The HTC Roadshow isn’t all Sensations and Flyers. Some of HTC’s more mainstream devices were also hanging out inside the manufacturer’s big truck o’ phones last weekend -- namely the Desire S, Wildfire S and Incredible S. Of course we recently reviewed the Desire S, and so we used some of our time at the roadshow’s Manchester stop to check out the Wildfire S, which makes its UK debut today, along with its big brother the Incredible S.
We also got a sneak peek at the HTC ChaCha, one of HTC’s new “Facebook phones” which puts the social network at the heart of the phone’s hardware and software. Find out what we thought of all three devices after the jump.
With a 3.2-inch screen and cute, easily-pocketable form factor, the Wildfire S is HTC’s mainstream, entry-level offering for 2011. Its 600MHz second-generation Snapdragon CPU and 512MB of RAM means it isn’t going to be dazzling anyone with benchmark scores, but the phone is certainly isn’t slow either. We noticed no slowdown or lag jumping between homescreens and apps during our time with the several pre-production Wildfires present at the roadshow.
The Wildfire S seemed more than capable of handling Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, as well as HTC’s Sense UI. Speaking of Sense, you get all the Sense 2.1 perks that we described in our Desire S review -- the multi-tasking bar and quick settings tab, the redesigned app drawer and HTCSense.com cloud functionality have all made it across.
HTC has also stepped up its build quality since the original Wildfire -- the Wildfire S now sports a sleeker unibody chassis like the Sensation and Desire S. The Wildfire’s screen has also seen some improvement. It’s now brighter and more vivid, and easily usable even in the bright sunshine that greeted us at the roadshow. The resolution’s also been mercifully upped to 320x480 (HVGA), allowing for a little more breathing space when browsing or doing anything involving a lot of text.
Unfortunately it’s still lumbered with 512MB of internal memory, of which only 120MB is available for apps. So you’ll have to be relatively conservative with what you install on the Wildfire S, or alternatively start loading larger apps to your SD card from the get-go.
You’ll also find a 5 megapixel camera on the Wildfire S, which we’d assume is the same sensor as on the Desire S. We didn’t get much of a chance to try out the camera, on account of the giant security tag on the back of the demo units, but if the Desire S’s camera performance is anything to go by, you should get adequate (though not outstanding) still shots. Video recording is limited to VGA, though the absence of 720p support shouldn’t come as much of a surprise on a device this small.
As we’ve already said, the Wildfire S is a surprisngly snappy performer, and an ideal candidate for featurephone users taking their first step into the world of Android. Obviously you won’t be zipping through apps quite as fast as you would on a Desire S or Incredible S, nor will you be playing any high-end games, but day-to-day stuff like browsing seemed more than fast enough.
For more performance-conscious buyers there’s the Incredible S, released towards the end of February and best described as a slightly larger Desire S. The Incredible S offers a 4-inch screen, which places it between the Desire S and Desire HD in terms of size. This screen size is a nice compromise, as it offers a nice boost in visual realestate while not being quite as cumbersome as the 4.3-inch Desire HD sometimes is.
Software and performance is virtually identical to the Desire S, with the only notable difference being the lack of Gingerbread, though HTC is hard at work to rectify that. In the meantime, the Incredible S performs just as well on Android 2.2.1.
The Incredible S also boasts an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, which is a welcome boost from the Desire S’s 5-megapixel and VGA offerings. Again, cameras are difficult to test in a roadshow or trade show setup, but if the Incredible S’s camera is anything like the 8-megapixel sensor on the Desire HD, then you’ll benefit from sharper stills and smoother frame rates at higher video resolutions.
Finally, we got a quick look at an early HTC ChaCha demo unit, though this was strictly a no-cameras affair (the shots you can see below are from the phone’s debut at MWC). The software on the device was very early, and not yet feature-complete, but we were able to get a good feel for the ChaCha’s hardware and build quality. It sports a 2.6-inch display and full QWERTY keyboard, with dedicated Facebook button. It's also very light, and its keys are nicely spaced to aid in the furious typing of status updates and the like.
It also has a slight "chin", like the old HTC Legend, though in the ChaCha it's a little more pronounced, with the the pivot between the screen and the keyboard. During our (admittedly brief) time with the ChaCha, this seemed to make typing on the keyboard a little easier, while giving the device a unique profile. Like the HTC Flyer, its chassis is partly white plastic and partly aluminum, which gives it a stylish and understated look.
The phone's internals are pretty much identical to the Wildfire S -- there's the same 600MHz CPU, 512MB RAM and 512MB storage. The screen's resolution is even the same, at 480x320, though on the smaller LCD panel you gain a little pixel density over the Wildfire S.
We haven't seen much of the ChaCha since Mobile World Congress, but apparently the phone is still on course for a Q2 launch (i.e. before the end of June). When it does eventually arrive, it'll run a specialized version of HTC Sense tailored to its unique hardware. Unfortunately, we didn't see much of this on the demo unit that we tried, though you can find screenshots of it lurking on our HTC ChaCha device page.
So, HTC certainly has its bases covered with a slew of different devices in a range of form factors. If you haven't already, be sure to check out the rest of our HTC Roadshow coverage, including our hands-on video of the Sensation, and keep watching for our walk-through of the HTC Flyer tablet over the next day or so.
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