Hands On With The HTC M9 – Evolution Or Revolution?

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The release of HTC’s M9 is perhaps the company’s most significant launch since the M7 – a device that for many represented the very pinnacle of the premium smartphones market. Since then Samsung has delivered some all-metal beauties of its own and Apple made a significant generational leap with iPhone 6 and 6+, so everyone was hoping that HTC would do something special to get itself back in front.

First impressions are that it hasn’t. The now familiar dual-speaker array still runs the design, which in some ways may be holding it back because there are no immediate stand-out new features such as a fingerprint scanner or waterproofing. It has ditched the UltraPixel experiment though – or at least in terms of the main camera. Now you’ll find a beefy 20MP number at the rear, though the front-facer still uses Ultrapixel technology with 4MP resolution, which certainly seems like a sensible switch.

Elsewhere the M9 offers some pretty impressive core architecture with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit processor and a whopping 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a microSD slot for expansion with a 2840mAh battery.  The 5” display is stuck at 1920×1080 but does boast a sharp 441ppi and there’s fast-charging here courtesy of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.

It’s a little early for full reviews but plenty of people have been getting their hands on the new M9, so let’s see if it has enough to keep HTC on the consumer’s radar.

Speaking of which, TechRadar sums things up quite well from the off by describing it as “a great phone if you’re upgrading from two years ago the concern here certainly seems to be that there’s not enough of an upgrade from the impressive M8. It lauds the beautiful design that needs to be seen up close to be truly appreciated.

“It needs to be felt. To speak about it, or even show it in pictures, doesn’t really do justice to the premium finish in the hand, to the well-balanced design, to the way everything feels weighty and solid.”

The power button has been moved to the side below the volume controls, which is slightly frustrating as they are all the same size and shape so it can be difficult to tell them apart by feel, and the familiar black band containing the HTC logo is still present but feels like it unnecessarily adds to the bulk of the phone. The display is impressive without being outstanding, with a colour temperature that’s a little on the cool side, and it points out that avoiding an upgrade to QHD resolution will do favours for the battery life. Elsewhere the high specs contribute to a pleasant user experience as:

“everything [is] feeling a little snappier again compared to the mode from last year. It’s clean, fast and apps are almost infallible in opening and closing”.

The “upgrade” to Dolby powered Boomsound  over Beats doesn’t appear to be particularly noticeable, but the important thing is that it’s not any worse, and it concludes by saying that as an upgrade from the M7 it’s great – “night and day better” in fact, but not quite the leap forward we’ve seen in the past.

Forbes continues on a similar line and describes the M9 as a “beautiful, basic upgrade” and points out that HTC has responded to questions about the design with this:

“I would describe it much like the Porsche. When you’ve got a design that works incredibly well – that’s timeless and classic – you don’t want to chuck out all that experience you’ve gained from before and start afresh”.

Fair enough. There’s obviously plenty to like about the design and here again it’s described as “one of the best looking smartphones I’ve ever held” and importantly is also very nice to use. Sense 7 brings some nifty improvements such as the ability to be contextually aware and deliver a more intuitive user experience.

“It senses when you’re at home, work or on a night out and appropriately changes the apps on the home screen”

Learning and refining based on your habits over time. Recommendations pop up depending on where you are – train times when arriving at a train station for example, and the new theme generator can use a picture you’ve taken to generate a theme based on the colours in the image.

It is also impressed by the new Dolby integration and describes it as “louder and better than the M8, with the addition of more clarity, base and a more 3D sound” and has positive things to say about the battery life (in lieu of a proper test) due to the increased capacity and power-saving features of Android 5.2 and Sense 7. Forbes concludes by saying that while not a significant upgrade, the M9 takes the important step of ensuring that it’s at least bang up to date with today’s market.

