There’s no question that the HTC Hero has been the most anticipated Android device in Android’s short lifetime. Though the T-Mobile G1 and myTouch 3G are both wonderful devices that will still be relevant years from today, the G1 had a (undeserved) “beta” rep it couldn’t shake and the myTouch 3G had such a delayed release in the US, it couldn’t maintain the initial hype (deserved).

 

On the flip side, the HTC Hero is on a brand new carrier, with a brand new custom UI built by HTC, and an all around, brand new feel. Launching on Sprint on October 11th for $179.99, it’s priced competitively and offers a clear alternative to competing smartphones.

We guess you could say that the HTC Hero is Android re-imagined or even re-defined--we like to call it Android all grown up. So how does the HTC Hero perform? Can it live up to the hype? Read on to find out!

Read on for Android Central’s hardware review of the HTC Hero!

*we've decided to split our HTC Hero Review in two--one review for the hardware and one review for the software. The hardware review is today and the review of the software (HTC Sense, Sprint apps) will come tomorrow!*

Design

If you remember correctly, when we first saw the HTC Hero, well, it looked nothing like it currently does. The European (GSM) version of the Hero looked like this:

A pretty far cry from the Sprint HTC Hero, which as you may know, looks like this:

The European HTC Hero was daringly designed, with the sharpest and biggest chin we’ve seen this side of 10 o’clock on NBC. All reports had pointed the build quality to be top-of-the-line, it even used a Teflon coating that had us in a tizzy when we first heard about it. So how’s the move from those sharp lines to the softer contours of the Sprint version?  Good, actually. It’s not a reach to say that we like it and might even prefer the Sprint version. *gasp*

Make no mistake, the European Hero was cutting edge and designed with Android in mind but the chin on the GSM Hero was borderline unwieldy. Imagine that in your pocket—would it ever be comfortable? The Sprint HTC Hero is generically designed, we’ll give you that, but the design makes sense.

 

Though one won’t be able to tell its ‘Android-ness’ on first glance, the design looks professional and high-end. The soft matte finish on the back cover offers a grippiness to the device that isn’t found in today’s ‘let’s add glossy’ mindset. The steel design of the front face offers a contemporary look without over-compensating. It’s a wee bit bigger than the myTouch 3G but it makes the myTouch feel downright adolescent. This is truly a grown up’s phone.

Sure we understand why some people are nonplussed about the look of the device (it looks like a WinMob device in some angles) but this isn't some ragtag design put together in the last minute to replace the European Hero. Instead, it's a thoughtful approach that combines high functionality, style, and design. The details and little touches matter--from the speaker grilles to the volume rocker, to the camera and curves of the Hero--it all works.

 

Buttons & Trackball

 

And though the controversial Android ‘chin’ is gone from the Sprint Hero, the base portion of the phone adds an ever so slight bump, it’s really unnoticeable on first take and even harder to capture in pictures but trust us, it’s there. So though the Sprint version doesn’t have a chin, this Hero makes it up with curves.

Our biggest problem with the design is that the four Android hardware buttons: Menu, Search, Home, and Back are a little too easy to press. Because there’s no cutout for those specific buttons (only for end and send call)—it’s just one plate for four different actions. So combine that single plate with the curve of the Sprint Hero's face, and it makes for some occasional accidental clicks. In hand, it looks great and even works fine for functionality, but put away, you’ll be surprised what your Hero does when unsupervised.

The four Android hardware buttons have a good springiness to them that make them fun to click. But the end and send call are just a teensy bit too small for our taste--we accidentally hit the bordering buttons a few times. The trackball is about the same size as the myTouch 3G and loads bigger than the T-Mobile G1, but to put it simply, it’s the best trackball that an Android device has shipped with. It combines great size with good texture, and most importantly, rolls smoothly.

 

Screen, Camera, Battery Life & Specs

The specs of the Sprint HTC Hero are also solid:

  • 3.2 inch, 480x320 capacitive touchscreen
  • 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and video recording
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD
  • 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth
  • 1500 mAh battery

The typical Android screen is already wonderful but combining it with the elegance of HTC Sense, the Hero’s screen is improved two-fold. Colors pop, fonts look great, and the animation becomes stunning. It was like seeing a big screen on a mobile device for the first time, all over again.

The camera is really wonderful to use and in fact, probably one of the best cameraphones we’ve ever used. The 5 megapixel, autofocus really shines through and it can easily take pictures better than both the myTouch 3g and T-mobile G1.

The battery life of the Hero is fine on our end. At 1500 mAh, it’s bigger than previous Android phones and it shows. We put the Hero under some heavy testing and it didn’t tap out like the G1 would have (though is that even saying anything?). It’s not going to win any marathon races but I nearly got away with charging it every other day (it was more like every day and a half).

