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HTC One Max - More Screen Size, More Camera, More Everything (Part 1)

2/5/2014 4:58:10 PM
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HTC rounds out the One family with its take on the phone-tablet hybrid phenomenon, the massive 5.9-inch One Max. But is this behemoth too big?

A phablet is now something that every smartphone manufacturer needs in its range. The One Max is HTC’s take on the phone-tablet hybrid, packing the same design and build that has been so well received in the rest of the One series in its oversized form factor. Does it offer enough to compete with the likes of the Galaxy Note 3? We put the One Max strictly through its paces to find out.

HTC One Max

HTC One Max

Design

As the third member of HTC’s flagship One family, the Max maintains the same design language as its siblings, albeit scaled up to gargantuan proportions. The signature features are all there aluminum construction in silver with white highlights, an imposing screen, dual BoomSound speakers top and bottom and a pair of capacitive buttons for ‘back’ and ‘home’ flanking the HTC logo.

There's no getting away from it, with a 5.9-inch screen, those capacitive buttons and the BoomSound speakers, the Max is huge and certainly not for everyone. If you can live with it though, it'll reward you

The Max is actually a scaled-up One Mini rather than a resizing of the original One - it has the same white plastic edging as the smaller device. While this doesn’t look or feel quite as premium as the original, it does allow for a unique feature of the Max - the back panel is removable to reveal the SIM slot and an oft-requested micro SD slot.

The pogo pins on the back of the device enable you to attach the Power Flip case, which provides another 1200mAh of battery in addition to the 3300mAh on board

The pogo pins on the back of the device enable you to attach the Power Flip case, which provides another 1200mAh of battery in addition to the 3300mAh on board

The back of the device is home to HTC’s UltraPixel camera, pogo pins for connecting to accessories such as the Power Flip case (a flip case with a 1200mAh battery built in to the front) and a fingerprint reader, situated just below the camera. Unlike the iPhone 5s, the reader on the Max requires a ‘swipe’ motion on the sensor to read a fingerprint. It has been placed in a ‘natural’ position when holding the device in your hand, but it does make the camera prone to smudging. It’s also not very good - we persevered with it for the best part of a week before giving up and turning the feature off.

The power button on the Max has moved from the top to the right-hand side, below the volume buttons. The IR transmitter remains on the top with the 3.5mm headphone socket, while the micro USB port is on the bottom.

There's no Beats on the Max, but there is still BoomSound, and boy do the speakers boom. The physically bigger volume of the speakers makes for fantastically loud - and clear – sound

While it’s nice to have micro SD support behind the removable back panel, the downside is a slight drop in the quality of fit and finish. The latching mechanism is pretty good, but some flex is introduced in the back panel to the seamless design of its siblings, along with a particularly noticeable edge at the top of the panel. With the One series’ previous focus on build quality it is a little disappointing.

Screen

The One Max features a 5.9-inch SLCD3 screen at a 1920 x 1080 resolution, giving 373 pixels per inch. With separate capacitive buttons, all of that incredible real estate is available to use for apps, the only exception being when a legacy menu key is required - as on previous One devices, an ugly black bar will then appear at the bottom of the screen (although this can be disabled in the device’s display settings).

Shared design: The Max shares many design cues with the rest of the One range - no bad thing in our opinion

Shared design: The Max shares many design cues with the rest of the One range - no bad thing in our opinion

So what is the screen like? In a word, glorious. The screens on both the One and the One Mini are stunning, and the Max continues the trend. It’s bright with rich, accurate colors and excellent viewing angles - you’d be hard pressed to find a better screen on any device. With the high pixel count, you don’t really feel like you are downgrading the quality of the image in any way if you transition from a smaller 1080p device. Regardless of your thoughts on the size of the phone itself, the huge screen is extremely addictive. Going back to a ‘normal’ phone after using the Max will make it feel like a toy in comparison.

One of the best screens around: Not only is the screen huge at 5.9 inches, it's excellent too. We challenge you to find a better screen on any device

Unlike one of its key competitors - the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - the One Max doesn’t include a stylus (or indeed anywhere to store one inside the device). While a capacitive stylus will be available as an accessory, HTC’s reasoning is that the best tool you have for manipulating the screen is always right with you - your fingers. It’s hard to argue, for many people the S Pen of the Note 3 probably goes unused, although if you are a power user that really makes the most of the pen, then the Max might not be the phablet for you.

The screen itself is incredibly sensitive to touch this helps make the device feel very responsive throughout. It also works great with gloves, handy as winter draws ever closer.

Performance and battery

The One Max includes the 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB RAM, powered by a 3300mAh battery (the battery is not removable, despite the removable back panel). This can be boosted to 4500mAh using the aforementioned Power Flip case. In comparison, the Galaxy Note 3 from Samsung packs a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 CPU and 3GB RAM with a 3200mAh battery. In the hardware specs arms race this puts the Samsung device ahead, but don’t be fooled - you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference in performance in real world usage.

The Max feels incredibly snappy in use, with no slowdown no matter how hard you work it. 2GB of RAM is still considered plentiful among today’s devices, and no matter how hard you try, you’re unlikely to find applications being swapped out due to low memory.

One of the benefits of Snapdragon 800 over its predecessors is reduced battery drain, but thankfully the battery life on the Max is nothing short of exceptional. In standby mode the device barely sips the power and even when worked to the extreme, it noticeably outperforms most other devices available today - not necessarily a surprise given that super-sized battery. A regular HTC One will struggle to get us to the end of a long day, but the Max will just keep on powering on to half way through the next. In this day and age, that is a sta likely to impress many.

 
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