HTC Surround Review
When looking at the “Pictures” tile on the homescreen of the HTC Surround, you'll commonly find it changing photos every now and then – giving it that dynamic look each and every time. The “Pictures” hub is broken down to your most recent shots, images posted by friends in their social networking account, and categories. Once you get into the gallery, it's further broken down to your camera roll and any albums found with your social networking account. For example, it'll compile all of your profile photos for Facebook conveniently within the “Pictures” hub. Meanwhile, you can view all of your photos by simply swiping – which we have to say is fluid of course. In addition, you can zoom in/out by using the all too obvious pinching gestures. Regrettably, Windows Phone 7 lacks any editing functions directly within the image gallery – so you'll most likely have to find an alternative app solution for that. However, there is a share function that will let you send a photo as a picture message, an attachment in an email, or upload it directly to SkyDrive or Facebook.
The camera interface on the HTC Surround can be accessed instantly by either clicking the icon in the Start menu or more easily by pressing down the shutter key. As for the interface, it's very straightforward, uncluttered, and is an exact facsimile found with the Samsung Focus – so you can get a solid view of what you're trying to take without any distraction. On the right side, you'll find a toggle switch for video/photo mode, the digital zoom control, and the settings icon. If you swipe over the left area of the camera interface, you'll essentially find yourself scrolling through the list of content you've taken with the phone – which is nice in quickly previewing your shots. Unlike the Samsung Focus, there aren't as many settings at our disposal and only offers some basic options to be modified – such as the scene, effects, resolution, metering mode, and flicker adjustment. But if there is one major gripe we have with the interface, it has to be that it doesn't save the settings you've made. So that means it'll reset each time whenever you exit out of the applications – so you'll essentially have to manually set it to turn off the flash each and every time; annoying!
Shooting an image can be accomplished by slightly holding down the shutter key to allow it to focus, and then pressing it all the way down to take the shot. Without modifying any of the settings, we basically used the HTC Surround just like any other basic point and shoot digital camera out there. If there's one thing going for the Surround's picture quality, it has to be that it's able to capture some sharp looking visuals outdoors, but the overall high-contrast look washes out colors slightly – making it look somewhat over-exposed. Luckily, there isn't as much noise in shots taken in low lighting conditions, but you clearly receive softer looking details. When using the LED flash to illuminate the scenery, it casts a bluish hue to the entire image – making color reproduction in general look off balance. Finally, macro shots poses no problems with the handset since it focuses in on the subject correctly, but the overall picture quality isn't as sharp as the ones produced by the Samsung Focus. Without going into additional comparisons with other Windows Phone 7 devices, the HTC Surround is definitely a worthy candidate for anyone who wants to take photos without much effort.
Since 720p video recording is becoming an all too common occurrence among high-end smartphones, there are few noteworthy items that separate the quality of videos – like their capture rate. Luckily, the HTC Surround shoots at a decent 24fps situations where lighting is not a problem. To our dismay, it drops all the way down to a paltry and super jerky rate of 8fps in low light environments, which is safe to say quite a disappointment. Despite that shortcoming, there is a great deal of detail it's able to retain, and it also has continuous auto-focus – something that not too many handsets offer. When you're shooting an object, it'll automatically adjust its focus on the go as your subject gets closer or further away from the camera. In one video taken of a band playing a song, you can obviously see that it's chugging along at a dismal 8fps, but the more important thing is that the HTC Surround features noise suppression. In fact, it seems to do a manageable job in that video seeing that sounds aren't too choppy or crackly sounding. In the end, media buffs will surely be happy with the level of quality that the HTC Surround excels in shooting high definition videos.
HTC Surround Sample Video 1:
HTC Suround Sample Video 2:
If music is your forte, you'll find Windows Phone 7's integration of Zune to be exquisitely joyful since it offers one of the best presentations we've seen on any music player. When running the “Photos and Videos” hub, which is Zune in all of its glory, you can select music and it will further break down your library by artists, albums, songs, playlists, and genres. After making a song selection, it'll display the associated album cover, track information, and a few on-screen controls. However, we like how the whole presentation is further complemented with the background image being downloaded of the respective artist. Also, the background image within the “Zune” hub, as well as the tile on the homescreen, will change to the downloaded image. It's such slick elements that make the overall presentation of the music player so intricately different from everything else out there in the market.
When going back to the homescreen, the song will naturally continue to play in the background, but you can access the mini player by pressing the volume rocker. If you happen to turn off the display and turn it back on, it'll still show the mini player at the lock screen – so you'll always have full control of your tunes. In its closed form, audio being emitted from the HTC Surround's speaker is still louder than most devices, but of course, exposing it will truly exemplify its true potential. When clicking the button to cycle between the various sound options, the initial one of course produces the weakest tones, with the second option drastically emitting stronger tones, and the final one adding just a little bit more punch to its tone. However, using a pair of headphones will seemingly tell the true telling between the three. Between the second and last audio options, the last one adds some noticeably heavier bass tones which reverberate more fittingly. And if you just decide to let the main speaker do all of the work, you'll still find it packing some audible and distinct tones that easily catapult it over some of the competition. Some of the supported formats include MP3, WMA, M4A, and M4B.
If you're looking to purchase additional tunes onto your handset, you can get your fix with the Zune Marketplace which holds a cornucopia of songs. Ranging in pricing, you can instantly purchase a song and download it right away over the air – which is then charged directly to your phone bill. And if you're not too sure about making a purchase, you can get a 30 second preview to aid finalize your decision. We adore the fact that Zune encompasses every aspect with its songs since you can search for various albums from a specific artist and even read their accompanying bio – all without navigating away from the hub. Though, we're saddened to find that Zune Pass is not offered with the device, but hopefully will become a staple down the road with some future update. If you're not familiar with Zune Pass, it's basically a monthly streaming service that enables subscribers to listen to as many tunes as they please in their vast catalog.
You know instantly that a device packing a kickstand will ultimately be one equipped device in dealing with video playback. With some high flying specs in tow with the HTC Surround, it seemingly would be a great candidate in this specific area. Without much effort, the smartphone is able to to play a movie trailer encoded in MPEG-4 1280 x 720 resolution. And thanks to its equally good looking and sufficiently sized display, it's probably one of the most conducive devices to watch videos as they casually run without any hint of slowdown. And if that's not enough for most people, its kickstand will enable anyone to sit back comfortably and enjoy a lengthy video. Finally, the handset is capable in dealing with videos encoded in MPEG4, 3G2, 3GP, and WMV.
Seeing that the HTC Surround is one rich media centric smartphone, it manages to pack 16GB of internal storage for all your needs. Unlike the Samsung Focus, there is a metallic plating which covers what appears to be a microSD card slot. Nonetheless, it should still prove to be an adequate solution for most people.