And praise the powers that be for the 3.5mm headphone jack. We’re glad HTC didn’t force ExtUSB down our throat again. And everything else is typical Android—microSD, connectivity, etc. (the microSD slot is accessible by simply removing the battery cover).

 

Hardware Final Thoughts

Honestly, Sprint really did a good job with the design of the HTC Hero. They played it safe, to be sure, but we excuse them for choosing the new design because though it would’ve been amazing to see the ambitious European HTC Hero here in the States, the Sprint Hero still shines—it offers a clearly professional design that feels great in your hand.

Remember, the Sprint HTC Hero will probably introduce many people to the Android platform and the first impression is very important. We think the Hero made a great decision in choosing this Hero design because packaged in this form-factor, the Hero is infinitely more approachable and functional. There's no polarizing design or questionable style--this Hero looks good and if it existed on its own, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees.

We also feel like the Hero is the first Android device to hit that upper echelon of build quality. While the other Android devices, the myTouch 3G and T-Mobile G1, suffered from either 'plasticity' or 'creaky', the Hero is really the first Android device to move past the 'beta' hardware stigma. Put it this way, the HTC Hero sets the bar for build quality in Android devices--we can't help but look at our myTouch's and G1's differently.

There’s absolutely no creakiness nor any hollowness to the Hero, the weight is perfectly managed and dispersed throughout the device, and the build quality and materials are grade A. From the soft contours of the Hero to the pleasant matte backing, we think it’s safe to say that when you pick a Hero up, you won’t be disappointed.

But the real beauty of the Hero lies in its software. Tune in tomorrow for our review of HTC Sense, Sprint apps, and of course, Android!

 

Reader comments

Sprint HTC Hero: Hardware Review

54 Comments

These are some of the best pics of the hero I have seen. Android has always interested me but this is the first device I feel I can live with for two years. Thanks for the review I'l be back tomorrow for your take on Sense UI.

I picked mine up today from Best Buy and since then I have not been able to put it down!! Android and Sense UI is AMAZING!!! I used to be a hardcore Blackberry person but the OS was way too boring. I have a feeling its going to be awhile until I get to go through the whole phone!

Android Market is great as well... have not found an app I like that I have to pay for yet its all FREE!!!

Great review. I am buying this on Sunday when it comes out to the rest of the world, so stoked. I like iPhone's but the safari browser is just way too slow. I NEED Opera Mini/Mobile, and the iPhone doesnt allow it, so the HTC Hero it is! :)

The bad news is Opera 4.2 doesn't work on the Hero because it expects a hardware keyboard to give it input and there isn't one :-( And there's no sign of Opera making a new version available. Happily the built-in browser works fine, but I want my Opera back!

Very nice phone, I got mine today, and used it throughout the day to thwart terrorists. Good battery life, and even when I used it to jam down a Russian spy's throat to get him to literally cough up the password to a suitcase bomb, the screen did not get scratched.

I saw your comment about using your new HTC phone with Sprint service.

you said that sprint is performing better that at&t in your area.

can you tell me what city / area you are in ?

as i am considering switching from at&t to sprint also.

thanks, Vic

Sprint in comparison to at&t is about the same. some areas at&t is better and vice versa, but I have been using HTC Hero on Sprint in metropolitan area only.

Great Review except for battery life! I find myself re-charging every night with average use. You may not even make it entire day if you use GPS navigation.

GPS navigation is superior to iPhone with voice prompts!

Got mine at Best Buy last night. Switched from an iPhone and I am never looking back. Sprint is performing hands down better than AT&T in my area and i'm saving a lot of money on the plan.

I picked mine up yesterday from best buy l, and I'm not too sure about It just yet. I'm coming from an iPhone, and had been considering the hero and the palm pre. I ended up picking the hero, obviously, and i got my wife a pre. I'm not too happy with it just yet, but ill give it a week or 2 before trading it in.

As a previous Pre owner, I must disagree. I liked the pre until I couldn't forward or copy paste. Then when the updates where released, they slowed the device down to where I couldn't open a single card and the error displayed was too many cards open.I had 4gigs available so it wasnt bogged down with music or pics. None were opened. The plastic hardware of the Pre didn't make it past 4 months without having issues. The volume down button stopped working and the phone could not be turned on or off with the power button. When you slide the phone open or shut it. The battery would loose contact and the phone would shut off. Thus resulting in my having to take my charger EVERYWHERE with me. The phone would take, no lie, 15 minutes to boot up after it was plugged in. It was a fun, expensive toy while it worked. Certainly didn't meet my standards for a professional's phone. I owned an HTC touch pro. And you could defend yourself with that bad boy. The os was slow. The android is a great improvement. Glad I got the Hero!

I agree, the palm pre is junk. I have been using it since Thanksginging and i want the through it off a cliff. Im looking at the hero. I hope im happy with it.

