Monday October 25, 2010 12:14 pm
HTC Surround review
We performed our Windows Phone 7 review while using an HTC Surround smartphone from AT&T. Now that we've got the overarching review of Microsoft's big comeback in the mobile operating system world out of the way, we wanted to focus on the HTC surround itself. It's an interesting one, as AT&T is going to launch with three Windows Phone 7 devices come November 8th. The Samsung Focus has that Super AMOLED display and is nice and thin, and the LG Quantum has a slider QWERTY keyboard, which makes it thicker. The HTC Surround is also a thicker slider, but rather than a keyboard, it packs in a pair of Dolby Mobile and SRS Wow "virtual surround" speakers with a kickstand. This is obviously aimed at the Windows Phone 7 customer who plans to use their device as an entertainment device for music and video, and its got 16GB of internal memory to hold that stuff. Is it worth your attention? Keep on reading for our verdict!
Hardware and Form Factor
When you first look at the HTC Surround, it certainly doesn't look too unique. In fact, it looks like a generic Android smartphone. It certainly does have the HTC feel to it, so that isn't necessarily a complaint. You've got a gray front with a nice-looking 3.8-inch LCD display with 480 x 800 resolution. Around back you've got a soft-touch matte black. Due to the slider mechanism, the phone is .51 inches thick, and weighs in at 5.82 ounces. Compared to the thinnest AT&T launch Windows Phone 7 device, the Samsung Focus, the Surround is 0.1 inches thicker and 1.6 ounces heavier. It should be said that the actual software on the devices is the same, so the phone hardware is kind of on its own, and therefore the speakers on the Surround kind of need to be impressive to warrant purchasing this one over the other two AT&T devices.
The LCD display on the Surround is actually nice and bright. We didn't expect it to be so vivid since it isn't the Super AMOLED display that the Focus sports, but if you pick up a Surround, the screen won't disappoint you unless you are looking for a screen with amazing color reproduction on a small mobile device. Let's be honest here, even with the kickstand, I don't think many buyers are looking for the ultimate in color vibrancy on their phone.
Gallery: HTC Surround
On the right-hand side you get the volume rocker and dedicated camera button. As we had mentioned in the Windows Phone 7 review, the camera button will actually wake the camera from lock and take you right into picture-tacking mode, which is very nice. All Windows Phone 7 devices also sport a back, home, and search button under the display, so expect that to naturally appear on the Surround.
As for the slider, it feels solid. There is a single button on the slider that changes the surround modes that the speakers offer, and around back you have a folded away kickstand. The kickstand is nice when you are watching content, or if you just wanna set up the phone to play music stored on the device or streamed from Zune, but it isn't sturdy enough to keep the phone upright on its own while you interact with it. Maybe a few light touches here and there, but it's fairly easy to knock it over.
Mobile Surround Speakers
So, if you're picking up the HTC Surround, the main reason you'd do it is because you wanna use it as an entertainment device that takes advantage of the speakers. On the positive side of things, the speakers do have some volume to them, and they do a good job providing sound in a small space. For example, if you're a frequent traveler who stays in hotel rooms, you could certainly launch Zune and prop this thing up on its kickstand and enjoy music in your hotel room. On the negative side, we couldn't really figure out what the little button on the speakers actually accomplished. To our ears, when you pushed the button to switch between SRS Surround and Dolby Surround, one of them clearly sounded better than the other - but there was no indicator on anything on-screen that let you know which was which.
The other thing about these speakers is that you typically should be using them in landscape mode, with the kickstand...but navigating music and videos is a portrait-only view. This means that you either have to put up with reading things at a 90 degree angle, or pick up the device every time you want to navigate to a new track or video. That's just absurd, but that isn't HTC's fault - Microsoft simply didn't include a landscape mode in enough of Windows Phone 7...and that can easily be fixed in software. Still, in its current form, it's a limitation that can get fairly annoying fairly quickly.
The HTC Surround is a good phone, and its the one we'd recommend if watching movies and listening to music is your jam. If you're more of an app person, gamer, or are someone who just constantly is typing out emails, this really isn't the phone for you, because there are better options out there. The thickness and weight of the Surround are a drawback, unless you really want those speakers there and the kickstand experience. If not, we'd say you should stick with the Samsung Focus unless you really need a QWERTY keyboard, in which case, hit up the LG Quantum. All three devices will cost $199 when they launch on AT&T, so it's really all about picking the device that fits you best. All that said, we wanna reiterate that the Surround is a good phone in and of itself, but unless you're gonna use those speakers, get a different device.
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