Performance and Conclusion
The One Max is powered by the same components in the One, which are the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz processor and 2GB RAM. On paper, the One Max is every bit inferior to its competitors, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra.
Although there is no real world difference in actual user experience between a Snapdragon 800 and 600 processor, it only makes sense for HTC to equip the One Max with the newer Snapdragon 800 processor as most customers want to have their money spent on a device with the latest and greatest hardware/software possible.
Potential buyers may be turned off by the fact that Samsung and Sony are able to fit in the latest generation processor in their phablets while HTC is unable to do. It gets even more frustrating when we consider the fact that HTC equipped a similar processor with a slightly faster clock speed in the Butterfly S.
Editor's note: Since news of Samsung "artificially boosting" the processor for selected benchmarks and other Android vendors guilty of such tactics broke, we encourage readers to adopt a more objective approach in assessing a phone's performance and not base everything purely on benchmark scores. The benchmark numbers merely serve as a guide.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. As expected of a Snapdragon 600 processor, the One Max is more or less on-par with the Optimus G Pro. Aside from the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's score, you can also see that the Snapdragon 800 processor powered devices have a significant lead over the Snapdragon 600 processors. What about the higher clocked HTC Butterfly S? While the similarly clocked HTC One scored about ~12400 points, the Butterfly S managed an even better figure of about 12600 points. Still, the void left between the Snapdragon 800 and 600 based devices are rather wide.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of three test sections:
- 3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
- 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
- 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
Note: We will just be reporting the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited scores as the One Max maxed out the score limit of the 3DMark Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme after a recent update to the app.
The One Max surprisingly registered a better score in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark than the similarly-spec'ed Optimus G Pro although we cannot ignore the possibility of discrepancies occurring when running the benchmark. Nonetheless, you once again can see the Snapdragon 800 processors pulling a huge lead over the Snapdragon 600 processors.
Synthetic benchmarks aside, the user experience on the One Max is unchanged from that of the original One and any other Android devices we've tested recently. We did not encounter any lags or system freezes during the past few days of usage, while navigation remained smooth and fluid.
Like the One mini and Butterfly S, the One Max lacks built-in optical image stabilization (OIS), a feature that is present in the HTC One. If the feature is missing on the One mini, we could forgive HTC as the device is not positioned as a top-tier offering.
However, as HTC's first phablet device and probably the last device for this year, the lack of OIS on the One Max is rather disappointing. Other flagship devices such as the LG G2, Nokia Lumia 1020, 925 and 920 sport this feature and we are disappointed that HTC was unable to feature it on the One Max. Granted that none of the competing phablets have OIS, HTC misses a valuable opportunity to set the One Max apart from the competition.
Having said that, the One Max is equipped with the same 4-megapixel UltraPixel rear camera with BSI, a dedicated HTC ImageChip 2, F2.0 and 28mm wide angle lens. We have done a comprehensive article on the UltraPixel camera and its performance, and hence we will not be going into great lengths about it again.
In a nutshell, the One Max's camera isn't entirely bad just because it lacks OIS. If you use the pictures for social media sharing, it is unlikely that anyone will notice the loss in image detail when viewing on their desktop browser or mobile phone. However, HTC's implementation of 'Ultrapixels' doesn't convey any significant advantage to image quality over the better camera phones of today.
*Updated on 17 October: The following sections on battery performance and conclusion have been added to complete the review.
Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:
- Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
- Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
The One Max managed to last an impressive 10 hours and 26 minutes in our battery test, which is by far the best we've seen from a HTC device and ranks second behind the Galaxy Note 3. Despite just having a slightly larger battery and a much bigger display compared to the 5-inch Butterfly S (3200mAh), the One Max could last an extra 2 hours!
Based on the Power Consumption chart, the One Max registered the second lowest power consumption at 1.20W which is significantly lower than most of the competing phablets. In comparison, the Butterfly S has a power consumption of 1.47W. We're glad to see that HTC has made significant inroads to improving the power consumption of their device.
Do note that in the case of the One Max, BlinkFeed was turned off. We are conducting another round of battery test with BlinkFeed enabled to determine if there is any significant difference in the battery mileage and power consumption.
In the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability, the One Max didn't fare as outstandingly because its massive dimensions and weight outweigh its long battery life. It still fares better than most of the competition, but unfortunately the Galaxy Note 3 still has the overall advantage.