Picked mine up Friday morning at Best Buy. Wow I am really impressed. Sprint finally has a Iphone competitor in this device. Android is great, really the only OS that can compete on a level playing field with Apple. I am sure this will be a hit. I love all things Apple but ATT network is horrible here in S. Florida. I have been with Sprint for 13 years and their network rocks on smart phones. I love the push sync of Google contacts so no sync with wires yeah!!! I would have tried the Pre but no visual voicemail. That was a dumb mistake on Palms behalf. My Samsung Instinct had that one year and a half ago. Sprint now has the best Smart phone line to offer. Maybe Apple should consider going on their network.

Just played with one at the local BestBuy tonight and love HTC Sense!!
Phone felt good in my hand, smooth but not slippery.. would have bought it right then and there but Sprint sucks major in my area so gotta wait till VZW gets the Sholes, Tao, Droid..STD ha

Picked up my Hero yesterday at a local Sprint store - totally blown away!! Can't say enough great things about it - both from a hardware and software point of view. Sprint finally has a true winner, and Android will likely become the dominant OS for cell phones...I'm a long time Sprint customer, and have been very dissapointed with their phones over the years, but they have finally gotten there!!

Love my new Hero, but i have been experiencing slow data rates....thought the phone wasn't provisioned yet, but have since found out that it is running EVdo Rev 0 vs. Rev. A....noticed others complaining about the same issue on the sprint users forum, has anyone here had the same issue?

Picked mine up yesterday and I cant get enough of it. I'm not too sure about the battery life though. It seems to drain quickly but it could be because I cant put it down. This is the best phone out there hands down.

This phone is bad ass and since I was also getting a Pre for a family plan I got a $50 credit to the purchase of the device. It's amazing. The Pre is also wonderful as well.

Goodbye Iphone 3G...I won't miss you.

Once again, Android is hit with a low resolution screen... While WinMo devices are enjoying 800x480, why does Android have to run on this low resolution stuff?!

Oh well, nice looking phone, kinda fun OS... I'll keep my TP2.

How is onscreen keyboard? I like keyboards and was looking forward to Palm Pixi. The great smartphone for me is one with a keyboard running Android (except ugly G1).

"—it’s just one plate for four different actions."

So, it's like the Touch Pro and Diamond in that way? I use a Touch Pro and it doesn't cause me problems regularly, but I don't like the one plate set up at all. I'd say I click back instead of right at least once a day. I'm assuming that the trackball mitigates those problems on the Hero. Am I right? If locked, what was the phone doing when it was put away?

"The camera is really wonderful to use and in fact, probably one of the best cameraphones we’ve ever used."

Ugh, this is what I feared. If you:

"Please, consider to post pictures taken from the mobile camera to us validate it."

and the images do look great, I'll have to stay away from using the phone in store because I don't even want to consider leaving my plan.

Nice hardware review. Great pictures.

I have had my Hero since Friday 9th and must say i love the phone. Its plenty fast at browsing the web, the Sense UI is wonderful and the touch-flo works smooth as silk. The feel, size and design of the phone is really nice too.

The only concerns I have are the battery...it seems to rundown quickly, and the overheating issue. This is my first true smartphone, so maybe it's normal but so far i haven't made it longer than 12 hrs before needing to charge it. And that's with minimal use (sending 5-6 texts, 3-4 brief phone calls, opening 5-6 websites for 2-3 mins each, and downloading 7-8 Apps). And when using it on the web or running downloading apps or maps it gets very warm.

Other than that i am super pleased with this mobile phone purchase. And that's the first time in a long time i can say that with Sprint.

Ditto. The hardware review was published on Friday, with the software review to be published the next day. It's now Monday evening, and still no software review. ???

I HAVE BEEN WANTING AN IPHONE FOR SOME TIME NOW. MY RENEGADE V950'S SCREEN WENT OUT, SO INSTEAD OF BREAKING MY CONTRACT, I WENT TO THE SPRINT STORE...I WAS READY TO GO FOR THE PALM PRE WHEN THE SALES GIRL MENTIONED THE ANDROID, HERO PHONE...ITS WHAT I WANTED, GOOD KEEP IN TOUCH, AND GOOD WEB BROWSING. THIS PHONE IS REALLY COOL....I SPENT THE WHOLE DAY ON THE COUCH MESSING WITH ALL THE STUFF ON IT...THE WIFE WAS NOT TOO HAPPY WITH ME....IT ROCKS, AND I AM EASY TO PLEASE..IT IS HEAVY AND SOLID, WITH NEAT FEATURES, AND YES....MOST APPS ( 12000 OF THEM..) ARE FREE.......I REALLY LIKE IT SO FAR........I WILL GIVE THE IPHONE ANOTHER 2 YRS. , I'M SURE IT WILL BE EVEN BETTER BY THEN.......

