HTC Rezound First Impressions

Aaron Baker
member from Dallas, TX
Published: November 14, 2011

The HTC Rezound is Verizon's second high-profile end-of-year Android launch, succeeding the Motorola DROID RAZR (by three days) and preceding the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.  On top of being the first HTC smartphone in the US to offer Beats by Dr. Dre, it has a fine feature set that should make any power user salivate: 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 4.3-inch 720p true HD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, and Android 2.3.5 with HTC Sense 3.5.  Prospective buyers are covered for updates, as HTC promises that the device will get Google's forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) update in early 2012.

With two high-end Android phones debuting within days of each other on Verizon - and another one on the way - is the Rezound a device worth looking at?  I've spent the weekend with the HTC Rezound, and while it can be sluggish at times, it's a nice handset that will appeal to certain users.  Plus it's the first Beats by Dr. Dre handset in the US and comes with a pair of iBeats headphones in the box.  Overall, it's a nice little device:

  • The build quality is - well, distinctively HTC.  You'll notice the Rezound has design cues from previous devices like the DROID Incredible, Incredible 2, and has the same plastic battery door, chrome sides, and red accents as its predecessors.  The phone is noticeably thick in comparison to the DROID RAZR, but it fits more naturally in the hand.  I'm struggling with the power button on my review unit, though - like my HD7 unit, it's a bit too recessed into the device, making it incredibly hard to press.

  • The 4.3-inch 720p HD display is absolutely astounding; it's easily the best Android display out there.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's the best display on any mobile phone at the moment (yep, even better than the iPhone).  Picture quality is fantastic and text is incredibly clear.  It definitely sets the bar for mobile displays.
  • For a device that packs a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor, Rezound lags more than it should.  It's completely inconsistent and it totally depends on what you're doing.  When scrolling through the homescreens, I see no lag, but open the app drawer or browse the web, and the phone gets too choppy for my liking.  It's noticeably slower than the DROID RAZR (whose processor is clocked lower), and part of that can be attributed to the fact that HTC's Sense user interface is incredibly resource-heavy.  It's most noticeable in the browser, but I see it when opening the app drawer and doing certain graphics-heavy tasks.  If speed is a priority, the Motorola DROID RAZR is much faster in day-to-day tasks.

  • The star feature here is obviously the Beats technology, and in my limited testing, it works really well.  The kicker is that Beats technology only works in the Music app, so if you use any other app for your tunes - Google Music, Pandora, and the like - you won't be able to take advantage of the tech.
  • Rezound offers HTC Sense 3.5 atop Android 2.3.5.  As you would expect, Sense 3.5 is a minor upgrade from 3.0, but I'm impressed with some of the subtle graphics improvements.  Those familiar with the interface will notice that menu structures have been reorganized, and there's text underneath a lot of the icons (i.e. "All apps" and "Personalize" are now under their respective icons in the dock).  As I said above, HTC made it clear at the Rezound press event that it was "Ice Cream Sandwich ready," and it's currently slated to get it in early 2012.  No word yet on how Sense (presumably version 4.0) will play into the new OS.
  • You get the usual pre-installed Verizon apps here, and I'm surprised that (a) the apps can't be uninstalled (especially the games) and (b) Verizon opted yet again to remove HTC Hub and HTC Likes, the app duo that allowed for free theme, wallpaper, ringtone, and widget downloads.  If I'm paying $300 for a cell phone, I'd like to be able to customize it and remove Hot Pursuit.
  • Like other high-end devices, it's packing an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording capabilities.  So far, the camera takes decent shots with the right amount of light, though the few I've taken in direct sunlight appear to be a bit noisy.  The camcorder takes a decent 1080p video, with audio quality that's better than previous HTC devices.

  • Rezound has a 1,620 mAh battery, which is borderline small for a power-hungry Android device.  I walked into it pretty apprehensively, considering my past criticism for the EVO 3D and Sensation 4G's 1,730 mAh pack.  As I suspected, It has a lot of things going for it, but battery life isn't one of the specialties.  With moderate use including calling, text messaging, emailing, downloading some apps, and browsing the web, I was able to make it into the evening.  I've seen worse, but if you're a heavy user or spend most of your day away from a charger, you're going to need a spare battery.
  • For those that still make calls, quality has been decent so far.  Signal strength seems to be relatively strong, and I haven't had the reception issues that I've had with some of the past high-end HTC handsets.  My callers have reported good sound on their ends, and I haven't had any issues on mine either.  Earpiece volume has been loud enough for my less-than-stellar ears, and the speakerphone worked well enough for me to call up American Express and use their automated prompts.

Despite some minor flaws, it's great to see a Beats-capable handset in the United States, and it's a good addition to Verizon's ever-growing 4G LTE lineup.  Check out the unboxing, and stay tuned for the full review!

Products mentioned