holding the titan

HTC Titan Review

 

With a little bit of confidence, we can make quite a few guesses about the goal of smart phone manufacturers. We feel that many companies are taxed with the intention of creating the perfect smart phone to match user needs. In many cases, a company will choose industry standards and parts to ultimately create a product that sells like hot cakes. But every so often, a mobile company will go against modern conventions and use a part or a sensor that makes people want the smart phone that much faster when it’s announced. And while many would argue that it was Apple that shifted conventional standards with the Apple iPhone, HTC is often said to do something similar. HTC’s method of change is surprisingly what gives the company a unique identity: standardizing large screen devices for a bevy of platforms and making 4.0 inch screens almost an unwritten requirement for the modern smartphone. Yet again, HTC broke convention when announcing the HTC Titan, a Windows Phone with the largest screen Windows has seen to date. Is the screen enough to change the smartphone wars in Microsoft’s favor and claim every bit of market share it desperately needs? Read on to find our thoughts on the HTC Titan.

RUNDOWN
  • $199 on new two year AT&T contract, $549 unlocked, int’l: $650
  • Windows Phone Mango
  • 4.7 in SLCD
  • Rear 8 MP Camera, 1.3 MP FFC
  • 1.5 ghz single core & 1600 mAh battery

Hardware

The Titan is big, but feels oh so sweet
Before jumping into the rest of the hardware provided by the HTC Titan, it is difficult not to mention the elephant in the room. The size of the HTC Titan screen is at 4.70 inches diagonally and is powered by a Super LCD display. Unlike the AMOLED display standardized by Samsung, Super LCD gives more natural colors versus the often saturated coloring AMOLED screens offered by Samsung. Despite the wider array of colors given by the AMOLED display, the screen technology gives lackluster whites. This is where the Super LCD panel shines in creating better whites on Windows Phones. Of course, we can’t help but wonder if Super LCD is weaker in comparison to the bevy of display technologies available.
Another differentiating factor of the HTC Titan is the CPU speed. While Microsoft chassis specifications require each smart phone running the Qualcomm Scorpion CPU, the HTC Titan is clocked at 1.5 gigahertz versus the 1.4 and the first gen 1.0 gigahertz devices available. Powering the HTC Titan is a 1,600 mAh located on the back of the device. Personally, I would’ve loved a bigger battery in the range of 1,750 mAh, but we will get to the reason why later on in the review.

Super LCD gives more natural colors versus the often saturated coloring AMOLED screens offered by Samsung
The HTC Titan is equipped with two cameras. The first camera being a 1.3 MP on the upper right hand side of the screen and a 8 MP camera that can record up to 720P with continuous autofocus The rear camera also offers an F2.2 lens and BSI sensor that promises to give the user high resolution photos and great HD video recording in low lighting conditions. In addition to providing a 8 MP camera on the rear, the HTC Titan also offers dual LED flash versus the single LED flash offered on Samsung devices.
Everything else on the HTC Titan is Windows Phone chassis 1 standards. The standard 3 capacitive Windows buttons are located to the bottom of the device. To the right of the device lies the dedicated camera button and volume rocker. To the left of the device is the micro USB charging port that serves as a way to sync music and videos with Zune. To the top left of the device is the standard 3.5 mm headphone and toward the top right lies the power button. Similar to the HTC HD7, the button is quite recessed taking a bit of effort to power on the device. Often, we found ourselves accidentally powering on the device twice.
Measuring at 131.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm and weighing 5.64 oz (160 grams), the HTC Titan would be considered a brick for those considering switching from the Focus S to the Titan or even to the average user. However the device isn’t as much of a brick when it’s held in hand. For some users the device won’t feel ergonomic due to the sheer size of the device. However, in our daily use, we enjoyed the soft metallic edges, the durability of the back panel, and the overall construction of the chassis. Sufficed to say, the device is built like a tank with all materials firm in hand with a little bit of weight to it. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.

