HTC's Touch Diamond set a new standard for slim, stylish touch-screen Windows Mobile smartphones. The Touch Pro however, is something else again.
While it may be many things (and we'll get to them later), slim, and to a certain extent, stylish, aren't among them. Compared to its size zero cousin, in fact, the Pro is positively chunky at a sliver under 19mm thick.
It's no lightweight either, at 165g. You can tell this is a phone that means business – which is no coincidence, since that's exactly what it's about. And at least the pay-off from such a weighty and portly phone is that it feels very well built.
From the front it looks pretty much the same as the Diamond. Same 2.8in touch screen, with four flush buttons underneath (call start and stop, home and return) surrounding the same circular D-pad which doubles as a scroll wheel in some applications.
Around the sides are a USB port for charging and headphones (no 3.5mm jack plug – grrr), volume controls, on button and that same rather lovely magnetised stylus. The back has the same angled contours as its predecessor, though this time it's matt black rather than fingerprint-loving glossy black.
It also comes with a little leather case to protect that all-important touch screen, something which the Diamond lacked.
There are a few upgrades under the hood, but the biggest difference is of course that slide-out keypad. It emerges with a satisfying clunk and just enough pressure to make it difficult to open by accident.
The screen automatically switches to landscape mode and you're off! As QWERTY keyboards on mobile phones go, this is easily one of the best. The rubberised plastic keys are smallish but have slightly raised centres making them easy to distinguish with your thumbs and the five lines of keys are all laid out rather beautifully, including direction buttons and quick access to text, email and symbols. There's no noticeable key lag either – all in all it's a joy to use.
Scrolling through the menus is a pleasure too, with the TouchFlo 3D system, which allows you to flick between pages, scroll up, down and across with a flick of the thumb – all very intuitive, and it works easily without having to think about it, just as it should. Some great little graphics too.
All this leads towards a really rather excellent browsing experience, whether you're using Internet Explorer or the bundled Opera 9.5 browser. You can scoot around web pages with a brush of your thumb and zoom in on details with a simple double tap.
The YouTube app is particularly good – everything fits neatly on the screen and you can browse for hours by scrolling around the video lists. Videos load up pretty quickly too using the HSDPA 3G connection (up to 7.2Mbps if your network supports it) or Wi-Fi.
The camera boasts 3.2 megapixels and can do some pretty good snaps. It's slow to launch though (about four seconds once you've found it on the menu, since there's no dedicated quick-launch or shutter key), and the 2x digital zoom only seems to work a couple of seconds after you've adjusted it.
There's a photo-light flash but it's pretty ineffective beyond a metre or two. There's a TV-out option for showing off your pics and videos on the big (living room) screen, though you'll need to invest in a dedicated cable to take advantage of it.
Fortunately the gallery retains all the touchy feely fun of the Pro's predecessor, allowing you to zoom in or out of pics by twirling your fingers on them and skipping between pics with the flip of a finger. The onboard accelerometer motion sensor will also switch automatically between landscape and portrait modes when you turn the phone around.
The music player is the same as on the older phone, allowing you to flick through album covers, iPhone style, and there's a proper ten-band graphic equaliser allowing you to adjust your audio setting just how you like 'em. The 20-preset FM radio is no slouch either.
Other interesting apps include Microsoft Office for creating and viewing Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs and a trial version of Google Maps to use with the onboard GPS system. This worked speedily and efficiently, finding our position without a hitch and allowing us to use the sliding touch screen to move around the maps in a very intuitive way.
The battery is bigger than its predecessor and it shows, giving us a good three days nd more of moderate use (we never got much more than two days with the Diamond). Surprisingly, the onboard memory has been drastically reduced from 4GB to a measly 512MB. All is not lost however, since this latest Touch will accept microSD memory cards up to 16GB, though none is supplied in the basic package.
Compared to some high-end handsets like Nokia's N95, or even the iPhone, the HTC Touch Pro isn't overly bulky, though it's certainly less pocket-friendly than recent BlackBerrys or Nokia's latest QWERTY keyboard-packing slimline device, the N71. But with so much else going for it, we can forgive it this one small fault.
Ease of use: 4.5/5
Call quality: 4/5
Network availability: TBC