Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's latest mobile operating system has arrived and it's loaded on a handful of devices, including the HTC 7 Surround. The HTC 7 Surround is an excellent device that's going to attract casual smartphone owners and heavy multimedia users alike.
The Surround is teeming with top notch hardware. From its 1GHz processor to a 5 megapixel camera capable of recording 720p HD video, a kickstand for watching movies in landscape mode, and good battery life, it's a device that no smartphone shopper should overlook. There are a few weak points that hardcore smartphone users may not appreciate, but those aren't the fault of the phone itself.
The HTC 7 Surround is the chubby kid in the Windows Phone 7 class. The Surround measures a thick 119.5 x 61.5 x 13mm (4.7 x 2.4 x 0.5in), and for good reason. Typically a phone of this width would have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but the Surround packs a different surprise: it has a slide-out speaker with Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound support and a sturdy kickstand.
HTC doesn't cut corners when building phones, and the build quality of the 7 Surround shows that. It feels extremely sturdy and its speaker pops out with a fluid motion and stays open until it's pushed back. It's comfortable to hold, it has a large front face with gunmetal gray accents, and a soft rubber black back which, if you look closely enough, has small sparkling details. While the phone feels a bit heavy in the hand at 165g (5.8 ounces), it doesn't feel as bulky in your pocket due to its smooth rounded edges.
Microsoft requires that all Windows Phone 7 devices have the same soft button layout. The Surround has a back button, a Windows button, and a search button, in that order, just below the screen. All were responsive during my tests. The volume rocker is on the right side of the HTC 7 Surround, which is fine, although I prefer it to be on the left side. A chrome-colored camera button is also on the right side of the phone, and it's easy to find without looking should you want to grab a quick picture. The Surround's power button is on the top, as is its 3.5mm headphone jack. A micro-USB charging jack is on the bottom of the phone.
The back of the 7 Surround is home to a 5 megapixel camera and a single LED flash. The battery cover can be removed, although I typically had to use a pen to pop it off, heightening my fears that I'd break something every time I opened it. Sadly, you won't be doing that much, as the device does not offer a microSD card slot for added storage. You'll have to stick with the 16GB of on-board storage.
The Surround has a 3.8-inch touchscreen display with a sharp 800 x 480 pixel resolution. It was crisp while reading web pages and watching video and is generally a nice all-around display. But it won't wow you or your friends the way the Samsung Focus' Super AMOLED display will. I was, however, able to read the screen just fine under direct sunlight on a sunny Saturday.
Windows Phone 7 is fresh, exciting, colorful, quick, and informative. Unlike with Windows Mobile iterations that came before it, Windows Phone 7 is all about delivering information quickly. It's consumer friendly. Standing in line at the grocery store? Pop the HTC 7 Surround out of your pocket and you'll be able to see a friend's Facebook status update, your calendar, your music player, and more all from the home screen. Gone are the days of digging through menus. In fact, there isn't really a menu screen on the phone. Instead, you have a home screen with live updating tiles, and a swipe to the right reveals a scrollable list of your installed applications. That's it. No folders. No digging. And I dig that.
The phone's lock screen can be customized with a wallpaper of your choice and shows the time, date, your signal, and battery life. The time and date are large and easy to read, and if you have an upcoming calendar event, that's showed also. There are also small icons that alert you of missed calls and the number of new messages waiting for you.
The start screen, or your home screen as I like to refer to it, is filled with tiles that represent contacts, applications, shortcuts, and other items that you've "pinned" there.
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