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HTC One Max review

 Review: October 2013  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The HTC One Max scales up the HTC One with a massive 5.9 inch screen. But the size and weight of this device mean that you'll need heavy-duty pockets to carry it!

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HTC has taken the HTC One, a serious contender for Phone of the Year and rated 5 stars by our users, and has super-sized it. They've taken it to the max; they've maximised everything. It's a maxed-out, maxed-up, maximum impact, maxy phone!

Design & looks

When HTC launched the HTC One back in March 2013, it was obvious that the One was something unique. Crafted from aluminium and "Infinity Glass", with curved, tapered edges that made the phone seem super-slim, it was love at first sight for many. And those twin front-facing speakers with their sexy grilles and booming bass were the icing on the cake. The HTC One Max is just the same - the only difference being that it's a lot bigger and heavier.

On the rear you'll find a Fingerprint Scan that unlocks your phone with a swipe. It's not quite as simple as the iPhone 5s's version, but it's a bonus feature that might win some fans.

We've seen a slew of super-sized Android phones in recent months - the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra being the best - and the HTC One Max sits roughly in the middle when it comes to screen size. The 5.9 inch full HD 1080p screen is gorgeous and one of the best we've seen. It's twice as big as the screen on the iPhone 5s! Just watch a full HD video to truly appreciate what this screen is capable of. Gamers and heavy web users will also appreciate the benefits of the big screen, as will anyone who uses their phone a lot for, well, anything really.

The price to be paid for this extra space is of course the size of the device. As you'd expect, it's a lot bigger than the HTC One, but it's also significantly larger and heavier than the Galaxy Note 3, thanks to those dual speakers and relatively wide edge bezel around the screen. The Xperia Z Ultra has an even bigger screen and is physically the largest of the three devices, but it's also much, much thinner than the One Max.

There's no doubt about it - the HTC One Max is a big and heavy device, but it's also very sexy and impressive to look at.

BlinkFeed & HTC Sense 5

The One Max runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, overlayed with HTC's Sense 5.5 user interface mods. These include BlinkFeed, which replaces the boring old Android home screen with content streamed from sources like facebook, twitter, calendar events and news feeds. It looks a little like, dare we say it, Windows Phone 8. And that's no bad thing.

Apart from BlinkFeed, Sense 5 takes a step back, in recognition that Android is maturing as a user interface and that HTC no longer needs to do as much tweaking as it used to. You won't find Locations, Footprints or the various HTC hubs.

There is another new feature though. The new Sense TV app lets you use your phone to watch the telly. You can use your phone as an infrared remote to control the TV and home cinema kit. The app includes a programme guide and will notify you when your favourite TV programmes are on.

Performance - at the lower end of fast

The One Max uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor as the HTC One running at 1.7GHz. The 2GB of RAM is the same too.

Now this is a fast processor, don't misunderstand us, but it's where the state-of-the-art was 6 months ago. And when it comes to speed, things move fast. The Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra both have Snapdragon 800s clocked at 2.3GHz, so that's quite a lot faster than the One Max. It feels like a step back in time.

The memory setup for the One Max is different from the HTC One. Whereas the One had 32GB of non-expandable memory, the One Max comes in 16GB and 32GB versions, both with a memory card option enabling you to add up to 64GB more. The 64GB expansion will enable you to store all your stuff without worry.

UltraPixel camera

Yep, the controversial UltraPixel camera is still here! You've probably heard the theory behind this camera - increasing the number of megapixels is pointless if the camera sensor isn't big enough to handle them, so why not decrease the number of megapixels and get better low-light camera performance? That's what HTC bravely did with its UltraPixel camera.

The camera is equipped with a BSI sensor (for capturing shadow detail), has a dedicated ImageChip 2 (for fast processing), an f2.0 aperture (to let in lots of light) and a wide 28 mm lens (so it doesn't cut your friends' heads off). There's also Optical Image Stabilisation and a smart flash that varies its brightness according to the distance from the subject. One-press continuous shooting and VideoPic enable you to take multiple photos and to extract a still image from a video.

HTC may talk a good theory about its UltraPixel camera, but the end result in our tests is a fail. The low-light performance of the camera is certainly good, but it's not as good as the Sony Xperia Z1 or the Nokia Lumia 1020. And when it comes to zooming in, the 4 megapixel images captured by the HTC just don't have the resolution. This is not a bad camera, but it's not as good as other high-end camera phones, and we don't expect the UltraPixel concept to show up in next year's phones from HTC.

One cool idea is that the camera captures a 3 second video at the same time as taking a pic, so your photo album becomes, in HTC's words, a living, breathing gallery. It's called Zoe and it sounds a bit like the magical photos in Harry Potter! Zoe also compiles these 3 second clips into 30 second music videos that you can upload and share.

The new Dual Capture mode lets you create a picture in a picture using both cameras, and HTC Scribble lets you draw on your photos.

