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printed October 25, 2014
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Review: HTC Surround with Windows Phone 7

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

Screen

The Surround has a 3.8-inch display with 800 x 480 pixels. It simply looks fantastic. Colors are rich and bright. Text is smooth and free of jagged, pixelated edges. Most importantly, the Surround works great outdoors. I had no problem using the Surround as a camera on a bright, sunny afternoon. The menus and interface get washed out a bit, but the Surround's screen performs better outdoors than a number of high-end devices I've tested lately. I don't know what magic HTC sprinkled into this LCD, but it really impresses.

Signal

The Surround was able to find AT&T's 3G network with ease. Not once during my test period did I see the dreaded EDGE network make an appearance. As for signal strength, it varied widely depending on location. The lowest signal I saw was one bar and the most was five. How does that translate to real-world performance? The Surround didn't drop any calls while I tested it. I was able to connect most calls on the first dial, though I had to re-dial at least two calls. I missed one call, which went straight to voicemail rather than reach the handset. On the data side of the equation, things were pretty good. Data speeds felt on-par with other smartphones and I never noticed any freezes or other hang-ups.

Sound

It's almost like there are two different devices here: a phone and a multimedia machine. The phone is terrible. Call quality is abysmal. There was a constant hiss in the background, and calls often sounded like they were taking place through a tin cup and not a modern smartphone. The earpiece volume is absolutely anemic. It was very difficult to hear calls through the lack of volume and presence of hiss when I was anywhere other than a quiet home office. Think those stereo speakers are going to be a big help with the speakerphone? Fat chance. Audio routed to the speakers during a call was just as quiet and hissy as through the earpiece -- even with the volume turned all the way up.

Conversely, sound quality of music, movies and other multimedia through the speakers was flat-out astounding. I don't get it. Movies could be played loud enough to overcome the noise in an all-men's dormitory during the NCAA playoffs. Where the heck is the same volume for phone calls? Color me baffled.

Battery

Battery life of the HTC Surround was exceptionally good. It easily lasted an entire day with email set to sync every 30 minutes, heavy web browsing, and use of the speakers for music. With light use, it could almost make it through an entire day and all the way to dinner the next. I suppose heavy users will still charge it every night, but if you forget, you won't be up a creek without a paddle. Since the microUSB port can be used for charging, you can top off the battery during the day by plugging it into a computer if need be.

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