CNET Senior Editor Bonnie Cha contributed to this review.
Far too often a series of phones becomes dull routine, with the device manufacturer simply churning out yet another familiar model rather than designing something new. Not so with the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide. HTC could have simply changed the colors, tweaked the shape, nudged up the camera quality, and added 4G for a perfectly acceptable Android successor to the MyTouch 3G Slide. Instead, it took the high road and equipped the MyTouch 4G Slide with a speedy processor, the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system, a version of HTC Sense 3 adapted to T-Mobile's MyTouch aesthetic, and an improved camera that HTC has filled with software features.
The camera indeed offers a more complete experience that will have you relying on your smartphone to capture stills and videos of those one-of-a-time moments, rather than wishing you had your point-and-shoot instead. However, HTC overpromised on its camera glory and underdelivered a tad. (We spent some quality time comparing the camera with other smartphones cameras here.) Then there's the rather flat keyboard to contend with. Still, we have to commend HTC and T-Mobile for creating a compelling smartphone that gives you some real bang for your $199.99 bucks.
In many respects, the MyTouch 4G Slide is similar to the MyTouch 3G Slide that came before it, and indeed to the MyTouch 4G. It has the same smooth plastic body with the slightly protruding chin at its base, plus the four physical buttons and touch pad. It comes in khaki and black colors--we tested it in khaki.
The MyTouch 4G Slide is slightly taller and thinner than its predecessor, but ultimately it's a huskier phone, at 4.8 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and a weight of 6.5 ounces. By comparison, the 3G version stands 4.6 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and weighs 5.8 ounces. The 4G Slide is a heavy hunk of hardware, no doubt, but it's also sturdy.
The extra little bit of height accommodates the phone's 3.7-inch, WVGA Super LCD screen, up from the 3G Slide's 3.4 inch HVGA display. It's a nice, bright display, but the 800x400-pixel resolution isn't as stellar as some. (Read more on screen technology titans here).
Above the screen is the front-facing VGA camera. There's also an LED indicator light that flashes green when you've got new messages. Below the screen is the aforementioned (and customary) button quartet, with controls for Home, Menu, Back, and the Genius button that launches voice-to-text voice functions and voice commands. You'll also find an optical touch pad that doubles as a select button.
On the right spine you'll find the handy dedicated camera button. As with some other models we've seen on the market, you'll be able to press the button to take photos even if the phone is locked. On the left you'll find the volume rocker and Micro-USB charging port; the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack and power button are up top.
Nestled into the back of the 4G Slide is the much-ballyhooed 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and 1080p HD video playback and capture (more on this below). Behind the back cover there's the microSD card slot that accepts up to 32GB expandable memory. The phone comes with a generous 8GB microSD card preinstalled.
The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is clearly one of the phone's hallmarks, and we have to hand it to HTC for tucking an entire keyboard into a phone that's about as thick as the MyTouch 4G, a phone that has no keyboard. That's no easy feat, but the trade-off is a flatter QWERTY than we'd like, and flat keys tend to be less comfortable and slow down nimble typists. That said, the 4G Slide gets the spacing and size of the buttons right, and we appreciate the indicator lights that shine when Caps and Alt are on. The sliding action feels smooth and strong.
In addition to the physical keyboard, HTC has preinstalled Swype's virtual keyboard by default.
The MyTouch 4G Slide runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which first shipped on the Nexus S 4G. In addition, HTC has tacked on a revised version of its Sense 3 interface that's been adapted to fit the preexisting MyTouch aesthetic, with straight lines instead of Sense's typical curves and angles. See our review of the HTC Sensation for comparison.
When you first start the phone, you'll be able to choose from one of six themes, from slate gray to purple tones. The MyTouch interface also walks you through set-up options for your Google Account, other e-mail accounts, and social networks, a work flow we found convenient and straightforward.
Like the MyTouch 4G, the 4G Slide has a front-facing VGA camera for self-portraits and video chatting. Yet it's the 8-megapixel camera that's the star of the show. It has dual-LED flash and 1080p HD video capture and playback, which is typical for high-end phones these days--for instance, you also see that combination on the HTC Sensation. HTC Sense 3 software includes automatic facial detection and some extra effects you can select before taking a photo.
Beyond that, the 4G Slide's lens has a wider aperture (which lets in more light) and a backside-illuminated sensor (BSI). The BSI sensor is there to improve the camera's speed and performance in low-light conditions, and it's a trick Apple also uses in its iPhone 4 camera. BSI also improves the dynamic range, that is, the contrast between the lightest whites and darkest blacks. CNET digital imaging editor Josh Goldman explains BSI sensors here.