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Hands on With HTC's Touch Pro

Taiwan's High Tech Computer launched its latest Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone, the Touch Pro, on Wednesday and I got a chance to try out the new phone at HTC's office in Taipei.

The strongest impression I took away was of the bright, crisp screen on the handset but the device, which was a late model prototype, was built well and easy to hold.

From the front the phone looks much like the Touch Diamond that was launched last month but with the two in my hand it was obvious that the Touch Pro is thicker. The reason is a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that appears from the back of the phone and makes for a much easier way of typing. Each of the keys is beveled so that there's an obvious distinction between each one -- a handy feature on a keypad that's relatively small.

But despite its small size the well contoured keyboard and predictive text input system meant that the first sentence I typed on the Touch Pro came out perfectly -- something that can't be said for every smartphone I've ever tried.

The keyboard has been improved from previous models with a fifth row of number keys above the main keyboard. Personally, I hate having to hold down a shift or function key to tap out numbers on smartphones so the number row is a welcome addition.

The phone felt solid and well made and the phone's body slid smoothly when the keyboard was pulled out. It wasn't so heavy that it weighed on my hands when typing -- another occasional problem on smart phones that restricts use. HTC says it weighs 165 grams.

The 2.8-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen was a pleasure to look at. It has VGA resolution (640 pixels by 480 pixels) so the images appear very sharp and text looks superb. Strong colors enhanced the screen image.

I didn't get a chance to try out many of the productivity functions on the phone but they shouldn't be too different from other Windows Mobile devices.

As for the two big questions: how much will it cost and when will it be launched; HTC had no comment on the first but said it will be available from August in major markets worldwide.

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