Review: HTC Surround

Introduction

The HTC Surround, introduced November 9th, 2010, is a Windows Phone 7 device for AT&T (US) and Telus (Canada). The device features 16GB of internal storage and is powered by a 1 GHz Qualcomm QSD8250 processor along with 448MB of RAM. A key differentiator for this device is the speakers powered by Dolby mobile technology and SRS. For photos and videos the device features a 5MP camera and the ability to record video at 720p.

Hardware

The Surround is in my opinion, one stout phone. Weighing in at about 6 ounces, the phone doesn’t feel like it would fly out of your hand, but it is also not so heavy that it becomes a burden to hold to your ear while talking. The slide mechanism to uncover the speakers is not flimsy, but fairly tight. I haven’t used the phone long enough to determine if the slide weakens over time, but overall I’d say that the hardware itself is pretty solid. Because this phone is called the “Surround” I had to test the speakers. In my opinion, they aren’t the greatest mobile phone speakers. They are definitely louder than the ones on my HTC HD7, but the sound enhancements seem very gimmicky. If you are only considering buying this phone for the speakers, you’ll be disappointed. For video and camera quality, I was pleasantly surprised. The camera takes decent pictures, and for recording video, the quality is as good as it can be at 720p.

Software

The Surround runs Windows Phone 7, and comes stock with the original (what I call 1.0) release of the operating system. At this point, AT&T has approved the “NoDo” (Copy and Paste) update for the device, so updating the software through Zune was not an issue. For this particular device, there was an included update from HTC for the device as well, but no details were provided on what it fixes. For running Windows Phone 7, performance was very sub-par. Many times, the device would lag when a phone call was received and I had to pull the battery and reboot several times in my week of testing. I was around a few others who have also just received HTC Surrounds who were seeing these same issues. Because of this, I’m inclined to believe that the device is underpowered at 448MB. Other than these issues, the OS and apps installed on the device performed as expected with some lag due to the small amount of memory in the device.

Network

In the interest of full disclosure, the device is designed for the AT&T network, but I SIM unlocked it for use on T-Mobile, so I was limited to the EDGE network, so I can’t accurately test the performance of the phone on a 3G network. However, call quality was very clear and very loud. I had no issues hearing what callers were saying and they had no issues hearing what I was saying.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the HTC Surround is fairly decent phone. However, it is does have issues. The biggest issue that I’ve experienced is the lack of performance with the OS. The freezing and the constant lock ups make the device near unusable. For being advertised as a phone with Dolby and SRS technology behind the speakers, it’s a gimmick. Sure, the speakers don’t sound tinny, but watching a movie from Netflix on the device won’t be a magical and memorable experience. I liked the photo and video quality of the Surround, which is a major plus. I like the overall size of the device. It’s not too big, not too small, it’s just right. If HTC, Microsoft, and AT&T can all work together to solve the performance issues, I see the Surround as a great device in the Windows Phone lineup.

My rating

I give the HTC Surround 3 out of 5 stars. I like Windows Phone 7, the size and weight of the device, and the photo / video quality. The speakers are too much of a gimmick and the performance issues are a concern.

Photos

Technical Specs (as tested)

Connectivity

GSM850/900/1800/1900 MHz

Weight

6 oz.

Dimensions

4.72″ x 2.44″ x 0.54″

Battery Life

Talk: 4 hours / Standby: 264 hours

Display

3.8” LCD – 480x800px

OS

Windows Phone 7 (updated to NoDo through Zune software)

Storage

16GB internal microSD storage

RAM

448MB

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