HTC One Max

The HTC One Max has a display big-screen phone shoppers want, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's superior design and display make it a better buy.

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CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

With the new One Max, HTC officially enters the burgeoning massive-screened smartphone market. Equipped with an impressive 5.9-inch display that's bright, colourful and sharp, the HTC One Max will certainly scratch the itch if you're hankering for an Android handset boasting a gigantic viewing area. Unfortunately, the phone is much too big and heavy to be practical, and the One Max's fingerprint scanner, while intriguing, didn't operate as well as I'd hoped.

In Australia, the One Max is currently a Telstra exclusive. It's available on either the consumer or business 24-month plans for AU$84 per month, with 1.5GB of data and AU$800 of included call costs. You can also purchase outright for AU$816.


To be totally honest, I wasn't always a big fan of oversized smartphones, but as the average handset chassis has steadily swelled, so too has my acceptance of massive mobile machines. I've even grown fond of some phone juggernauts, especially the impressive Galaxy Note 3. That said, when I pulled the HTC One Max out of the box, its sheer girth was almost intimidating, and I'm not a small man.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Essentially, the HTC's metallic design language, which I loved in the smaller HTC One and HTC One mini, unfortunately doesn't translate properly when upscaled to the Max's ridiculous proportions. In a nutshell, the One Max is simply too big, thick and heavy for me to enjoy using. At 165mm tall, 83mm wide and 10.3mm thick, saying the 217g One Max is a handful is a ludicrous understatement. It's over 50mm longer than the HTC One and well over 50g heavier. I also found the Max's extra weight made the phone very top heavy.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Size aside, the phone is the spitting image of the HTC One mini, complete with a silver aluminium chassis ringed by white plastic edges. It bears a strong resemblance to the HTC One as well, minus the One's unibody aluminium chassis and boasts two large speaker grilles above and below the huge 5.9-inch display.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Its back plate is made from premium aluminium and comes off to reveal a microSD card expansion slot. Just flip the switch on the phone's left edge to unlock the battery door. Don't get your hopes up about the Max's power source, though. While much larger than the One's (2300mAh) and One mini's (1800mAh), the device's 3300mAh battery is embedded and therefore not user-removable.


Much of the impulse to buy an almost tablet-size phone is to gain access to a huge display. And indeed, the One Max's LCD screen measures 5.9 inches across and sports a Full HD 1080p resolution with a sharp 367 ppi. The Max certainly showcases crisp imagery with very accurate colours. The phone's big screen also gets very bright and has respectably wide viewing angles, too.

What's new on the One Max's back panel is a smooth black square, about the size of the lens, that serves as a fingerprint scanner. The gizmo lets you log up to three fingers you can use to unlock the phone in a flash, bypassing the typical lock-screen PIN or pattern security codes.

You can also set a specific finger to both unlock the Max then launch particular apps, such as the camera, etc. While I like the idea of finger scanners, the method HTC went about could be better. Users must swipe their fingers across the print scanner for the system to operate, and all this finger sliding resulted in frustrating fingerprint read errors.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The HTC One Max phone I tested came running modern Android software, specifically Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. While its not the latest and greatest iteration of Google's operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat, Jelly Bean still packs plenty of powerful mobile features. Just like the One and One mini, grafted over Android is HTC's most recent Sense UI. This time around, though, the One Max features Sense version 5.5, and while Android skins are nothing new, Sense in my view is one of the more elegant software overlays designed by a handset maker.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

On-board the HTC One Max is the same imaging system that first made an appearance in the HTC One. Billed as an Ultrapixel camera, the 4-megapixel sensor does operate well under low-light conditions without the aid of a flash. And, like my time with the One, details in photos I snapped weren't as sharp as I've seen captured by other high-end smartphones, including the Galaxy Note 3, iPhone 5s and Nokia Lumia 1020.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

For a phone this large, I was a little disappointed that the HTC One Max doesn't offer a processor on par with its main rival, the Galaxy Note 3. Instead of a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800, under the Max's hood is a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600. Complementing this is a sizable 2GB of RAM — which I used to consider a generous helping, at least until the Note 3 hit the scene with a full 3GB.

Benchmark tests backed up my experience with the HTC One, zooming through the Quadrant test and notching a high score of 11,862. That's understandably in the same ballpark of the HTC One (12,194) and Galaxy S4 (11,381), both of which use Snapdragon 600 processors. These results don't hold much water next to what the Note 3 delivered on the same test (23,048).

On AnTuTu it was much the same: a score of 24,984 puts the Max a little under the original One and considerably behind the Note 3, which scored 32,627. The SunSpider javascript benchmark came in at 1171.3ms. Lower is better for SunSpider, and that score doesn't quite compare to the 976.8ms of the Note 3. (Although neither of them come close to the iPhone 5s' 399ms.)

Being Telstra exclusive, we tested speeds and call quality on the telco's 4G network with no surprises. Speeds were quite solid, averaging out around 38-32Mbps for downloads, and upload speed were quite high — between 22Mbps and 29Mbps. Call quality was fine, although some call recipients suggested that voices came across a little "tinny" but not in a way that affected comprehension.

Serving as the HTC One Max's power source is a high-capacity 3300mAh battery. I'm sure it played a large part in helping the handset achieve impressively long runtime. The One Max persevered through the CNET Video Playback Battery Drain test for almost 10 hours (596 minutes).


When I first learned of HTC's plans for the One Max, I was very eager to give the big phone a spin. The HTC One Max's metal chassis, however, when blown up to its huge proportions, is way too large, heavy and unwieldy. I never thought I'd sing the praises of a plastic smartphone, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's thinner and lighter footprint is simply more manageable to use.


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