Microsoft requires handset manufacturers to ship with a 5-megapixel camera or higher. The HTC HD7 sports a 5-megapixel shooter with a dual-LED flash. All WP7 phones must have a dedicated camera key, which I always appreciate. The camera/shutter key also wakes up the phone and brings you straight into camera mode, which is a nice touch.
The Windows Phone 7 camera interface takes 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. You get a few basic camera controls like Scene settings (auto, portrait, landscape, sports, beach, etc.), Effects (Grayscale, Negative, Solarize, etc) as well as metering and resolution controls.
Photos taken outdoors on a sunny day looked good: colours were bright and details appeared sharp. When I zoomed in on a distant building however, my photo came out pretty blurry. My indoor shots looked overexposed, even with the flash off. Colours were a bit washed out and details were blown out.
The HD7 captures video in 720p, as most high-end smartphones now feature. My videos looked great, though the microphone is almost too powerful. The microphone picks up a lot of background noise, so much that it is almost overpowering. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 7 doesn't have direct upload to YouTube in the gallery, which is another painfully obvious feature the OS overlooks.
I was unable to test upload and download speeds as there is no Windows Phone 7 Ookla app available yet (for measuring network speeds). I did some casual speed tests over Wi-Fi and found the browser paired with the 1GHz processor to be pretty speedy. PCWorld.com fully loaded in 22 seconds, media heavy site Thrashermagazine.com loaded in 35 seconds and NYTimes.com loaded in 16.2 seconds.
One annoying issue I ran into was when I tried to sync my Facebook profile to the HD7. I'm not sure if this was a network issue or a problem with the operating system. It took about four tries to get my Facebook profile up-and-running. I also noticed that the phone seemed to switch between EDGE and 3G pretty frequently around San Francisco.
Call quality was hit-or-miss over T-Mobile's 3G network. Callers sounded good, but slightly distant and a bit tinny. On a busy city street, my caller on the other end of the line had a difficult time hearing my voice.
The HD7 is a high quality phone but without a front-facing camera or 4G data speeds, it can't compete with the T-Mobile myTouch 4G, Apple iPhone 4, HTC EVO 4G or Samsung Epic 4G, which dominate the top spots.
The HTC HD7 is a nice introduction to the platform and a great entertainment phone. Make sure you give Windows Phone 7 a test run before purchasing however. It has a few quirks as well as a few missing features, like copy/paste and Flash support.