If there’s one area that’s been a point of contention for HTC it’s been the camera and rather notorious “Ultrapixel experiment”. Having distanced itself from this with the M9 and considering this is a major feature for many users we thought we’d have a look at what CNet had to say in its dedicated day and a half test of the snapper.  The switch to megapixels for the rear camera may be welcomed, but does mean it’s not quite as unique, removing, for example, “the Duo camera, which took innovative (but not always great) two-level focus photos” . More concerning than this is that CNet says “it just isn’t that good”. It’s described as a step down from the iPhone 6 Plus – photos can be grainy and struggle a bit in low light environments, the auto-focus is a little slow and though it is capable of taking some very good images, is ultimately a bit disappointing. Close-up shots fair better if you fiddle with the settings and it’s capable of 4K video recording, which is neat, and this is generally handled well. Where it does score some points, ironically, is with the front-facing Ultrapixel camera.

“It’s wide-angle, has great light sensitivity, is super-crisp, and is generally one of the best front cams I’ve seen. It’s better than the iPhone 6 Plus’ FaceTime front camera, easily.”

The only slight downside is that there’s more distortion at times due to the wider-angle but the benefits of fitting more into the shot outweigh this considerably.

htc-m9-silver-side

So the HTC M9 is certainly evolution rather than revolution, but fans of the original should still find plenty to like, even if M8 owners might find it a bit more difficult to justify an upgrade. The official price SIM-Free is £579 and on contract you’re looking at around £40 a month if you don’t want to pay much up front for the handset.

Visit HTC to find out more.

The HTC Desire 510 delivers budget 4G goodness

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Amidst the furore surrounding its high-end One M7 and M8, HTC has been slipping mid-range devices under our noses, many of which are piggybacking the now iconic design of the One with its thin side bezel and top and bottom panels.

Previously reserved for headline “Boomsound” speakers, less expensive models such as the new Desire 510, the successor to the budget 500, forgo this for a traditional single speaker and microphone, but the 510 has a different USP up its sleeve that should satisfy those who prioritise surfing over sound. Billed as the “most affordable LTE smartphone to date”, this promises to deliver 4G to the masses, complete with all the benefits of smooth HD video streaming and super-fast downloads.

“Owning the latest and greatest technology shouldn’t be reserved for those with the highest budgets” says HTC CEO Peter Chou, and while as consumers we couldn’t agree more, we’re always hesitant to get too excited about anything that commands the use of the word “budget”. Let’s have a look under the hood:

A quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 processor runs the show, there’s a 4.7” (480×854) display, 8GB of storage with a microSD, a 5MP rear camera and 0.3MP front facer. HTC wasn’t kidding then – this is fairly budget as things go, but you can apparently squeeze 17 hours from the battery life and it runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a proprietary sense UI, which includes features like Zoe and Blinkfeed found on the higher-end models.

Chou goes on to state:

“People today should expect their smartphones to double as mobile entertainment hubs. This means ensuring that they’re fully loaded with the latest movies, TV shows and albums, by taking advantage of the super-fast network speeds available. The HTC Desire 510 does this and more, making it the perfect mobile media device.”

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And in fairness the 510 does (hyperbole aside) seem to fulfil these promises – like most of the Desire range it’s a tidy looking device that’s capable of all the bare necessities along with the added benefit of 4G; though it is disappointing not to see dual front-facing speakers on a “multimedia device”, even if they aren’t of the same quality of its big brothers.

The Desire 510 will be available in the UK from September in a choice of Terra White and Meridian Grey and is compatible with the HTC Dot View case for added customisation options. And the price is indeed nice – £149 SIM free. Certainly worth a look if you can find a good value 4G plan.

HTC One Max review round-up

HTC-One-max

HTC received a much needed boost to a flagging reputation when it released the HTC One, so it’s not entirely surprising to see the Taiwanese smartphone giant milking this success at every opportunity. The HTC One Mini was fairly well received, retaining many of the most lauded qualities of its predecessor, including the premium metal body and Boomsound speakers. The One Max continues this trend, though is obviously significantly larger than the original. There’s nothing inherently wrong with shrinking or enlarging a wildly successful design per se, as long as it doesn’t end up watering down an inspirational brand if it fails. So with the HTC One Max doing the rounds in the UK the big question is, can it maintain an elite reputation among the tech press?

First up it’s worth checking out Gizmag for a nice comparison of the One Max and another big player in this market – the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Two important differences here are two of the most common problems we’ve seen mentioned in reviews – dimensions and processing power.

