HTC One Max review: Bigger! Faster! Better?

HTC One Max

Big-ass phones are the new hotness (and the new hotness very much an old phrase) so it was with great delight that we played with HTC’s One Max for a couple of weeks. Switching from my regular set up of an iPhone 5S to the One Max was quite the culture shock but I went into the experience with a fairly open mind. How did I fare? Read on!

I didn’t like it. I know. I could have left that revelation till later in the review – but why waste time. It’s not a bad phone by any means but I can’t get on board with having such a massive slab of glass by my face – it very much smacks of a compromise where the upsides don’t quite outweigh the downsides … yet. This is also a hugely personal preference – there are instances where a huge screen is an advantage – and as a fan of both the Kindle and the iPad mini I certainly feel that it’s an interesting product category. Plus I’m sure we’ll reach a point when it all clicks and makes sense.

But whilst I was not onboard with the HTC One Max as a phone, it was a great pocket computing device (a personal computer if you will) and I was happy to use it any time I wasn’t taking calls.

The build quality is solid, with the aluminium chassis feeling “throw in your bag” level solid, but not quite “toss on the floor” robust. The metal body certainly doesn’t feel cheap and didn’t detract from usage. However, as I’ve alluded to before it’s massive, which made carrying it about in my jeans pocket neigh on impossible. And I wear “regular” jeans, eschewing the current trend for “skinny”. It was almost enough to make me cart around a fanny pack. One wearable technology gets better this will be less of an issue – and if I were the sort to carry a handbag or a suit jacket it wouldn’t be a problem, but it was awkward having everyone I met assuming I was happy to see them.

There’s a built in fingerprint scanner around the back of the device. This was functional but slow compared to the iPhone 5S Touch ID and not as useful in terms of system-wide integration. However, it was neat being able to slide your finger along the back of the device to awaken its potential.

Speaking of potential, the HTC One Max zips along at an even clip. It’s not as fast as my iPhone 5S, especially for processor-intensive tasks, but I never once cursed its slowness.The phone runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Sense UI on top. It’s clean and simple and not bloated with uncomfortable levels of promotional guff. I loved the Facebook Paper-like newsfeed that greeted you when you opened the phone. I’m fairly sure this is common with Android phones, but it was great for mindlessly flicking through events of the day and felt like having a mobile newspaper on hand.

HTC One Max Sound

The camera was a little bit of a letdown. I loved having the wider screen for composing wider shots but didn’t feel the image quality lived up to the promise – especially as the onboard software seemed to promise so much with lots of cool onboard filters, sweep panorama, dual capture and anti-shake technology. There just always seemed to be an unreasonable amount of background noise in images and the autofocus seemed a little slow on the uptake. Sound from the phone is fine even though it no longer comes with a beats logo slapped on the back (which, to be fair, is rarely a sign of great audio)

Where the HTC One Max really excelled over my iPhone however was its battery life. The 3,300Mah heart that pulsates inside the Max can make it through a day or two of “normal”, whilst my iPhone wimps out after a few minutes on WhatsApp. That’s impressive on something with a 5.9 inch screen and a massive plus in its favour.

The HTC One Max is a perfectly decent cross-over between a phone and a tablet, with a fast enough process, great battery life and a great screen. If you take a lot of calls, I’d maybe look elsewhere – or turn to a bluetooth headset, but if you want a smartphone that helps you work, rest and play this isn’t a bad option.