Verizon has been bringing out its big Android guns lately. First the Droid Bionic, then the Droid RAZR, soon the Galaxy Nexus, and now the HTC Rezound. And this one might just be the highest caliber yet.
Why It Matters
The Rezound's got two things going for it no one else does. 1) It's the first phone in the U.S. to have a 720p screen, giving it greater pixel density than even the iPhone 4/4S (342 PPI vs 326 PPI). 2) It's the first phone in the U.S. to have Beats by Dre integration. On paper, that means it should have better sights and sounds than any other mobile phone. Throw in Rezound's dual-core 1.5GHz processor and Verizon's 4G LTE, and you've got a very serious piece of hardware.
The Rezound runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), with a promised upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in the works. While it can't match the super-thin profile of the RAZR, it doesn't feel terribly bulky. The back is plastic, but it feels thick and strong; you aren't constantly scared of breakage. It's a pretty standard HTC handset, with the added quirk that the power button and volume buttons are so flush with the bezel that they are extremely hard to press. That ends up being really annoying.
The phone comes with a set of Beats by Dre earbuds, which offer noticeably better quality than the headphones you'll find bundled with any other phone. Rezound also supposedly has some Beats by Dre proprietary audio engine, but I'm 99% sure you could reproduce the same sound on any phone with an equalizer and some patience. One of the big bummers here is that the Beats by Dre audio boost only works within HTC's stock music player, so you don't get that extra thump if you're listening to Pandora, Spotify, or any 3rd-party client. Laaaame.
The 4.3-inch screen is gorgeous—you absolutely cannot see any pixels with the naked eye. HD videos actually look HD for the first time on a phone. The blacks definitely aren't as deep as they are on a Super AMOLED display and the colors don't pop quite as much, so it may lose its best screen title to the Galaxy Nexus soon, but it's still terrific. On the audio side, the Beats by Dre tech is definitely not enough to satisfy a true audiophile, but the masses will enjoy the boost (especially in the bass). The earbuds are basically just the iBeats, which retail for $120. Pretty sweet for included earbuds. The built-in speakers were very loud and clear as well.
The Rezound has the same camera as the HTC Amaze 4G and the myTouch 4g Slide, which which means stills are great but video is just okay. There are a ton of advanced controls and filters for the photo tweaker. The HDR photos for backlit scenes are nice (though slightly blurry), and you can shoot 2x slow motion in 720p, which is a feature you typically only see on dedicated camcorders. Processor intensive applications all ran without a hiccup. Oh yeah, and this thing has excellent antennae, because I averaged download speeds of 20.4Mbps and peaked upwards of 24Mbps. That's crazy fast.
Once again, what could be such a great phone is made worse by the Sense UI that HTC has insisted on imposing. Compared with stock Gingerbread, the calendar is less functional, the music player is less functional, the whole home screen experience is slower and more complicated than it should be. The 1.5GHz dual-core helps push through some of that, but there's still lag, and it's noticeably slower than the Samsung Galaxy S II or the aforementioned Motorolas. Another big ding: no NFC radio! Why would you launch a phone so close to Ice Cream Sandwich's release without NFC? Bad call, and will be a major disappointment after the firmware update.
The Beats by Dre headphones are good, but the controls on them don't always work. Sometimes apps conflict with it (like when I was playing Need For Speed and wanted to switch songs). The buttons feel extremely cheap and plasticy. Also, why put such a good camera on there then not have a hardware camera button? Lastly, battery life is slightly better than it was on the RAZR, but it's still pretty terrible.
Should I Buy It?
It's definitely recommendable, with caveats. The screen screen is nice enough that everyone I showed it to went "Ooooh," and it's a nice boost in audio performance for those to don't have the patience to learn how to tweak it themselves (which is most of us). The caveat is that a slough of HD Android phones are coming very soon. Some won't have Sense. Some will have NFC built-in. So, if you want a new phone right now, I'd take this over any other phone on Verizon. But at this point, you're probably better off holding out for that Galaxy Nexus.
HTC Rezound Specs
OS: Android 2.3
Screen: 4.3-inch 1280-by-720 S-LCD
Processor and RAM: 1.5 Ghz dual-core Snapdragon processor / 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB internal + 16GB micro SD (can swap in a 32GB SD)
Camera: Back: 8MP/1080p HD, Front: 2MP
Weight: 170 grams / 6 ounces
Battery: 1620 mAh
Giz Rank: 3.5 Stars