Monday, December 12, 2011

HTC Radar 4G is first Windows Phone Mango device in U.S. (review)

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Summary: The HTC Radar 4G will be available at T-Mobile on 2 November and is the first Windows Phone Mango device to hit the U.S. It is a good device at $100, but not the top dog with this OS.

I purchased the T-Mobile HTC HD7 on launch day last year and have been using it and the Dell Venue Pro as my main Windows Phone devices for the last year. This year we see T-Mobile getting another new Windows Phone device, the HTC Radar 4G, and it is one to consider if you are looking for a WP device. You can check out several photos of the device in my image gallery along with a hands-on video and my experiences with the device below.

The HTC Radar 4G comes in the same type of rock solid box we are used to seeing from T-Mobile with a glossy image of the device on the front and a list of features on the back. Inside the box you will find the device, battery, USB to A/C charger, USB cable, SIM card, and Quick Start Guide.

The very first thing I noticed after taking the Radar 4G out of the box was that is looked just like a smaller brother of the HTC Flyer as you can see in my image gallery. It has a sleek unibody aluminum design with a white plastic upper piece around the camera and a lower plastic piece at the bottom. The front face is white with silver around the body and it feels and looks great in your hand.

The HTC Radar 4G will be available at T-Mobile retail stores and through select national retailers and dealers on Nov. 2. The HTC Radar 4G is expected to cost $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card with a two-year service agreement and qualifying T-Mobile Classic voice and data plan, plus taxes and fees.

Specifications for the HTC Radar 4G include the following:

Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) operating system14.4 Mbps HSPA+ radio1 GHz Snapdragon processor3.8 inch WVGA 800×480 pixels LCD displayPreinstalled 8GB storage with no expansion capability (about 6GB user accessible)1 GB RAM5 megapixel camera with single LED flash and f/2.2 apertureIntegrated A-GPSWi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)Bluetooth 2.13.5 mm headset jack1520 mAh lithium-ion batteryDimensions: 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.44 inches and 4.83 ounces

The battery is non-removable and there is no expandable storage capability. I was disappointed to see only 8GB in the device (only about 6GB is actually usable though) and believe that all Windows Phone devices should have a minimum of 16GB, especially given how cheap flash memory is today. I am not that concerned about the 1 GHz processor since Windows Phone has been shown to fly with minimal processor specifications.

I also understand there is no digital compass in the HTC Radar 4G (kind of ironic given the name) and thus there will be limits on some app usage, such as augmented reality.

The front of the HTC Radar 4G has a 3.8 inch WVGA 800×480 pixels LCD with the three capacitive Windows Phone buttons below the display. You will find a front facing camera on the upper right front, but at this time there is no application that can use it so it’s value is a potential value and not something that can be realized now.

There is a large volume button and camera shutter button on the right side with a microUSB port on the left side. The power button and headset jack are found on the top with just a mic opening on the bottom

On the back you will find the 5 megapixel camera, single LED flash, and speaker grille inside a white plastic area that is not removable. The rest of the back has the unibody aluminum finish with HTC branding. The bottom part is also white plastic and can be removed to access the SIM card slot. Every review I read after I finished writing this one confirmed that the back bottom piece doesn’t seem to fit up and in place as securely as it should and could have been better designed. There is no removable storage card or battery on this device.

Even though the Radar 4G has a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, it still flies like all the other existing devices upgraded to WP 7.5 (Mango) so I am not concerned at all with the processor. The 5 megapixel camera takes much better photos than the 5 megapixel camera on the HD7 and I do not see any of the pink camera problem found on the HD7. It is not as good as the Amaze 4G though and I am thinking I may hold out for a Nokia WP with Carl Zeiss optics.

The WiFi hotspot function, new to Mango, is in this device and works well. Unfortunately, the “4G” is limited to the 14.4 Mbps speed and not up to the full 42.2 Mbps found in the T-Mobile network in many locations and with the latest Android devices. Unfortunately, I found the RF reception to be a bit disappointing and in areas where I normally have a solid 3G signal I was seeing the words “2G” appear on the Radar 4G, which is something I haven’t seen in a long time.

Phone call quality sounded OK, but also sounded a bit hollow and was not as solid and clear as other phones I have tested recently on T-Mobile. Mobileburn.com also noted there was some hissing noise in calls.

I personally like the form factor and still enjoy using the Windows Phone operating system. However, the limited selection of devices on all carriers, but AT&T, is not a good thing and IMHO is one major factor keeping Windows Phone down in market share figures.

I have only been using the Radar 4G for about 4 days and am finding the battery life to be quite acceptable and much better than the HD7 or Dell Venue Pro I have been using over the past year. It also seems to be beating out my new iPhone 4S.

My wife has been using a blue Nokia N8 since last year and won’t give it up because the camera is fantastic and that is something she values. She doesn’t particularly like the OS though and is tired of lockups, misdialing, etc. I was hoping to see a Windows Phone similar to the HTC Amaze 4G with a great camera since I know she would like WP on a device. The 5 megapixel shooter on the Radar 4G is OK, but as soon as I gave her the device she handed it back and said she did not like the feel of it and wouldn’t consider it.

I love my HTC Flyer Android tablet with very similar form factor and design so I am considering the Radar 4G for myself. However, the limited 8GB internal storage, lack of battery replacement, and camera that is just OK and not super are causing me to hesitate a bit. If I end up being eligible for the full upgrade price of just $100 I will likely pick one up on Wednseday, but I am not going to pay the $450+ that it will probably cost for the unsubsidized phone.

First time buyers who are eligible for the $100 price will like the solid design and form factor and smooth operation, but there are some compelling Android devices on T-Mobile too that do offer more.

The opinions above are mine alone and I always recommend you check out other reviews. You can find a couple others online here:

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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