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printed November 23, 2014
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Review: HTC Surround with Windows Phone 7

Form Basics Extras Video Wrap-Up Comments  10  

Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's Touch  

The HTC Surround definitely stands out from the initial crop of Windows Phone 7 devices. Where the rest are either slim slabs or equipped with QWERTY keyboards, the Surround forgoes the traditional toolset and aims for the media-minded. After all, it is pretty rare for a phone to include pop-up stereo speakers.

The Surround is big and heavy, there's no hiding it. The thickness of the Surround is necessary to accommodate the stereo speakers in a trade-off that I'd call pretty severe. Most users will expect a phone this large to come with a keyboard or something else more significant than a kickstand. Despite its enormity, the Surround feels good in the hand. HTC forged it with high-grade materials, and fit-and-finish are top notch. The rounded edges make it comfy to grip. As for pocketability, I'd caution that Surround users make sure to wear a belt.

The display consumes most of the front surface. There are but three capacitive touch keys at the bottom of the display. There are no physical markers for these three buttons; they are flush with the glass surface of the Surround. They emit haptic feedback when touched, but finding them in the dark can be nigh impossible.

Most of the action is on the right edge of the Surround. HTC is using one of its traditional long, thin volume rockers, and it is positioned closer to the top edge. If you put your thumb anywhere on the top half of the Surround's right edge, you're going to find it. Travel and feedback are a bit weak. The two-stage camera button is below the volume rocker. It is an excellent button, with perfect travel and feedback for the focusing and capturing stages of the button.

To expose the stereo speaker, just slide the top and bottom halves in opposite directions. Once you do this, you can see the thin silver grill covering the speakers. There is a button built into the grill. Pressing it cycles the Surround's sound signal processor through several presets. The timbre of the sound changes significantly when the button is pressed, but the Surround gives you no indication which setting you are leaving and which you are activating. The 3.5mm headset jack and power/lock key are up top, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. The power/lock key is easy to find and has good travel and feedback. I am glad that the microUSB port doesn't have a fussy hatch or drawer covering it. It is exposed.

The kickstand is built into the screen half of the Surround. It pops out with the slightest nudge from a fingernail. The kickstand itself and the frame that houses it are metal, and they feel fairly strong. Any determined one-year-old, however, can probably separate the kickstand from the Surround. So can you, if you accidentally smash down on it. The kickstand puts itself away when you close the two halves of the phone.

I used the Surround frequently with the kickstand out. It rests at a decent angle for watching video on the Surround's display.

The plastic back cover peels off easily enough, allowing access to the battery and the SIM card slot. There is no access to a microSD card with the Surround. You get what you get; there is no expansion of the device's memory.

 

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