HTC Titan II (AT&T) review:

HTC Titan II (AT&T)

Entertainment plays a big role in Windows Phone too, with Microsoft's Zune music service and Xbox Live built into the core of the OS. With Bing search I was even able to listen to music playing in the background, tag it, then have the option to buy the track directly from the Zune store.

With the sharpest image sensor that I've ever seen gracing a smartphone, the HTC Titan II's 16-megapixel camera raised high expectations. The handset certainly offers a wealth of features and settings such as smile capture, face detection, manual ISO, burst mode, and panorama, plus a heap of special scene modes. The Titan II's camera is nimble too, with its autofocus taking less than a second to lock on to subjects and a shot-to-shot time just as brief.

By all means I expected to be blown away by the images I captured with the Titan II. Surprisingly, though, in early testing they seemed on par with pictures I snapped with the Nokia Lumia 900's 8-megapixel camera. When I pit the Titan II against the Lumia 900 in deeper photo testing, however, it quickly became clear that the Titan II indeed has a better camera system. Images had more accurate and lifelike color, plus low-light performance was quite good. In both additional indoor and outdoor tests, the Lumia 900 painted shots with an unattractive blueish tint. Take a look at my Titan II vs. Lumia 900 camera shootout for more details.

The HTC Titan II's 16-megapixel camera produced sharp images but had a yellowish tint in our still-life test shot.

The Nokia Lumia 900 snapped the same scene with more pleasing hues.

Out on the hectic streets of NYC, the HTC Titan II captured crisp shots of these fast-walking New Yorkers.

Due to its lower reliance on multitasking, for good or ill Windows Phone 7.5 doesn't need a lot of processing overhead to run. As a result, the WP7 devices I've used all typically perform with the same amount of pep. The HTC Titan II is no different, and the handset flipped through its smoothly animated menus and apps with authority. I never observed a lag or hiccup during my short time testing the phone.

Equipped with a 1,730mAh battery, HTC says the Titan II should hum along for 14 days on standby, provide up to 4 hours of continuous talk time, and play audio for 20 hours straight. In my experience, the device should hold its charge for a full workday, but with a screen this big I advise plugging it in overnight.

As it's one of the first two Windows Phone devices out of the gates with LTE 4G (the other being the Lumia 900), I was very curious about how much bandwidth I could squeeze out of the HTC Titan II. And I have to say, I'm impressed with the results I saw. The handset managed a swift average of 16Mbps for downloads and 5.1Mbps up. That's on par with what fellow CNET reviewer Jessica Dolcourt and I got out of the Lumia 900.

HTC Titan II call quality sample Listen now:

As for audio quality, calls made with the HTC Titan II on AT&T's network in New York were acceptable and in line with other devices on the carrier's network. There was a slight background hiss, but in general callers said that I sounded clear and without any distortion. People on the other end could tell I was dialing from a mobile line, but that's not unusual.

Under most other circumstances, the $199.99 HTC Titan II would be a strong challenger to even robust Android machines. Its 16-megapixel camera certainly sets it apart from the field of typical smartphones with standard 8-megapixel sensors. These aren't ordinary times, however, especially with Nokia making an overtly aggressive, and some say last-ditch, WP7 push. And at just $99, the Nokia Lumia 900 has a more attractive screen, similar performance, fast LTE 4G, the same Windows UI, and a pretty good camera. What's more, it looks a heck of a lot more interesting.

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