Product Review: The HTC Surround on AT&T

So the HTC Surround may not be a ‘new’ device by today’s standards, but we how exactly does the Windows Phone 7 Surround from AT&T play out against a current daily device? Reaching out to friends at HTC to get a feel for the Surround seemed like a logical step since our normal phone is their own EVO, and they were kind enough to send us a test unit to see how the software played out and how well the Windows Phone 7 interface plays with the hardware.

Our first impressions out of the box were nothing short of impressed. Keeping in mind that the EVO is just beastly big, not uncomfortable, but really large, seeing how the smaller device felt in hand was very important. The Surround just felt good in the palm of the hand and is tailored to the smaller hand looking for a larger screen device. The screen size is more than adequate, the on-screen keyboard has a great feel and the LCD is simply beautiful. It offers rich colors, great auto-light performance and seems to be much easier on the battery than the EVO’s display.

The slide out speaker system is nothing short of genius for those looking for a music player/phone as the norm in the smartphone realm is to place the speaker on the back of the device. Slacker Radio, the free streaming radio service, performed better than any other device tested. The interface is gorgeous and the performance over AT&T’s 3G network was nothing short of brilliant. Movies and media played flawlessly as well. While much has been made of the lackluster performance of the WP7 devices to date, its hard to see how a media lover would even question the abilities of the Surround.

Next, it’s time to move on to the most popular aspect of “smartphones” today, Social Networking. Whether someone wants to blame this on Microsoft or HTC, the Surround is absolutely brilliant in the social network integration department. HTC did a nice job with FriendStream (albeit a bit buggy at times) in Sense, but Microsoft has simply hit it out of the park with WP7. It’s safe to say they have almost made social networking completely idiot-proof. Simply sign in, link the accounts and have 1 thing to click to see it all. Simple, yes. Easy, yes.  The Surround makes the EVO’s handling of the social landscape seem almost silly, and the EVO really does quite well with the major sites.

Email was always one of Microsoft’s claims to fame. Going back to Windows Mobile 5, the software giant knew email. WP7 and the Surround continue this mastery with a new interface, faster loading and easier access to multiple clients. The system still has to operate on a polling system for hotmail accounts which can be a battery saver, but it is not as speedy as Google’s push Gmail system on Android. The interface for email is simple and easy with large buttons for controlling actions and bold blue text for new messages in your inbox.

The HTC Hub app is the final piece of the Surround. It brings that familiar Sense feel to the device, while maintaining the flow of WP7. With great additions like Sound Enhancer, Photo Enhancer and YouTube, the Hub app can personalize the Surround in very little time.

Overall, if your carrier of choice has the Surround, or a phone similar to it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The hardware feels great, the performance is wonderful and the interface is simplistic and easy to use. It’s everything you could want in a mobile device and more.

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