Display

Natural colors plus aging display and dated resolution is not a good mix
While we touched briefly on the display in the hardware portion of the review, the display also demands its own specific area for a variety of reasons. The first reason why the display deserves a category of its own is the display is the selling point of the HTC Titan, period. It’s a massive 4.7 inch display that shocks and awes many people, to the point that some will say the screen is actually too big for a smartphone. On the other hand, many will argue that the screen is too small and demand giving Windows Phone a 5 inch display. To those that demand a bigger screen, that may not be such a good idea right now from HTC for a Windows Phone.
For starters, chassis 1 requires that despite the size of the display, the resolution stays at 800×480 pixels; no way to increase the WVGA resolution. While we loved seeing elements of Windows Phone blown to mind boggling proportions thanks to the 4.7 inch screen, the OS suffered quite a bit. For one thing, icons and fonts looked fuzzy and pixelated. It was mind boggling to use a device with such a massive screen and see the pixilation when reading email, reading on word, or even playing a quick game of Sonic 4 or Let’s Play Golf. The pixilation is a minor gaff for many users because it won’t be noticed. But for those that are transitioning from the iPhone 4/S or any Android device greater than WVGA, the pixilation is there and it is there to stay. It could make a person wonder why purchase a huge screen when the conditions aren’t optimum for a big screen to give the clarity that modern smartphone technology almost demands.
The second issue is the display technology itself. Super LCD was always meant to be a competitor against the AMOLED displays that Samsung and other companies offered on their mobile devices to give comparable colors depth and clarity. The whites are whiter, and the colors give a more warm feeling versus the shocking saturated effect that the AMOLED display provides. The big problem with Super LCD is the fact that companies have moved beyond the AMOLED screen and have gone to Super AMOLED/Plus, IPS displays, and several different types of displays. Comparing the above mentioned screens to Super LCD and you realize in a head to head, Super LCD will lose. On a personal level, the Super LCD does show its age and offers almost an inferior experience in combination with the pixilation of fonts and icons.
And yet, despite pixilation and the somewhat dated display technology, we absolutely loved the screen. The size is too perfect for media or gaming. And even for reading with the pixelated fonts, it was a great experience because icons were so big. So while there are complaints about the technology and the pixel density, we loved the dimensions of the screen and the natural colors of the screens. We also loved that the whites were far brighter than anything Super AMOLED could hope to achieve. While saturation will always go with AMOLED technology, the natural appearance goes to the Super LCD.

Camera

A big improvement, but lags in the competition
Cameras and HTC have a love hate relationship. We are personally reminded of the days of Windows Mobile where the camera wasn’t the best selling point of the device offering lackluster shots in comparison to Samsung or the competition. Even using Android as an operating system, the camera sensors HTC placed in devices were lackluster, until the mytouch 4g slide which included the same camera sensor that the HTC Titan currently has. On a personal level, this makes me feel as if HTC is trying to improve photo quality and give users the best experience regardless of the different scenes where people need to take pictures. So how does the camera fare?
We won’t mince words. If you have the Nokia N8, the camera of the HTC Titan will not ever be on the professional level of the Nokia N8 where all a user has to do is point and shoot. The HTC Titan shots were catch 22. The 8 MP camera performs well in adequate lighting, like most camera phones on the market at 8 MP. Snapping shots on a rainy or sunny fall day in Chicago were simple with the HTC Titan. The quality in natural photos is where the Titan shines in our testing. A major weakness came in macro shots which were less than stellar.

this makes me feel as if HTC is trying to improve photo quality
However, there are two main issues with the camera. The first issue the camera has a little bit of lag from taking a shot and the preview of the shot. It is considerably slower versus first generation devices and all Samsung second generation devices tested. The second problem is the quality of the camera shot. Some photos look good, with others looking cold and lifeless where optimum lighting conditions are achieved. While Microsoft has given users the ability to auto fix photos on the device, the quality of the photo declines drastically. In some cases, a perfect shot becomes a distorted pixelated mess thanks to auto focus, which has never happened on a previous device.
The HTC Titan is also capable of rendering video in 720P HD at 30 FPS with continuous autofocus. The quality of the 720P recording is great, but it is also comparable to the Samsung Focus S, which is amazing. HTC has done a great job in recording, which was a huge weakness at one point for many HTC smartphones. We found that the lens adjusted very well to the lighting conditions on the day of recording our camera sample and kept up with jerky movements while providing excellent video quality.
The take away message here is if you have a DSLR or the Nokia N8, the Titan camera is not a good substitute at all. It is far better than most HTC cameras, but it isn’t the top of the crop when it comes to cameras. Some shots are stellar, with others looking cold and dreary. But the 720P video recording capabilities were great, if not fantastic.

