Name: HTC Rezound
Price: $300 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: Since HTC acquired headphone leviathan Beats By Dre a few months back, rumors started circling the Net of an Android smartphone featuring Beats audio technology. To the surprise of many, the mobile powerhouse quietly released the first-ever Beats-ready handset, called the Sensation XL, and sold it exclusively on the international market. After achieving strong sales and great reviews, the plan was in full effect to bring a brand new and more powerful rendition of the XL onto the US market. The result, a device furnished with the latest specs, and a striking redesign, was the HTC Rezound.
Boasting Beats By Dre audio technology, a monstrous processor, and the Ice Cream Sandwich OS: the Rezound bears the hardware and software aesthetics of an Android dream phone. But does HTC's device offer enough to leave Verizon subscribers in a mobile trance?
• The Beats By Dre Experience: The Rezound hows how mobile audio should be handled with the handset producing loud, clear sound and booming bass levels. In order to kick in the audio boost, users are required to enable the software feature via top-screen notification bar and plug in a pair of headphones, which comes bundled with the phone. The exclusive Beats pair offers noise-cancellation technology, as well as talk and play/pause buttons to answer calls and navigate through playlists. Though the sound quality of the in-ear buds was subpar, we ran audio tests using two other high-end headphones (Beats’ Bluetooth Wireless and V-Moda’s Crossfade LP2 headphones) and received better audio results. Overall, the Beats mobile experience was impressive and affective.
• Ice Cream Sandwich-ready and Sense 3.5: HTC is looking to keep the Rezound fresh going into 2012, launching the second Android device at the moment to come Ice Cream Sandwich-ready. And as HTC exec Jason Mackenzie mentioned during our exclusive interview (read here), once the company gets Google’s new software update in-hand, the plan is to roll it out by early next year. On top of that, the Rezound is also the second HTC phone (next to the female-targeted Rhyme) to run the new Sense 3.5 UI. Notable upgrades include new camera shooting modes (slow-motion video capture), a Facebook Chat widget, and the ability to remove homescreen panels. It’s also worth noting that users will score 5GB of free cloud storage thanks to an exclusive deal struck between HTC and Dropbox that offers the service for devices running Sense 3.5 and higher.
• Incredible all-around design: Aside from the white iPhone 4S, HTC's phone is the most attractive smartphone out. Take the alluring veneer of the Droid Incredible, along with the hard-shell rear of the EVO 3D and signature color scheme of the Beats brand, and you get the Rezound. The capacitive touch buttons light up in neon red, while the speaker and camera lens accents are brushed with a slightly darker shade that compliments the jet-black casing. Even the interior is fitted for style, fashioning everything from a red battery pack to a clear interior frame that gives a sneak peak at the hardware and wiring mechanics of the phone. It’s sharp on all ends.
• Sweet multimedia performance: Adding to its lists of inaugurals, the Rezound is also the first US smartphone to sport a 720p display thanks to its 4.3-inch Super LCD screen. Netflix and standalone videos look phenomenal. The high-resolution output makes reading Amazon Kindle titles and browsing the Net easy on the eyes. Furthermore, the rendered graphics for particular games (Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Defender) were striking. Aside from the phone’s visual attributes, the Rezound comes DLNA-enabled and supports both SRS Wow HD and 5.1 surround sound when connected to a compatible home theater. Finally, the stock music app ran smooth and allows users to stream music from nearby media servers.
• High-powered CPU: Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz dual-core processor does a great job with multitasking, especially when the music player is in action. You can run about eight different apps in the background, while running music files and downloading Android Market apps, and still navigate smoothly through the seven homescreens and menu options. The assist goes to the additonal 1GB of RAM stuffed under the hood.
• Memory galore: Between the 12GB of internal storage and pre-installed 16GB microSD card, mediaphiles have more than enough reason to leave their iPod Touch at home. A 32GB card will also work for those looking to transport bigger media libraries and files. And as we mentioned before, there's an extra 5GB to play with courtesy of Dropbox.
• Not so stellar 4G: Every LTE-enabled phone we've tested on Verizon's network has wowed us with lightening fast 4G speeds. Unfortunately, we can't say the same about HTC's newest handset, having barely reached max data speeds of up to 14Mbps throughout New York City. Yeah, that's still faster than Sprint and T-Mobile's networks, but it's nearly 8 to 12Mbps slower than our experiences with some of Big Red's more recent offerings such as the Samsung Droid Charge and warp-speed Droid Bionic.
• Mass price and weight: Considering the phone comes packaged with a pair of headphones that normally run for $180, three Benjamins might sound like a steal. But to the average consumer seeking a media player alternative or Android conformist in search of a high-end smartphone at an affordable price range, the Rezound fails to fit in. And tipping the scaled a 6.0 ounces, the handset is not what you would conisder lightweight.
• Accessing the power and volume buttons: The solid casing of the Rezound is thick to where the power button and side volume rockers are so it recessed that it's extremely frustrating to access either. Here's some advice: determine your sound settings in advance before locking the handset.
Final Say: The HTC and Beats By Dre marriage is a match made in mobile audio heaven that caters towards media-centric smartphone consumers. Beats audio integration truly enlivens the listening experience and the fact that HTC bundles the phone with a pair of exclusive in-ear headphones is pretty cool. Qualcomm’s dynamic chip gives the Rezound a boost in multimedia performance unparallel to any other smartphone, plus the generous allocation of memory and wireless support leaves room for endless entertainment options. Though the handset is a media powerhouse, its 4G service doesn’t garner similar accolades, underperforming with lower data speeds in comparison to other LTE-enable phones. That shortcoming leaves it in a two-way tie with the Droid Charge as Verizon’s best Android phone for now. Still, aside from its audio hallmarks, the Rezound offers a well-rounded Android experience that’ll leave your ear’s ringing with good vibes.