The HTC One was one of our favourite Android phones around, pairing the luxurious metal body more typically seen on the iPhone with a bigger screen and the customisability of Android. Apparently it wasn't quite big enough though, so HTC has given it a stretch.
The One Max, as it's aptly named, looks rather like the One, but comes in at a beefy 5.9-inches on the diagonal, blurring the line between what we'd call a phone or a tablet.
HTC hasn't confirmed exactly how much the phone will cost, but it's safe to assume it's not going to be dirt cheap. Expect prices to be somewhere between the £500-£600 mark, SIM-free, or on contract from around £35 per month.
Vodafone will offer the phone with a £49 up-front charge on a £47 per month, 24-month contract. That does get you 4G speeds, although you'll have only 2GB of data per month to play with, so be careful how much video you're streaming.
Should I buy the HTC One Max?
If you've been eagerly eyeing up your mate's HTC One but also fancy the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for some big screen movies, the One Max will be right up your street. It pairs the metal stylings of the One with a whopping 5.9-inch Full HD display. HTC's Sense software looks as cool as ever, but has been updated, so you can get rid of the Blinkfeed news panel if you don't want it.
On paper though, it doesn't stack up as well against the Note 3. It has an older, slower processor, and its camera -- while good -- doesn't quite have the pin-sharp resolution of the Note 3's 13-megapixel snapper. The Note is also smaller and lighter. If you want to play specification Top Trumps, the Note is the phone for you.
If big screens and metal bodies are on your wish-list then go for the One Max, but for most of you the standard One is a better option. It too has a Full HD display, as well as the same processor and camera but won't require you to attach extenders to your thumbs.
Design and build quality
With a 5.9-inch display shoved into its frame it should come as no surprise that the max is an absolute beast. It measures a whopping 163mm long, easily beating the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is by no means a small phone. It's 82mm wide too, making it somewhat difficult to wrap your hand around and its 220g weight is noticeable in your pocket.
The Max is not a phone for those of you just looking for a good all-round Android phone for everyday use. The 4.7-inch One or indeed the 4.3-inch One Mini will both be much better options to consider. The enormous display does make it a great choice for movie addicts though.
There's no hiding its HTC heritage as it has a near identical design to its smaller siblings. The grey metal back is in place, as are the dual, front-facing 'Boomsound' speakers. The max shares the same plastic edging seen on the Mini. It's a good looking piece of kit, but I think its vast size detracts from the understated elegance seen on the smaller models.
It has the same metal casing from the One, but the max's back is removable in order to give access to the microSD card slot. The card slot lets you expand the 16GB of internal storage -- including saving apps to the card -- although the battery is not removable. On my early-build review model the back casing was extremely difficult to put back into place but HTC says it'll have it fixed before it goes on sale in the next few weeks.
I sincerely hope it does as it really let the build quality down on my test model. Both the One and the One mini had extremely solid bodies thanks to the one-piece construction, but the max doesn't have quite the same secure feel.
When Apple unveiled its fingerprint sensor on the front of the iPhone 5S, it obviously wasn't going to be long before other companies slapped fingerprint scanning tech into their own phones. HTC reckons its is different to Apple's though, as it's more focussed on quick access to apps than it is on securing your phone.
Swiping your finger over the sensor will unlock the phone though, so I'm not sure why HTC says it's not a security feature. Crucially, however, you can program up to three different fingerprints to automatically load certain apps when they're scanned. Swipe your index finger, for example, and it can automatically load the camera. It's handy to give quick access to any app you might want to jump into without having to navigate around the phone first.
The sensor is positioned below the camera, apparently in the place where your index finger will naturally rest -- but it really depends on how you feel most comfortable holding such a large phone. It was in the right place for me, but my friend tends to hold phones lower down so couldn't easily reach the scanner. Once you do find it, it manages to accurately recognise the prints you've saved most times.
The 5.9-inch display packs in a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. That's Full HD to me and you. It's also the same resolution you'll find in the standard One, meaning the Max is slightly less sharp as the same number of pixels are being spread across a larger display. The max has a pixel density of 373 pixels per inch, undercutting its smaller sibling's 446ppi.
Sure, it's less, but in reality I highly doubt you'll ever notice the difference. The Max's screen is still very well defined with icon edges looking pin sharp and small text being easily readable. You have to look extremely closely to tell any kind of difference and even then I doubt you could pick them apart.
The display is also very bright and has excellent colours thanks to its satisfyingly deep black levels. My test video looked bold and punchy, without looking oversaturated -- as is sometimes the case with Samsung's Super AMOLED displays. The Max's handling of colour, together with its sheer size makes it an excellent choice for those of you wanting to watch movies and play glossy games on the go.