These “phablet” devices are walking a fine line when it comes to something that’s still portable enough to use as a phone yet represents a significant upgrade (often purely in screen real estate) over a more traditional smartphone, and HTC appears to have fallen to the wrong side of it with the One Max. Despite being only 4mm wider, it’s 14mm longer and 2mm thicker than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and seems to have overstepped the mark in terms of something that’s comfortable to hold and use.

Pocket Lint, who gave the HTC One 5/5 and still rates it as the best smartphone around, is less impressed by the One Max largely for these reasons, scoring it 3.5. Alongside relatively underpowered hardware, which hasn’t been significantly improved since the One, it adds that “it just feels too big” and “The original handset feels better in the hand, it’s nicer to hold and use day-to-day…

CNet feels the same, listing these two features as the only notable drawbacks in its 4/5 review, concluding that “It’s undeniably cumbersome though so most of you will likely find the standard model a more manageable size”, though is impressed by the display, battery life and the new Sense 5.5 interface.

Power-Flip-Case
Power Flip Case

Another common issue is the built-in fingerprint scanner, which sits on the rear of the phone under the camera lens and appears to be a bit of a disappointment, certainly compared to the iPhone 5S, which was generally well received.  TechRadar was particularly irked by this, calling it “pointless” and “a real waste of time”. It too argues that by effectively creating an HTC One with a bigger screen, HTC hasn’t done enough to impress in this market, and though it does praise the battery life, expandable storage and software additions such as 50GB of Google Drive storage, is largely put off by the price “…it’s so expensive. Ridiculously so. We’d have understood if the specs were updated, but to bring to market something that doesn’t even have an improved list over the original (released over half a year ago) this isn’t something we can come close to recommending.

This is echoed by GSMArena, who argues that “Unless HTC delivers a prompt upgrade that makes the fingerprint scanner a real game-changer, it will probably have to cut the One Max’s price a bit to keep the phablet relevant.

Finally, Engadget, like most others, praises the display, stating “HTC’s Super LCD 3 panel is still the best in its class, and the best on the whole market if, like us, you prefer the natural colors of an LCD display to the over-saturated appearance of an AMOLED panel” and twinned with Boomsound makes it “a perfect video-watching experience.” Added to an impressive battery life, which on a rundown test lasted 30% longer than the Galaxy Note 3, it states that “It will especially appeal to someone, such as a frequent flyer, who wants a big screen and big battery specifically for the purpose of consuming video and music”. However, as an overall package it still suffers from the issues described above here, and interestingly Engadget got in touch with HTC to ask why. The general consensus seems to be that “The One Max is a mid-term addition rather than a new flagship, perhaps primarily designed to cater for an Asian niche, and so it was never going to be the target of big investment”, so by this token it seems that HTC weren’t planning to push the boat out with the One Max anyway, which does rather sound like a lack of ambition given the original’s success.

So there you have it. In summary, the HTC One Max is effectively a large HTC One with few notable additions. While this does mean that it still looks and sounds great, it appears to be a bit too large to feel comfortable, a bit too expensive to represent value for money and a bit too underpowered to compete with capable rivals. If it’s true that HTC didn’t really see this as a significant release outside the Asian market, let’s just hope it has something major in the pipeline to help truly build on the success of the One.

The Ultimate HTC One Accessories Collection

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It’s no secret that, at least by its own high standards, HTC has fallen from grace over the last year, with Samsung and perennial competitor Apple stealing enough of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s market share to allegedly push the CEO to threaten resignation if its new flagship handset “fails”.

Possibly the biggest contributor to the success of the Android platform with excellent offerings such as the Desire, Sensation and more recently the One X and S, Samsung’s equally impressive S3 really stole a match on its competitors and many were waiting with bated breath to see how HTC’s “all-in” offering would fare.

Thankfully for the company, its fan base and modern consumers, HTC hit the proverbial home run, leading many tech journalists to declare it the most impressive smartphone in the world, even when compared to the soon to arrive Samsung S4.

Despite the cutting-edge features and functionality on offer from the One, like any proud owner of a top-end smartphone you’ll no doubt want to get your hands dirty accessorising even further. So here we present our take on the best additions available for HTC’s worthy flagship smartphone.

