms of raw power, the Desire S is outmatched by the raft of dual-core monsters that are making their way into the market, such as the LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix.

The physical buttons and optical trackpad have been removed in favour of touch-sensitive controls.

Although it may not be the most powerful phone on the block, the Desire S is up to date in terms of software, running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This means the phone benefits from a whole host of embellishments, such as better memory management, myriad performance boosts and built-in video-call capability. The latter function is facilitated by a front-facing camera that sits alongside the earpiece at the top of the handset.

Sense user interface

Sitting atop Gingerbread is HTC’s proprietary Sense user interface, seen here in its 2.2 guise. Few could fail to be impressed by Sense’s intuitive and useful functionality. Unlike some skins from other manufacturers, it makes genuine improvements to the default Android software.

Video calling is possible thanks to the front-facing camera.

The latest edition of Sense boasts a new quick-settings panel that can be accessed via the notifications bar, but, as ever, it’s the little things that raise a smile. For example, being able to silence an incoming call simply by turning your phone over is brilliant.

Browser and apps

Surfing the Web on the Desire S is refreshingly problem-free, thanks to the nippy browser and pre-installed Flash support. Text is automatically reformatted to make it easier to read, and the pinch-to-zoom functionality makes navigating larger sites a breeze.

The quick-settings panel is accessible from the notifications bar, granting fast access to core functions.

The Desire S also benefits from access to the burgeoning Android Market, which is positively full of quality apps and games. In fact, it’s second only to Apple’s App Store in terms of variety, and many of the downloads are entirely free.

Camera

One element of the Desire S that disappoints is the camera. Its resolution has been frozen at 5 megapixels. There’s an LED flash for low-light shooting but, on the whole, there’s nothing that will blow your socks off. The camera’s 720p video-recording capability is welcome, but 1080p is slowly becoming the norm for high-end smart phones. The lack of a dedicated camera button is also something of a letdown.

Another mod con that’s missing is the ability to hook up your phone to a televisionvia HDMI. Samsung’s Galaxy S II boasts a Mobile High-Definition Link connection for both charging and TV-out, and older devices, such as the Motorola Milestone XT720, offered HDMI connectivity almost a year ago. Still, it’s not a complete deal-breaker, especially when you consider the number of DLNA apps that allow you to wirelessly stream video, audio and photos from your phone to compatible hardware, such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Conclusion

The HTC Desire S is unquestionably an improvement on its predecessor, but some may feel that it’s not enough of an upgrade. We love the unibody design and inclusion of Android 2.3, but the absence of 1080p video recording, a higher-resolution display and dual-core processor makes this feel more like a mid-range device than a market-leading proposition.

Still, even if it doesn’t push the envelope in terms of raw technical power, the Desire S is one seriously appealing mobile. It delivers a streamlined, user-friendly interface, all the power of Android, and a stunning design.

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