HTC One max Review
With the One max, HTC is introducing an enhanced version of its Sense user interface, dubbed Sense 5.5, which in this case is on top of Android 4.3. Visually, not a whole lot has been changed. UI elements and graphics are minimalist, creating a simple, intuitive, and elegant overlay when combined together. But the alterations aren't merely superficial. In fact, most of the native applications and widgets follow the same design principles, which creates consistency throughout the whole interface. And despite the changes, we notice no degradation in the phone's performance. Good job, HTC!
From a functionality perspective, with Sense 5.5 once can easily add multiple widgets to the lock screen – a feature that wasn't executed well in the UI's previous release. There's also a new and potentially useful “Do not disturb” mode, which turns off the sound and disables incoming calls.
Naturally, BlinkFeed in its newest, most refined form is present in Sense 5.5. For those who aren't familiar with it, BlinkFeed a feature that HTC introduced with the One. Think of it as a news feed aggregator that occupies an entire home screen, putting together stories from hundreds of online sources, as well as from social networks that the user is logged into. On the One max, the number of sources where BlinkFeed pulls news from has been increased. It now works with Google+ and Instagram as well. Up to 120 stories can be saved offline and be read at a later time in case the user isn't connected to the internet. All in all, BlinkFeed is a unique service that gives quick, instant access to up-to-date information. Those who feel like they don't need it, however, are free to turn it off.
Processor and memory
HTC has chosen to stick with the Snapdragon 600 SoC for the One max even though the faster Snapdragon 800 chip is already being used in a number of phones. That gets you a 1.7GHz quad-core Krait 300 CPU with Adreno 320 GPU, backed by 2GB of RAM. In comparison, the 800 model has a better CPU, better GPU, and can be clocked much higher. Deal breaker? Well, not really since the smartphone's performance is top notch. The user interface responds instantly to our input and runs swiftly, without any lag. Games are also handled well, with even the newest 3D titles running at high frame rates. The only downside to having a Snapdragon 600 in the One max is that the smartphone can't be considered as future-proof as many of its rivals.
There is a base HTC One max variant with 16GB of on-board storage, but for those who don't find that enough, the company is launching a 32GB model as well. Roughly 5.5GB of that space is occupied by system files. Thankfully, there's a microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 64GB in size, so you can use one for storing photos, music, and videos, while dedicating the phone's native storage to applications. Plus, HTC One max buyers get 25GB of free cloud storage for 2 years, courtesy of Google Drive.
Dialer and messaging
There's nothing radical about the dialer application on the HTC One max. Accessible from the home screen or via the lock screen shortcut, it puts the call log, the contacts list, and the dial pad under one roof, along with tabs for the user's favorite contacts and groups. It is cool that tabs can be rearranged to the user's liking and that scrolling with 2 fingers allows us to rapidly flick through the contacts list.
The messaging application is extremely simple, but it is not like it necessarily has to be any more advanced than this. Photos, locations, contact information and calendar appointments can be attached to the message, which is very useful.
Thanks to its size, the on-screen keyboard is quite comfortable for two-thumb typing in portrait mode. We find it uncomfortable to use in landscape orientation, however, as the handset itself is too wide for our fingers to effectively reach the buttons in the middle. Single-handed typing is out of the question since the phone's proportions and lack of appropriate keyboard layouts make that impossible.
If you've ever used a calendar application on a smartphone, then you'll be feeling right at home when using the Calendar app found on the HTC One max. Creating an event is as simple as tapping on a date and hitting the “create event” button, after which you pick a name and time range for the event. Highlighting a date gives you a sneak preview of your agenda without opening the entire schedule for that day.
The HTC One max comes with a car mode interface, which provides quick access to features you might need while driving – navigation, voice command, media playback, and the likes. The UI's buttons are huge and easy to press while behind the wheel. Not that you should be using your phone while driving, that is.
With the Kid Mode app loaded by HTC, you can let children play with your One max without worrying that they might mess something up. It restricts access to your personal stuff, allowing kids to launch only the apps you allow them to.
Scribble is another application pre-loaded on the HTC One max. Think of it as an advanced notepad of sorts, where text, photos, and clip art can be combined in a single document. Inserting photos can be a bit glitchy, but as a whole, the app is usable.
Internet and connectivity
Browsing the internet on a screen so large and detailed is a pleasure. What's more, the stock web browser loads pages quickly and has the option to hide the status bar for a true full-screen browsing experience. However, there are a few things about the app that can be a bit annoying. One of them is that text is not inflated automatically, meaning that we still have to zoom in on paragraphs of text in order to read anything. Also, we appreciate HTC adding support for Adobe Flash in its browser app, but it didn't work properly on all pages we tested. Embedded YouTube videos, in particular, do not work in all pages.
When it comes to connectivity, there's pretty much nothing essential that the HTC One doesn't offer. LTE and 4G HSPA+ are on board, along with the mandatory Wi-Fi radio, which is 802.11ac compatible, and Bluetooth 4.0 with AptX support. You also get NFC and GPS with GLONASS compatibility for improved accuracy. Even the humble FM radio with RDS has not been omitted, which we appreciate.