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Media Link HD

If you’ve opted for an HTC One there’s a fair chance you also have a decent TV, and if it’s DLNA compliant you’ll get all of the features described below just by connecting the One to your TV through a home Wi-Fi network.

If not, the HTC Media Link HD could be particularly appealing, especially when you consider that its diminutive size (barely larger than a box of matches) and easy setup means that you can carry it with you to send anything you’re viewing on your smartphone to an HDMI-compatible TV.

Supplied with a tidy adhesive-backed cradle so it can be slotted neatly behind a display out of view, the Media Link HD picks up your One’s display wirelessly and replicates it on the big screen. This means you can view video, play games, browse photos and stream online content. Literally anything you’d usually see on the smartphone’s screen pops up on your TV, with audio.

Having tested a few of the more generic wireless adapters in the past, we can say that we’ve been utterly underwhelmed by most offerings thus far. Luckily the Media Link HD works very well, and after a setup process that took under a minute we were watching 1080p video through a TV, with the volume control on the phone controlling the volume on a home cinema setup.

There’s a short buffer time of a few seconds before video clips start, but audio quality is impressive and jumping from a video gallery clip to a YouTube video to a photo slideshow is about as fast as it is on the phone itself. It’s not perfect, as after trying a few games we did notice a slight lag that would prevent you from playing most titles using the phone as a controller (Wii U style) but aside from this and the odd disconnect, it’s a seriously appealing optional accessory, particularly for those that don’t have a Smart TV.

Available from Amazon

Duracell charger

Battery life is surely one of the biggest bug-bears of modern smartphones, and while the HTC One does a more than admirable job of holding its charge there will be the odd occasion when you can’t get to a mains supply and are desperate for a bit of extra juice. Like most accessories on this list, portable phone chargers are rife these days and many are universal, but we opted for Duracell’s 5-hour portable charger with 1800mAH capacity as one of the best all-round solutions on the market.

Housing twin USB ports (to charge two devices simultaneously) and a mains plug (with both UK and European adapters) this charges itself by plugging into the mains, with a handy push-button indicator to display current capacity. It is a little bulky, and as is typical of these sorts of devices the purported capacity doesn’t link up accurately with a percentage charge on the phone. The HTC One’s 2300mAH battery was boosted by just under 50% (from 30% to 78% in our tests), and did take a bit longer to charge than a conventional mains adapter (90 minutes compared to one hour).  But still, it could be seriously useful on a long commute or when away from mains power.

Duracell also offer a smaller, far more portable 1150mAH charger that charges via USB and though it offers less power, will appeal to those who want something pocket-sized.

Available from Duracell.

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Otterbox

One category of accessories that is rarely in short supply for new phones is cases, and the HTC One already has a veritable smorgasbord available from budget options for a few pounds to HTC’s own selection of custom-designed options, which include the Double Dip Flip and Double Dip. We’re going with Otterbox on this one, despite the fact that most people will probably want to avoid using a case to appreciate the smooth lines and outstanding finish of the phone.

Otterbox has established a name for itself largely by offering top-notch protection without sacrificing aesthetics. The Commuter case is a great example – available in a range of colours (we’re particularly fond of the minimalist black design) it comprises of an inner silicon layer to absorb shock impact and a hard polycarbonate shell. This is about as snug a fit as you can expect from a smartphone case, especially on the HTC One, and while it does add some inevitable bulk, feels tidy in the hand and reassuringly protective. It also looks great, and was the best compromise we could find in terms of adding protection and still maintaining a “wow” factor.

If you’re particularly worried about damaging your expensive new purchase, Otterbox also offers a “Defender” edition with built-in screen protector (which does a surprisingly good job of maintaining the excellent quality display and responsive touch screen operation) and though fairly bulky has three layers of protection, with an additional rubber grip polymer on the outside.

Available from MobileFun

HTC-One-Car-Holder

In-car charger

As with cases, browsing a selection of “compatible” in-car docks and chargers will leave you spoiled for choice. Many are universal and designed to work with a whole range of makes and models, but since we’re looking at the “best” accessories available for the HTC One, we’re going with HTC’s own Car Kit.

