HTC's One Max is what happens when a phone-maker takes its best reviewed smartphone for years and enrols it on a Charles Atlas bodybuilding course.
But will this One iteration still get sand kicked in its face? Or is this the handset that finally sees HTC outmuscle the big boys? Read on to find out.
First impressions and design
Let’s make this clear from the outset: this phone is huge. We mean ridiculously big. Its 5.9-inch screen dwarfs even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. So if you’re after a phone you can use with one hand, the One Max isn’t for you.
It gives it a niche appeal – it’ll be too big for most people, but not quite big enough for anyone who wants a tablet.
It is quite a looker though, keeping the sleek aluminium finish of the HTC One. And at 10.29mm thick, it’s not too fat either.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the One Max runs its maker’s own software, in this case HTC’s Sense 5.5 on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Sense 5.5 is simple to use, and it’s very clean. It’s thankfully free of the rather amateurish-looking icons of Samsung’s Touchwiz UI, too.
The One Max is fantastic for films – the big 1,920x1,080-pixel screen is clear and bright, and the Boomsound speakers are among the best on any mobile we’ve tested.
HTC has given it fingerprint-reading skills, too. This not only unlocks the phone, but can help you jump straight to certain apps as well.
You can register three fingerprints on the phone, and assign them different apps. So swipe your index finger to go straight to the camera, say. Which is a real timesaver if you don’t want to have to faff with finding your favourite apps.
Unlike Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint-reading tech on the iPhone 5S, the scanner is on the back of the phone, so it’s a little less intuitive to use. It’s not quite as quick to register, or as reliable as Apple’s tech, either.
The One Max is powered by a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor. That’s not as fast as the Note 3, which runs Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip, clocked at 2.3GHz.
It’s not a deal breaker, and the One Max is still perfectly capable. But it is a bit of a shame. You expect big phones to be among the most powerful around, so it seems odd that HTC just packed in the same chip as in the HTC One.
The One Max boasts the same 4-megapixel camera as the One. Those megapixels are ultrapixels, which means they let in more light, making for better low-light shots. And it performs well, capturing plenty of detail even in lest well-lit environs.
It’s not going to trouble the Nokia Lumia 1020 in terms of image quality, but it is a decent effort. And those smaller file sizes are ideal for emailing and posting online.
You’ll get a good day out of the One Max, which is impressive, especially given that bigger screens usually suck the battery much faster.
The slightly out-of-date processor is the only real issue – it’s fine for the moment, but it could struggle as games become more processor-intensive. Which is something to bear in mind if you’re signing up to a two-year contract.
The One Max is free on contracts starting at £34.99 a month, or it’ll set you back £500 SIM-free. That’s not cheap, but it’s not crazy money.
But otherwise it’s a very good, very capable, and – yes – very large handset.If you’re after a big blower and don’t like the fake leather feel of the Galaxy Note 3, the One Max is ideal.