HTC Legend

HTC made waves last year with the Hero handset, a speedy smartphone that combined the HTC Sense interface with an established Android operating system. The design was very user-friendly, with a touchscreen and trackball providing an interface that combined the best of both worlds.

Now HTC is one-upping its Hero handset with a Legend. A slick good-looker with improved specs, it’s one of most impressive mobile phone handsets to come across our desk in a long time.

The look and feel

The most obvious thing about the Legend is that it doesn’t look and feel quite like anything else out there, and that’s because of one simple reason: it’s not made of plastic.

Most phones are constructed from materials that can’t survive a two metre drop to the pavement, but the HTC Legend is one of only a few to sport an aluminium casing. Off the top of our heads, there was the Porsche phone, a tosser’s handset made from the engine of a 911 (or Boxter or something), and the first iPhone. This used aluminium as the based material, but HTC takes this one step further.

In much the same way as Apple creates its new line of MacBook Pro notebook computers, HTC starts with a block of aluminium and carves out the interior with machinery. The resulting unibody case is super-robust because, rather than being built from multiple parts, it is derived from the one piece of aluminium.

So, in the hand, the Legend has a pleasing heft. It feels like quality, and it feels strong without being too heavy. The handset also has some rubber livery – over the camera and battery compartments, to help protect more vulnerable features and to enhance shock absorption.

The Legend's aluminium casing is made from one piece of aluminium, making it super strong.
The Legend’s aluminium casing is made from one piece of aluminium, making it super strong.

Continuing the design seen on previous handsets such the Hero, the “chin” is still at the bottom of the handset, providing an extra place to put your thumb. What used to be a trackball in previous-model phones has been replaced with an optical trackpad making for a thinner option that doesn’t ever need replacing. The four soft buttons for Home, Menu, Back, and Search remain above the chin, providing just enough buttons to complement the 3.2-inch AMOLED touchscreen.

The chin also conceals the battery, SIM card, and microSD slot in a compact and slim compartment. It’s easily one of the best-designed battery sections we’ve ever seen, with an incredibly thin battery and the ability to change microSD cards without being forced to remove the battery.

As for the looks, think of holding an item of absolute class and integrity to your ear and you’ll have it nailed. The HTC Legend’s metallic silver finish is courtesy of the aluminium, so there’s no faux poshness here. It IS posh.

And unlike the back and white glossy plastic cosmetics of the iPhone, the Legend’s metal finish makes it a nice match for a MacBook Pro or iMac. If, that is, you’re the type who likes to accessorising your tech like jewellery.

Performance

While the HTC Hero had a fair amount of grunt with its 528MHz chip, the Legend doesn’t push it too much higher.

Packing in a newer 600MHz processor, the Legend isn’t as fast as its 1GHz high-end brother, the HTC Desire, but that doesn’t work to its disadvantage. The phone is still snappy and responsive as you flick through screens. A little lag is noticeable when running a few applications simultaneously – multitasking is something this phone can do – but generally the performance is excellent. In fact, just about the only thing you’ll miss from a higher spec’d Android phone is the animated “live wallpaper”.

HTC has worked hard to make the Android 2.1 operating system just as fast as on the HTC Desire, with very little noticeable slow-downs. In fact, the company has gone for a lower-speed chip helping the battery to last longer. While our Desire needs a recharge every day, the Legend can go for at least two without any problems.

The Legend comes with a five megapixel camera, GPS, and supports up to 32GB of microSD memory making it, in terms of feature-set, very close to the Desire. It’s just a little smaller and less expensive.

Conclusion

At $599 outright, it’s an excellent phone for anyone wanting a smartphone with all the fixtures and fittings, and a handset body that’s way more durable and spiffy than their last. Users can also get it for $0 up-front on a Vodafone $49 cap plan.