HTC Rezound: An HTC 4G that will appeal to Droid Incredible fans
Jul 13, 2012 (Updated Aug 3, 2012)
Review by Rudi Xeno
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Last month (June), with the cut-off to retain my grandfathered “unlimited data” contract drawing closer I had to make a decision about upgrading my phone. These decisions don’t come easy to me. I follow the smartphone industry closely. If I’m not visiting a forum, I’m reading or watching reviews. I started watching the development of what would become known as the HTC Rezound about a year ago. At the time it was known as the Vigor. As recently as a month before its launch it was being branded the HTC Droid Incredible HD. Now that really got my attention. I owned an original HTC Droid Incredible and absolutely loved it; so much so that even after my wife and daughter chose to go the Apple iPhone 4S route, I chose to stand pat with my Incredible. I wanted to keep my options open. Although I doubted I would go the iOS route, I was curious about the upcoming iPhone 5. Then there were the Windows 8 and BB10 models that were expected for the holidays. But, when Verizon set the date of 6/28 as the drop dead date after which I couldn’t upgrade at a discounted price and retain my unlimited data plan, I knew I had to decide.
Recommend this product?
As the date grew nearer I was looking at the HTC Rezound, Motorola Droid Razr Maxx and pre-ordering the Samsung Galaxy SIII. I loved the 3300mAh battery of the Maxx, but the camera was a fail. I had also read many reports of broken screens and just got skittish. The Samsung interested me until I had an opportunity to handle a demo unit. It was big, very big, and actually a little too light and thin for my taste. Placed in the front pocket of my jeans I got a sense of it flexing. My fingers are thick, not long. I really doubted my ability to adapt to this beautiful but massive phone. And then when Verizon decided to put the Rezound on sale for a mere $79 and included a pair of Beats Audio ear buds for that price, my mind was made up.
The HTC Rezound
In terms of dimensions and weight, the Rezound at 5.08” x 2.58” x .54” didn’t seem like too much of a stretch from the 4.63”x2.3”x .47” of the Incredible. While the Rezound is definitely HTC chunky and relatively heavy at 5.6oz, it has a very comfortable, secure feel in my hand. I’ve always loved the HTC handset build. The plastic back cover has the iconic sculpted and rubberized texture first introduced on the Incredible. The 4.3” SLCD display seemed an ideal size if I wanted to keep the overall phone size manageable.
The SLCD display is an absolutely eye-popping 1280 x 720 pixels for a 342 ppi resolution. Even the most tech-obsessed user will find no pixilation on this screen. If you like the display of the iPhone 4S, you’ll be smitten by this display. When rendering web-pages in landscape mode, text regardless of font and size is very readable.
Being an SLCD, this display is somewhat more power hungry than all AMOLED variations. The optimal viewing angle is relatively narrow. Although some find fault with this, I prefer it. This is my private device, often displaying my private information. I don’t share willingly. I like this screen characteristic.
Visibility of the SLCD display in bright light situations does suffer in comparison to AMOLED displays. Here in South Florida, there are often situations where the display is all but invisible in the strong direct afternoon sunlight. Although AMOLED screens suffer too in extremely bright light, they don’t seem to suffer as greatly.
While neither HTC nor Corning Glass claim the display to be Gorilla Glass, after 3 weeks of being carried in my pocket with whatever else is there, the screen remains unmarked. I’ve yet to apply the Skinomi Screen Protector I purchased shortly after buying my phone. If it’s not Gorilla Glass my guess is that it’s a privately branded generic equivalent.
Under the Hood
The Rezound is powered by a Dual-Core Snapdragon S3 processor clocked at 1.5Ghz utilizing an Adreno 220 Graphics Processor. It is equipped with 1 GB RAM, and 16 GB of internal flash memory. An additional 16 GB microSD card is installed for a total of 32GB out of the box. The phone can be expanded to an impressive 48GB by swapping the included 16GB microSD Card for a 32GB card. The Rezound ships with Google’s Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) Operating System installed. An update to 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich is scheduled for later this month (fingers crossed). It supports Bluetooth Version 3.0 and wireless b/g/n. While the newest Androids are being equipped with the updated dual-core Snapdragon S4/Adreno 225 combo that outperforms the S3/220 equipped Rezound, this handset doesn’t want for speed. Both the Rezound’s 16GB microSD card and 4G LTE SIM card are installed inside of the removable back cover necessitating removal of the battery to get to them. Some users are troubled by the internal placement. Since it’s rare for me to replace either I find it not to be an issue.
HTCSense 3.5 UI
The Rezound features HTC’s Sense User Interface front-ending the Android OS. Coming from the Droid Incredible I find myself very familiar with this “skin” and its features. It has always felt more intuitive to me than Samsung’s Touch-Wiz and Motorola’s Motoblur UI’s, but I’m sure familiarity plays a big part in this preference. Although Sense 3.5 seems resource hungry, it does add plenty of handsomely rendered user friendliness to the Android OS.
I especially like the Sense treatment of the Lock Screen that features 4 shortcuts that can be quickly launched without unlocking the phone by dragging their icon to the Lock Ring found on the bottom of the display. This comes in particularly handy when fumbling for an incoming call or when a Kodak moment presents itself and you want to launch the camera.
As with the HTC Droid Incredible, the Rezound’s Speech-to-Text capability is outstanding. Wherever text is called for, like Search, Navigation and text messaging you can speak to input the information. What’s impressive is, the more naturally you speak the better the Rezound understands you. So if I respond to my wife’s text by rattling off “tell Jenna I’ll pick her up in 5 minutes”, after a couple of seconds of processing my voice the message appears on the screen. For guys like me who despise holding long conversations via text messages this is pure gold. I can wear my wordy friend down with a few quickly composed fully saturated texts. Additional third party apps such as Vlingo and Skyvi will give Siri a serious run for the money, particularly in their ability to adapt to your specific speech patterns.
