You have to wonder just how much time the marketing bods at Microsoft have had to play on a Windows Phone 7 handset.

While the platform's slick advertising campaign pitches it as perfect for 'glance and go' viewing, rarely has a phone made such a play for your undivided attention.

Not because using it is a chore, but rather – like iPad before it – because the principles behind its design make even the simplest of actions a joy to watch.

This is the designer's OS, the artists' platform, the smart and savvy's sleek new haven and, luckily for HTC and Microsoft alike, the much touted HD7 gives this new entrant in the smartphone wars a suitable home.

Hands on with the hardware

For anyone with experience with the two parties' last offering – the Windows Mobile 6.5 equipped HD2 - the HD7 will seem like a logical next step.

There's no hiding the fact that the handset is one of the largest on the market, but to suggest it's in any way unattractive would be unfair. Indeed, much like Windows Phone 7's cousin Xbox 360, this is a device constructed to convey power.

As such, the first thing you're likely to notice is the sheer size of the phone's super-LCD multi-touch screen. At 4.3 inches, there's room enough for finger swipes aplenty and, jumping from the HD7 straight back to an iPhone, for instance, certainly highlights the difference.

Personal preference aside, in practice it'd be hard to suggest the HD7's screen is anything but fit for purpose. Its sheer size serves as the perfect playground for the OS - the visual element of everything Windows Phone 7 tries to do perfectly suits the HD7's display.

What a picture

As a bonus, the metal stand at the back of the device – which folds out from around the camera lens and flash – seems equally well pitched, with many (but, sadly, not all) of the apps accommodating themselves to landscape view.

The stand also comes in handy when viewing pictures or videos. With a 5-megapixel camera on the back – the handset sadly lacks a forward-facing addition – the HTC HD7 is reasonably equipped, if not the best in show.

Actually, using the camera is a speedy affair. Holding down the camera button on the right side of the handset – a feature Microsoft has insisted all its OEMs implement – takes you straight to the viewer, with a soft tap setting up the focus and a hard press taking the shot itself.

Recording video isn't quite as quick. The camera struggles to find focus straight away if you don't give it a few seconds to acclimatise itself, often reaching its peak mid-way through the clip itself instead. Nonetheless, if given the extra seconds it requires, the HD7 is capable of recording videos of a competitive quality.

Slick search

Just like the aforementioned camera button, Microsoft's decision to impose two additional touch buttons at the bottom of the handset – aside from the standard home button – also appears wise.

Both carry out the same tasks wherever you are in the OS -the 'back' button freeing up space within the app itself, allowing it to fill the screen, with the search button eradicating the need to hunt down each title's individual search setup.

Tap it, and a search specific to whatever you're running at the time pops up in an identical format every time.

Indeed, this is the one part of Windows Phone 7's implementation that pays close heed to the overall marketing strategy.

Search is a key factor throughout the OS. Tapping the button on the home screen bringing up a specialised take on Bing that, rather than simply searching the web, stylises the results to suit the kind of thing you're likely to be looking for on a mobile.

Typing in 'Chinese Manchester', for instance, handily brings up not only locations of appropriate restaurants in the area (displayed in the typical Windows Phone 7 manner), but also user reviews and access to the Maps app to track down its location.

The voice search – which combines searching for contacts, specific apps, or even the web into one tool - is less successful, though by no means a flop. As with all such things, learning both the kind of terms that work and the way to say them comes with practice.

Game for games

As flashy as that might sound, however, it's the software that's likely to sell both the HD7 and the other Windows Phone 7 handsets that have hit the market.

Impressively, entering either Windows Marketplace or the Xbox Live hub is already a fruitful experience. Though the relative merits of each and every game are yet to be discovered – expect Pocket Gamer to be firmly on the case – the number of games available for download from day one is a plus for Microsoft.

Twenty games make the Xbox Live roster at launch – notable entries such as Flight Control, Bejeweled LIVE and The Harvest all available in full or demo form – while the number of titles available in total would seem to be more than four times that number, with new games having already been added to the Marketplace in the short time it's been available in the UK.

Whether you consider an app dedicated to learning about cats a 'game', however, is a matter for discussion.

Nonetheless, the games themselves feel perfectly suited to the HD7's large screen. Arguably slightly more sensitive than the likes of iPhone, the device – despite its size – is a natural fit during play time, especially when the title in question is played in landscape mode.

App happy

Games aside, most of the major players app wise – Facebook, Twitter and, in rather smart web app form, YouTube – are already here, with Twitter in particular suiting the OS's fluid scrolling setup.

It's Facebook that has most to gain from Windows Phone 7, given its implementation in the phone's contacts tab, dubbed People.

Flashing away on the tab throughout when viewed from the home screen are pictures of your friends and family, taken either from your Windows Live account or, if you grant the phone permission, Facebook.

A tap of the People's tab brings this assimilation to life, opening up what amounts to your Facebook stream, delivered in accessible form right next to what is, on most platforms, a fairly standard and drab list of contact details.

It's not hard to imagine that Places will be the first port of call for most users taking a look at their phone in the morning, the phone letting you comment on each and every event or photo posted without having to go anywhere near Facebook, whether in app or web form.

Indeed, in one sweet move Microsoft has implemented what scores of OEMs and carriers have attempted to pile on top of Android of late – a social feed that presents everything you need to know about your contacts in one, digestable place.

Different by design

It's a feature that's been delivered with care, rather than haste, specifically designed to complement the OS, rather than overcrowd it.

It's this ambition to do things differently from its rivals rather than merely imitate them that makes it less gutting when you discover a feature you assumed would be included is strangely absent.

Cut and paste, perhaps most notably, is missing from the current version of the OS (Microsoft having confirmed before launch that it plans to roll it out via an update in early 2011), while any sort of onscreen volume control when playing tracks in Zune (which, itself, easily rivals iPhone's 'iPod player' both in terms of functionality and style) is similarly lacking.

But, reason suggests this is not the finished article. Updates will come and enhance what is already an effective and, at times, majestic OS – there's a confidence behind the platform's implementation that suggests that Microsoft has no intention of going anywhere this time around.

Whether or not the giant's vision for the smartphone will influence its rivals into changing their approach accordingly - or, indeed, simply leave Microsoft foraging on its own - remains to be seen.

Regardless, there's reason enough to suggest Windows Phone 7, delivered in an efficient manner on the HTC HD7, will cause plenty of iPhone and Android owners to look on a little enviously in the months to come.