HTC has made a name for itself this year, with its gorgeous piece of art the HTC One, a smartphone with which the Taiwanese mobile maker won three important awards at T3, including a special design prize awarded by the organizers of the event, and of course, phone of the year (2013).
Following on the award-winning HTC One design, HTC announced this autumn its first phablet-sized device called HTC One Max. Whats so special about it? We will find out from our full review in the following minutes.
The design of the HTC One Max is as beautiful as its little brother, the HTC One. In fact, other than it’s size, the HTC One Max is almost a carbon copy of it’s smaller siblings, except for some very nifty features. As we haven’t reviewed any of the HTC One line, I will treat this as a full review and point out the differences in the line as necessary.
The Design of the HTC One Max is very stylish and minimalist. The front of the device is taken up by its massive 5.9′ screen (HTC One / HTC One Mini – 4.7’/4.3′ 720p playback) which is available to show full 1080p HD video. It’s so sharp, you have to see it to believe it. Top and tailing the screen are the two forward facing speakers, which really do make a difference when watching video or playing games. In the top right hand corner, a 2.1MP camera (1.6MP for the Mini) allows video calling and also has the ability to take a picture of the user when taking photo’s with the rear UltraPixel camera (more on that later).
There are no physical buttons on the front, just touch buttons for home and back. The only push buttons are on the right hand side. The volume rocker is on top of the power button, which is strange having come from a Samsung and Nexus line where the lay out is the opposite way round.
The bottom is plain apart from the Micro USB 2.0 port which can be used to charge the device and connect to a HDMI cable via accessories (not supplied as standard).
The Top of the device has the 3.5mm audio jack on the left, whilst the right is taken up with an infrared sensor (more on this feature later too).
The back of the device is what sets the HTC One Max apart from its siblings and most phones on the market. Beneath the UltraPixel camera sits a little black square, approximately 1cm squared. This is a fingerprint sensor, with the same functionality as that of the much publicised iPhone 5S. Once setup, the sensor will allow you to unlock your phone from the lock screen by simply swiping your designated finger over it. For it to work properly, it has to be the full pad of the finger, not the tip. Placing it on the back of the device, rather than the front, means that it can keep the aesthetic and minimalist style, and stay out of the courtroom with Apple. Placing it on the back does pose some advantages and disadvantages, however. The advantage is that it means you can use just one hand to unlock your device. The downside is that it can be quite difficult to get an accurate reading first swipe, as you can’t see where the sensor is. With a little practice, however, it can be achieved. I found the easiest way (without looking) was to use the rear camera as a referrence point and swipe down from there. If you have gloves on and can’t get to your finger, you’re not locked out, you press the relevant button and enter your pin.
HTC has added some functionality to the sensor too. You can use up to three finger prints to activate certain functions. The functions all have to be performed from the lock screen, but allow you to open any app. So for example, you could have a finger for simple unlock, one for unlock and launch camera, and one to unlock and open your voice recorder.
Other than the fingerprint sensor, the back holds the camera and flash and a noise canceling microphone.
The back can be taken off after being unlocked from the left hand side slider. The metal cover reveals a non removable 3300mAh battery which has to be the hardiest battery I’ve ever seen. With light usage, it lasted over 36 hours on a single charge. Above that is the slot where you can add a Micro SD card up to 32GB, giving you a total storage capability of 64GB. The HTC One Max is the only device in the One line to have expandable memory, although the One can have internal storage up to 64GB anyway. The Mini is limited to just 16GB.
The specs of the HTC One Max makes it a power device. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz SoC is supported by 2GB of RAM. This will make the device able to run Android OS for the next couple of years, as well as play games in full HD in all their glory.
Connectivity wise, The HTC One Max supports DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC as well as the already mentioned IR Sensor.
The HTC One Max runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box. No word yet from HTC when the line up will be upgraded.
The HTC One lineup also comes with HTC’s proprietary Sense launcher (much like Samsung’s TouchWiz) with inbuilt HTC BlinkFeed. BlinkFeed allows you to have a page of news updates from your chosen sources. For example, you can have any photo that appears on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc show up, as well as news updated from various sources HTC offers. It will also show you any appointments in your calendar at the top of the feed, underneath the ever-present weather and clock widget.
The HTC One Max comes built-in with its own note taking app, which has taken a leaf from Samsung’s S Pen app where you can create files and notes via a numerous amount of templates.
The app I had the most fun with was HTC’s TV app, which uses the IR Sensor to control your TV, satellite box and Home theatre box in one app. It can also be used as a mobile TV guide. Once the app is set up, and your favourite channels and programs chosen, the app will tell you when the next occurrence is on and what channel.
To set up the remote function, you follow a very easy setup wizard whilst pointing the IR sensor at your TV. If the app doesn’t have the correct code for your setup, you can program your phone with the right ones by using your current remote and pointing it at the IR sensor. This takes a little longer to do, but once done, I was able to remote control my obscure Samsung DVR box. I personally love this feature, not only for its pure geekiness, but also because I often sit down in my chair, get all comfortable, only to find the remote is the other side of the room.
The HTC One Max comes with their own UltraPixel camera which allows you to take some astounding photos. The image sensor is a 1/3′ dedicated chip with a 2.0 aperture and 28mm lens. It’s able to take 1080p video, and has an astounding number of features such as low light sensor, multi strength flash and a number of shooting options such as Continuous shoot, sequence shot and always smile. You can even take pictures and film at varying speeds.
To view your photos, HTC uses HTC Zoe, which will show all your photo’s in a great gallery and even allow you to make GIF’s without any additional software.
In my video review, I was a little harsh on the camera saying it ‘only’ had a 4MP camera. It’s true, that’s what the camera would be classed as, but with the UltraPixel hardware and software, any of the images from the HTC One Max would stand up to many of the camera phones available on the market with 8MP cameras like my current Galaxy Note II.
Indoor Photo (low light)
Finally in this HTC One Max review, I get to pass over the benchmarking results to you. As always, I used the AnTuTu 4 benchmarking app found in the Play Store. After some initial teething problems with the battery saver feature turned on, the tests came out prety much as I expected for a device with a quad-core processor and 2GB RAM.
In total, the HTC One Max scored 26139 points, landing just above the HTC One, (which is expected as they have the same hardware). It didn’t score as high as Samsung’s S4 or Note 3, but still prety high.
Using the Quadrant (standard edition) Benchmarking app, the HTC One Max scored 11826.
If I was upgrading today, I would buy the HTC One Max in a heartbeat. I’ve only had it a week, but I fell in love with it on the first day. It looks beautiful, it is powerful, it takes great pictures and has some great features I’ve not seen on any other phone on the market. Sadly I’ve got too long to wait and haven’t got the finances to afford an upgrade.
Look out for my video review on our YouTube channel which should go live in the next couple of days. We look forward to continuing our relationship with HTC, and I can’t wait to see what the HTC Two will look like.
The HTC One Max is available without contract from £564.90 ($910.81/€677.01) or on contract from most UK networks on varying contract lengths and prices.