Review: HTC G1
HTC has recently been ramping up the sex appeal of its phones. The Touch Diamond, for example, has some great design elements that make it a neat-looking device. HTC decided to play a more conservative role with the design of the G1, which, if you ask me, is bland if not bordering on boring.
It is blocky and thick to accommodate the QWERTY keyboard. Towards the bottom, there is a slight angle in the otherwise bar-shaped device. The edges are all rounded and smooth, which makes it fit in your hand better. It is weighty and feels very solid. With its weight and size, you're going to notice it in your pants pocket. The G1 is not uncomfortable to hold.
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The front is dominated by the large touch screen. Along the bottom are four buttons and a trackball. The send/end keys, a home key and a return key are what you get, along with a Menu key perched above the trackball. They are small, about the size of an eraser head. The have decent travel and feedback. The trackball is about the same size as that found on most BlackBerries and feels about the same. It can be used as an alternative way to interact with the device if you don't feel like touching the screen.
On the left side of the phone is the volume toggle. It is easily found and has good travel and feedback. Hidden on the left side of the G1 is the hatch covering the microSD port. Quite honestly, if we hadn't asked an HTC rep where it was, we may not have found it ourselves. It cannot be opened with the phone closed. You have to slide it open before you can dig your finger into the right spot to get it open. At least you don't have to take the back cover off. On the bottom is the hatch covering the miniUSB port. On the right is only a camera button. This button is easily found, and has a lot of travel and feedback.
The novel slider mechanism for the phone feels solid and works well. Because it doesn't use standard rails, it is perched at the very edge of the bottom half of the phone, providing as much space as possible for the full QWERTY keyboard. Speaking of which...
I received the brown version of the G1 to review. It has a different color scheme for the keyboard than the black or white versions. The keys themselves are gray, and the numbers are written in brown ink and the special characters are written in red. Even with the keyboard lit from behind, it is exceedingly difficult to see which keys you are pressing. The name of each key is difficult to discern even in good lighting, and the special characters are almost invisible. Typing in the dark is flat out impossible, even with the backlight on, as it is so weak.
On top of that, I disliked the feel of the keys themselves, which see oddly spaced. They do have a soft-touch feel to them, and travel and feedback was decent, but the domed shape of the keys just didn't gel with my thumbs. There's no plainer way to say it. At least HTC was thoughtful enough to put the @ symbol on its own key, that doesn't require you to press an "alt" key to reach it. The keys are at least easier to see on the black and white versions of the G1, but they feel the same.
What's missing from the G1 is a 3.5mm headset jack, though HTC does provide you with a pair of headphones in the box that will connect to the G1's miniUSB port. An adapter (so you can use your own headphones) will cost you extra.
If you're getting the sense that I am not overly keen on the G1's design and hardware, you'd be right.
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