Review: HTC Rezound is a high performance Android phone

The HTC Rezound has it all; speed, specs, and style.

The HTC Rezound ($300 with a new two-year contract as of 1/3/12) is one of the more capable devices released this year. With beefy specs, including a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and Verizon LTE 4G connectivity, the Rezound stands its own against other Verizon smartphones.

Design

With a 4.3-inch 1280 by 720 resolution super LCD display, the Rezound is definitely on the larger side. While it may not fit in everyone's pocket, that large display is great for watching movies and playing games. At 6 ounces the Rezound can feel a bit hefty but that extra weight also makes the phone feel rock solid.

Like most other HTC phones, the Rezound has a straightforward design. On the front of the device are the four standard Android navigation buttons (Home, Menu, Back, and Search), as well as a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The back of the Rezound sports an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and is composed of a soft rubber backing that feels nicely in hand. The volume rocker and power button sit flush with the rest of the phone, giving it a very streamlined look, but also making them somewhat difficult to press down. Buttons aside, the Rezound is still a very well-designed device.

Specs and Performance

When it comes to specs, the Rezound is a beast. Its dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor keeps the phone feeling zippy and is great for graphic intensive games like Grand Theft Auto 3 and Dead Space. Unfortunately all that power comes with a price, in this case the Rezound's battery life is less than optimal. After three hours of playing games, browsing the web, and downloading apps over LTE, the Rezound was down from a full charge to only 30% battery remaining. The Rezound has several different power modes to help regulate power consumption, but if you are a heavy user of apps you will want to invest in an extended battery pack. We will update this section once we put the Rezound through our official battery tests.

The Rezound's high resolution display looks great, but would sometimes lag when pressing a button or swiping between homescreens. This would usually occur after exiting an app, but didn't happen enough to really be a nuisance. The Rezound takes advantage of Verizon's blazing fast LTE network. Here in San Francisco, I was able to download several hundred megabytes of data in only a few short minutes over a strong connection. Using the FCC-approved Ookla Speed Test app, I clocked download speeds of around 11.55 Mbps and upload speeds of about 10.38 Mbps. Call quality was even, with no signs of hiss or static. The people I called said I came through clearly and that they couldn't hear any background noises in my call.

Software

The Rezound is running HTC Sense over Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and comes with a handful of preloaded software. Blockbuster Mobile, Slacker Radio, Polaris Office, and the Amazon Kindle app all come preinstalled along with the full version Need For Speed Hot Pursuit and a demo of Let's Golf 2. While some of these apps may be useful and entertaining, it's a shame that you have no option to uninstall any of them should you not want them running on your phone.

The HTC Sense overlay ran well on the Rezound and brought along a few features that are missing from stock Android Gingerbread. The lockscreen allows you to quickly launch applications without having to first unlock your phone and the notification bar contains a list of recently opened applications for easier multitasking. The Rezound is slated to receive Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) sometime later this year and it will be interesting to see how Sense interacts with the new OS.

Entertainment

If you are someone that likes to use your smartphone as a media player, then you will be interested to learn that the Rezound has built-in Beats Audio for a better listening experience. When you plug in the included Beats Audio compatible headphones, the Beats Audio software will auto-enable itself and will supposedly "enhance" the audio.

In my tests I came to the conclusion that the Beats Audio software does make music sound better when enabled, only because normal playback sounds muffled and murky. As such, you'll want to keep the Beats Audio software enabled whenever you listen to music on the Rezound. If you don't happen to have any Beats compatible headphones, HTC has graciously included a pair along with the phone. While they are not the best headphones ever, they do a better job than most headphones you'd find pre-packaged with phones these days.

The HD Episode of Doctor Who that I watched on the Rezound looked excellent and streaming video over LTE worked flawlessly. As I mentioned earlier the Rezound's herculean processor makes it awesome for games and my daily commute was made enjoyable with a few hours of playing Dead Space on the Rezound.

Camera

The 8-megapixel camera on the Rezound makes it decent enough for every day photos, but performs poorly in dimly lit environments. In areas with good lighting, colors can look washed out and objects can sometimes have a reddish tint to them. The front-facing camera does a good job in terms of image quality, but you most likely won't use it for anything besides a few self portraits.

The Rezound is capable of recording in 1080p and did well at picking up audio. There was a mild jelly-like effect when recording in 1080p, but it's not the worst that I've ever seen. Something that I must commend HTC on is the amount of options available in the camera software. Various aspects can be fine tuned for better photos including sharpness, saturation, and exposure, and the Rezound even features a panorama mode that makes it extremely easy to capture panoramic images.

Bottom Line

The Rezound is one of the best phones available in terms of specs and is perfect for media junkies that like to use their smartphone as a multimedia player. The high resolution display is well suited for movies and the included Beats Audio headphones are a much appreciated bonus. The battery life is weak, so you will either want to get an extended battery or carry a charger around just in case.

Now for the hard part: choosing between the Rezound and the Galaxy Nexus. Both are excellent devices but it all comes down to a matter of what you are looking for in a phone. If you want a phone that is always up to date with the latest software, then go with the Galaxy Nexus. If you value specs more and can wait a few months for Ice Cream Sandwich, then the Rezound will suit you just fine.

This story, "Review: HTC Rezound is a high performance Android phone" was originally published by PCWorld.

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