HTC One Max Android phone

Great display and battery life, but poor ergonomics and an awful fingerprint sensor are issues

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HTC One Max
  • HTC One Max
  • HTC One Max
  • HTC One Max

Pros

  • Excellent display
  • Good battery life
  • Great front-facing speakers

Cons

  • Fingerprint sensor is awful
  • Awkward ergonomics
  • Fit and finish pales compared to One

Bottom Line

The HTC One Max is an oversized Android phone with an excellent display and stellar battery life, but it's let down by a fit and finish that's less impressive than the original One, and a frustratingly poor fingerprint scanner. It's also extremely awkward to hold and use.

Would you buy this?

HTC has turned the One range into a family with the release of the One Max. Set to compete directly with Samsung's popular Galaxy Note 3, the One Max has a giant 5.9in display, a microSD card slot, and a fingerprint scanner on the back. Unfortunately, its excellent display and stellar battery life are let down by a fit and finish that's less impressive than the original One, and a fingerprint scanner that is simply frustrating to use.

Honey, I blew up the One Mini

The fit and finish isn't as premium as the original One.

HTC says the One Max "shares the same premium design credentials" as the rest of the One range, but the device is essentially a (much) larger version of the One Mini. That's not an entirely bad thing, but it's important to note that the Mini has a less premium finish than the original One. That carries over to the One Max as the sides are finished in a glossy, white plastic rather than classier looking bevelled edge aluminium. There's still an aluminium finish on the back, but it's not as impressive as the unibody design of the One.

The One Max has a removable back panel that reveals a microSD card slot, a feature you won't find on the regular One or the One Mini. The battery isn't removable but the inclusion of expandable memory will be a welcome addition to hardened Android fans. The sliding latch on the right side makes it easy to remove the cover, but there's a clearly visible gap between the cover and the sides of the handset. The fit and finish isn't as premium as the original One.

None

Everything a fingerprint sensor should not be.

The large dimensions of the HTC One Max are more hindrance than help. While we understand the demand for large screen smartphones (or phablets if you are so inclined), the One Max is taller, wider and thicker than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is one of the largest smartphones on the market. The end result is a phone that's simply awkward to hold regardless whether you use one hand or two.

Aside from its size, the most notable new feature on the HTC One Max is a fingerprint scanner. Unfortunately, it's extremely awkward to use due to its location on the back of the phone. Sitting just below the camera lens, you'll find yourself smudging the lens every time you swipe your fingerprint. Further, the sensor is very inaccurate and works one in every three times, and you need to unlock the phone before using it. The ability to assign three seperate fingerprints to launch up to three user customisable apps is a nice touch, but this only works from the lockscreen. Overall, the entire experience is awkward and frustrating — everything a fingerprint sensor should not be.

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Two excellent aspects of the original HTC One remain unchanged on the HTC One Max. The dual-stereo speakers that sit above and below the display (called 'BoomSound') are the best speakers we've heard on a smartphone, and produce high volumes without distortion. The 5.9in, super LCD screen is also one of the best on the market, displaying bright, vibrant colours, exceptional viewing angles and deep blacks. Text is super crisp and clear and there's no way to distinguish individual pixels on the screen — this is simply a superb all-round display.

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Slightly upgraded Sense

The HTC One Max runs the latest 4.3 Jelly Bean version of Android but is again skinned with HTC's Sense UI, now up to version 5.5. Most of the changes are minimal over the original One, though the ability to remove the BlinkFeed home screen is a much welcomed addition. HTC has added RSS feeds and Google+ support along with a couple of other new features to BlinkFeed, but there's nothing that really compels us to use it instead of existing third-party apps like Flipboard.

Other new features to Sense 5.5 are pretty basic. An upgraded gallery with new video animations looks nice but doesn't add much the the overall experience, while there are more themes and sound options for HTC's Zoe media. HTC really needs to change a few ugly app icons, but otherwise, the user experience on the One Max is almost the same as the One and the One Mini.

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Could still use some improvement when it comes to ease of use.

Like most HTC phones, the One Max could still use some improvement when it comes to ease of use, particularly for those who haven't used an Android device before. Certain apps, including people and phone, offer more than one way of changing settings and accessing certain functions, whether it's tapping, long pressing, swiping or using the options menu. The default keyboard is also poor, particularly compared to many third party options in the Google Play Store.

Thankfully, the HTC One Max is a pretty fast and slick smartphone. We didn't encounter or experience any lag when performing basic tasks and the phone has no trouble playing even the most graphically intense games, such as EA's impressive Real Racing 3 title.

Get used to seeing this often.
Get used to seeing this often.

The performance comes despite HTC using a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, slightly slower than the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 found in some of its competitors. The phone has 2GB of RAM and comes with either 16GB of internal memory. HTC offers One Max users 50GB of additional free Google Drive online storage, which is a nice touch.

UltraPixel camera, good battery life

The HTC One Max has an identical rear camera to the larger HTC One, sans optical image stabilisation (OIS). The 4-megapixel 'UltraPixel' camera uses a custom image sensor with enlarged pixels that the company says can absorb up to three times more light than most other smartphone camera.

A photo we captured with the HTC One Max. (click to enlarge)
A photo we captured with the HTC One Max. (click to enlarge)

Very good low-light performance is a highlight.

While very good low-light performance is a highlight compared to most other smartphone cameras, photos captured with the One Max do suffer from plenty of image noise. You won't notice this if you're using your photos to upload to Facebook and Instagram but when you want to zoom or crop images the quality isn't as crisp as you would expect.

The ability to record media called "Zoe" remains on the One Max. The Zoe mode captures one second of video before you take the photo and three seconds after. It's useful for capturing an action shot which you may normally miss and the editing options are plentiful. Annoyingly, you can only share Zoe files through HTC Share, which stores them on HTC's servers for a limit of 180 days. The front-facing camera on the One Max is identical to the original one, utilising a 2-megapixel lens with an ultra wide angle. Full HD video recording shot with the rear camera remains of a very good quality.

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The HTC One Max has excellent battery life considering its large screen. During our tests the 3300mAh battery lasted around 16 hours on average before needing to be charged. Heavy users will likely need to top up the One Max before the day is out but many users should be able to get almost a full day of use out of the device before recharging.

To aid power users, HTC will sell an optional accessory called the Power Flip Case. The case has a built-in 1150mAh battery and can also be folded to act as a stand for the handset. It charges the One Max via three pogo pins on the back of the phone, so unlike traditional battery cases, the Power Flip Case doesn't need to plug into the One Max's micro-USB port.

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