The 8MP f2.2, 28mm wide angle rear-facing camera is an extremely fast and competent shooter. The autofocus of the Rezound is about the best I’ve seen on a phone. Regardless of the lighting conditions it produces incredibly sharp images. Indoor shots taken with less than optimal lighting may be a bit on the dark side with curious white balance performance, but included on-camera software easily corrects for these types of results. It’s the perfect focus performance and virtually flawless face recognition that commends this camera. Like the original Droid Incredible, the camera is aided by dual LED flash. But unlike the Incredible, this flash has been tamed somewhat and is not as likely to blowout a subject situated a little too close to the camera. That’s a welcomed improvement.
The video cam is capable of recording in 1080p High Definition and produces excellent video and sound. It also has the ability to record at 60fps for slow-motion playback. I’m not sure how useful most users will find this feature, but I’ve taken some interesting slo-mo video of golf swings.
The front-facing 2MP camera works well for self-portraits, if you have the stomach for that sort of thing as well as video chat.
Equipped with Beats Audio circuitry that works with the HTC Music and Video Players as well as the included Dr. Dre Beats Audio earbuds, both players produce incredible sound for those who like bass heavy genres. I have a very broad range of listening preferences, but most times the thumping bass is pleasing to me. When it’s not required, the Beats Audio circuitry can be disabled. Without it, I find the Beats Audio buds to be extremely capable of producing well articulated low, mid and high ranges of sound. While I think the suggested retail of $129 for these buds might be a stretch, the $79 that I paid for this entire package is probably a more realistic price for just the buds. Make no mistake. No manufacturer includes ear buds of this value and performance with their phones. Included with the buds are an additional four pair of ear pieces for differing size and comfort preference. Being very difficult to fit I found this a big plus. I finally have ear buds that stay comfortably in my ears regardless of my activity.
Although on the Rezound, Beats Audio is only offered on the stock HTC Players, for the more tech savvy and adventurous there are custom ROMS available that can be flashed to allow Beats enabled music and video streaming from several other apps.
There are several benchmark tests that can be run and used to measure the performance of a smartphone. I may refer to the results of these tests from time to time, but I’m more interested in assessing the total experience. Like a conductor, I’m not that impressed with the exquisite performance of the string section if the orchestra fails to pull off the 1812 Overture.
The Rezound is fast and fluid. Transitions from app to app are quick and precise and you’re not likely to experience any lag. Although I’m not much of a gamer, the few that I’ve played demonstrate the power of the Adreno 220 GPU. Animations on the 4.3” display are remarkably fluid and life-like with excellent 3D effect.
South East Florida is thick with Verizon 4G coverage. It’s unusual for my Rezound to be showing less than 4 bars of signal strength. When using 4G to surf the web I can expect download speeds of 16Mbps – 24Mbps with a recorded high of just shy of 28Mbps. That’s actually faster than the mid-day average speed I experience with my Comcast Cable service. When operating on wi-fi, the Rezound pulls in available networks effortlessly and locks fast on saved networks. I have my phone set to disable my mobile network connection as soon as it detects my wireless-n home network. If I watch my phone I can see my wi-fi network appear and come alive as I pull into my driveway.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these devices are phones. Call quality both in and out has been significantly improved from that which I experienced with the Incredible. While the call quality on the Incredible was certainly passable, the Rezound offers call quality virtually indistinguishable from a quality handset on a land-line. Voices sound natural and full. I have found it necessary to actually reduce the call volume of the handset.
A particularly useful feature is the automatic switch to speakerphone when the handset is placed screen down on a hard surface. Lifting the phone returns the service to normal. Before using this feature however, I recommend a protective case that will put a little distance between the screen and the hard surface. Speakerphone call quality is expectedly diminished, but only slightly. I notice no hollow echoing but some of the fullness of the voice is lost. Those listening on the other end report the sound quality is very good with little interference from background noise.
Battery life has never been a strong suit for HTC. The HTC Droid Incredible had sub-standard battery performance and the later 4G HTC Thunderbolt suffered from absolutely dreadful performance. With the Rezound, things have gotten just a little bit better. The 1620mAh stock battery can be drained in about 6h 45m of continuous heavy duty use. With my usual usage pattern, keeping in mind that I have an unlimited data plan, I find I can go an entire work day and a bit more on a charge. A slim 1900mAh battery is available from HTC that requires no new back door that should satisfy most users giving them a comfortable day’s usage. But truthfully, I don’t like to have to manage my battery resources or usage. I’ve opted for an extended HTC 2750mAh battery that requires a fatter back door that chunks up this already thick phone to about 5/8”. Having become acclimated to added girth of the Incredible’s 3500mAh extended battery I find I prefer a thicker form. I’ll discuss this OEM extended battery in depth in an upcoming review, but suffice it to say it makes battery life a non-issue.
Hardly a month goes by when a manufacturer isn’t introducing something slicker, faster and of course, better. But, at some point the music stops and you have to make that difficult decision on your next phone. I was looking for a phone that would satisfy me beyond the 2 year term of my grandfathered “unlimited data plan”. My experience to date suggests the HTC Rezound will do just that. I recommend it.
HTC Droid Incredible
Apple iPhone 4S
HTC 2750mAh Extended Battery and Replacement Back Door
Read all comments (4)
Amount Paid (US$): 79
Recommended for: Adventurous Technophiles - Tough and Durable
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