HTC Rezound: The First Phone With Beats Audio Is A Pricey Speed Demon [REVIEW]

This Holiday season, Verizon has three top of the line super phones in its roster: The Motorola Droid Razr, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and the HTC Rezound.

All three run on the carrier’s snappy LTE network, and all three cost a whopping $300 on contract. (Unless the rumours are true and the Galaxy Nexus winds up selling for $200 instead.)

I’m wary to recommend a $300 phone, even if it is LTE. I don’t think it’s enough to justify an extra hundred bucks. However, I can see the appeal. For many, paying the $100 premium over the iPhone 4S is more than worth it for faster data speeds and killer specs.

I spent a week using the HTC Rezound, the company’s first phone with Beats Audio integration. Out of the three phones I just mentioned, the Rezound is probably my least favourite. That doesn’t mean it’s horrible. But there’s a lot you should know before you run out and buy it. Keep reading for my full review.

Or click here for photos of the HTC Rezound >
Hardware And Design
The Rezound is massive. It’s heavy as hell and appears to be nearly twice as thick as the iPhone 4S. Even when I handed it to my friends to try they remarked on how heavy it was. (One of my friends has an original Motorola Droid, which is built like a tank. If she says the Rezound is heavy, then you know it must be true.)

But my biggest pet peeve with the design is the buttons. The volume and power buttons are almost flush with the phone’s casing, making it extremely difficult to press down. Yes, it makes the design look slick and smooth, but HTC made a huge sacrifice in functionality to do that. Annoying.

htc rezound volume buttons

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

The phone does feel comfortable to hold though, with a raised, rubbery backing that takes a lot of design cues from 2010’s original Droid Incredible. It even has the same racecar red accents around the camera and speaker.

Under the hood, the Rezound has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. That translates to incredible speeds for games, apps, video etc. (More on that later.) The phone comes with a 16 GB Micro SD card on top of 16 GB of built-in storage, which should be enough to hold music, apps, and video. I admit that all that storage does help justify the $300 price tag, but I wish HTC had a 16 GB option or a model that doesn’t ship with the extra SD card to keep the cost down.

The 4.3-inch screen (1280 X 720 resolution) displays 720p HD video, which is pretty impressive for a smartphone. Video looks great, but I didn’t notice a huge difference over what I’ve seen on the iPhone 4S or Galaxy S II.

htc rezound full back cover off

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

I also like how HTC added a clearish red plastic underneath the battery cover so you can see the phone’s guts when it’s open. It’s clear this phone was designed to appeals to dudes.

Thanks to the monster processor and 1 GB of RAM,  switching between home screens is buttery smooth and apps launch almost instantly. I really did notice a difference over HTC’s other single-core phones from earlier this year.

As always, Verizon’s LTE network is incredible, the best I’ve ever used. Due to my Holiday travel, I was lucky enough to test the network in New York, New Jersey, and Houston. All three locations had solid performance. Even when I had just a few bars of signal, the data speeds were incredible.

I also used the Rezound as a hotspot for my laptop and got download speeds up to 15 Mbps and upload speeds up to 6.5 Mbps. That’s pretty insane, even for a wired connection. But don’t think Verizon LTE will be replacing your cable modem any time soon. Data speeds can vary wildly depending on location and how many people are using it at one time.

The Rezound’s camera is pretty standard when compared to other premium smartphones: 8 MP, 1080p video recording, etc. But I did like HTC’s new camera software. It loads almost instantly, and there’s no shutter lag. You also get a bunch of Instagram-like filter options for your photos. (My favourite is “auto enhance,” which really makes photos look a lot better.)

htc rezound camera filters

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

Unfortunately, all this incredible hardware and data performance come at the cost of battery life. It’s atrocious. The Rezound’s battery steadily drains even when its in standby. Pretty annoying. While poor battery life is a symptom of any LTE phone, HTC seems to have the worst track record. (Think back to the Thunderbolt.) If you decide to buy the Rezound, prepare yourself.

As with all HTC phones, I’m still in love with the company’s Sense skin. It’s simply unmatched by anything but stock Gingerbread. Even better, HTC promises to have an Ice Cream Sandwich update ready for the Rezound by early 2012. I hope HTC and Verizon can stick to that target. I’m looking forward to the next version of Sense for ICS.

Beats Audio
One of the biggest draws for the Rezound is its Beats Audio integration. There’s a pretty big debate going on among audiophiles as to whether or not Beats headphones provide the best sound quality. I’m not qualified enough to weigh in. What I can tell you is that the Beats earbuds that ship with the Rezound do sound a lot better than the crappy earbuds I’m used to using with other phones and media players.

The bass is pumped up, but I don’t think it detracts from the overall sound quality. Plus the earbuds do a great job at blocking a lot of outside noise. They were a delight to use on the aeroplane. It’s not exactly true noise-cancelation, but it’s good enough for a free pair of headphones.

Did Beats Audio blow me away like I had expected? No. It feels like the integration is more for marketing, using the Beats brand to help make the phone seem cooler. I guess that works. But from a performance perspective, it feels like a lot of hype.

Should You Buy It?
Overall, my biggest complaints about the Rezound are the price, battery life, and heavy design. Otherwise, it has all my favourite aspects of an HTC phone, including the excellent Sense skin. Plus a free Ice Cream Sandwich update coming early next year.

Unless you’re absolutely dying for a new LTE phone right now I’d wait for the Galaxy Nexus reviews to roll in. Otherwise, the Rezound will make a decent buy.

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