Tag Archive | "htc surround"

HTC Surround & Windows Phone 7 Review

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IMG_4938Microsoft wants to get in on the modern mobile OS action, and after the inevitable fall of their previous version of Windows Mobile, Microsoft has sought to restart their mobile offering, thus Windows Phone 7 was born. The HTC Surround pairs WP7 with well-built hardware and an interesting approach to phone audio, but will Windows Phone 7 be able to catch on, or is it too little too late from Microsoft?

Hardware

Here’s a quick rundown of the HTC Surround’s specs, follow by a hardware tour of the phone:

  • Windows Phone 7 OS (as reviewed, version 7.0.7004.0)
  • Qualcomm QSD 8250 CPU @ 1GHz
  • 576MB of RAM
  • 8GB of built-in memory (no expansion)
  • 3.8 inch capacitive touchscreen @ 800×480
  • WiFi b/g/n & BT 2.1
  • 5MP camera with single-LED flash (records up to 720p video)
  • Slide out speaker with Dolby Mobile and SRS audio technology
  • 165 grams (5.82 ounces)

Hardware Tour

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Design

IMG_4927Let me start by saying that the HTC Surround feels great in the hand. It’s been too long since I tested a phone that had some real heft to it (in a good way). Recent phones (cough*Samsung*cough) have left me with a feeling of cheapness. The Surround however feels like a premium device right out of the box.

IMG_4929Metallic accents are found all around the phone . The front is a combination of brushed and polished metal and has a wide ear-piece that fits the look of the phone well. The back is rubberized much like the Droid X [review], and it has just a hint of metallic sparkles in it that you’ll see if you hold it in just the right light. The back is also home to a polished HTC logo, and above that is the 5MP camera and single-LED flash, both of which are encased in a metal accent piece with small radial ridges that emanate from the lens.

IMG_4956But this is all before sliding the device open which reveals a speaker bar that comes about 1/3 of the way out of the side of the phone. I’ll talk more about the speaker bar below, but on the design side of things I wanted to mention that the sliding mechanism could be better. I’ve definitely seen/felt worse, but the Surround’s sliding mechanism could use a bit of work to make it slide more evenly and have less wiggle.

Despite the premium feel of the phone (considering the materials used and the weight of it), the buttons didn’t seem to receive too much attention. All physical buttons on the phone, except for the camera button, don’t provide very good feedback. It’s hard to tell when you’ve pressed the power/lock button. The volume rocker is a bit better with slightly more feedback, but the camera button is the only one that has enough “click inch for my taste.

IMG_4954The bottom of the phone has a pry-slot to pull the back cover off, but it generally feels like you’re on the brink of ripping the phone into it’s two sliding halves. I haven’t found a good way to get the back cover off without stressing the sliding mechanism in a way that it wasn’t design to move. If you are a road warrior who relies on swapping batteries during road trips, be weary of this fact on the Surround as repeated removals could lead to breakage.

On general aesthetics of the device: I think it’s a good looking phone. When you make the investment to purchase a phone that will be with you for, perhaps several years, people should expect more than a piece of plastic. The Surround would feel even more solid if they rid it of the sliding segment, but despite this extra hardware, the Surround isn’t much thicker than many of it’s contemporaries.

HTC Surround Impressions and Gallery

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IMG_4938Surprise surprise, we’ve got a Windows 7 device to take a look at and it’s the HTC Surround! I’ve been itching to get my hands on a WP7 device, and I’m actually pretty impressed with the out of box experience. You know the hardware is decent, after all, this is an HTC phone, but the software is surprisingly mature for something that has been reworked from scratch and only recently released. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some areas where the HTC Surround hardware and WP7 software could use some improvements, but when you considered how new the platform is, things are looking good for WP7. I just hope they can gain critical mass to become a black hole of app development and customer attraction, instead of dwindling and becoming an ugly white dwarf.

I’ve compiled a few early thoughts and have the full gallery posted for your perusal.

Hardware

IMG_4964The HTC Surround is the first phone that I’ve tested in a while with any heft. This is a good thing! The last three phones I’ve tested (all Samsung) have all felt quite cheap with plastic exteriors. The Surround, on the other hand, feels like a quality piece of hardware. There’s brushed metal on the front, rubberized plastic on the back, and metal accents abound.

The feature for the Surround’s namesake is a sliding section that reveals a speaker bar (and a nice stand that pops out of the back). How/if/when this speaker will be useful has yet to be determined. There’s also a button on this sliding section that changes between some audio presets (even when you are using headphones). Still, my early intuition is that I’d rather sacrifice the sliding section to slim the phone down a bit and increase durability (no moving parts). But we’ll have to wait and see after some more testing.

Software

IMG_4945I’ll say it right here: I like WP7. It’s like a breath of fresh air from iOS clones (awful ones, or otherwise). The top-down concepts are similar (app driven, typical smartphone usage), but at least the GUI is really unique, and quite pretty. WP7 is the first mobile operating system that’s nailed iOS’s system-wide smooth scrolling and animation. This is a big plus for me. WP7 is also arguably more user friendly than Android out of the box. Speeds are very good and certainly comparable to the latest iOS and Android devices.

There’s still a lot for WP7 to improve upon, but at least it’s initial offering is decent.

Microsoft made a big deal about WP7’s “Live Tiles inch when they talked up the OS before release. So far, I’ve hardly seen these used. When they are, the information presented is almost always useless and just for show (AKA: waste of battery). I installed the Weather Channel app expecting to be able to see the conditions, or at least just the temperature outside on the Live Tile, but there’s nothing more than a static logo. Facebook and Twitter are the same. Facebook could show how many notifications I’ve got, and Twitter could at least show the number of how many mentions/DMs I have, but there’s no info in their Live Tiles.

The brings me to another sore point: WP7’s notification system. I tweeted earlier that “I can’t tell in the WP7 notification system is awful, poorly implemented, or just non-existent. inch Yeah, it’s that bad. I don’t seem to get any notifications through the phone expect for email or SMS which shows up as an icon on the lock screen and as a number on the Live Tiles of the respective apps.

I’ll have to leave you guys with these thoughts for now. I need some more time with the phone and software before crafting the full review. Stay with us to see how the combination of HTC and WP7 stack up to the competition! And definitely shout-out in the comments if you want to see anything tested in particular in our review of the phone.