HTC Wildfire S review

£210
Price when reviewed

HTC’s original Wildfire offered a full-fat Android experience in a budget handset, and was a PC Pro favourite for a while. But as more powerful phones dropped in price – notably the 1GHz Snapdragon-based HTC Desire – our fondness for the Wildfire waned. Its successor, the Wildfire S, aims to reclaim the budget crown through a thorough and wide-reaching revamp.

The screen is the most obvious change. HTC has stuck with an LCD panel, but it’s upped the resolution from 240 x 320 to 320 x 480. That’s a big jump, and it works wonders: the fuzzy pixellation of the original Wildfire has been banished, replaced by sharp, detailed text, icons and pictures. It’s a huge improvement over its predecessor.

HTC Wildfire S

Quality is perfectly acceptable too, and the screen’s backlight is bright. We measured a maximum brightness of 322cd/m2, not far behind the 357cd/m2 recorded by the LG Optimus 2X, and contrast is decent as well, at 920:1.

HTC has also upgraded the Wildfire S under the hood, replacing the ageing 528MHz Qualcomm MSM 7225 processor with a Qualcomm MSM 7227. Based on the ARM 11 design, it’s a more modern chip than the outgoing Wildfire’s, and now has a GPU: the Adreno 200. There’s more RAM, too, up from 384MB to 512MB.

HTC Wildfire S - camera sample shot

That may not sound much, but our benchmarks indicate a big leap in performance. The SunSpider test finished in 15 seconds – a gigantic improvement over the 58 seconds it took the original Wildfire – and the BBC homepage loaded in 15.4 seconds; again much quicker than the original phone’s 42 seconds.

So performance has improved massively, but times move on and although the Wildfire S is far more usable for everyday tasks than the original, it’s still far from the pinnacle of smartphone performance. Our third test, the intensive Quadrant benchmark, returned a slow overall score of 654, which is well behind most modern smartphones. Navigation was punctuated by occasional judders, and the app and notification drawers were often slow to respond. More demanding apps and games expose the phone’s limits quickly: it struggled with the later levels in Angry Birds Rio, and 3D games such as Reckless Racing were unplayable.

While the Wildfire S still boasts a 5mp camera, quality has improved markedly since the original phone: detail is sharper and colours are noticeably more vivid, with the washed-out feel of the original camera all but eliminated. Video recording is better, too, with the resolution increased from 240 x 320 to 480 x 640 and quality also moving up a notch. Again, though, we’ve seen better. There’s still plenty of noise in zoomed-in and darker shots.

Curiously, HTC has shrunk the battery for the Wildfire S, with the new handset’s 1,230mAh unit 70mAh smaller than the power pack in its predecessor, and in conjunction with a higher-resolution screen and more powerful processor, you might think this would have a negative effect on battery life. Fortunately, that’s not the case: the more modern chipset, coupled with the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, means it’s lighter on the juice than you’d expect. After our 24-hour real-world test, the Wildfire S still had 60% of its power remaining, putting it on a par with the original Wildfire and Desire.

Details

Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £15.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider 3

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 7hrs
Standby, quoted 23 days

Physical

Dimensions 59 x 101 x 12mm (WDH)
Weight 110g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 512MB
ROM size 512MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 3.2in
Resolution 320 x 480
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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