HTC One Max Hands-On: A 5.9-inch Heavyweight Enters the Ring

 

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Here’s a phablet that definitely earns its name. Coming to Sprint and Verizon this holiday season, the HTC One Max is one of the biggest smartphones in the world. It’s also one of the heaviest, at a whopping 7.6 ounces. (For those scoring at home, the Galaxy Mega is 7.1 ounces) As the rumors suggested, the One Max ports a fingerprint reader on the back for unlocking the device to your app of choice. 

We went hands-on with the One Max to see if this supersized phone is worth the weight.

Beautiful But Too Big?

The One Max looks like a standard HTC One that spent the past three months mainlining growth hormones with A-Rod. You still get the same beautiful aluminum body as the One, along with the white polycarbonate edging found on the One Mini, just in a larger form factor. Much larger. The first time you lay eyes on the One Max, you might laugh at how huge it is. Though the 5.9-inch screen is smaller than the Galaxy Mega’s 6.3 inches, the additional space needed to make room for the Max’ dual front-mounted BoomSound speakers stretch the handset’s chassis. 

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HTC One Max vs HTC One

HTC’s use of an aluminum body across its One line, gives the handsets a more premium look and feel than Samsung’s Galaxy lineup. At the same time, the One Max’ aluminum chassis is one reason it absolutely dwarfs the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3, which weighs a comparatively light 5.9 ounces. The weight difference is immediately evident when you pick up the Max. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s definitely hefty, which could turn some users off.

Unlike the regular HTC One, the Max has a removable back for adding additional memory via a microSD Card slot. Unfortunately, the battery is not removable. We’re glad that HTC placed the power button on the right side (along with the volume controls), which makes it easier to turn the device on with your thumb. The IR blaster sits up top for controlling your TV.

HTC One Max Side

Like its smaller sibling, the One, the Max sports a 1920 x 1080 Super LCD 3 display with a pixel density of 367 pixels per inch. And also, like the One, the Max’ display looked positively gorgeous. Colors were bright and vibrant and text was incredibly sharp. Similarly, the Max’ BoomSound speakers sounded great. According to HTC, they should be louder than the standard One’s, since the Max has a larger air cavity.

MORE: 10 Dumbest Smartphone Features

Fingerprint Reader

The One Max has a fingerprint reader on its back panel, and in a way it’s more versatile than the iPhone 5s’ Touch ID sensor. The small black square, positioned just below the Max’ Ultrapixel camera, lets users save up to three different digits. But the fingerprint reader isn’t just for unlocking the Max. Users can map their fingers to open specific apps when the phone is both awake or asleep, something the iPhone 5s can’t do. Mapping our fingers to an app was especially easy and was done in just a few quick seconds.

HTC One Max Fingerprint

Unfortunately, unlike Touch ID, the One Max’ fingerprint scanner can’t be used to make purchases in the Google Play store. It’s also inconvenient that the fingerprint scanner is positioned on its back panel. While HTC says placing the reader on the Max’ rear panel makes it easier to reach for most users, Apple’s Home Button integration is more intuitive.

Specs and Camera

While Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 gets a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, HTC stuck the same Snapdragon 600 CPU found in the original One on the Max. It’s not that the One ran slow in our hands-on; it’s that those in the market for a flagship device will expect more advanced components. You’ll also find 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, expandable to 64GB. 

The One Max should offer plenty of endurance, thanks to a 3,300 mAh battery. That’s much higher than the regular One’s 2,300 mAh pack.

IMG 6344

The One Max features the same 4-megapixel Ultrapixel camera in the HTC One, which means you should expect great low-light performance. Too bad HTC didn’t include the optical image stabilization found on the smaller One.

MORE: Best Phone Cameras 2013

Sense 5.5

The One Max is set to launch with an updated version of HTC’s Sense 5.5 interface running on top of Android 4.3. The enhancements do make the device easier to use. The Blink Feed app’s menu, for example, is now accessible by swiping in from the left side of the screen rather than pulling down from the top. 

IMG 6342

The camera app also gets some updates. Video Highlight are now easier to find. Zoes get better, too, this time around, thanks to a new Gif Creator feature. This will make it easier to share those 3-second videos.

Outlook

The HTC One Max offers nearly everything we loved about the original One, including excellent audio and a premium design, and adds a much bigger display. But we’re not sure that’s enough. HTC hasn’t done as much to optimize its software for the big screen as Samsung has with the Note 3. You can’t run two apps side by side, for example. The One Max also trails the Note 3 in terms of CPU power.

IMG_6349

Then there’s the size and weight. The One Max will be by far the heaviest Android phone on the market when it hits shelves this holiday. And it will certainly be among the tallest, second only to the Mega. This is definitely a try-on-before-you-buy purchase.

AUTHOR BIO
Daniel P. Howley
Daniel P. Howley
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
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