HTC S740 (Unlocked)
At a Glance
The HTC S740 has one of the best hardware keyboards we've seen, but is held back by uneven call quality.
A chic alternative to the more mundane BlackBerry Curve, the HTC S740 ($550, unlocked, as of 4/9/2009) holds appeal for those who prefer a physical keyboard to a touchscreen. This slim, eye-catching smartphone has a clean interface and a spacious keyboard--making it one of the best Windows Mobile devices I've ever used. But that isn't to say the S740 doesn't have its quirks--call quality and camera quality both disappointed. (This model will also be known as the S743--see near the end of this review.)
The HTC S740 handset takes a design cue from last year's HTC Touch Pro and Touch Diamond: Like those models, it has a jagged, rubberized back cover. This ultraslim, remote control-like smartphone (it's 4.6 by 1.7 by 0.6 inches and weighs 4.9 ounces) features a 12-key number pad and a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard. On the front face of the phone lies a 2.4-inch QVGA screen. Below the display sits a four-way navigational toggle with six buttons (two softkeys, plus Talk, End, Home, and Back) and the numeric keypad. The keys are flat and a bit slippery, but easy enough to press; they're also quite large and brightly backlit.
Like the HTC Touch Pro, the S740's keyboard has some useful shortcut keys for SMS/MMS, e-mail, and Internet Explorer. I also appreciated having several other keys, such as the CTRL key--which made copying and pasting a breeze--as well as the Page Up and Page Down keys, and the "@" key. In short, the S740 makes other smartphones with so-called "full" QWERTY keyboards look miniscule and nonfunctional. My only gripe: I didn't find the keys as tactile and clicky as I normally prefer on a hardware keyboard. Another trick in the S740's bag: Sliding the keyboard open triggers the accelerometer to rotate the display from vertical to horizontal, and without the accelerometer lag I've seen with other HTC handsets.
In my use, the S740 had unreliable call quality over T-Mobile's 3G network. Distracting background static could be heard on both ends of the line. Voices sounded loud and natural enough; however, a few of my contacts said I seemed to be speaking from a windy place (I was indoors). I heard an echo on a few occasions as well as some distortion in voices.
The S740 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard edition; on top of that, it has an easy-to-navigate sliding panel overlay. The home screen delivers one-click access to your calendar, call history, text messages, e-mails, the local weather, Internet Explorer, your music library, and your settings. Navigating the interface was straightforward, and I didn't have any trouble finding what I needed. Standard Windows Mobile apps are preloaded on the S740, including Microsoft Office Mobile and Windows Media Player. Equipped with 256MB of RAM and a 528MHz Qualcomm processor, I found the phone responsive, and did not experience much sluggishness, even while multitasking.
I found surfing the Web adequate with the default browser, Internet Explorer. The S740 supports POP3 and IMAP e-mail as well as Exchange push e-mail.
You can use either Windows Media Player or HTC's Audio Manager as a music player; I prefer the latter. With Audio Manager, you can create playlists and view songs by artist, album, genre, or composer. The player has many presets for the equalizer; it can be manually customized, but you have to plug in the headphones to use it. When you plug a headset into the S740, you can use the Audio Booster function, which bolsters the bass of the song. Unfortunately, like most HTC phones, the S740 has a proprietary headphone jack, which limits its capabilities as a media player.
The 3.2-megapixel camera has standard features such as brightness and white-balance controls as well as metering. Image quality wasn't bad, but it wasn't stunning either. Colors appeared washed out and a bit fuzzy in both low and bright light environments. The only time I noticed any lag in the S740 was while using the camera and adjusting its settings.
The HTC S740 is currently available in the U.S. at third-party stores, such as Amazon.com. A U.S.-specific device will be coming out later this year under the name S743. At the time of this review, it had not been confirmed whether the S743 will be similarly priced. The S740 is a quadband GSM phone, so voice will work in the US. Data, however, can only be used over EDGE or Wi-Fi. The S740 also supports HSDPA at 7.2 mbps in Europe, meaning Internet speeds up to 18 times faster than US 3G networks.
The HTC S740 has everything you could want in a messaging and e-mail powerhouse: A fantastic keyboard, a slick operating system, and slim design. If you can tolerate mediocre call quality, the HTC S740 (or S743, when it debuts), is an excellent buy.
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