HTC One Max: One hefty 'phablet'

HTC Max One measures in at 6.4 inches from top to bottom, with a 5.9-inch screen, and weighs almost a half pound. Do the features inside the HTC One Max match the extended size? Reviews are mixed.

Pichi Chuang/Reuters
A shop attendant arranges HTC phones in a mobile phone store in Taipei.

From the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note III to the 6.4-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra, it seems “phablets” (phone plus tablet) have proved their staying power.

Now another phonemaker has gotten into the game with one of the most anticipated Android releases of the season: the HTC One Max. With a screen measuring in at 5.9-inches, this offering from HTC ranges on the large side, even for phablets. But does big always mean better? Reviewers are still on the fence.

The HTC Max One certainly reflects its name. This phone is to the max in most respects. It has a high-definition, 1080p Super LCD3 5.9-inch display, reinforced with Gorilla Glass 2, a super-durable screen that can withstand intense stress tests. It offers front-facing speakers, an optional fingerprint security scanner, plus it runs on 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM. The software is HTC’s in-house Sense 5.5 and the operating system is Android 4.3 Jellybean. Packing in those features doesn’t come light: the phone weighs in at almost a half pound.

Features, in this case, don’t always mean functionality. Economic Times reviewer Hitesh Raj Bhagat was disappointed that the Sense software wasn’t updated to better fit the giant screen and new features.

“The app drawer has a grid size of 4 x 4 (showing 16 apps on one screen). This is plain silly because on a gigantic 5.9-inch screen, even 30 apps will comfortably fit on one screen,” he writes. “In the new iPhone, you only need to place a finger on the home button. Here, you need to swipe, which is too old school.”

And reviewers were not impressed with the camera quality, which has become a staple of solid smart phones.

"Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is the camera," writes Alex Colon on GigaOm. “For the most part, the One Max uses the same 4-megapixel ‘UltraPixel’ camera as the HTC One. The idea here is that the camera uses larger pixels, rather than more pixels, to compose images. This means the camera has fairly good performance in low-light conditions, but regular shots just don’t look impressive compared to the competition.”

Reviewers did give the phone credit for excellent media performance and its vivid screen.

“Paired with the BoomSound speakers, which we believe to be feedback-equipped NXP circuits inside expanded speaker boxes, the HTC One Max delivers a perfect video-watching experience,” writes Sharif Sakr on Engadget. “Nothing comes close except perhaps the One, which also offers great entertainment despite the smaller screen.”

He adds that the screen is currently the best in the market for natural colors, which could also contribute to enjoyable video viewing.

“The Xperia Z Ultra's display, which is one of Sony's best efforts so far (and a very good panel in general), is left behind in terms of viewing angles, contrast and outdoor visibility, if not color accuracy,” Mr. Sakr writes.

Ultimately many reviewers say that the phone's massive size could make or break someone’s interest in the gadget. If you’re still on the fence about the size of the HTC One Max, there’s always the tried-and-true “pants test."

“The HTC One max will fit into front jeans and trousers (as long as they are not too tight), but you will want to remove the phone from your pocket before you sit down,” writes Nick Gray of Android And Me. “If you plan to put the phone in a shirt breast pocket, don’t be surprised if a third of the phone protrudes.”

The HTC Max One is available for $249.99 with a two-year contract from Sprint, and $299.99 with a contract from Verizon. It is in stores now.

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