HTC One Max review

10 Jul 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

A huge phone with a great screen, but the camera is poor and performance only middling for the price


Android 4.3, 5.9in 1,920x1,080 display

When designing their latest phone/tablet hybrids, phablets, or simply huge smartphones - whatever you want to call them - manufacturers seem to take a number of different approaches. With its Samsung Galaxy Mega, for example, Samsung created a 6.3-inch monster with a lower-resolution screen than the 5-inch Galaxy S4, but at a lower price. Sony went the other way with its 6.4in Z Ultra, which kept the 1080p screen of the Xperia Z1 for a reasonable premium. And then of course there's the latest version of the original phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is different again thanks to its stylus. With the HTC One Max, HTC seems to have simply taken an HTC One and made it bigger and more expensive.

HTC One Max

It's quite remarkable how similar the One Max looks to the smaller model. Both have all-metal bodies, with a white strip around the edge and various white strips on the rear. On the front, both phones have silver speaker grilles top and bottom and a front-facing camera at the top-right. Nestled under the camera at the rear is a fingerprint reader. This works differently to the reader build into the iPhone 5S , which can unlock the phone and authorise purchases from the App Store. The One Max's reader, on the other hand, can learn up to three different fingerprints, which can either just unlock the phone, or unlock it and launch an app. We found the position on the back of the phone wasn't as convenient as having it at the bottom ready for your thumb, as on the iPhone 5S, but it's certainly a more secure way of unlocking a phone than using a passcode or unlock pattern.

HTC One Max

The One and One Max have the same major internal components, with quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processors running at 1.7GHz and 2GB RAM. This leads to performance which, while strong for early 2013, now looks decidedly mid-range. The One Max completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in 1,182ms, which compares poorly to the Snapdragon 800-equipped Xperia Ultra's 860ms, and the 706ms of the up-to-the-minute Google Nexus 5.

The One Max shipped with Android 4.3 and HTC is now pushing an update to Android 4.4 KitKat. It isn't able to run Android with the same effortless smoothness as we’ve seen on Snapdragon 800 smartphones; the animation when opening up the app tray is slightly jerky, for example. We also found there was a slight hesitation between flicking our finger to move around a web page and the page starting to move, but this didn’t really affect how much we enjoyed surfing the web.

In the 3DMark benchmark, the One managed 6,928 in the Extreme test, which is looking a bit weedy considering the phone's price; the Xperia Ultra walks all over it with 17,899. The One Max is still significantly quicker than the cheaper Galaxy Mega, which saw just 2,782 in the same test. We noticed the slower 3D performance when playing games; Real Racing 3 was noticeably less smooth than it was on a Google Nexus 5, for example.

The update to Android 4.4 KitKat does give the One Max some much needed new features. Compared to Android 4.3 the latest version of the operating system is slicker and runs faster. There's also full support for Google Now. This lets you control the phone using your voice for things like making calls, sending messages and searching the web. 

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Avoid like the plague! In 3 months I have had 5 faults, returned it twice, last time took 21 days! Promised a call by HTC "Escalations" twice and no one has bothered to contact me. Power socket failed, auto brightness not working, speakers distorting, microphone poor, and random crashes followed by it switching itself on when just sitting on a desk. Add to that appalling battery life and poor build quality.

Power socket failure and switching itself on and appalling battery life, could all be related, perhaps

A while ago my 2 year old original Note started switching itself on at random, and running down its battery (and getting warm) as a result. It behaved as if it was continuously being taken on and off charge, as if I were forever inserting and then removing the USB charge lead (the phone switches on when the power lead is removed or de-powered).

Eventually I traced the fault to detritus in the phone's USB socket shorting the pins. It was a right beach to clean out - I thought a quick blast of air, but it was far more stubborn, which did make me doubt my diagnosis. But after peering in with a torch and magnifying glass to confirm and fiddling around with the plastic toothpick from a Swiss Army knife, at last the problem was sorted.

Hi Toboev, thanks for the reply, well done for tracking this tricky fault down. Sadly this was not the case with mine. The first time it went back was with among other things, a faulty USB socket . The second time was a few weeks later when it started re-setting itself and I had to wait 22 days for it to be returned as the were "Awaiting parts"!
At least some one from the escalations team called me back and was very helpful. He promised to completely replace the phone with a new one if it should go wrong again so due credit to HTC for this.
I find my self switching off all the features that make it a "Smart phone" just to get a days use out of it. If I do the same with my old RAZR Maxx XT910 I could 3+ days from it! I have all the saving features on.