HTC Sense 5.5
The max is running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean -- the latest version currently available -- with HTC's updated Sense 5.5 skin over the top. Although it's packing the most up to date versions of all its software, you probably won't be able to tell as Sense 5.5 doesn't bring many visual changes to the table.
It still maintains the attractive, minimalist interface with large, easy to poke app icons in a scrolling menu. Up to five homescreens are available for you to plonk down any apps and live widgets you want. Four app icons remain static along the bottom to give immediate access to your favourite app and stay on screen even if you're in the app menu. It's a small feature, but it means you never need to be more than a tap away from your camera in case of sudden pet cuteness.
The Sense 5.5 interface is as neat and minimalist as it was before.
It has the same basic architecture as any other Android phone, so existing droid users won't feel adrift in an unknown sea. The stripped down interface makes it quite easy for new smart phone users to get to grips with everything too as there's less clutter confusing everything. That is, until you start whacking widgets down on every page.
To the left of the homescreens is HTC's news aggregator Blinkfeed. If you've ever used apps like Flipboard before then it'll be quite familiar. It shows your social networks as well as select articles from chosen news sources in a cascade of icons for you to swipe through. It's attractive and very easy to see what's new.
I like the look of Blinkfeed and it works well, but I had two main issues with it on previous phones -- both of which HTC says it's fixed. For one, there was no way of getting rid of it -- it's always sat as one of your homescreens, permanently showing what all your social networks are up to. A quick dive into the homescreen edit page now allows you to turn it off. Smashing.
Secondly, the options for news sources you could subscribe to was extremely limited. Although it had the world's best tech news outlet CNET on board, there wasn't a whole lot else. At a briefing, HTC explained that it's added the ability to subscribe to your own sources using RSS feeds.
After a long time spent fiddling around, I found no way of doing this, however. The closest I got was to search for a website as a topic, which would show results from the site as well as tweets and mentions of the site from social sources, which is not quite what I had in mind. If there's an easy way of subscribing to any of your favourite sites as you would with a normal RSS reader, Blinkfeed would be much more fun to use.
Processor and performance
The Max is running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, which is the same processor found inside the One. While it's a powerful piece of kit, it's not competing well with the Galaxy Note 3, which packs in Qualcomm's latest quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor -- a meaty 2.3GHz.
That's a real shame and it could be a problem for HTC. The Note 3 is arguably the Max's direct competitor and it really needs to ensure that it's giving Samsung's phone a proper run for its money. Without the same level of processing power under the hood -- and of course, no built in stylus -- the Max instead has to rely entirely on the draw of its metal body.
The Max's processor is far from underpowered though. It racked up a meaty 2,781 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark test putting it, unsurprisingly, alongside the One, which achieved 2,668 on the same test. Keep in mind though that with various reports of benchmark tampering -- particularly from Samsung -- it's important to take these figures with a healthy pinch of salt.
It still managed to provide a very swift experience overall though, with no delay when swiping around the homescreens or opening apps and menus. The camera launched with no real lag and photo editing in Snapseed was a breeze.
It coped well with demanding games like N.O.V.A 3, Real Racing 3 and Asphalt 8 too, while Full HD video playback was tackled without any hiccups at all. With the older processor, it might not handle the waves of new games over the next couple of years quite as well, but today's titles are no problem for it.
The One Max packs in the same 4-megapixel camera found inside the standard One. 4 megapixels might not seem like very much in comparison to the 20.7-megapixel Sony Xperia Z1, but HTC reckons the individual pixels are better, allowing them to take in more light and therefore give better-looking photos.
I found the One's camera mostly did a great job, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see the Max give similarly pleasing results. On my test shot in the CNET UK office, it achieved a very even exposure, capturing the shadowy areas well, but managing to keep the bright window at the back under control.
There's a minimum of image noise too, and plenty of detail, considering it's only a 4-megapixel sensor. Images aren't as big as you'd get from the high megapixel phones, but the quality and smaller file sizes makes them ideal for Facebook snaps.
To fill up the rest of the space inside the chunky metal frame, HTC has plopped in a capacious battery. Its enormous, high-definition screen is naturally going to suck the juice away faster than a thirsty toddler, but the lower clock-speed of the processor should theoretically use less power than the 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 chip.
In my own use I found the battery to be very good. With normal use it was easily capable of lasting over a day and if you're careful you shouldn't struggle to get a good way into the second day too. If you're a very heavy user, spending all your time playing games and streaming video, you'll probably need to give it a juice in the evening.
The Max's metal body and huge, high-definition display make it a great choice for those of you who love the look of the standard HTC One, but want some extra room to enjoy your movies and games. It's undeniably cumbersome though so most of you will likely find the standard model a more manageable size.