But how did the HTC One Max fare in our real-world usage? Check out these screen grabs:-
As seen from the graph above, the One Max could last about 26 hours with 6% battery left. Some notes:
- The device logged onto a 3G network as the SIM card used does not support 4G LTE.
- The device logged onto Wi-Fi networks from time to time.
- Power saving mode was not enabled throughout the day.
- BlinkFeed was disabled.
Our typical usage scenarios include making some voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, taking some photos and sharing them on social networking sites (Facebook and Instagram), the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing. Since battery mileage varies greatly depending on usage patterns, what we've shared is just for reference from our personal usage.
Is the One Max as good as the other phablets in the market? Well, the answer isn't a resounding yes, but HTC deserves credit in some aspects that makes it one of a kind.
When it comes to design and build quality, HTC is second to none and is miles ahead of the other phablets. It's good to see HTC trying its best to keep a standard design philosophy across its One family this year. However, this comes at the expense of portability as the One Max is currently the thickest and heaviest phablet device. Given the choice of materials, these downsides are not unexpected and it's one of the main reasons some of its competitors have sighted that they can't afford to debut a non-plastic phablet device. As we've mentioned on the first page, the HTC One Max is the only phablet that uses an aluminum chassis.
The 5.9-inch display on the One Max is still one of the best in the industry although the Optimus G Pro and Galaxy Note 3 are not far behind in terms of screen quality. Another differentiating factor that the One Max has is its front-facing stereo speakers, which arguably delivers outstanding audio quality for a pocket-able device. To kick things up a notch, HTC also has a BoomBass accessory that does exactly what its name suggests - to function as a subwoofer and deliver more bass.
We also noticed that HTC considered users' feedback and added in three important features - a larger capacity battery, improved power management and a microSD card slot. The battery performance of the One Max has improved significantly from previous generations of HTC devices, and this is clearly shows in our benchmarking session and real-word usage. If you pause a moment to consider that the HTC One Max has great battery life with top notch audio delivery and a great screen to boot, the One Max could have been the perfect portable entertainment device for many. Alas, it has a few drawbacks that still weighs it down.
HTC may be the among the first to implement a fingerprint sensor in an Android smartphone and expands its functionality beyond just unlocking the phone, but compared to the iPhone 5S, the One Max misses the mark. It isn't about who does it first. It's about who does it better. Truth be told, we still prefer Apple's implementation as it's intuitive and you don't have to deal with getting acclimatized on the position of the fingerprint sensor. An annoying byproduct of HTC's design choice for the finger print sensor is that you risk smudging the camera lens glass and this might easily cost you a memorable moment from an already average imaging quality that the Ultrapixel camera churns out. Also, let's not forget the irritating soft-button layout where the home button position is off-center while the HTC logo has no function.
So who should get the HTC One Max?
At this point of time, given the options available in the market, there's an ideal phablet for every user. If you want the best looking device, look no further than the HTC One Max. For multimedia buffs who want the best portable media player experience on a phablet form factor device, HTC has got you covered again. But note that the One Max is bulky, live with the limitations of the UltraPixel camera and its software features isn't optimized for large screens.
As the first phablet device for the company, the One Max also goes up against stiff competition. The Xperia Z Ultra boasts a larger display, slimmer chassis and the latest Snapdragon 800 processor. Not to mention, it's an ideal 7-inch tablet replacement and is dust and water proof to a certain degree. Samsung, having had two generations of Galaxy Note devices prior, has baked an almost perfect phablet offering in the Galaxy Note 3 with better all-round performance, functionality and features.
Meanwhile, the Optimus G Pro is a good alternative to the One Max as both devices are powered by the same processing platform, but LG's device has been in the market for some time with far more favorable street price. Besides being the ideal budget phablet, LG also makes it convenient for users to swap out batteries on the Optimus G Pro, and in terms of imaging capability, the Optimus G Pro edges out the One Max in quality and details captured.
Pricing and availability of the HTC One Max hasn't been announced yet, but we'll make an update as soon as it's known.
*Update on 23 October 2013: The One Max (Glacier Silver) will be available in Singapore from 2 November at a retail price of $1,028 without line contract at all three telcos and selected authorized retailers. The Stealth Black model wil be available at a later date.