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HTC Inspire 4G Review

htcinspire

In a world where new Android phones pop up every 5 minutes, the HTC Inspire 4G is a pretty monumental device because it’s actually AT&T’s first 4G phone. The HTC Inspire 4G comes running with Android 2.2 (Froyo) with the lovely HTC Sense 2.0 UI on top of it. The device sports a 4.3 inch WVGA display, runs on a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, it packs in an 8MP camera, and comes with 4GB internal memory, and an 8GB microSD card.

Design

Measuring 4.8”x2.7”x.46, and weighing 5.78 ounces with its 4.3″ display and unibody metal aluminum frame design, the HTC Inspire 4G is quite similar to the HTC HD7. At the bottom of the display are a set of touch sensitive buttons.

Because the 4.3″ display is on the large side, we cant help but wish they had thrown on a kickstand onto the Inspire 4G, like HTC did with the HD7. The Inspire 4G’s unusually placed battery cover, which is located on the right side of the device, is also difficult to remove but that is hardly a deal breaker.  The handset also fathers a 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, G-sensor, digital compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor. Overall, the Inspire 4G is a good looking phone with a sleek and professional appearance.

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Display

The 4.3″ display on the HTC Inspire 4G with its 480×800 resolution is very, very good. It’s sharp and bright with great color reproduction. That said, Its viewing angles are not so great, and there are some handsets out there with even richer displays, but we don’t think that anyone will be disappointed by the display here.

The large display is also complimented by  built-in DLNA connectivity so that you can stream media from your phone to your TV, along with the device’s built-in Dolby + SRS Surround with noise cancellation, both help transform the HTC Inspire 4G into a little cinema in your pocket

Keyboard

The keyboard on the HTC Inspire 4G is pretty good, and definitely one of the better Android onscreen keyboards. Users with larger hands will probably appreciate this onscreen keyboard because it’s so large. Personally, I found it almost too large and often needed to use two hands to type out messages, but overall the keyboard provides a solid on-screen typing experience. And for those who are into it – the keyboard is complimented by haptic feedback too.

Camera

The HTC Inspire 4G packs in an 8-megapixel color camera with auto focus and flash. Unfortunately the device lacks a dedicated camera button, but it also features a touch focus system that works very well. Photos and video produced by the camera are pretty good, and a little better than your average smartphone. Of-course the phone did much better in daylight than it did indoors and at night – indoors and at night  produces plenty of graininess, but overall produced shots tend to be pretty sharp with accurate colors. Autofocus works pretty well here, and  if you so choose, the camera apps has a selection of fun effects to throw on your pictures like vintage, black & white, vignette, etc. The phone can also record video in unto 720p, again the video is pretty good too.

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Call Quality

Call quality on the HTC Inspire 4G is nothing short of superb. Calls on the handset sound so clear and crisp that you’ll think you’re talking on a landline callers on the other end said that we sounded just as clear and crisp too, and that we didn’t sound like we were on a cell phone at all. In terms of call quality, this is actually the best experience we’ve had yet with an AT&T handset to date.

Performance

The HTC Inspire 4G is pretty much a beast. The device is running on a Qualcomm QSD8255 1GHz Snapdragon processor and it pretty much blew away the benchmarks on Quadrant, making it the fastest Android phone we’ve tested to date. In particular, it earned a 1720 score, making it even faster than the Nexus One 2.2+ and Moto Droid X 2.2+.

Furthermore, even when we loaded up all seven of our homescreens with HTC Sense UI widgets, the device continued to run with pep. This is a breath of fresh air compared to some of the older HTC Sense UI handsets we’ve used which can struggle to keep up with the Sense UI and multitasking.

Web Browsing

Despite the fact that this is a 4G phone, the HTC Inspire 4G falls a bit short when it comes to surfing speeds. We tested in Manhattan, where the SpeedTest.net app showed that upload and download speeds were slower than other 4G networks in the city. Unfortunately, AT&T’s network in NYC is notorious for being over congested so that might have something to do with these results. Overall, surfing on the device still feels peppy, if not as fast as some of the other 4G devices we have tested.

Software

The HTC Inspire 4G is running Android 2.2 with HTC Sense 2.0 overlaid on top of it and it supports Flash 10.1. Love it or leave it, we really like HTC Sense UI and all its spiffy widgets. We actually think that it’s what makes a great Android handset even greater. Unlike the first generation of HTC Sense, HTC Sense 2.0 runs much faster too. For those not familiar with HTC Sense, it brings an awesome selection of widgets to the device including widgets for Mail, Messages, Twitter, Stocks, Weather, Friends Stream (Facebook, Twitter), Calendar, and much more. Many Android purists don’t like the HTC Sense overlay, but we appreciate it a lot. It gives the device personality and punches up your 7 available homescreens.

Other bundled apps include Facebook, Twitter, HTC Hub, AT&T  Navigator, AT&T FamilyMap, YPmobile, U-verse, Mobile TV Live, AT&T MyWireless, AT&T Code Scanner, Blockbuster, Adobe Reader, Quadrant Standard, Speed Test, Teeter (game), Asphalt 5, YPMobile, the Android Market, Google Search, Voice Search, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Maps ,Street View, Google Latitude, Google Calendar, and YouTube.  A mobile hotspot app is also included, which supports unto 5 connected devices at once, but you’ll need to be subscribed to a DataPro with Tethering plan to take advantage of it.

HTC Sense also comes with HTC Hub which allows you to backup your information, like your contacts, to the HTC cloud at www.htcsense.com. You can then access all of this information online from any browser, which of course will be appreciated if you should ever lose your phone. HTC Hub also provides the device with a Phone Finder feature which will help you locate your phone if it should ever be lost or stolen.  On top of that, HTC has also provided quite a stylish set of wallpapers and themes/skins to enhance and customize the HTC Inspire 4G with. The device also has support for both Exchange and Google accounts.

Battery

Battery life is advertised as up to 6 hours talk time and 15.5 days standby, but with several widgets running, HSPA+ turned on, and the occasional phone conversation, we could barely make it through the day without the battery going dead.

Conclusion

Overall, we are quite taken with the HTC Inspire 4G and consider it to be one of the best Android smartphones available on the market today. And again, love it or leave it, we really do like HTC Sense and how HTC has spruced up the phone with extras and a sublime UI. We’re a little disappointed that they didn’t throw on a front-facing camera for video calls, especially since it’s a  4G device, but at $99 with contract, the HTC Inspire 4G more of an entry level/mid-range smartphone which you can’t really expect features like that from. But even without the inclusion of a front-facing camera, you really are getting  tremendous bang for your buck. The HTC Inspire 4G is the next midrange smartphone to look out for.

The Good: Fast performance, Excellent call quality, well rounded software package with mobile hotspot, good camera, solid hardware construction with great large display

The Bad: No front facing camera for video calls, 4G speeds aren’t quite 4G-like where we tested

Update 02/21/11: AT&T’s PR contacted us to clarify some things regarding the status of their 4G network – “HSPA+ is deployed in virtually 100% of the network, and you’ll see 4G speeds when it’s combined with enhanced backhaul.  2/3 of traffic on our network will be carried by enhanced backhaul by the end of the year.”