HTC Titan (AT&T) Review

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Pros: Big and bright display with wide viewing angles; Sturdy and elegant design; Smooth performance; Good battery life; Useful camera settings

Cons: Design too large for some; Sluggish "4G" speeds; Takes fuzzy photos in low light; Poor video call quality with Tango

Verdict: The HTC Titan sports a huge, high-quality display along with snappy Windows Phone performance, but its sheer size will turn off some.

Like a cross between a ginormous phone and small tablet, the HTC Titan for AT&T makes other Windows Phones look like Tic Tacs. Sporting a 4.7-inch display, this device gives Microsoft's lively interface a big canvas for everything from web surfing and Xbox games to watching movies. The Titan is also one of the fastest Windows Phones yet, thanks to a 1.5-GHz processor, and it features an 8-megapixel camera. Read on to find out if this phone is a big hit or literally too much to handle.

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Design

The Titan really pushes the limit of what should be considered a one-handed device. Its footprint of 5.1 x 2.8 inches meant we had to really stretch our medium size fingers to push the power button on the top of the phone. In addition, holding this device up to our head felt slightly ridiculous. On the plus side, the Titan has a fairly narrow profile of 0.4 inches. At 5.6 ounces, the Titan is heavier than the 5.3-ounce Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which has a similarly sized 4.7-inch screen, and it's much heftier than the 3.9-ounce Samsung Focus S (4-inch display). However, HTC's design feels much more solid.

Assuming you're willing to put up with its girth, you'll really like the look and feel of the Titan. It has a mostly aluminum back that's ultra-sturdy, broken up by two small bands of plastic at the top and bottom. An elegantly engraved HTC logo sits beneath the 8-MP camera, LED flash, and speaker. The back is also delightfully easy to remove if you need to replace or pull the battery; one button at the bottom of the device does the trick.

The top of the Titan houses the power button and headphone jack, and the long volume control bar and camera button line the right side. The microUSB port is on the left. Like on all Windows Phones, three capacitive buttons reside beneath the display: Back, Windows/Home, and Search.

Display and Audio

The Titan gets its name from its 4.7-inch display, which dwarfs the screen on the 4-inch Samsung Focus S. However, this panel has the same resolution as every other Windows Phone (800 x 480 pixels). We would have preferred 720p resolution, like on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or at least qHD resolution. Alas, Microsoft's OS doesn't yet support that kind of pixel density.

The Titan's panel outshone most other phones, though; its average brightness of 425 lux was higher than the Galaxy Nexus' (416 lux) and much higher than the Samsung Focus S' (183).

There are some benefits to this screen's huge size. We found it easier to make out text in articles when surfing the web without having to zoom in. The display is also large enough that two people can easily watch a movie at the same time. We enjoyed wide viewing angles and a bright picture when watching the trailer for Mission Impossible 4. However, the 4-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen on the Samsung Focus S offers better contrast and more vibrant colors.

The speaker on the back of the Titan was nice and loud when we watched that trailer, as well as when we streamed Bush's "The Sound of Winter." The sound was somewhat tinny but certainly clear enough to hear over our sink when washing a few dishes.

Keyboard

One of the benefits of the Titan's 4.7-inch screen is that it allows for a large touch keyboard layout. We never felt the need to flip this phone into landscape mode because the keys were very easy to hit in the standard portrait orientation. Like with all Windows Phones, the keyboard includes dedicated @ and .com keys to speed up typing, as well as a bevy of emoticon shortcuts for composing text messages and emails. Some might prefer haptic feedback, but we didn't miss it.

Software and User Interface

Running Windows Phone 7.5, the HTC Titan delivers all the benefits of Microsoft's Mango update. This includes improved multitasking; just press and hold the back button to see thumbnails of all your open apps. In addition, the latest software includes the ability to create groups of your favorite people (such as family or work) so you can message everyone at once or check on just their social-networking updates.

Like all Windows Phones, the Titan features a dynamic Live Tile interface that displays updates, eliminating the need for a separate notification window. You can turn almost anything into a Live Tile-- from websites and contacts to Foursquare deals--by pinning it to the Start screen. The look of the Start screen can be a little disorienting at first, but you can move tiles around or remove them to completely customize the experience.

The underlying UI is as engaging as ever, thanks to Microsoft's slick Metro-style design that gives hubs and apps a panoramic feel that invites swiping. However, the oversized font was a bit much in apps such as Outlook. We wish the Titan could fit more info on screen. (For more on Windows Phone 7.5 see our full review of the OS.)

The Start screen includes a few of AT&T's own tiles, such as U-Verse Mobile and AT&T Navigator, both of which can be removed. You'll also find a shortcut for the HTC Hub, which feels like a watered-down version of what you'll find on Android phones (weather, news, stocks, etc.).

Performance

HTC equipped the Titan with a single-core 1.5-GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and 16GB of internal memory. The Windows Phone 7.5 OS has been snappy and lag-free on every device we've tested, and that was the case here as well. Apps opened quickly, and switching between apps was fast as well. In addition, the Titan switched between landscape and portrait modes just as speedily as the iPhone 4S.

To measure the HTC Titan's performance, we first ran WP Bench, which tests CPU; memory and storage; and GPU performance. The Titan notched 98.54, which is on par with the Samsung Focus S (98.75, 1.4-GHz CPU) and well ahead of the 79.62 turned in by the HTC Radar 4G (1.2-GHz). In Benchmark Free, the Titan got the same 6.3 score in the CPU integer portion of the test, compared to just 4.7 for the Radar.

