One Max, HTC’s first phablet, is like the great girl in class you never noticed all along. Filled with great qualities once you discover them, but often overlooked because of a first impression that doesn’t set your world on fire. Let’s start with the not-so-pretty. What worked with the stunning HTC One, the One Max’s smaller sibling, has not exactly translated well in the bigger version. The One Max is big and heavy. It weighs 217 grams, which is heavier than the behemoth Sony Xperia Z Ultra by 5g. That one has a 6.4-inch screen, against the HTC One Max’s smaller 5.9-incher. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, sporting a slightly smaller 5.7-inch screen, weighs a lot less at 168g.
HTC One Max’s design
Even forgetting about the build quality issues and starting with a clean slate, it is hard to find much good to say about the HTC One Max’s design. The One’s singular, expertly crafted block of anodized aluminum has been replaced by an undignified white polycarbonate band that keeps the aluminum back and front sides of the phone joined together kind of like elastic holding up saggy underwear. The result is even less One-like than the One Mini, which also has a white band but wears it better due to the fact it has a neater, non-removable back.
Having badgered HTC for the past two years to include microSD expansion, the company has finally given us what we want and this loss of build quality comes as a direct result. We refuse to take all the blame, however, since Sony has managed to deliver microSD slots in its latest phones without having a removable back cover. We wish HTC had managed something similar here.
At last, some good news. HTC’s Super LCD 3 panel is still the best in its class, and the best on the whole market if, like us, you prefer the natural colors of an LCD display to the over-saturated appearance of an AMOLED panel. 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. 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. Nothing comes close except perhaps the One, which also offers great entertainment despite the smaller screen.
The One Max should have had a better, optically stabilized camera; it should have future-proofed itself with a Snapdragon 800 processor; and it should have been physically more manageable perhaps with a 5.5-inch touchscreen to compensate for the size of the BoomSound speakers, and definitely with a thickness of less than 10mm.
Yes, the screen is rather big, but the One Max loses out on first impressions because its rivals are lighter and slimmer with similar screen sizes. That is because it still felt petite and precious in the hand. The One Max feels heavy to hold up and, surely, will take up much space in your trouser pocket too.
Ultra pixel technology
If you have not already heard about HTC’s "UltraPixel" technology, the rudiments of it are simple by crowding fewer pixels onto the sensor, it’s possible to get superior performance in low light but at the expense of high-res images that can be cropped and zoomed. The addition of an f/2.0 lens and some low-strength optical image stabilization in the original One gave it competitive imaging, albeit not in the same league as a camera-focused phone like the Xperia Z1 or Lumia 1020.
HTC has thankfully retained the lovely etched metal volume rocker from the original One. It is also applied the same design to the power button, which it s sensibly moved to the right-hand side of the device, leaving the hard-to-reach top edge for just the IR transmitter and 3.5mm headphone jack. Even so, one-handed operation should be considered unlikely verging on impossible due to the fact the Android notifications pull-down can not be reached with a thumb, and the phone’s 7.65-ounce weight (217g) makes it seriously unwieldy
As for battery life, we have something to celebrate: on an HSPA+ network, the 3,300mAh battery easily gave us enough juice for a day of heavy use. After 10.5 hours of calls, camerawork, gaming and lots of WiFi downloads, we still had 27 percent remaining. The battery is non-removable, On a day of light use, with just a few calls and a bit of gaming, and with no charging overnight, the phone still had 14 percent of battery after 40 hours of use.
One Max makes no such effort: its front-facing BoomSound speakers sit loud and proud along the top and bottom of the display, bringing the length to 164mm (around 6.5 inches). The curved back panel, so elegant as part of the smaller One, brings the thickness to 10.3mm along its spine, which feels every bit as thick as it sounds. Yes, it offers a great multimedia experience, but you have to get to know it first to know that. And in a tough market, the One Max has many rivals catching the eye more readily.