Yes, this is pretty expensive, but the aesthetics are far beyond cheaper, universal offerings and there are a few more bells and whistles to boot. After attaching the unit to the windscreen or dashboard (an adhesive dashboard disk is supplied) we were impressed by the solid, quality construction and suction mount mechanism that keeps it firmly in place.

In-car charging comes bundled with a cigarette-lighter adapter and USB cable, which is specifically designed for the dock and helps keep the phone securely in place as well as automatically enabling the HTC One’s CAR app for dedicated in-vehicle control. It can also connect automatically to compatible HTC audio streamers (such as the HTC CAR V100 Bluetooth Visor) via Bluetooth.

There’s no doubt that the HTC One Car Kit looks great, and complements the aesthetics of your phone beautifully, but a sacrifice for the smooth fit and judder-free operation is that it won’t worth with a case, which along with the high price may put some users off. With this in mind, if in-car docks aren’t a high priority there are plenty of universal docks that can do a decent job for a far lower price.

Available from Mobile Fun

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urBeats by Dr Dre

HTC made a smart move asking Dr Dre. to spruce up the audio on its line of Sensation phones, and since then Beats-enabled HTC models have become relatively commonplace. The HTC One also uses the standard to boost its headline front-facing speakers, and while you can also enjoy a more personal experience from headphones, sadly it doesn’t come with a branded set supplied. That’s not to say the stock ‘buds are bad – in fact they’re up there with the best no-brand earphones supplied with smartphones and MP3 players we’ve heard, but they’re clearly not up to scratch with the real thing.

To get the most from the audio of your HTC One it seemed logical to include the urBeats by Dr.Dre in this “best accessories” list, and they certainly don’t disappoint. The most noticeable difference is the bass response, with tones far punchier and deeper, though mid and high-range tones do sound crisper and more defined as well.

Apart from a rather subjective stance on the styling (we like it) the biggest disappointment is that the in-built controller unit only allows you to pause and restart playback, pick up or deny calls and activate voice control. According to the manual, Apple devices also benefit from track skip and search and volume control via buttons at each end, but on other devices, including the HTC One, you don’t get these extra functions.

Though not a cheap accessory, these are far from the most expensive headphones money can buy and represent an impressive upgrade on the otherwise capable “out of the box” experience.

Available from: Beats

HTC One X review: Android in a league of its own

We got our hands on HTC’s mid-range One S last month and this week we got our mits on the goliath of the new HTC range, the One X.

From the moment you open the box you know you’re looking at an impressive handset, there’s a gargantuan 4.7-inch display, a quad-core processor and a stunning camera – everything a smartphone user could ever wish for.

HTC-One-X

Like its smaller brother the One X use a new unibody design, so there’s no removing the battery but you do get a build quality like no other Android handset we’ve seen before.

Out are the cheap, flexing plastics and in are polycarbonate posh plastic – making it incredibly solid despite its lightweight feel.

With the unibody case the design curves are no longer spoilt by gaping holes and slots – some might gasp at the lack of a microSD slot, but, thankfully, the One X comes with an impressive 32GB of built-in storage is plenty, and you also get access to bonus Dropbox storage for two years.

One of, if not, the most impressive features you’ll find on the One X is the screen. It’s probably the best screen we’ve come across – it has almost perfect 180 degree viewing angles, incredible colour reproduction and works equally as well during still or moving images.

At 4.7 inches, it’s the resolution that stands out on the screen, it measures 312 pixels per inch, almost as high-definition as the iPhone 4S, and the larger screen size means it looks arguably more impressive.

Not only have HTC managed to create one of the best screens around, the camera on the HTC One X is equally accomplished. The snapper is rocking an 8-megapixel camera, LED flash and has almost no shutter lag when taking pictures.

HTC-One-X-Back

For those of you looking to capture video you’ll be glad to know the 1080p functionality works admirably, with deep blacks and eye-piercing colours.

The icing on the top of the One X is the new quad-core processor – we’ll concede the only real benefit of a quad-core handset is it incredibly fast, nothing else. It zips from app to app in the blink of an eye. But if you use the phone on intensive graphical apps then it will burn through the battery in less than 3 hours. But, ultimately, in every department, the phone’s speed knocks you out.

