HTC was the first to market with a Google Android phone, but although the original Dream was a big disappointment, its ultimate successor, the Hero, is a far more polished device.
It looks similar to the Dream, with its odd-looking "chin" jutting out at an angle below the screen. This plays host to most of the phone's physical controls, including a large, clickable scroll ball.
But that's about the only similarity. The phone is an altogether better-looking device, with a sleek metal screen surround, pocket-friendly dimensions of 56.2 x 14.4 x 112mm (WDH) and solid build quality.
But where the Dream ran Android in its purest form, the Hero builds on it, expanding the desktop from three to five screens, adding multitouch, and including HTC's custom collection of social networking and photo-sharing tools along with a host of other tweaks. The People app, for example, combines contacts from Gmail and Facebook accounts, pulling in photos too.
Although it's been out for a while, it still feels bang up to date. Web browsing is fast and responsive, and the 3.2in 320 x 480 capacitive touchscreen is responsive in use. We weren't particularly enamoured of the on-screen keyboard, which feels fiddly compared to the BlackBerry Storm2 and the iPhone 3GS, but there is touch feedback, which helps a little.
On the features front the positive story continues, with all major bases covered, plus a 5-megapixel camera, GPS and a digital compass built in.
As we'd expect, the Android web browser did well in our performance tests, loading the SMH homepage in an average of 13 seconds - not quite as quick as the iPhone 3GS, but very close - and gaining 93 in the Acid3 test.
There are some negatives, however: responsiveness wasn't perfect - scrolling lists sometimes juddered and stuttered. The camera isn't the greatest, despite the high pixel count. And you get only 512MB internal storage and 2GB on a microSD card as standard.
But overall, using the Hero is a pleasure. What's more, because the Hero has been on the market for a while, you can find it on some very reasonable plans, and that makes it a worthy budget alternative to the iPhone.