The feature-rich HTC Fuze is a stylish mobile phone with a responsive touch screen and a gorgeous display. But the Fuze's sluggish performance and average keyboard proved frustrating in our tests.

Available in the US on AT&T's 3G network, the HTC Fuze is the same size as the HTC Touch Pro, at 102x5118mm, but it's slightly heavier, at 160g. The HTC Fuze has a 2.8in VGA touch screen.

The HTC Fuze runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 with the HTC TouchFLO touch-screen overlay, and in the States at least, the Fuze has access to AT&T's multimedia and navigation features.

The HTC Fuze is also similar to its sibling, the HTC Touch Diamond, but it has two significant additions: a full slide-out qwerty keyboard and expandable memory (as opposed to the Diamond's 4GB of internal memory).

The Fuze is a bit bricklike in shape, but its high-quality plastic case feels great in the hand. The front is completely flat with four buttons (home, back, and phone send and end) surrounding a navigation button that is both press- and touch-sensitive.

The handset has a dedicated volume rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left side, a stylus on the right side, a power button on the top, and a USB connector for charging the HTC Fuze and using its included headset. (The Fuze lacks a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.)

Call quality is very good. Contacts sound clear and we noticed only a bit of background static on one call. Parties on the other end reported very good sound quality with little background noise. HTC rates the Fuze's talk-time battery life at 6 hours, 36 minutes.

The slide-out keyboard springs open easily, but is sturdy enough so that it won't open when you don't want it to. The keys are fairly small. They're also not as tactile as we'd prefer; they're more spongy than clicky, which makes typing a bit uncomfortable. The HTC Fuze's keyboard is nicely backlit, however, and has a variety of shortcut keys for instant messaging, the music application, Wi-Fi, and more.

The Fuze sports the improved TouchFLO 3D interface, a simple HTC overlay that runs atop the Windows 6.1 operating system. TouchFLO 3D looks spectacular on the HTC Fuze's gorgeous screen, but its performance was hit-and-miss.

TouchFLO 3D consists of a bar of shortcuts to applications such as the Opera browser, email, and the music player that runs along the bottom of the screen. Overall it's incredibly intuitive, making the sometimes headache-inducing Windows Mobile a breeze to navigate. You can flick through the shortcut bar to find an application, and it will instantly pop up on the screen. The programs present a 3D illusion (hence the name) that is very pleasing and futuristic-looking. The weather application, for example, was impressive with its animations of the current forecast.

Unfortunately, we noticed some lag when scrolling through contacts and messages, as well as when navigating through the music app. In addition, we saw a noticeable delay between my typing on the keyboard and the results' appearing on screen. Another drawback to TouchFLO 3D is that you can't customise your shortcuts without digging deep into the Windows operating system.

The Opera 9.5 web browser loads quickly and is easy to use, due to the HTC Fuze's navigation button. The touch- and press-sensitive button is similar to the iPod's touch wheel and can zoom in and out of pages. Like all HTC Windows Mobile phones, the Fuze has Microsoft Outlook, as well as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat capabilities.

The music application, like the majority of the programs on the TouchFLO 3D interface, is aesthetically pleasing, with an iTunes-esque album-art navigation system. Sound quality is good, though we noticed a bit of distortion in certain songs. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack limits the HTC Fuze's capabilities as a music player, though; to use standard headphones, you must insert a clunky adaptor, included with the phone.

The HTC Fuze lacks a dedicated camera key, but you can access the camera from the shortcut bar. On the Touch Diamond, the camera is located on the front of the device, enabling video calling. The Fuze, however, has its lens on the back, so there's no video calling option. The 3.2Mp camera has a flash, autofocus, and a few advanced controls such as flash light adjustment, white balance, and self-timer settings. You can zoom in to your subject using the touch-sensitive navigation button. Image quality is good, and we saw only a hint of interference on some indoor shots.


Overall the HTC Fuze impresses with a gorgeous display and a variety of multimedia features, but HTC still has a few kinks to work out in the phone's interface, performance-wise.