Android handsets have always been one step behind Apple when it comes to lasting a full day on a single charge – to remedy this perceived short fall HTC have given the One X their biggest battery yet. Everyday use should get you anywhere from 12 to 16 hours – start playing videos and games and you’ll be lucky to get a third of that. Thankfully Ice Cream Sandwich is onboard and allows you to keep track of the apps you’re running in the background and allow you to kill them off to save on some juice.

The HTC One X is the best phones HTC has ever made. You get a real sense that from the 40-odd phones they’ve released over the last couple of years they really learned from all minor the missteps and brought all that knowledge together to make the One X.

HTC One S review: Recipe for a great handset

HTC had a difficult time during 2011; too many handsets watered down their brand and subsequently saw the Asian handset maker lose market share to both Apple and Samsung.
Well, they’re back with a new focus and three new handsets – we got our hands on the HTC One S, which is their new mid-range handset. To call it middle-of-the-road would be a little disingenuous as the specs are way above many flagship handsets on offer.

HTC-One-S

Specs
It might be occupying the middle of their new range of handsets, but the One S is packing some impressive specs and features. First of all it has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen, while it’s bright, sharp and impressive to look at – the lack of resolution does show off AMOLED’s weaknesses: you can clearly see a honeycomb effect within the pixels. It’s never normally noticeable on AMOLED screens, but with the relatively low resolution it’s very noticeable on the One S – it’s not a deal breaker, but worth noting.
The resolution is on the lower end of the spectrum, especially for the price. It has a resolution of 540 x 960, which gives it a pixel density of 256ppi. It’s not class leading by any means – the Sony Xperia S leads the pack with 342ppi, the iPhone 4S has 326ppi and the HTC One X take the runners up spot with 312ppi – but it’s reasonably impressive all the same.

The One S comes with a snappy dual-core processor, 16GB of onboard memory (although, can’t be supplemented with SD cards for more memory and only has 10GB is available to use), 8-megapixel camera, capable of shooting 1080p video (the same camera you’ll find in the One X), 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen and music-enhancing Beats Audio technology.

Looks and build quality

The most striking thing about the One S is the looks. It’s one of the first HTC handsets to feature a unibody design. This means it is one of, if not, the most solid handset you can get on Android; there’s no creaking and it’s sure to last a lot longer than many of its plastic counterparts.

The back panel is non-removable, aside from a small section at the top of the handset where you put the micro SIM. Those of you who carry around a couple of spare batteries will not be pleased to know that HTC has removed the ability to change battery as the phone is completely sealed. But, thankfully, it’s a decent 1650mAh power plant that’ll last at least a working day with heavy use.

Performance

The HTC One S comes with an admirable dual-core processor that pushes the handset along at a fair old lick, it’s obviously not as snappy as the One X, but you’d be hard pressed to actually notice the speed difference, both handsets run Android ICS like a dream. Its dual-core CPU, dedicated graphics processing and 1GB RAM mean you can skip between apps without any annoying lag, and apps run butter smooth.

Camera

The best thing about the HTC One S is the camera; it’s the same camera you’ll find in their flagship handset the HTC One X. Across all of our tests it performed remarkably well. Shutter lag is almost nonexistent, although the camera doesn’t perform that well in low-light conditions, but there’s no doubt in, our mind, it is the best camera HTC has ever created, and is easily on par with the iPhone 4S’.

Verdict

The HTC One S is a great phone. For the money you’re getting a powerful, yet incredibly thin, handset that comes with Ice Cream Sandwich out the box (ahem, take note Sony) – throw in a very good camera, solid build quality, music-enhancing Beats Audio technology and you’ve got a recipe for a great handset.

HTC Sensation XL review

If you love the idea of an iPad but wish you could cram it into your pockets you can either get bigger pockets, start wearing one of these or invest in HTC’s new Sensation XL. Three were kind enough to send me a smartphone-cum-tablet to test for a week or two.

