|Introduction and Specifications|
We all want more from our smartphones. Whether it’s more screen real estate, more battery life, a better camera, or more storage for pictures, videos, and games, it seems there’s always something we could use more of from our phones. Manufacturers are constantly striving to deliver the best device, touting the areas in which they’ve provided “more.”
HTC designed its One Max with demanding users in mind. This smartphone boasts “more screen size, more camera, more everything” according to the company. With its 5.9-inch screen and 3300mAh battery, the One Max is in line to compete with other phablet devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which features a 5.7-inch screen and a 3200 mAh battery.
In addition to a large screen and battery, HTC also focused on the camera and audio experience with this phone. You’ll find dual front-facing stereo speakers with built-in amps and HTC BoomSound as well as HTC’s Ultrapixel camera with Zoe.
Another unique feature of the HTC One is the integrated fingerprint reader which unlocks the phone. It’s located on the back of the device just below the camera. On the software side, HTC included its BlinkFeed home screen to keep you updated with the information and updates you want to see.
Before we dive into the full hands-on review, let’s take a closer look at the specifications of the HTC One Max:
Despite its large size, the HTC One Max's specs don't group it with the highest-end smartphones currently available. The Snapdragon 600 at the heart of this device, while potent, isn't as powerful as the Snapdragon 800, which is offered in phones like the Note 3 or Nexus 5.
Although users want more features and power, they also want it in a sleek, thin package. Although the One Max’s 5.9-inch display gives it a large footprint, the phone still retains a sleek look. The phone measures about 6.48 x 3.25 x 0.41 inches and weighs about 7.65 ounces. If you put the One Max next to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, you’ll notice the One Max is about a half inch longer and slightly wider and thicker. The big difference between these phones is more likely to be felt when you pick them up, however. The Galaxy Note 3 weighs 1.72 ounces less than the One Max. In a world where phones often attempt to differentiate themselves in terms of weight, this is a noticeable difference.
In terms of styling, the One Max has a similar look and feel as the HTC One, complete with a curved silver back plate with white accents. You’ll find two stereo speakers located above and below the One Max’s display. These speakers feature built-in amplifiers and HTC BoomSound. When you listen to audio on the One Max, you’ll definitely appreciate the extra focus HTC put on the phone’s speakers—they sound great.
The One Max’s screen supports a full HD resolution (1920 x 1080). Overall, the screen is vibrant and colorful. Viewing the screen outdoors under direct sunlight was difficult at times, but we can’t say it was any worse than with other phones.
Below the display, you’ll find the Back and Home buttons on either side of the Verizon Wireless logo. The phone’s microUSB port is located on the bottom edge of the phone below the Home button. The phone’s front-facing 2.1 megapixel camera is located to the right of the top speaker.
On the right side you’ll find the Power button and volume rocker. An IR sensor and headset jack are located on the top edge of the phone. A back cover lock is located on the left edge of the phone.
When you turn the One Max over, you’ll immediately see the rear-facing HTC UltraPixel camera with Smart Flash and a fingerprint reader. During our tests, the fingerprint reader worked very well when our finger was placed directly over the sensor. Although we felt the fingerprint reader added some security to the phone, it also added some hassle since we often had to turn the phone over in order to get our finger properly placed on the reader. This hassle could be eliminated if HTC would have placed the fingerprint reader on the front of the device or added a textured surface around the reader to make it easier to feel where the sensor is located.
After removing the One Max’s back cover, you’ll see the phone’s microSD card slot and SIM slot. We were impressed by the rigidity of the back cover—it doesn’t flex at all. Considering most phones today have cheap flexible back covers, this is definitely a premium addition for HTC.
Like other HTC devices, the One Max features HTC BlinkFeed which is designed to combine information from social networks, news sources, and more into a single feed. Although some users will really like the customization options that come with BlinkFeed, some users will want to turn it off. Thankfully, HTC lets you enable and disable BlinkFeed on the One Max by pinching out to customize your home screens. Here, you can turn BlinkFeed on and off, select your home screen, add additional home screens, and add apps, widgets, and shortcuts.