Web Browsing and Data Performance

Riding on AT&T's HSPA+ network, the HTC Titan simply can't hang with the network's 4G LTE phones, such as the LG Nitro HD and the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. Those true 4G phones averaged download speeds in excess of 15 Mbps and uploads of at least 5 Mbps. By contrast, the Titan pulled down an average of just 1.9 Mbps, and uploads were a measly 310 Kbps. You probably won't want to upload large photos or videos to Facebook unless you're on a Wi-Fi network.

When surfing the web, the Titan didn't blow us away, either. It took the phone 8 seconds to load the mobile version of ESPN.com, 11 seconds for CNN Mobile, and another 11 seconds for Yahoo Mobile. The full desktop version of NYTimes.com took 18 seconds. Smartphones with 4G LTE take about half as long to load the above sites.

The browsing experience itself could be better. We like that there's an always-accessible address bar at the bottom of the screen, but getting to tabs takes two taps, and sharing pages via social networks takes three taps.

Apps

Having recently crossed the 40,000-app threshold, the Windows Phone Marketplace has many compelling apps and games to choose from. Kids will love playing Kinectimals, a graphically rich game that lets you interact with a cub. Older gamers will enjoy the exclusive Fusion: Sentient, a strategy game that links with the Xbox Live version; you can level up your sentients on your phone.

Beyond games, you'll find essentials such as Facebook, Foursquare, Slacker, all of which leverage Windows Phone's unique Metro UI. Our favorite new app is Spotify, which lets you listen to as much music as you want for $9.99 per month. Video fans who want to stream the latest movies will like the Netflix app.

HTC bundles its Photo Enhancer, while others such as Flashlight and HTC Watch (for downloading movies and TV shows) are available for download. Pre-loaded AT&T apps include Code Scanner, FamilyMap, myWireless, Navigator, and U-Verse mobile. Powered by TeleNav, AT&T Navigator is the most useful AT&T app, which delivers turn-by-turn directions ($9.99 per month or $2.99 per day).

Zune Music and Video

As with all Windows Phones, the Titan ties into Microsoft's Zune marketplace for downloading music right from the phone. Unlimited music costs $9.99 per month.

However, you can't download movies or TV shows over the air. You need to connect the phone to a PC running the Zune software, which is annoying. You need to use this same software to sync photos and videos. For some odd reason, Microsoft still doesn't let you drag and drop files from the phone to your desktop.

Camera and Camcorder

The Titan is like a tale of two cameras. Outdoors, the 8-MP shooter captured detailed and bright images, especially of a row of motorcycles. Colors popped, and we could even make out the reflection of buildings on the front of the bikes. Indoors, the Titan fell flat, producing grainy and dim images when we didn't engage the flash. The iPhone 4S performed much better. At least the Titan started fast and fired off shots fairly quickly.

The Titan also includes a ton of settings to produce better shots, from multiple scene modes to a handful of effects (including negative and solarize). Our favorite feature is Panorama Shot, which guides you through stitching together a wide-angle image.

Our 720p camcorder footage of downtown New York City traffic was on the fuzzy side. While playback was smooth on our desktop, the picture wasn't very detailed.

The front-facing camera on the Titan works with the Tango app for video calls, but we wouldn't recommend using it. Even over Wi-Fi the other caller said he could hear only a few words, and that the audio and video was never in sync.

Call Quality and Battery Life

On our end of the line, calls on the HTC Titan sounded loud and mostly clear. However, a caller said we sounded somewhat distant when we dialed her mobile. When we called back to her landline, she said we sounded better through the speakerphone than through the handset itself.

Although the HTC Titan couldn't perform our battery test, the device delivered good endurance in everyday use. After unplugging the handset at 1 p.m., we still had 30-percent charge left by 10 p.m.

Verdict

Once we got used to the HTC Titan's size, we enjoyed using this Windows Phone on a daily basis. The large screen is bright (albeit with relatively low resolution), and we appreciated the snappy performance. We're just not sure how many people want to carry a device this big. Some will pick up the Titan and think it's overkill, especially compared to the much lighter Samsung Focus S, which is the same $199 on AT&T. The Samsung offers similar performance in a much lighter design, but the Titan has a sturdier build and significantly brighter screen. Bottom line: If you want the largest display you can find on a Windows Phone--and don't mind the girth that goes along with it--the Titan won't disappoint.

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Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptopmag.com, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Carrier AT&T
Form Factor Candybar Touchscreen
Operating System Windows Phone 7.5
Networks GSM/EDGE: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; UMTS: 850/1900/2100 MHz
Data HSPA+
CPU 1.5-GHz
RAM 512MB
Internal Memory 16GB
Memory Expansion Type none
Display (main) 4.7 inches/800 x 480
Display (secondary)
GPS Yes
Bluetooth Type Bluetooth 2.1 EDR with A2DP
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Front Camera Resolution 1.3MP
Camera Resolution 8 MP
Audio formats supported AAC
Audio formats supported MP3
Audio formats supported M4B
Audio formats supported M4A
Audio formats supported eAAC+
Audio formats supported AMR
Audio formats supported WMA
Audio formats supported AAC+
Audio formats supported WAV
Talk / Standby Time 4 hours/14 days
Size 5.1 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches
Weight 5.6 ounces
SAR Rating (Head)
SAR Rating (Body)
Company Website http;//www.htc.com