HTC Surround Review

 

My last Windows Phone review was on the HTC HD7. It was an impressive handset... Huge display, snappy processor, and a very reliable phone. I am not having quite as good of a time with the HTC Surround. The phone is no slouch itself, with a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, more memory than an iPad (and as much storage), but definitely seeing a few wrinkles in the overall WP experience this time around. The Surround--though it has some great features--is definitely not quite turning out to be the powerhouse that the HD7 is.
 
I admit to being spoiled and a bit biased by iOS, and RIM. You become accustomed to the notion of the device being ready to use as soon as it's powered up, or activated. When a phone is sluggish (even a little), it is painfully noticeable. The Surround started out a tiny bit sluggish (and also slows down or doesn't respond at times), and while it certainly could just be the review unit (or AT&T's network), my early feelings are kind of non-plussed. This is really just an initial post on the Surround (specs and impressions), so am holding my breath for an update (the NoDo is not available for the Surround until May). I could see a niche for this phone, as the Surround does sport a few nifty media features (slide out speaker and a kickstand), and I still like the overall functionality, but...
The front of the unit is typical modern SP candybar design, and the Surround is good looking in my opinion. It feels sturdy, with an appealing two-tone finish, and a clean design typical for HTC. The touch button layout at the bottom of the the 3.8 " capacitive screen has a little extra space for thumbs, but I found typing either in portrait or landscape kind of annoying, with lot's of miscues. The screen, which actually slides out (you can see a little extra wedge on one edge), is bright, and crisp and easily readable in almost any condition. The point of the slide is to reveal embedded speakers, which includes a hardware control to toggle advanced sound effects (very good portable sound experience). Sliding the screen also reveals a kickstand on the back of the unit that can be extended to prop the Surround in a media-viewing orientation. 
The bottom of the Surround provides a micro-USB connector for charging (and syncing to the Zune desktop app), and I think it's a misfire for not allowing basic filesystem browse capability (without adding additional software), but that's not the Surround's fault. The phone offers no expansion slots, but then I guess the days of transferring pictures to a storage card (then to your computer) have gone the way of the dodo. There are plenty of ways to get your pix posted directly on-line, especially considering the Surround includes WiFi 802.11b/g/n. Though the Surround is not an HD7, it includes many of the same bells-n-whistles. Internal GPS antenna, Bluetooth, G-Sensor, Digital Compass, Proximity and Ambient Light. I still find it annoying that the screen in many apps (like maps) do not rotate accordingly. With the kickstand out, it would have been nice if the AT&T Navigator app (pre-loaded) would display in the correct orientation.
The back is a semi-rubbery black finish, and I would have showed you a shot of the battery compartment underneath, but the cover was so difficult to remove, I finally gave up. I will maybe pry it off for the wrap-up post. Anyway, I imagine there is a SIM card slot in there, and a 1230 mAh battery as well (I wondered why this unit came with a battery already in there...now I know). The battery in this unit needed a charge after normal use every few days. Course that could vary greatly (see full specs below).
The Surround sports what looks to be a very similar (if not same) camera as the HD7 (a 5Mpxl with flash). My early impressions are that this camera produces images of around the same caliber as the HD7--a bit washed out. The top and sides of the Surround are adorned with the necessary power (top right from the front view), volume (upper right edge) and camera buttons (lower right edge). A long-hold on the camera button will take you directly into the app where talking and sharing pix is a snap. It did take a few minutes for my pix to make it up to the web page, and the hub to update, etc.
I posted up the full specs on the Surround below. I'm being a little hard on it in light of my earlier experiences with the HD7, but I want to make clear that I am still impressed with these new Windows Phones, including the Surround. The GUI is intuitive and easy to navigate, and the hardware is clearly competitive to other modern smartphones in terms of features. I am hoping that the sometimes halting response is just an isolated glitch. Maybe the update will be released before my follow-up post, and will address these problems. Tune in next time for more on the HTC Surround, and other hardware here at Smartphonemag.com...
 
HTC Surround Detailed Specifications
 
CPU Processing Speed: 1 GHz
 
Storage: Internal storage: 16 GB
  • ROM-512 MB
  • RAM-448 MB
Connectors:
  • 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
  • Standard micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0)
Sensors:
  • G-Sensor
  • Digital compass
  • Proximity sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
Battery type: 
  • Rechargeable Lithium-ion polymer or Lithium-ion battery
  • Capacity-1230 mAh
Talk time:
  • WCDMA-Up to 250 mins
  • GSM-Up to 240 mins
Standby time;
  • WCDMA-Up to 255 hours
  • GSM-Up to 275 hours
Network:
  • HSDPA/WCDMA-850/1900/2100 MHz
  • GSM-850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Data Transfer:
  • 3G-Up to 7.2 Mbps download speed
  • Up to 384 kbps upload speed
  • GPRS-Up to 114 kbps downloading
  • EDGE-Up to 560 kbps downloading
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
 
Bluetooth®:
  • Bluetooth® 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
  • Other supported profiles: AVRCP, HFP, HSP, PBAP
GPS: Internal GPS antenna
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