A launch bar is located at the base of all home screens and the all application screen. You can customize this launch bar to your liking. You can also group apps on the launch bar into a folder. The apps you can view from the lock screen are the same as those found in the launch bar. You can also create additional lock screen notification tiles that populate the lock screen. Widgets for the lock screen include calculator, calendar, Gmail, Google Now, Google + posts, and Music. To access any of the lock screen tiles, swipe left from the main lock screen.
The default keyboard on the One Max is HTC’s Sense keyboard. This keyboard supports trace typing (similar to Swype) or traditional typing. You can also enter text using speech.
HTC has organized many of the preloaded apps into folders on the Apps screen. Here, you’ll find folders labeled Amazon, Google, Media, Tools, and Verizon. You’ll also notice a few additional apps that come with the One Max on the apps screen including Ingress, TuneIn Radio, Flipboard, Viewdini, Currents, NFL Mobile, QR Droid, Phone Companion, and Droid Zap.
The HTC TV app that comes preloaded on the One Max helps you find shows, browse your local channel guide, browse on demand content from services such as Hulu Plus or Crackle, and use your phone as a TV remote. After a brief setup process, you’ll have easy access to recommended shows, viewing times, episode information, and more. The app can also add reminders to your calendar to help ensure you won’t miss new episodes of a series. By setting up more than one Room, you’ll be able to control devices throughout your house.
HTC also supports streaming media through DLNA, HTC Media Link HD, A2DP (Bluetooth), and other supported wireless display connections. To access this functionality, swipe up with three fingers and select a compatible device.
HTC’s Car app is designed to help you stay connected and safe while driving. Using this app, you can use voice controls, access music, phone calls, maps, and more. The application will launch automatically when the One Max is mounted in the HTC Car Kit (sold separately). Alternatively, you can open the application from the apps menu.
A free trial of Zoodles Premium Kid Mode is included with the One Max. With this app, you can select which apps on the One Max your child can access, receive or block incoming calls while in Kid Mode, set time limits, filter violence, and access other features. After the trial expires, a basic version of the service is available for free if you choose not to purchase the upgrade.
One of the trends with phablets today is the inclusion of a notebook application that lets you write things down and create notes and documents using a stylus or your finger. The HTC One Max comes with Scribble. With Scribble, you can create notes and other documents using a variety of included templates. You can also input photos, audio clips and clip art and add your own notes. The One Max does not come with a stylus, however.
|Camera and Battery Life|
The One Max uses HTC’s new UltraPixel Camera which uses a 4 megapixel sensor that HTC claims is capable of capturing 300% more light than most leading 13 megapixel cameras. The UltraPixel camera does this by enlarging the pixel size, making each pixel comparable in size to what you’d find in a photo enthusiast compact camera.
The UltraPixel Camera also uses HTC’s ImageChip 2 which enables continuous autofocus, richer colors, noise reduction, and a more natural dynamic range. By combining the UltraPixel Sensor, a fast shutter speed, and a large f/2.0 aperture, the camera is better equipped than some cameras to capture pictures and video in low light.
Like the HTC One, the One Max also includes HTC Zoe with Sequence Shot, Always Smile and Object Removal. With Zoe enabled, the camera will capture a series of high quality photos and collect them in a short, 3 second video clip. You can then use some of the cool Zoe features that let you create a Sequence Shot, extract and save a specific image from your HTC Zoe shot, enable slow motion video recording with variable speed playback, and more.
While viewing images on the phone, the One Max will automatically place the images into albums based on the date they were taken. When you open an album, you'll see thumbnails of all images. Zoe images will automatically play in the thumbnail or you can tap to view them larger.
In terms of image quality, we felt the One Max captured very good images. As is the case with most camera phones, some images turned out better than others but overall our experience with the One Max’s camera and HTC Zoe was positive.
The HTC One Max comes with a 3300 mAh Li-polymer battery. This battery is not user replaceable. HTC claims you should get up to 25 hours of talk time in WCDMA mode and up to 585 hours (9.75 days) of standby time in WCDMA mode.
In an attempt to quantitatively measure the HTC One Max's battery life in a controlled benchmark environment, we ran the AnTuTu Battery Test which is available from the Google Play Store. For this test, we set the HTC One Max's display to 50% brightness, which is still plenty bright and easy on the eyes. The One Max scored 622, making it the top performer in our chart by a decent margin. Although we always like user-replaceable batteries in phones, the longevity of the One Max should eliminate the need to swap batteries for most users.