conditional call forwarding - I have the g1 with Tmobile – I like the hero but i can not switch until i find out about conditional call forwarding and if Sprint supports it and if they charge for it – i use google voice for voice mail and without conditional call forwarding it just does not work – i also will not pay $.20 for a call forward to use voice mail – when i went to the settings screen on the phone it did not have the call forwarding options that the g1 has – does anybody have any information about this? the Sprint rep at the store and the call center reps have no clue what i am even talking about

I have several questions - maybe those of you that have the phone can answer for me:
1. Can you forward text messages?
2. Is there any form of cut, copy & paste on this phone?
3. When the phone rings can you really silence it by turning it over?
4. Is there any way to lock the screen when you answer a call so you don't push any buttons accidentally?
5. If anyone has the Pre and the Hero - how does battery life compare?

Any answers appreciated!

In order to forward a message. do the following on this website. http://www.htc.com/us/faq_detail.aspx?p_id=300&&act=tt&id=113502
It took me a bit to find it and was pissed because I couldn't figure out how to forward the message but all you have to do is hold the message that you want to forward by holding it a few seconds and a prompt will come up that says foward. it will ask you to enter names alphabetically but as long as you enter the first few digits, it will then give you options from your phonelist. hope this helps.

Can you sync it to Itunes? Would that be at all possible. Me and my buddy are seriously considering on trading in some Palm Pre's that we won, (haven't gotten them yet) and getting the HTC Hero. How slow is it? Would it be worth it?

I had the palm pre since the day it came out and loved the phone but after months of features not being updated and the lack of apps in the app store, It had to go. I saw the new HTC Hero and had to have it. It does everything that a cellphone in 2009 should do (Pre wont let you change alert tones unless hacked). This is by far the best phone to ever grace the Sprint Now Network and I give it 2 thumbs up. So many features, so customizable, so many apps. Google and HTC have brought out a phone that I will really say made me think about switching to an iPhone no more.

Ok so I'm very interested in getting the Google Hero on the Sprint Network - but one thing bothers me. The fact that you can only download your apps directly to the internal memory (the very limited internal memory). I know that other Android phones have been rooted to allow apps to be downloaded to the external microSD card but I am nervous about accidentally bricking my phone. Do you know if there are any plans of changing this is subsequent updates? or making an app that allows you to save the apps externally? Thanks!

I had tmobile for the past 7years when the hero came out I decided to switch over and I absolutely love the phone yet I only have 1 complaint the battery runs out ridiculously fast. I literally need to charge it several times a day and i find it really annoying

Can you say S L O W? I almost wish I had my Motorola Q back. The response time when you want to do anything is seconds. It is very easy to accidently dial a number because it so slow. You press end call and the next thing you know it is dialing again. Navigation is difficult because of the lag. When you touch the screen to select something it is so unresponsive you want to pitch the phone. If you want to get the rest of the message in email that too I slow.

I am going to check out the Blackberry Tour again. I remember that it was almost instantaneous.

I would be interested to know if anyone else is experiencing the same slow response.

mikewmn

I got this phone 2 days after it came out it the best phone I've ever had from Sprint easily the only complaint is battery life but this is a kick ass phone

Okay, i just got this phone, and im wondering how long do you have to charge it when you first get it??? and then after its fully charged when and how long do you charge it after that?

Okay, i just got this phone, and im wondering how long do you have to charge it when you first get it??? and then after its fully charged when and how long do you charge it after that?

Hey,

This blog helped me a lot by giving some information about the my-Touch 3g and T-mobile G1 mobile phones.

Can this HTC Hero mobile can be used for the cellular monitoring through the wireless technology.

the htc hero is a great phone. i'm a little bit older so i'm a little hard of hearing and sometimes people have trouble hearing me as well. the bottom of the hero is curved up a bit which helps people hear me, and i have had no trouble hearing my friends and family when i turn up the volume. i got the gsm unlocked hero from gsmallover.com. they had great service as well. free shipping and great customer service :)

Trading in my Pre 2 weeks ago and it was the best decision!! I now have the HTC Hero and love it!!! This could be the best phone I ever had!! I learn new things every day. Enjoy!!

All I can say is that I like this phone and I'm a big HTC brand Fan.
Htc is not the only brand that I've tried but it is the best in my eyes that I have been willing to stay with for a long period of time without upgrading or switching and swapping out as much.

Yes, love it!! A great device, with so much flexibility and feature-ful possibilities.

2 years of torture on the (A)wful(T)errible & (T)orturous network. Finally was able to ditch 'em and the "iDontPhone" (although as a device the iPhone's nice). However, the beyond crappy service made it a welcome switch to the brilliant HTC Hero on Sprint/US.

Love it, and my "never drop a call" service, so much!!!

Specialists claim that business loans help people to live their own way, because they are able to feel free to buy needed things. Furthermore, various banks present auto loan for different classes of people.