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HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless) review: HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)

HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee

Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

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CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell contributed to the Beats Audio portion of this review.

HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)
8.3

HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The <b>HTC Rezound</b> has a gorgeous 4.3-inch 720p HD display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and Verizon's 4G/LTE speeds. It ships with a pair of Beats earbuds along with a Beats Audio algorithm designed to enhance audio quality.

The Bad

The HTC Rezound is quite bulky and call quality could be better. The Beats Audio software can only be toggled in the Music app.

The Bottom Line

While it may have a hefty build, the HTC Rezound's beautiful display, commendable performance, and multimedia-rich features make it a top phone for Verizon customers.


Photo gallery:
HTC Rezound

The HTC Rezound is one of three hot new Android handsets headed to Verizon this holiday season--the other two are the superskinny Motorola Droid Razr and the Google-approved Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It's an embarrassment of riches for Verizon customers: they're all top-of-the-line phones with dual-core processors, support for Verizon's 4G LTE network, and features galore.

What sets the Rezound apart from its brethren, however, is that it is the first U.S.-bound handset with Beats Audio Technology, which HTC developed after it bought a majority stake in Dr. Dre's Beats Electronics. The phone ships with a pair of Beats Audio earbuds that are supposedly worth around $100 on their own. When they are plugged into the Rezound, the phone will instantly recognize them as Beats earbuds and the user will then be able to boost the sound via a special Beats Audio algorithm.

The Rezound is a rather hefty phone, but it's also blessed with an amazing 720p HD display that showcases HTC's attractive Sense 3.5 user interface. It sits atop the Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread OS, but HTC has promised that Ice Cream Sandwich will be available for the Rezound "early next year." It also boasts an impressive 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 sensor, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor, 1080p HD video capture, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and of course support for Verizon's 4G LTE network.

Design
Out of all the 4G LTE handsets we've handled, the Rezound is probably the bulkiest. At 5.08 inches tall by 2.58 inches wide by 0.54 inch thick, the Rezound is undeniably beefy, and at 5.78 ounces, it's not that light either. The flip side to such heft is that it feels fairly solid in the hand. Clad in a matte soft-touch material similar to the coating on the Incredible and the Incredible 2, the Rezound has rounded corners and a topographic back cover that adds character to an otherwise simple slab. There's a wide island of ridges on the back to help with grip. The narrow bezel and tapered edges helped our small hands hold the phone without much discomfort.

The HTC Rezound has a gorgeous 4.3-inch Super LCD display with 720p HD resolution.

Similarly to the first Droid Incredible, the insides of the phone are red, which complements the phone's red and black coloring. Sure, no one will notice it unless the cover is taken off, but we appreciate HTC's attempt at making the phone beautiful inside and out. HTC carries the touch of red to other parts of the phone, like the ring around the camera lens, the speaker grille, the touch sensor lights, and the wired cord of the Beats earbuds. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Beats logo has the same color scheme as well, and is prominently placed on the battery cover.

All eyes will likely focus on the Rezound's stunning 4.3-inch Super LCD display instead, however. The display boasts 1,280x720-pixel resolution, which places it at 720p HD quality. Frankly, it's simply gorgeous. Images and text are buttery-smooth, with amazing clarity and vivid colors to boot. The colors look almost painted on. Video looks luscious on such a generous screen size, and browsing the Web is a treat.

The capacitive touch screen felt very responsive, thanks to the Rezound's 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor. There's a slight lag when scrolling through the browser, but on the whole, we were pleased with the snappiness we experienced when swiping and tapping. It offers pinch-to-zoom as well as a built-in accelerometer, light sensor, and proximity sensor. The LCD display does wash out slightly under the bright sunlight.

Like the HTC Rhyme, the HTC Rezound runs HTC Sense 3.5. This includes a new lock screen that provides instant access to four of your favorite apps--simply slide the appropriate shortcut over the metal ring and it'll launch immediately. Other welcome improvements include a three-dimensional home screen carousel, refined widgets, and the ability to add and remove home screen panels--you can have up to seven home screens overall. The main menu is divided into all apps, frequently used apps, downloaded apps, and Verizon apps.

Beneath the display are the usual four touch-sensitive controls for the home, menu, back, and search functions. On the right spine is the volume rocker, while the Micro-USB charging port is on the left. The Micro-USB port doubles as an MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) port that you can hook up to an HDMI adapter. The 3.5mm headset jack sits on top. The front-facing 2-megapixel camera is located on the upper-right corner of the display and the rear 8-megapixel sits on the back along with the LED flash.

Beats Audio experience
The Monster Beats brand has found its way into this phone in two ways. First, there's the included pair of Monster Beats in-ear headphones. These headphones come with all the expected Beats branding, red cable, and multiple ear fittings, as well as on-cable track control buttons and a microphone for taking calls. They sound great, though we wouldn't confuse their flimsy design with Monster's more durable $149 Dr. Dre Tour in-ear headphones.

The HTC Rezound ships with Beats Audio earbuds along with special software that helps boost the audio.

The second part of HTC's Beats infusion is a software button that toggles a sound enhancement effect on and off. The enhancement boosts the audio's volume, the bass is deepened, and the audio simply sounds rounder and fuller. This button is accessible from the notifications pull-down while you're playing music in the stock Music app, but, oddly, the button isn't available in other multimedia apps, including Google's own Music app (a separate but worthwhile download). Still, the Beats enhancements seem to carry over sonically to any running multimedia app, but only the stock Music player will afford you the displeasure of hearing the enhancement disengaged.

