Jan 7, 2011

HTC Surround review: Goodbye, Android!



Well here it is guys, my first ever Windows Phone device, the HTC Surround. I got it yesterday and so far, I am obviously loving it.

But before I review the device, let me just talk about how I got the device a little bit. As you may have probably know, last month I just had a Samsung Intercept, an Android device, which on my review I ended up saying, screw Windows Phone for now, Android ftw. But after a month of using the Intercept I found myself in a really uncomfortable place not only with the Intercept's low specs, but also with the Android OS. I said I wasn't too bothered by the low resolution screen (and odd 240x400 resolution) but everyday my experience just got worse. Angry Birds for instance looks crap, Swype won't work because the res is not supported, and Pandora's displaying the album arts with wrong aspect ratio. I may not be that keen on pixel density, but I am on aspect ratios.

So I decided to look on eBay for cheap Windows Phone 7 devices. I was wanting to buy the Samsung Focus, because it is thin and the highest praised Windows Phone in the US, but I couldn't win on bidding wars because most of the devices got sold for more than $350. I also looked for the LG Quantum, but again, no luck. I didn't intend to buy an HTC Surround because of bad reviews I read online, and I think that's why  less people bid on it on eBay, so I got one successfully for $310. Which is cheap enough because if you buy one without contract on AT&T it would be $499.

After I received the Surround yesterday, I immediately went to Sprint and returned their Intercept to get my $250 money back. And now here I am, reviewing the HTC Surround!



Ok, let me review the technical specifications of the phone first. The HTC Surround is one of the launch devices of Microsoft's reboot OS, Windows Phone 7. The unique feature of the Surround is that it has a sliding Yamaha speakers that will also reveal a kickstand that is really useful if one wants to watch a video, hands free. It also has a 5 megapixel camera with flash, 16GB of storage (other websites say it's only 8, they're obviously wrong), 448MB of ROM and 512 of RAM. The Surround sports a 3.8 inch capacitive touchscreen, 1Ghz processor, and a 480x800 screen resolution.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN


I honestly thought that the Samsung Focus was the best Windows Phone device in the US, until I looked at the HTC Surround. A lot of reviews said that the Focus has a plasticky feel in it, and that is not the case with the Surround.

As you can see from the image above (compared with Samsung Intercept), it is the better looking device. The Surround also looks and feels sturdier than most devices. It is one of the heavier Windows Phone 7 devices, but honestly, I don't really mind at all. At 58 ounces, it makes the device to feel like a bad-ass phone, and feels like a premium device. PhoneArena had a comparison with the HTC Surround and the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4 looks really ugly, small, and full of bezel when it is next with the surround.
 
Engadget complained about the device's thickness a lot, saying that the extra thickness that the sliding speakers is not worth it. I completely disagree with them as the HTC Surround is the second thinnest device in my household. It's thinner than the Palm Pre, the touch Pro 2, and the now gone, Samsung Intercept. Here are the comparison on with these devices along with the really thin Zune HD:



DISPLAY

I like to compare the HTC Surround to the Samsung Focus a lot, because I really originally wanted the Focus. The major feature I like with the Focus is its Super AMOLED display, where in the Surround the display is only Super LCD. But when I went to the AT&T store yesterday to get a SIM Card (they call them "chip"), there's a Samsung Focus on display and decided to check it out. I immediately see the difference between the two displays. Sure, the Focus has some more deep blacks and presents more saturated colors with pictures, but there is a one major abnormality that I found on the Focus screen. There are these weird coloring on the edges of the texts. It's visible every time you are in a black background on white text, which is most of the time you are in on Windows Phone 7. You might think that making the background white will solve the problem, but no. I find the screen dimming by itself sometimes, and you'll obviously drain the battery more quickly when using white background on a SAMOLED display. Here's a comparison shot of what I am talking about when you look at the screen close up, and notice the strange coloring on the edges of the text with the Samsung Focus:


So I am now happy with the HTC Surround's display. It doesn't have that weird coloring that the Focus have. I can imagine it also performs better on Sunlight than AMOLED displays. I'm also amazed how crisp and smooth texts are on the 3.8 inch display. Segoe WP is so handsome looking in this device and the obvious big texts are obviously awesome, but for smallest texts as well. Take a look at the title of the option menus below and notice no matter how small the texts are, they're still visible:



BATTERY LIFE

Battery life on the Surround has been said to not perform well. Coming from the Samsung Intercept, with a 1500 mAh battery compared with the Surround's 1280 mAh, I can say that the battery life performs about just the same. I opened the device yesterday for the first time, and without charging, It lasted till nightime with my serious usage of the device. I charged it fully yesterday night, removed it, played The Harvest and other 3D games, Wi-Fi on the whole night, and today I played some loud speaker in it, and still has less than half battery. I couldn't say it is the best battery life out there, but it will just perform ok on a daily basis. Battery life is not an issue for me at the moment, as I am always at home, and I can just simply plug it in on my laptop.\

SPEAKERS


The sliding speakers on the other hand, is a disappointment. I mean, sure it is better sounding and louder than any other smartphones, but the Dolby Mobile and SRS logos in the back are misleading and they are in no way in comparison with other dedicated speakers that can be bought with these companies.

But with that problem it is not stopping me to use this device to play music while I am in the bathroom, in the car, or in any other place that I want to listen music to.


CONCLUSION


I love the HTC Surround in many ways like its design, built quality, and the display. Although I hope they could have added extra milliamp hours on the battery, but that is just a minor thing. I also wouldn't miss a landscape keyboard which I used to have with the Intercept because of Windows Phone 7's excellent on screen keyboard. Speaking of Windows Phone 7, I really love how smooth and fast all things are. I may or may not review the software in the future, but right now, all I can say is I love it. I don't miss Android one bit.


 
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