The HTC Rezound has been available for just over a week now, and we’ve had plenty of time to look it over, test it out, and come up with a pretty firm opinion about the first smartphone with Beats Audio Technology to land in the United States. There’s no denying that despite its thickness and interesting back panel, the handset is light in the hand and comfortable to hold. However, it’s not all about the body, so did the software live up to the hardware’s lofty goals? Or are we faced with just another HTC-branded handset? Find out in our review below.
Let’s just kick around the specifications one more time, even though they’ve been drilled into your head plenty of times by now. The Rezound features a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen display, which boasts a resolution of 1280×720, making it a true HD panel. Under the hood you’ll find a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of built-in storage. Around back, there’s an 8MP camera that’s capable of recording 1080p HD videos. And finally, the phone launches out of the box with Android 2.3.4, and HTC’s Sense 3.5 UI. All in all, on paper, the Rezound looks like it should be right up there with the heavy hitters of Android phones for a long time coming, and indeed HTC has promised an update to Android 4.0 sometime in the first part of 2012, so that may indeed be the case.
The phone’s hardware is impressive, and the phone is really comfortable in the hand, even with HTC’s design aesthetics. The Rezound features the unique battery cover that started with the DROID Incredible back in the day, and the red accents are definitely sticking around. The phone is thick, but it isn’t heavy, which could possibly be a middle-ground for most people. It doesn’t feel huge or unwieldy, and it’s not a rock in your pocket throughout the day, either.
Unfortunately, the software doesn’t seem to play all that well with the impressive hardware. There’s a 1.5GHz dual-core processor inside this phone, but you’d never know it from routine usage. Actually, the first time we turned on the phone and started using it, we were quite impressed with the speed it offered. But, that didn’t last long. It was a short amount of time before HTC’s Sense UI started to bog down the whole show, and we found ourselves actually waiting for the application drawer to respond to our scrolling touch, or for an application to launch in general. With that amount of power under the hood, we didn’t imagine we’d be waiting around as much as we were.
Flicking between home screens is simple and quick enough, but we noticed that depending on the widget we had on the screen, there would be some evident “popping” on the display. Meaning, we’d slide over to the third home screen where the Facebook Chat widget was placed, and we’d see it immediately as we rolled over to it. However, once we stopped on that particular screen, the widget would disappear for a second, and then come back. We also noticed, with that particular widget, that it would try to log on every time we rolled over to the widget, even if it was in ‘offline’ mode. Based on the popping in-and-out, we’re not sure if it was actually trying to log on or not, or if this was just a graphical issue.
As for Sense, it hasn’t changed much over the years. Yes, there are plenty of graphical alterations here and there, and icons are a lot prettier than they used to be, but Sense is still Sense. The same goes for the tabs within some (most) applications. You can slide your finger at the bottom of most apps and select a tab, which will bring you to new options. Within the phone application, you can get to your call history, groups, people, and dialer in this fashion. If you’ve used a Sense-fused phone before in the past, this will be familiar ground you’re treading right from the start, even if there are some more customization options for the lock screen and color themes.
Unfortunately for Verizon subscribers, this is another handset that has launched without HTC’s Hub or Likes applications. That means you get a limited amount of customization options right out of the box, instead of having an online gallery to find new ringtones, wallpapers, and themes. Frustrating, to say the least, but if you’re not into that sort of thing we don’t imagine it would be something you’d even notice is gone.
One of the major selling points of this phone is the Beats by Dre audio technology that is packed inside. This is meant to give you the best sound quality, and overall audio experience that you can manage on a smartphone. However, you’ll quickly notice that Beats Audio is a pretty limited feature. In fact, it only works in one application, and if you have the headphones plugged in. (It helps that the headphones are iBeats by Dre, of course.) You cannot use Beats Audio in any other application that uses sound, such as the YouTube app, or any other media player other than HTC’s media player. If you want to listen to the Beats enhancements, your options are limited to do so, which makes the whole feature seem more like a gimmick, rather than anything else.
We weren’t impressed by the camera, but we weren’t disappointed by it, either. It takes decent shots, and it does indeed record video at 1080p HD quality. The software seems a bit overloaded, though, and we found that the more we used the camera app, the more it slowed down. The time between when you touch the screen to take a picture, and when it focuses enough to finally take the picture is pretty long, too, and we missed plenty of action shots due to the camera trying to focus. However, looking at the photos on the phone, and watching the videos on that beautiful 720p HD display usually made up for it. Though, if you planned on using the Rezound as your main camera, we probably wouldn’t recommend this.
More to the point, wile the majority of photos were perfectly fine, we did notice that if you take a shot with a gratuitous portion of natural light, and especially direct sunlight in the shot, the resulting images are pretty “noisy.” Again, the shots are perfectly fine more often than not, but if you’re a hardcore picture taker, the Rezound’s camera is probably not something you want to rely on.
This is probably the biggest problem with the HTC Rezound, by far. Unlike many other high-end smartphones out there, especially when compared to the Motorola DROID RAZR and (coming soon) Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Rezound’s battery is downright pathetic. At only 1,650mAh, your fears of needing to charge it more than once in a day are perfectly sound. Truth be told, we didn’t spend most of our time in a 4G LTE-covered area, and the battery still seemed to drain extraordinarily quickly. And, listening to music (with Beats Audio turned on, too) only made it so much worse. Even not using the phone, and just answering a couple of text messages here and there, we saw the battery drop pretty quickly. There’s always a lot going on with a Sense-equipped device, so we knew there’d be some battery usage over time, but nothing of this magnitude. You will need a charger near by.
Oh, also of note? The battery indicator will change to a grayed-out battery icon with an exclamation point in the middle quite often. This happens a lot. We have no idea why it keeps happening, especially at random points during the day, but it does. We noticed it most often when we’d have the phone sitting next to us with the screen off, and we’d hit the power button at the top. Instead of seeing how much battery is left, we’d see that icon instead. It disappears (usually) after a few seconds, but it’s still an annoying habit the phone has, and it seems to be a hard one to break.
If you are in desperate need of a smartphone right now, and you can’t possibly wait to look at the Samsung Galaxy Nexus –and you aren’t a fan of the Motorola DROID RAZR–, then the HTC Rezound is a fine choice. However, even with all of its impressive specifications, the software simply doesn’t play nice with it, and it makes the whole experience bogged down. If you are a fan of HTC’s Sense UI, then you’re walking into familiar territory with the Rezound, and we’ll leave it up to you to determine if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. We can’t honestly say that with our experience with the phone that we’d recommend it to someone who wants a lag-free experience, so we’ll just leave it at that.
In the end, the HTC Rezound is another high-end phone that will more than likely fade into the shadows soon, especially with the upcoming launch of the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon’s network. If you’re looking to upgrade, we would recommend heading into a store and checking out other options before dropping your hard-earned cash down for the Rezound.
A good phone, but one that gets brought down by bloated software.