Windows Phone 7 is finally here and so far, the hardware looks hot, more than capable of holding its own against Apple and Android competitors. At CTIA last week, I got an exclusive look at the HTC HD7. This monolithic phone runs the brand new Windows Phone 7 operating system and boasts a 4.3-inch WVGA display, a second generation 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera. I had some doubts about Windows Phone 7, but if all of the phones are as impressive as the HD7, Microsoft may have a big hit on its hands.

If you were enamoured of the HTC HD2's gorgeous hardware, but turned off by the fact that it ran Windows 6.5, you will be pleased with the HD7. It is almost identical in design to the HD2, but it has capacitive touch buttons rather than hardware buttons running along the bottom of the display. The hardware buttons on the side are smoother, too, giving it an overall sleeker appearance. Like the HTC EVO 4G, the HD7 has a kickstand for tabletop video watching. The kickstand pulls out from the camera's lens.

Because of its resemblance to the EVO 4G, I was fully expecting the HD7 to have a front-facing video camera. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. The 5-megapixel camera with a dual LED flash took pretty good shots during my quick hands-on use and I always like the inclusion of a dedicated camera key. The Windows Phone 7 camera interface took some getting used to, though. The onscreen touch controls are a bit too small for my liking and I had some trouble tweaking them while snapping a picture. I'll definitely have to further examine this camera interface once I get a WP7 phone review unit in house.

HTC HD7

I was pleased with how fast the HD7 was. Windows Mobile has a bad reputation for being sluggish and heavy, but Windows Phone 7 felt light and speedy. Applications opened promptly and menus scrolled quickly and smoothly.

The HD7 is being marketed as the ultimate entertainment smartphone, and it ships with 16GB of on-board memory so you'll have plenty of space to fill up with movies and photos.

OUR VERDICT

I'll put the HD7 through the ropes once I get a review unit in house, but I really like what I've seen so far. I also need to spend more time with Windows Phone 7 to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Stay tuned for more hands-ons and first looks of phones from today's official Windows Phone 7 Launch event in New York City.