HTC did not skimp on the materials when developing the Panache. The device features an aluminum back plate, a chrome trim along the front panel, and rubberized edges around the entire phone. Weighing in at 168 grams, the Panache is considerably heavier than the Nexus S for instance, which weighs a reasonable 129 grams. The solid body and metal backing brings a slight heft to the device, but in a positive way. The weight does not create unneeded fatigue but brings a sense of ruggedness and the feeling that it won’t crack on impact.
The rear of the Panache bears a 5 MP camera (2592 x 1944 pixels) with an led flash, and is capable of shooting 720p video. The speaker is also located next to the camera. Most current generation phones feature their speakers on the back of the
device, but this may be counterproductive because when most users play music the rear of the device is blocked by the surface they’re placed on. A more suitable placement of the speaker would be on the top or the sides of the device as seen on both Blackberry and Nokia devices.
On the front of the phone we find the 480 x 800 pixels, 3.8 inch TFT display, a front facing VGA camera, and 4 navigation buttons commonly found on most Android devices. The physical buttons provide tactile feedback that some customers might appreciate and can alleviates the problem of our pesky fingers clicking the wrong buttons. HTC has thrown in a optical trackpad into the mix, adding an alternative navigation method. User’s may find the trackpad either a nuisance or a blessing depending on their preference. While the trackpad would used for more delicate procedures such as selecting text or navigating through links on websites, it will be inadequate for navigating the menus when compared to the ease of navigating with the touch screen.
Under the hood the Panache sports a second-generation 1GHZ Snapdragon processor with 768MB of RAM with Bluetooth 2.1 and GPS built-in. Despite the introduction of dual-core phones on the market, the combination of the Panache’s processor and ample amounts of RAM allow for the device to run smoothly, even on flash intensive web pages. The GPS found on the device worked flawlessly through our tests. The GPS locked-on in under 10 seconds from cold boot. As a bonus the inclusion of the compass allows for surprisingly accurate results that compliments Google Navigation seamlessly. The Quadrant benchmark scored the Panache just above the Nexus One, at a score of 1601 (highest score achieved).
The Panache is equipped with a 1400 mAH battery that lasts roughly the whole day with moderate amounts of use. Keeping in mind that a user that is consistently using data applications, having brightness settings at a maximum, and running CPU intensive applications like games will have different usage times.
In the various area’s that we visited; from low signal area’s and dead spots, to positive full signal sites, the Panache performed similarly to the Nexus S but fell short against the Nokia 5230. It can be said that the Panache is line with most current generation devices in terms of reception. On full signal, the Panache was able to pull roughly 2Mb down and 1Mb up at various times of the day. While this may highlight the strength of the Mobilicity network, the speeds represent the phone’s consistency to maximize any available bandwidth.
The device features a 5MP rear facing camera with LED flash in addition to shooting 720P HD video. The camera takes still shots relatively well in a well-lit environment but does suffer from some noise within the picture. The LED flash does effectively light up the scene and allows the camera to take respectable photo’s in darker settings. The 720P video, while a nice feature, shares a similar fate in regards to the photo’s. The video retains the natural colours of the landscape but incorporates the noisiness that is found in the photo’s which will make a relatively nice video look slightly washed out. The camera is sufficient for quick shots and video’s but do not expect the camera to replace any existing point and shoot. What we did like is the extensive customization options available on the device including unique effects such as distortion and negatives and image adjustment settings such as exposure, contrast, and saturation. While shooting videos for instance, HTC has added the feature of zooming in and out during recording and is a great addition. The camera can be focused by pressing on the screen or holding down the dedicated camera button and can even be done while shooting videos.
Here are some sample photos taken with the HTC Panache:
The display on the Panache does not make any technological breakthroughs in image quality, but is in line with what is currently found on the market. The display seems too bright and causes images to look washed out when compared to other devices. For the average user the display works great and unless scrutinized will not be noticeable. When compared to the Nexus S and Galaxy S Fascinate 4G the difference is clear where we see much deeper blacks and more vibrant colours found on the Super AMOLED displays.
The HTC Panache features Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with HTC’s Sense UI 2.1 overlay. The Sense UI does an admirable job of expanding the experience provided by the solid Android Gingerbread base. The Sense UI helps users differentiate and customize their “Scenes”, which are pre-configured appearances of the Android home screens depending on the specific “Sense” chosen. In addition, HTC offers a gracious amount of widgets ranging from different styles of clocks to a number of social networking applications. The Sense UI in a larger aspect is a great tool to bring all the content from various sources into one easy to use location. A feature we could have gone without was the alternate applications drawer. The drawer found on stock Android provides a simplified view for such medial task as viewing all available apps. One of the greatest features HTC has added to the Panache is the ability to FastBoot into the Android OS. When FastBoot is enabled the device can start-up in roughly 4 seconds, an impressive feat for any device and is leaps and bounds beyond load times found on other devices.
Below you can see a video demonstration of the FastBoot process:
The price point of the device is reflective of the quality of materials the Panache is made of and is justified in this way. The device comes in at a cool 499.99 but we must all remember that this does not bear any contract and is complemented with Mobilicity’s unlimited and cheap data packages. This is the first Sense device to launch on AWS frequencies in Canada and we hope to see more in the future. In the Canadian market competition has been nothing short of non existent until just recently. This device is even more important because these new entrants have a very minimal selection in terms of high end devices and its phones like these that will finally attract many new customers.With many high end devices to reach the market by year’s end this device will slowly become a mid-level contender and will be trumped by the many dual core phones to be released such as HTC’s own Sensation.
Thanks to Howard and Mobilicity for letting me review the HTC Panache.