HTC One Max Review

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Ooo and they were so close! I read the reports and analyzed the sales figures… Yet despite better judgment, even I was rooting for underdog HTC to rise from the ashes of poor device sales and continue on to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with “The House That Jobs Built” and camp Samsung. The flagship HTC One was the veritable magic bean that could have steered the company vessel toward redemptive waters. Diversity in the line to provide variants for different price points, seemed to confuse the focus of the struggling devise manufacturer.

As a result we have the HTC One, the One Mini and the One Max. We’re focusing on the latter of that trio today — the 4G HTC One Max from Verizon. The Max is a phablet version of the tried and truly marvelous HTC One. A bigger HTC One sounds irresistible, right? It could only be “better” than the original, right? Hold on Tex! That’s not quite in the cards for this fattened up Phablet. Here we point out the good and the not-so, beginning with…

Design

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The first things you notice about the Max is the sheer size. It’s big — real big — bigger than Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The display on the Max is 5.9-inches versus the 5.7-inch screen on the Note 3. Real close on the display but the overal size is so much more. Dimensions tally in at 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.29mm. It weighs close to 8-ounces compared to the Note’s 6-ounces. The size and weight make the Max a real chore to wield in a single hand.

This shouldn’t be news. You were expecting a heavy-weighted HTC One Max, right? After all the original One is made from a single uni-body piece of metal. Of course the Phablet version would be heavier. However, the Max is not made from single piece of metal like its smaller younger sibling. Aluminum and plastics were used. It’ a double edge sword. It device retains the cool look and front-facing speakers of the One. But the body is broken up into smaller thinner aluminum pieces. Now users can assess the device innards by removing one of the aluminum pieces. The original One could not be opened.

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So Max doesn’t quite have drop-dead debonair and distinguished looks that made the One such a show stopper. White plastic outlines the edges around where you find Power button, volume rockers, external sensors. On the upper left side is a chrome metal switch. It looks cool, but using merely opens the back panel to reach the SIM card and micrSD card slot.
It’s not as elegant and attractive as the One. Moreover, the size and weight further detract from overall design.

Hardware

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It’s surprising to see the same, yet stellar Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. This is the same exact processor seen in the original HTC One. It keeps the device super speedy where apps and functions respond with urgency. But it still pales by comparison in graphically intense games, when pitted against the newer speedier Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 clocked at a staggering 2.3GHz, found in the Galaxy Note 3.

Still the hardware within is formidable even by today’s standards. That massive display is marvelous for reading web content and digesting media. It’s a beautiful 1080p full HD Gorilla Glass 3 display with rich color reproduction and great brightness with clean whites.

The unit makes use of 32Gb or storage and 2GB of RAM. As mentioned above, the One Max supports MicroSD, unlike the One. So you can expand that storage by adding a MicroSD (up to 64GB). There is a internal digital compass and GPS antenna + GLONASS. But the full gambit of sensor in found within — Gyro, accelerometer, proximity, ambient light and the new fingerprint sensor.
The Battery on the Max is a 3300mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery. This sucker is capable of sustaining 25 hours of 3G talk time and up to 585 hours of 3G standby time. But video playback time maxes out around 10-11 hours with continuous use.

Software

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There’s not a whole lot new here on the software side. The One Max is whirring along with Android 4.3 OS and HTC’s custom built Touch Sense 5.5. It’s wildly more attractive and mature than TouchWiz, which is the Android skin replete across most of Samsung’s current Android devices. It uses distinguished smokey grays and blacks, versus the more cartoony “bloops” and “bleeps” and bright colors used in TouchWiz. But really the UI and Androids skins are a matter of personal preference.
BlinkFeed is still the pervading way to digest large amounts of news in a stylish manner similar to Flipboard. The newest improvements allow you to set BlinkFeed as a secondary homescreen. BlinkFeed is a marvelous feature, ideal for catching all your news and social networking feeds in one big net.

Zoe is also back with all it’s photo magic. HTC Zoe is a cool feature for amateur photographers or anyone shooting quick shots on the go. While enabled, a simple click of the shutter will capture 20 pictures and a 3-second video. You can then choose the one you prefer. The 3-second video is also handy to show transitions between photos and providing clarity in a fast moving scene where a still shot might provide too much blur and distortion. There’s a massive difference…having a 3-sec video clip of a scene versus a still photo.

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HTC Share allows you to package your various photos and short clips into a mini presentation to be shared via email, text message or across your favorite social networking platforms. You can play with it to produce some cool effects, add music and more. But by default it will compile your captured photos and video and create a cool little piece of memorabilia with family and friends.

Camera

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HTC is sticking with their new Ultrapixel camera tech and has chosen to use the same sensors and clicker for the One Max that is found in the One. The main front and rear facing cameras are not the highest in MP density with rear at 4mp. The new lens system also captures more light than a standard 13mp camera. This is thanks to a small army of tech working behind the scenes to stabilize your image, sharpen it, add clarity and the proper lighting with 5-levels of flash. These levels are set automatically by distance. Image stabilization works as advertised. Plus the lens takes in more light than a traditional camera with more megapixels. Suffice it to say it’s easier to take great looking photos on the One than with many other phones. Yet the Galaxy Note 3 still takes a visibly more impressive image.

The One Max, like the One, offers video and photo editing software on deck. Make doodle, notes and more right on the image. A stylus would undoubtedly assist the doodling — and that’s another area the Galaxy Note 3 excels.

Conclusion

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The HTC One Max is a great phone, don’t get me wrong. Yet if a large high end phone is all you need, then go with the original One. It’s cheaper, easier to hold with a more impressive attention-grabbing design. If you want a phablet style phone/tablet thingy then I would look toward the Galaxy Note 3. It’s slimmer, more feature-rich with a multitude of custom stylus-ready functions. It’s cheaper, lighter and easier to hold. The Note 3 also has the better camera and, arguably, the better  form factor and design.

The performance simply does not measure up to the heavy cost and the heavy weighted design.


 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: Available Now
 
Price: $299
 
Size: 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.29mm
 
Weight: 8oz
 
Battery Size: 3300 mAh
 
Version of OS: Android 4.3
 
Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
 
Storage: 32GB
 
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core
 
Screen Type: Gorilla Glass 3 LCD
 
WiFi: Wi–Fi 802.11 a/b/g/nac, 2.4GHz and 5GHz Capable
 
Carrier:
 
Brand:
 
OS:
 
Screen Size:
 
Camera:
 

Positives


Performance is virtually identical to the HTC One. Large 5.9-inch display is gorgeous. HTC Sense 5.5 Android skin is one of the best in the biz. HTC Zoe and HTC Share are 1-of-kind camera tools for adding pizzazz to your photos. Great looking device. Front-facing speakers are marvelous and sound awesome. CPU is speedy and everything moves along with urgency. New accessibly MicroSD card.

Negatives


Not solid unibody metal form factor like the HTC One. Too heavy. Too wide for one-hand use. Snapdragon 600 still solid but Snapdragon 800 in Galaxy Note 3 noticebaly faster. Expensive. Better "Phablets" on the market.


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Shawn Sanders

 
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.


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