If you're buying this phone strictly on the basis of its superior sound quality, you may want to reconsider. Any comparable smartphone will be able to step up to this same sound quality with an investment in some high-grade headphones, which you'll probably end up buying anyhow, since the included headphones use a cable design that seems designed to fail.

Features
The HTC Rezound ships with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, which brings plenty of user interface improvements to Android 2.2 Froyo before it. As with all Android phones, the Rezound has support for Google's array of apps and services, many of which are preinstalled on the phone. They include Gmail, Google Talk, Google Search with Voice, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Books, Places, Latitude, and YouTube. Essential smartphone tools are also present, such as the usual phone and PIM tools like a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a task manager, a to-do list, voice command support, and a speakerphone.

In addition to the Rezound's support for 4G LTE (which we'll get to in the Performance section), the phone has other connectivity features like Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and Wi-Fi. You can use the Rezound as a mobile hot spot for up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices, but bear in mind that the mobile hot-spot option costs around $20 extra per month. As we mentioned earlier, you can use an MHL-to-HDMI adapter to hook the phone up to an HD television. The Rezound also supports 5.1 surround sound and SRS Wow HD surround when hooked up to your home theater. You can also send your media wirelessly to a DLNA-compatible television.

HTC and Verizon have packed the Rezound with plenty of preinstalled apps, which some might characterize as bloatware. They include Amazon.com's Kindle app, Blockbuster, Facebook, Footprints, Friend Stream, Hot Pursuit, Let's Golf 2, Polaris Office, Scan (a QR code scanner), Slacker radio, Video Surf, NFL Mobile, My Verizon Mobile, Mobile IM, V Cast Music, V Cast Videos, and VZ Navigator. There's also Visual Voicemail, which costs $2.99 a month. Unfortunately there's no option to uninstall these apps.

Like other HTC smartphones, the Rezound ships with HTC Watch, HTC's video download and rental service. You can rent or purchase TV shows and movies. Rental prices range from $2.99 to $3.99, while purchase prices range from around $8.99 to $14.99 for movies. We weren't able to check TV show prices with our review unit.

The HTC Rezound ships with the standard Android music player, which isn't a bad thing. The music is sorted via artist, album, and genre, and you can create and edit your own playlists. The phone comes with 16GB of onboard memory along with a 16GB preinstalled microSD card for you to store your music on. It supports up to 32GB cards if you want even more space.

Another notable feature of the Rezound is its 8-megapixel camera. It inherits the camera of the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide, with its f/2.2 and 28mm wide-angle lens with a BSI (backside-illuminated) sensor. The BSI sensor is there to improve the camera's performance in low-light conditions, and purports to improve the image's dynamic range. There's also a dual-LED flash for the darkest conditions. The camera has tons of features like automatic face detection, panorama mode, and burst shot. You can read our review of the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide for more on the camera's features.

The HTC Rezound takes good pictures overall, but low-light photos were a touch dimmer than we would like.

Picture quality on the whole was very good. Images of the great outdoors were crisp and bright, with vibrant colors. Low-light photos were sharp enough, but they seemed a little dimmer than we would like. Shutter speed was a bit inconsistent--at times we would get no shutter lag, while there were times when it would hesitate a little before snapping a photo. The camera can also record 1080p HD video. We weren't able to give the camcorder a full spin, but the short video clips that we captured looked good--we noticed very little blur or pixelation.

Performance
We tested the HTC Rezound in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was average. On our end, callers sounded decent enough, with good volume and clear voice quality. We did detect the occasional static hiccup in the background, but it was not distracting.

Callers could hear us loud and clear as well, but they said our voice quality was heavily distorted, and did not sound natural at all. They also heard odd audio fluctuations in the background at times. In speakerphone mode, callers said we sounded distant and soft, and we had to speak up more often than not.

HTC Rezound call quality sample Listen now:

We were very impressed with the data speeds exhibited on the HTC Rezound. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of around 18Mbps and upload speeds of around 9Mbps. We loaded CNET's mobile page in 6 seconds and the full CNET home page in 14 seconds. We streamed YouTube videos in high quality with almost no buffering. The 1.5GHz dual-core processor resulted in zippy navigation, and we launched most apps without lag. The accelerometer took barely a second to kick in, and multitasking felt seamless.

The HTC Rezound has a 1,620mAH battery. We'll have to run more tests to judge its actual talk time. Anecdotally, however, the battery seems to drain fairly quickly after a solid few hours of playing music, surfing the Web, and streaming video.

According to the FCC, the HTC Rezound has a digital SAR of 0.427 watt per kilogram.

Conclusion
The HTC Rezound definitely holds its own against the other two Android superphones from Verizon. It has an amazing HD display, an impressive 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4G LTE speeds, a great camera, and plenty of multimedia features, and it ships with a nice pair of earbuds even if they don't seem the most durable. The Beats Audio software does boost the sound quality, but we're not sure if that should be the sole reason for purchasing the Rezound. We're also suspicious of its battery life, and its hefty build might put off those who want a slimmer handset. Yet, its powerful features and unique design could be enough for you to drop $299.99 after a two-year agreement for it.

HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)
8.3

HTC Rezound (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8