HTC have been making pretty good hardware for a while now and their latest range of ‘One’ handsets have been some of the most impressive phones of the year so far.
However, large phones are becoming more popular now. We’ve already seen the Samsung Galaxy Note range and now Sony are getting in on the act with their Xperia Z Ultra. Is the Max as good?
With a massive screen comes some impressive specs – 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage and a MicroSD card slot for additional storage.
You also get a Quad-Core 1.7Ghz Snapdragon 600 processor which is very powerful. However, many tech guys seem disappointed this was not the latest Snapdragon 800 range, especially as this is what the Note 3 has – plus that also has 3GB of RAM.
This review is based on the hardware side of the device, the Max does have a new version of Sense called 5.5 and this will be made available to other devices shortly. The main differences revolve around BlinkFeed, and you can now add more content including RSS feeds. You can also hook onto your G+ account to pull in additional important information for you.
There is more to Sense 5.5 and that will be covered in a separate review shortly.
Many thanks to our friends at HTC who were kind enough to provide us with the One Max to review so early!
So, the full specs….
- Android 4.3
- 5.9 inch display with 1920 x 1020 resolution
- 4 Ultrapixel camera
- DC-HSDPA 42Mb/s
- LTE 100Mb/s (Cat3)
- 1.7Ghz Quad-Core Snapdragon 600 Processor
- Bluetooth, WiFi & GPS
- 16GB Storage (expandable)
- 3,300mAh Battery
Looking from the top you have the light sensor to adjust the backlight depending on your lighting conditions. There’s also a large speaker which is part of the BoomSound setup, and a front facing 2.1 megapixel camera which can record in 1080p quality.
The screen is massive at 5.9 inches. Whilst large, the 1920 by 1080 resolution 373 PPI means it’s clear and detailed too. This is really noticeable when watching back HD video content or using the phone as a camera.
The LCD screen is bright and colourful but cannot stand up to the same outdoor experience seen on something like the Lumia 1020 with it’s AMOLED Clear Black display
At the bottom part of the device you have the second part of the BoomSound speaker setup and, when paired with the top one, you get one of the loudest phones I have ever heard in all my years of tech reviewing. Both speakers easily cope and the inbuilt amplifier ensures that music is loud without disruption or a tinny sound. I had the volume cranked up to the max (no pun intended). ;)
Something worth noting – the One Max lacks the “Beats” technology that you may have seen on other HTC kit. Don’t get me wrong, the speakers are great, but it’s a little sad to see this missing now that the two companies have posted company.
Just don’t get your hopes up on having the same Beats experience you had on the One when listening through the headphones.
On the back there the same camera as seen on the One and One Mini. The optical image stabilization is missing but this is an Ultrapixel camera and lets in more light than a normal camera. This phone allows better quality images instead of ramping up the megapixels.
Next to the camera is the single LED light that helps when recording video and also does a good job in low light conditions. These LED flash units are not on par with a Xenon flash.
Below the camera is the main new feature of the Max – the fingerprint reader. It’ll let you unlock your phone and open certain applications depending how you choose to set it up.
Whereas the iPhone 5S has the sensor on the home button, the Max has moved it to the back. This helps due to the large frame the phone has, and it means that it’s perfectly positioned for the left or right index finger.
There are two issues I have found so far though. First is that because you cannot see the sensor, you have to guess where it is and I often found myself swiping down on the camera lens instead of the fingerprint sensor. The second is that it didn’t always seem to recognise my swipe every time, maybe 6 out of 10 attempts it would work fine but the other 4 it did not recognise me. I ended up having to enter my password anyway.
If this was to happen on a full retail unit, after a few days of this happening, I’d end up just turning this feature off. This would be a big shame as it is a rather unique selling point, although in testing I must say the iPhone 5S touch ID seems more accurate and more reliable.
At the bottom is the microUSB for charging and daaa transfer with the small microphone hole next to that.
At the top there’s the 3.5m headset jack which is pretty standard for phones these days.
You also have the IR blaster but, unlike the original One, this doesn’t act as a power button. This instead has been moved to the right hand side. Having used a HTC One for a while, it was a little strange with this layout and I often tried to turn the phone on and off again using the IR blaster.
The left side is blank with no buttons anywhere to be seen, these are all on the right hand side of the device.
On the right side you have the volume up / down buttons and the power button, which is also used to lock and wake the phone. As I mentioned before this is different to what you see on the One and One Mini.
Something lacking, which is a shame once again, is a dedicated camera key. Instead you have to rely on the touch screen for everything.
Having used many phones recently I can say I do really like the design offered by the One series. The Max takes it to a bigger level with the massive 5.9 inch screen and, for some things, this is really nice. Especially web browsing and using the camera.
Whilst the Max is a nice phone, take out the larger screen and a fingerprint reader and you have the same phone people are used too with the original One but much more trouser pocket friendly.
If you’re looking for a larger phone / phablet then you already have a good selection to choose from. I like the Sony Xperia Ultra with its waterproof body, but it does have a ridiculous 6.4 inch display size. There is the more recent Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which has a nice 5.7 inch display – one of the best I’ve seen on a phone. It also has a 13 megapixel camera but suffers from a cheap-looking plastic build. The One Max, with a 5.9 inch screen and aluminium body, is perceived by many to drop down on the camera with the 4 ultrapixel unit.
Well, ultrapixels are great in low light conditions (as seen above), but when you transfer normal daylight shots to a larger screen you can start to see where megapixels DO in fact make a difference.
Whilst the build quality of the Max is very impressive there are too many key flaws in this to be a flagship when compared to other large phones.
The RAM is less than seen on the Note 3 and the processor is not as powerful as the Note 3.
The screen is not as bright and clear as the Note 3 and even the LTE speeds are lower due to it being a Cat 3 device. This gives 100Mbps 4G against the Cat 4 on the Note 3 allowing up to 150Mbps speeds starting to roll out on networks like EE.
Taking all specs into account the Note 3 is the far superior handset as well as being thinner and lighter.
That’s not to say the Max is a bad phone, it does have some good things going for it, just not enough to be the best in this class.