Performance & battery life

The Titan performs well, so so battery life
The HTC Titan is easily the fastest Windows Phone currently on the market in North America. The speed is attributed to the Windows Phone operating system and the chassis 1 hardware that is specifically designed to give users the ultimate experience. But HTC has taken things further with switching from SD based storage to flash based storage making the device even faster. The HTC Titan is also clocked at 1.5 gigahertz, a rarity among Windows Phones which are only clocked at 1.4 gigahertz. Sufficed to say, the performance was fast for everything we threw at the device. From loading games to switching from applications, everything was silky smooth. Not many chugs were attributed to the hardware, but we feel it is necessary that an update of hardware specs wouldn’t be a bad idea either. 512 MB of RAM is too little for some processes and the silky smoothness of the OS is destroyed.
The battery life of the HTC Titan could be better. While the Samsung Focus S and the Samsung Focus Flash gave us almost 2 days of continuous use on a single charge, the HTC Titan will only give users 16 hours on the 1,600 mAh battery. In part, the huge drain of the battery is attributed to the screen. AMOLED displays are far more efficient at power consumption over Super LCD, and we are left wondering why HTC didn’t use a bigger battery to power the Titan. In comparison to the Samsung next gen devices, the Titan feels like a first gen device in the battery life department. It is a step up from the HD7, but not the best in terms of battery. The Titan may require a charge every night at least.

Audio & call quality

Loud rear speakers, but subpar sound in call
The speaker quality of the HTC Titan can be described in one word: LOUD! HTC has went to great lengths to improve the speaker quality of the Titan and it definitely shows. In our testing, we noticed that audio popping was present in Zune, especially when a track ended and another track began. We also noticed that some songs had a distorted sound at the start of some tracks as well. Similarly, the call quality was less than stellar. Callers sounded tinny on the Titan, but that could also be due to AT&T service in the area. Amazingly, callers told me that I sounded extremely clear, even if they sounded like they were in a tunnel on my end.

Final Thoughts

For all of its faults, the Titan is a great Windows Phone
In ancient Greece, it was the Titans that ruled Mount Olympus. However, during the Titanomachy, the Titans were toppled by younger Greek Gods. It is very interesting to recant Grecian ancient history, and we believe HTC has also taken note of Ancient Greek history in the naming of the HTC Titan. While it’s not the first time that HTC has used the Titan name, it surely is the first for Windows Phone. That said, much like the Titans of historical past who were revered for their size and godly stature, the HTC Titan should also be revered for its size, design, and Windows Phone OS under the hood. But we can’t help wonder that despite the hardware, the HTC Titan will still be toppled by its adversaries in the smart phone wars.
One of the main issues with the HTC Titan is the main selling point. For the people that don’t wear their glasses (me), the massive screen is a joy to use when reading and performing normal tasks. However, unlike iOS or even some Android devices which offer higher pixel density, some elegant parts of Windows Phone looks almost comical due to the higher pixel density with the screen size. Some icons, text, and the elements of Windows Phone on the Titan look mediocre and not incredible. I won’t say that it looks cartoon like, but the higher dpi makes for a less than elegant experience.
Other nagging issues that persist in the device include video stuttering persistent in games and intensive tasks almost negates the smoothness and speed offered by the 1.5 gigahertz snapdragon processor. The camera, while using a similar sensor to that of the newest HTC Android devices, still takes mediocre shots when comparing it to the Nokia N8. For some shots, there is a considerable amount of lag between time of the photo being taken and the preview Windows Phone. Finally, while Super LCD gives a less saturated appearance to colors versus AMOLED technology, from the various differing displays offered, Super LCD seems almost dated versus current screen technologies.

the HTC Titan should also be revered for its size & design
And yet, despite the issues and criticisms taken with the HTC Titan, it is a fantastic device. Period. It easily out performs the Samsung Focus S, and is the only device offered by a major manufacturer that seems like a true upgrade. It is definitely hard to part with the device because currently, it is the best Windows Phone device on the market. There’s no question of that. But the question at the end of the day is whether that title will last with Nokia demanding to make a name in the Windows Phone space. For now, the Titan may be the IT phone for large screen enthusiasts

 

Review Score
Design8.0
Display7.5
Camera7.0
Reception7.5
Performance9.0
Battery Life7.0
Final Score7.6

While this is our personal opinion of the device, opinions can and do differ on use of devices. The score is based on an average of the numbers above. Please be reminded that numbers alone should not deter a possible purchase. YMMV