The camera also records video at 1080p full HD resolution, with a slow motion option. A 2.1 megapixel front camera with HD video completes the package.


The HTC One and the One Max both excel when it comes to sound. HTC's marketing guys talk about something called BoomSound. We think this is just a fancy name for the front-facing stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers. But whatever it is, it works. You'll get pumping sound from those twin speakers, and plenty of bass considering that this is just a phone. Don't throw away your subwoofer just yet, but you'll certainly get a lot more from these speakers than you're used to on a phone.

In addition there's a HDR Microphone. Dual built-in microphones detect ambient noise and dynamically boost the in-call voice to compensate.

4G & connectivity

As you'd expect, the One Max supports 4G LTE, giving it data access speeds of up to 100Mbps. It can also handle HSPA+ for 42Mbps max downloads on a 3G network.

Connectivity options are comprehensive with Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack and DLNA support.

Battery life

Battery power has definitely been maxed up. The One Max has the largest battery on any smartphone we've reviewed. At 3,300 mAh it's just ahead of the Galaxy Note 3 and is enough to power a medium-sized town for a month. Alternatively, it will let you make calls on your One Max for a full 24 hours non-stop.


There are many things we love about the HTC One Max. Its unique design is gorgeous, and the screen is to die for. Audio quality is tops, and battery life is a star. We like what HTC has done with Android, and there are a lot of nice camera features.

But there are rational reasons why we couldn't quite give the phone 5 stars. Firstly there's the size. It's just too big and too heavy for comfort. Samsung and Sony have shown how to make a phablet - the Samsung is smaller and lighter than the HTC and the Sony is so much slimmer. When you're pushing the size to the max, these factors are important. Secondly, HTC lags a generation behind Samsung and Sony when it comes to the processor. Thirdly, there's that UltraPixel camera that we just can't bring ourselves to love despite the charms of Zoe.

So, despite this being on paper an obvious 5 star phone, despite the HTC One being probably the favourite smartphone of 2013 among S21's users, we hope we've made a convincing case why scaling-up isn't always a formula for success and why you should prefer the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - our top choice for super-sized smartphone in 2013.

HTC One Max features include:

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HTC One Max user reviews

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Average rating from 4 reviews:

Reviewed by Chris W from United Kingdom on 3rd Mar 2016
I have just had a 20 month old One Max go into a bootloop from which it progressively just bricked. Very disappointing but not unheralded as the phone had become increasingly slow and frequently rebooting itself.

I won't be buying another phablet and indeed have just purchased an LG Nexus 5x as I have been so pleased at the performance of the Google Nexus 5 I purchased 6 months before the HTC One Max and which is still performing flawlessly.

Reviewed by Chris from UK on 30th Aug 2014
I recently bought an HTC One Max to replace a HTC One X that was ageing - the battery was heating up on charginging.I also took advantage of HTC UK stock clearing these phones and effectively bought it a half-price.
With only the 1.7Mhz Quad-core processor I suspected it might be slow which it is compared to my Google Nexus 5 but that comparison is unfair because the soft-ware processing load on the Nexus is much less than the One Max.
In fact the HTC One Max is fine and has just been updated to Android 4.4.2 and with Sense 6.0.In use I find the size no problem since I have always carried my phones in a shoulder bag as I customarily carry little in pockets.I have no problem in using it to handle calls either and on loudspeaking - the quality is fine because the sound is amplified through the excellent speaker system of the phone.The HTC One Max is not a phone you can stuff into the back pocket of your jeans which is a dubious practice anyway - a sure recipe to lose your phone.
The phone's speed is excellent and with 2Gb for processing and 16 Gb for apps with in my case ,a 64Gb Micro-SD card inserted I have all the memory I could want for both music & pictures. For those who like me bought the phone through HTC's latest offer - well done - we got a bargain :-)

Reviewed by william from uk on 20th Dec 2013
5 star phone yes its big but then there are bigger phones on the market to say one is to big then say another is ok to be big is down right stupid and poor judgement the cpu is yes the older slower one but then it doesnt lag like samsung phones so speed isnt everything just look at the htc one and how fast it flys with no lag

Reviewed by Sean from UK on 2nd Nov 2013
I bought it a couple of days ago as my upgrade from a Note 2. No regrets. Love the software and amazing battery life. The speakers are perfect for watching movies and the build quality better than Samsung by miles.
I did consider the note 3 but held it and found it tacky. I hardly used the pen so perhaps the note series was not for me. Also the Samsung had a silly sticker on warning that it can only be used in the EU? What's all that about? I saw that and it just put me off . I want to use any SIM card in my phone anywhere and that's always a priority for people who travel frequently.
The camera is ok nothing special. General performance is excellent and the screen is a major selling point and I have no need to buy a tablet. Size wise there are no issues as it comfortably slips into my trousers or blazer pockets. Overall looks great and works flawlessly!

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