HTC-Sensation-XL

As you might have inferred from my opening remarks, this is a big phone, much like that other whopper the LG Optimus, and the Sensation XL packs a 4.7″ punch. The sharp HD screen and 8mp camera play nicely together and you can take some nice enough images if the lighting is being co-operative. I was a little less impressed in the dark, and the Sensation XL completely failed to capture the magic and wonder for fireworks as well. However this merely makes it like most smartphones. The lack of Instagram on Android remains annoying, but there’s plenty of fun to have with a screen this decent and a camera this big and you can even play with wide-angle shots.

The other headline feature of this handset, aside from it’s gargantuan size, is NWA co-founder Dr Dre’s famous BeatsByDre audio system is built into the phone and the handset comes bundled with some in-ear BeatsbyDre headphones. BeatsByDre headphones, whilst not as amazing as their East London ubiquity (I keep seeing that word everywhere) would have you believe are still really good headphones. And to have them bundled with your smartphone, at a time where Apple has the gall to sell £800 smartphones with headphones so bad I refuse to leave house with them, is a definitely plus in the Sensation XL’s book. They are pretty good at drowning out external sound too, so the chorus of people shouting “look at the size of his phone!” will be lost on you.

Sylvia Chind, head of handsets at Three said “There has already been a lot of buzz about this entertaining new HTC phone. Three is the perfect partner for the Sensation XL as our all you can eat data offerings mean that people can enjoy the full world of media apps like Spotify and YouTube on the go, without worrying about receiving a shock when their bill arrives.” And to be fair to her, Three’s network held up against my non-stop Spotify and YouTube use for two weeks.

The HTC Sensation XL is available from £34 a month or £40 a month on The One Plan with all-you-can-eat data, 2,000 anytime, any network minutes and 5,000 texts.

PAYG customers can get the HTC Sensation XL for £449.99. All in One 15 costs £15 and gives 30-days access to all-you-can-eat data along with 300 any-network minutes and 3,000 texts. Or All in One 25 costs £25 and offers 500 minutes, 3,000 texts and all-you-can-eat data for a 30-day period

Beats on Three

HTC Sensation XE: Beats Audio on your smartphone

HTC have recently just announced the arrival of the Sensation XE into the market, and for HTC fans that demand a big more bang from their portable music player it looks like being just the ticket.

HTC’s much publicised buyout of Beats Audio, the audio equipment company headed up by Dr Dre, was backed up by the promise of future integration of Beats Audio software into HTC hardware, with the Sensation XE is the first in what will no doubt be a long and fruitful partnership.

HTC-Sensation-XE

First off though, let’s look at the phone itself. The screen is a healthy 4.3 inch gHD with 540 x 960 resolution. Like the Sensation it’s also packing an 8 MP camera, so those pictures of Fit Lyndsey you took in Oceana will upload nice and crisply onto Facebook. It also comes with 1080p HD video capture functionality, so the video of her back at yours could viably find its way into the public domain if you so wanted that to happen. They’ve also upgraded the battery to a 1730Ah, which will be a big relief for all those who had the Sensation and were frequently frustrated by the shortness of its life; It seems you might actually be able to take the XE to a festival and risk using the thing.

It’s got the latest version of Android (2.3) so you’ll be free to whizz around the phone in the way you know best, with what with its Youtube integration. Maps, Apps, Gmail and all the other bits that the seasoned HTC user will want and indeed demand.

But come on, we know what you want to know; it’s all about the Beats with this cheeky litte number. How does it work? What goods will the Dr dish out? Well, the phone comes with some official Beats Audio earphones headphones (not over the ear ones though, unfortunately, so you might want to invest in some for full optimisation of the Beats experience). Every time you plug these in a Beats Audio profile automatically loads up and it is this that synchronises the phone to all the optimum sounds levels that should give you upgraded bass galore. Effectively, it’s a sound equaliser you don’t have to do all that faffy fiddling with. Reviews we’ve read of the XE have stated that there is certainly increased sound quality with the Beats profile and headphones, though so it seems they are doing their job.

The golden touch that HTC might just have achieved with the Beats Audio link-up is the instant credibility it garners. After being nudged down a notch by the Samsung Galaxy S2, HTC needed an ace up its sleeve to make it appear to the teen on the corner or the commuter on the tube. In days where iPhones are lauded (almost) as much for their image as for their functionality, you cannot ignore the relevance of Dre et al in the battle for bragging rights.