In real-world use, the phone also seemed to last longer than many other phones we’ve tested. We would expect an average user should have no problem making it through an entire day with moderate use of the phone while checking email, taking pictures, making calls, surfing the web, etc. After four days of light use, the battery was still going strong. Even on days when we put the phone through heavy use it still had a longer battery life than most phones.
|Performance: CPU and Device|
Next, we'll take a look at how the HTC One Max compares to other smartphones by examining a few benchmarks that are currently available in the Android Marketplace.
AnTuTu benchmark – click to enlarge
AnTuTu’s latest benchmark returns a number of scores—to many to graph so we’re including a look at all the numbers in a table for you. As you can see, the One Max earns mostly mid-range scores but earns the top score in the GPU (2D) test. The One Max came in last in the Storage IO category.
Mobile XPRT Benchmark Tests
The MobileXPRT benchmark runs through a variety of tests to evaluate the responsiveness of a device along with its ability to handle many everyday workloads.
For the most part, the One Max earns mid-range scores overall. The One Max outscores the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Note 3 in the user experience score but is outscored by our other comparison systems. However, the One Max does earn the No. 1 spot in the List Scroll, Grid Scroll, and Browser Scroll components of the test, by just a hair.
|GLBenchmark (now known as GFX Bench) is a unified 3D graphics performance benchmark suite. We use the fillrate test and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second. The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen so Vsync and screen resolution are not limiting performance factors.
As you can see, the One Max earns an upper- to mid-range score in the Off Screen component of this test. It fares slightly worse in the on-screen component, coming in closer to the middle of the chart.
The One Max scores in Basemark X are very similar to its sibling, the HTC One. Overall, the One Max earns scores that are in line with other smartphones but still lags behind the Galaxy Note 3 and iPhone 5s.
As is the case with other high-end devices, 3DMark Ice Storm is maxed out at lower settings on the HTC One Max. Running the test on Unlimited mode yielded similar scores to the HTC One. On every component of the test except Physics, the One Max earned a score that was slightly below the average of scores of all other devices running Unlimited mode.
The One Max comes in just behind the Galaxy Note 3 in this test. Considering the Galaxy Note 3 earns one of the best SunSpider score for an Android-based smartphone, the One Max’s score is solid.
The story is much the same in Rightware’s Browsermark test where the One Max comes in behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and earns a very good score, especially if you compare to other smartphones in the chart.
Performance Summary -
Raw benchmark scores can be misleading since there’s been quite a bit of talk lately about benchmark cheating. The One Max has some stiff competition from another well-liked phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. In some benchmarks, the One Max earns a better score than the Galaxy Note 3 but the reverse is also true. The One Max especially shines in the battery test, which is a benchmark that will matter most to many users.
The One Max’s camera delivered great images that are in line with what you would expect from HTC’s UltraPixel camera. Although the megapixel count may not be as high as with some cameras, it’s important to remember that quality, at reasonably high resolutions, not quantity of pixels, is what ultimately matters when you’re trying to capture an excellent image.
We’re glad to see HTC included a removable back cover as well as a microSD expansion card slot in the HTC One Max. Flexibility is something we appreciate, and HTC has delivered. We’re fans of the stylus with the Galaxy Note 3, so we wished HTC would have included a stylus with the One Max, but since this is a personal preference more than anything we won’t knock the One Max for its lack of a stylus.
Our overall experience with the design and feel of the One Max was positive. The phone is heavy, but what you trade for weight you make up for in aesthetics and durability with an extra-rigid back cover. We weren’t overly fond of the placement of the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone since this often required us to turn the phone over in order to unlock it. However, the actual functionality of the fingerprint reader was very good, and we had no problem getting an accurate read and unlocking the device once we flipped the phone over.
HTC has an attractive range of smartphones with its One lineup. Although there are a few things we would change with the One Max, it’s a really great smartphone overall. You can find it the HTC One Max for around $149 currently on contract. Users who want a large display, long battery life, and plenty of power should seriously consider the One Max.