HTC Titan II (AT&T) Review

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The HTC Titan II is a good but not great Windows Phone, as its high-end camera doesn’t perform up to expectations.

(3.5 out of 5)

Pros

  • Massive screen
  • Fast LTE
  • Quality construction
  • Great voice quality
  • Windows Phone 7.5 is fun to use and works well.

Cons

  • Low screen resolution
  • Middling battery life
  • Missing many popular apps from other platforms.

The HTC Titan II ($199.99 with two-year contract) tries, but doesn’t quite succeed, to take the mantle of best Windows Phone away from the just-released Nokia Lumia 900 ($99.99, 4 stars). On paper, this is one impressive cell phone, with an incredible 16-megapixel camera, 4G LTE, and a massive screen. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t live up to expectations, and Windows Phone still has a few serious drawbacks when compared with Android and iOS. But Windows Phone is a fun, easy-to-use OS, and the Titan II (check price) is still a good phone to experience it with.

Design, Call Quality, and Apps
At 5.12 by 2.76 by 0.39 inches (HWD) and 5.2 ounces, the Titan II feels a little more expensive than the Lumia 900, thanks to the Titan II’s soft-touch coating and more prominently tapered edges. But the extra-large 4.7-inch capacitive touch screen offers just 800-by-480-pixel resolution, which is rapidly becoming the low-end standard. In a side-by-side comparison, the Lumia 900′s screen looks much more vivid, with deeper blues, blacks, and reds. The Titan II looks a bit washed out in comparison, and you can easily see the individual pixels in fonts.

A quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), tri-band HSPA+ 14.4, and single-band LTE (700MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, the Titan II is a solid performer. Over LTE in Manhattan, the phone clocked download speeds ranging from 9 to 14Mbps, and upload speeds between 3 and 4.5Mbps. Voice quality was good, and is a significant improvement over the original HTC Titan ($199.99, 3.5 stars). During testing, I heard a full, clear tone in the earpiece with plenty of gain. Transmissions through the mic were warm and clear, with good external noise rejection outdoors.

Calls sounded clear through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars). Microsoft’s TellMe-powered voice dialing worked fine over Bluetooth, although it took a few moments to fire up each time. The speakerphone sounded tinny but had decent volume, if not as much as a nearby iPhone 4. Battery life is improved over the first Titan, but still just average 5 hours and 37 minutes of talk time, which doesn’t speak well for its streaming longevity over LTE. The Lumia 900 lasts almost two hours longer on voice calls.

Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) (3.5 stars) is on board, which means this phone performs just like many other Windows Phones, thanks to Microsoft’s tight control of supported hardware. Under the hood, you get a 1.5GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 CPU—still no dual-core processors until Windows Phone 8—but the 1.5GHz chip is plenty fast for solid performance, and I didn’t see the same hiccups when accessing the Web that we did at CES using a preproduction Titan II. You also get Office document editing, built-in Exchange (but not local Outlook!) sync, smooth integration with Facebook, and solid multimedia apps. On the third-party app front, there are over 80,000 apps available in Windows Marketplace, which is a solid total. The problem is that enough specific, big-name apps are missing that you’ll feel at a loss when trying to play the same games, or use the same services, that your friends and family use.

Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
This being a Windows Phone, there’s no memory card slot, although you get 13.2 GB of free internal storage. Music tracks sounded clear through Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars). Windows Phone’s music app is fun to use, with large album art thumbnails and artist-specific wallpaper backgrounds. Standalone videos played fine at resolutions up to and including 1080p; DivX is supported, but not XviD.

Perhaps the most notable feature is the rear-facing 16-megapixel camera sensor with a dual-LED flash. Unfortunately, test photos didn’t measure up to the megapixel rating, despite their monstrous 4,640-by-3,840-pixel resolution, thanks to the Titan II’s poor optics and inexpensive plastic lens cover. Shutter speeds were very quick, coming in at under 0.1 second. But most photos I took, while detailed for a phone camera, looked a little faded, with soft focus especially in indoor environments. Recorded videos maxed out at just 720p, not 1080p, and at a not-quite-smooth 23 frames per second, just like with the first Titan. The videos looked somewhat blurry, too. You get plenty of options in the software, including panorama and burst modes, plus face and smile detection. The image stabilizer didn’t remedy the blurriness I saw in recorded videos. There’s also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.

The Titan II is a solid performer overall, and a quality phone I’d be pretty happy to own. But it’s a tough sell next to the Nokia Lumia 900 (check price), thanks to the Lumia’s more vibrant screen, slimmer design, and lower price. The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket ($199.99, 4.5 stars) is our favorite AT&T smartphone, and remains our Editors’ Choice. The Apple iPhone 4S ($199, 4 stars) offers the best app library in the business, but it’s a much smaller phone and lacks 4G support.

Benchmarks
Continuous talk time:
5 hours 37 minutes

By Jamie Lendino, PCMag


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