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HTC Rezound – HTC’s newest offering comes with the specs to compete, not the style [Phone Review]

January 6, 2012 | by Ben Crawford

Android OS, Android Phones, Android Phones and Devices, HTC, Reviews, Verizon, Video Reviews, Videos

htc-rezound-official

Evaluated version:

Pros: HTC's signature quality build, camera, display

Cons: Stale Sense overlay, thickness, not ICS

Coming out of the gate, the HTC Rezound had a tough battle. The Motorla Droid RAZR had already been released, and rumors of the Verizon Galaxy Nexus release date were in full swing. To make the Rezound stand out in this crowd, HTC partnered with Beats by Dre and added a few more of its trademark wine-red accents to make a sexy phone with a mass-marketable feature. I’ll breakdown whether the Rezound can stand up against the thin onslaught from the RAZR and Nexus, and if you should give it serious consideration.

Hardware

After handling the RAZR and buying the Nexus, the Rezound felt like brick. It’s almost double the size of the RAZR, and although I know HTC devices are generally bigger devices, I don’t know exactly why the Rezound had to be so big. With a device like the Thunderbolt, you could give HTC the benefit of the doubt. But if the RAZR can stick a dual-core processor, 8MP camera, and a 4G LTE radio inside its thin frame, you have to believe HTC fumbled with the Rezound’s design a bit.

Aside from the thickness, the Rezound is, of course, well-made. HTC added a rubber back cover with grip to the phone so it wouldn’t scrape and slide on a hard surface like almost every HTC phone has before it. Around the phone the Rezound comes almost bare with a headphone jack, volume rocker, power button, and, very fortunately, a look-a-like proprietary USB port (it tricked me when I first looked at the cable). My only real gripe about the physical hardware is I would like the volume rocker and power button to stick out of the phone more. It’s hard to find these buttons if you’re fumbling around with the phone and even harder to press them once you do find them. The buttons are a rubbery black which makes them hard to see unlike other HTC phones that have a gunmetal or shiny black finish to make them easier to see.

Screen/Camera

Beautiful. I wanted a 4.5″ screen, but HTC finally made a rock-solid display. The brightness, even when set to its highest, is more muted than my Nexus and blacks won’t blend into the background, but the pure 720p resolution of the screen makes apps and details look great without the pixelation of a Pentile display. I know a lot of people dislike anything above a 4.3″ screen, and I believe HTC lucked out somewhat in that the RAZR and Nexus are both big phones. A lot of people will be able to look at all three phones simultaneously and decide whether or not they can handle the bigger phones or opt for the only similarly-spec’d phone, the Rezound. I’ll also say that smudges are much more noticeable on the Rezound’s screen than either the Nexus or the RAZR.

Wow. The camera application on the Rezound is far and away the best I’ve used on a phone. With tons of features (panorama, action burst) and even more effects (dots may be the coolest effect ever), the Rezound has all these features conveniently located. The camera itself takes very quick pictures, and the pictures are gorgeous.

 

Software Performance

In a word – stale. HTC’s Sense UI overlay has gone through several iterations, all bringing improvements, but with the same look and style. If we look at Samsung’s Touchwiz, we see a marked improvement in speed, style, and enhancements. But Sense, aside from the lockscreen which is great, has the same look, feel, and flow that it has always had. While it does have speed improvements, it’s still the same curved dock at the bottom, the same personalization settings, and the same jerky app drawer. With the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) upgrade due the Rezound, I’ll be very intrigued to see how HTC will change the look and feel of Sense. I hope they freshen it up because it is the best of all the manufacturer overlays, but ICS looks beautiful on its own too.

I’m also pleased to report that the Verizon bloatware has been diminished a good bit. Instead of City ID or Tetris, you’re upgraded to Hot Pursuit and a barcode scanner. I genuinely enjoy HTC’s widgets, and I don’t really consider them bloatware, but with 3 e-mail apps bundled with the phone, it becomes a little extraneous. However, all of this didn’t seem to bog the phone down in the slightest as the Rezound is just as zippy as the RAZR when flying through screens or getting in and out of menus and apps. The battery life didn’t take much of a hit either. Without the LTE radio, I could see getting over a day of medium usage (but who wants to turn off LTE when you’re getting 20MB/s download?!).

App Performance

HTC makes really nice apps (the camera) and widgets (Friendstream), and I would recommend these almost as highly as third-party apps. For games and such, I put the Rezound up against my Nexus in speed and multi-tasking tests, and it fared pretty well. Like I said, neither Sense nor Verizon’s apps really slowed this phone down, and the Rezound was able to come away with a few wins against the Nexus.

My LTE speedtest showed consistently that the Rezound’s radio is better than the Nexus. I got at least a few MBs faster downloads than the Nexus almost every time. In multiple tests opening Angry Birds and Jelly Defense, both phones were neck and neck, but the Nexus edged the Rezound out 7/10 times. Finally, I wouldn’t worry about those intense games like Shadowgun or Heavy Gunner either. They work without lag or stutter, but I did miss the bigger screen for these types of games.

Final Thoughts

So what exactly makes the Rezound stand out? Sure, there’s Beats by Dre and the smallest notification light possible, but with the overbearing natures of the RAZR and Nexus, does the Rezound do anything they can’t? It’s thick body stands out, but aside from that, there are more compelling reasons to buy either the RAZR or Nexus. Maybe you want a smaller screen, HTC’s durable contruction or you even want Sense; but if a consumer is asked if they want a paper thin phone or ICS or neither, the consumer will usually choose either of the flashy features of the RAZR or Nexus, and I don’t have any compelling arguments against them.

However, the Rezound is another solid phone in HTC’s lineup, and you won’t regret this phone in the slightest (it will get ICS in the coming months). It has similar hardware as its competitors, and you know exactly what you’re getting with the hardware construction and Sense. Beats by Dre does sound great, much clearer than the competition, but it’s not as much of a game-changer as ICS or unimaginable thinness. For audiophiles or even Beats by Dre lovers, this is definitely the phone for you. With Verizon’s LTE and a shockingly fast 1.5 dual core processor, the Rezound is no slouch, and may be the best phone out, if you can stay away from the flash and style of the RAZR and Nexus.

You can get the Rezound at Verizon for $300 on contract, at Amazon for $150 on contract or at Wirefly for $150 on contract.