HTC Desire Z: Physical vs. On-Screen Keyboard

When you look at HTC’s Desire model range of phones, the 1 thing that sets the Desire Z apart from the Desire and the Desire HD, is the physical keyboard.

But what’s in a physical keyboard? How does it measure up against the onscreen keyboard. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to put it to the test.

To coin a phrase: there’s an app for that

So I downloaded Extreme Typist from the Android Market. A free little app that lets you test how fast you can type. On a normal computer keyboard I can type upwards of 90 wpm. It’s true – I type for a living.

Speed is one aspect of how useful I find a keyboard. Whether or not I can actually push the keys are also important, because if they’re too small then lots of mistakes crop up and wastes time.

So the test will be to see how fast and accurate I can type on the 3 different settings of keyboards available on the HTC Desire Z.

  • Option 1: Portrait mode – QWERTY touch screen keyboard;
  • Option 2: Landscape mode – QWERTY touch-screen keyboard;
  • Option 3: Landscape mode – QWERTY physical slide-out keyboard;

After a few very quick tests on the Extreme Typist app, the results are in:

  • Option 1: A measly 19 words per minute;
  • Option 2: Slightly better at 20.6 words per minute;
  • Option 3: A comparatively zippy 29.2 words per minute;

The Physical Slide-out Keyboard

The HTC Desire Z physical keyboard that slides out from its belly is my personal favourite

I personally prefer the physical keyboard for long messages and typing a blog post, especially when I’m not in a rush.

With more practice I believe I can improve my typing speed on the keyboard up to at least 40 words per minute.

That would be a well decent typing speed for such a small device.

The physical response you get from pressing a button on the slide-out keyboard, called a tactile response, makes it easier to know which key your going to press and that you did in fact press it.

For that reason I also tend to make fewer mistakes, which increases my typing speed.

Even though my thumbs are quite big and the buttons on the slide-out keyboard are quite small, its easy and comfortable enough to want to use it every time.

The Portrait Mode Touch Screen Keyboard

The portrait orientation is a winner for text message, especially because you can reach all the keys with one hand. That said, even two-thumb typing is a breeze on this tiny keyboard.

When you hold the HTC Desire Z in the normal use position, which is in portrait mode, the QWERTY keyboard becomes small enough to use with one hand (perhaps because I’ve got a big hand).

The above test was conducted with two hands though, because in spite of their molecular size, it’s still faster to hit those little keys with two thumbs than it is to type with just one.

I actually prefer the portrait orientation to the landscape layout, because I’m used to the small little keys already.

My main form of communication on a cell phone is SMSs, so I type a lot of quick replies in portrait mode, making this layout the most used between portrait and landscape.

Landscape Mode Touch Screen QWERTY Keyboard

Although I'd rather use the slide-out keyboard in this orientation, the onscreen version does come with predictive text, making it useful

Although I don’t hate it, this is my least favourite keyboard layout on the HTC Desire Z for two reasons.

One, when the phone is in landscape mode the keys are twice as and big as portrait mode and also spaced further apart, which is something you must get used to all over again if you’re used to the tiny portrait mode keys.

Two, if I’m going to rotate the phone to landscape and do typing, I may as well slide out the physical keyboard, which clearly provides a superior typing experience.

A redeeming quality of this landscape mode onscreen keyboard is the fact that it has predictive text enabled, which the physical keyboard does not. So when I feel a little dyslexic, the landscape mode onscreen keyboard will be used instead of the physical one.

HTC Desire Z Keyboard Round Up

If I had to choose just one, I would choose the physical keyboard as the best (fastest and most accurate) typing method on the HTC Desire Z. However, this is only practical in situations where I have time to tap out a long email or text message.

For quick, short text messages, the portrait mode keyboard is handier than the slide-out keyboard. It’s compact enough to manage with one hand and you can type as is with the phone upright.

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