Although Nokia has been receiving its fair share of attention for its recent Windows Phone devices, including the Lumia 710, 800, and 900, HTC has added its own respectable contribution to the mix: the Titan II.
Featuring a gray, contoured body and a 4.7-inch display, the Titan II sports an excellent 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and is available on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Priced at $200 with a two-year contract, the Titan II isn’t quite as good as a deal as the Lumia 900, but it’s still a solid option for those looking to experience Windows Phone 7.5 Mango on a 4G connection.
Build & Design
The Titan II takes more of a conventional approach with its design than the other recent major Windows Phone release, the Nokia Lumia 900, which was somewhat polarizing thanks to its unorthodox combination of rounded edges and sharp corners. With the HTC model, users will find the design to be much more familiar, thanks to its rounded corners, flat edges, and slightly rounded back.
One thing that that the Titan II does have in common with the Lumia 900, however, is that it’s gigantic. Depending on your preference -- and hand size -- this may or may not be good news for you. When I previewed the phone earlier this year at CES, I bemoaned its large form factor, but some of you may prefer it, as it afforded HTC the opportunity to fit the device with a sizable screen. But no matter your preference, you’ll always know when it’s in your pocket; measuring 5.12 x 2.76 x 0.39 inches and weighing in at 6 ounces, this is no small device. They weren't kidding when they put "Titan" in the name.
A unique aspect of its design that I did appreciate is how the bottom edge of the phone is gently curved upwards, putting it closer to the user’s mouth when held up to the ear. Unlike the Galaxy Nexus phones, the entire phone isn’t curved, only the bottom edge is, so when it’s viewed from the side the handset has a sled-like shape. I enjoyed this design choice, as it was subtle and felt comfortable against both the face and when reaching for the capacitive navigation buttons below the display.
The 4.7-inch, 480 x 800 WVGA Super LCD display of the Titan II is, unfortunately, nothing to write home about. Compared to the low reflectivity and deep blacks of the Lumia 900’s display -- due in no small part to Nokia’s ClearBlack technology -- the screen of the Titan II was okay at best. Aside from the blacks not being as deep, colors did not pop nearly as much, and even on the highest settings, the screen was far from the brightest I’ve ever seen (which also caused some issues with visibility in direct sunlight).
Also, the screen has a pixel density of 199 ppi, which doesn’t look great on the phone’s massive 4.7-inch display. I was surprised at how easily I could see individual pixels without even having to look all that closely. A display this large deserves a better pixel density to go with it, because otherwise it’s kind of pointless to have a huge, generally poor display.
Other Buttons and Ports
The button and port placement is generally standard fare, with the volume rocker and dedicated camera button located on the right side of the device, the power/standby button and 3.5mm microphone jack on the top edge, and the micro USB (charging) port on the left side. A 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera can be found in the upper right-hand corner above the display, and a large, 16-megapixel rear-facing camera is positioned toward the top of the backside of the device (with a speaker and dual-LED flashes located on either side of it).
Unfortunately, like the Lumia 900, the 1730 mAh battery of the HTC Titan II is not removable. A small panel located on the bottom fifth of the backside of the device can be slid off to access the SIM card slot, but that’s it.
Everything there is to say about Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) -- the OS that the HTC Titan II runs -- has already been said in our previous reviews, but rest assured that it’s a comfortable user experience, at least to this reviewer. I’m well aware of the fact that it’s not for everybody, especially given the animosity toward the Metro UI, but it’s efficient (especially with battery usage), fast, and easy to navigate.
Under the hood, the Titan II packs a powerful 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, but unfortunately Microsoft’s OS does not currently support multi-core chips, so it’s only a single-core processor. Nevertheless, it’s more than enough to power the device capably, and I tested out a number of graphics-intensive games without ever encountering any stuttering or hiccups. The only minor issue was that the back of the device would get a little warm during some of the more intense processes, though it was nothing too serious.
It’s a drastic improvement over last generation’s WP7 devices, including my personal HTC Trophy, which runs on a 1 GHz single-core processor. For instance, simple tasks like pulling up my Xbox Live page on my Trophy can result in some seriously sluggish framerates when my avatar begins performing animations, but no such lag occurred on the Titan II. The disparity between the processing power of the two devices was quite apparent.
For those wondering, the Titan II comes with 16 GB of storage. As usual, per Microsoft’s Windows Phone specifications, the device does not have expandable storage.
And as for AT&T’s 4G LTE network, I was perfectly content with its speeds, even if I didn’t get to enjoy things like Flash video, which is unsupported on Windows Phone. Service was reliable, even if I did notice a dip in the number of bars I had in certain areas (where I would have the maximum number of bars on my Verizon handset).
The apps on the Titan II are standard fare for a Windows Phone, with AT&T and HTC both pitching in their respective contributions. Like with the rest of its WP7 handsets, AT&T preloads its Code Scanner, myWireless (provides details about your wireless account), Navigator, Radio, Maps, U-Verse Mobile apps. HTC, meanwhile, provides its HTC Hub, which is nothing more than a glorified weather/stock/news app with links to other free apps in the Marketplace.
But as is always the case with Windows Phones, the operating system has baked-in software for both productivity and entertainment. Easy syncing to Outlook/Microsoft Exchange accounts is great for work, as is the inclusion of the Microsoft Office suite (featuring Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote, as well as a handful of cloud/syncing options like Sharepoint or SkyDrive). The phone also comes preloaded with Tango for making video calls with the phone’s front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera.
Of course, there is also integration with Xbox Live and Zune, which is great for gamers and music lovers. And ever since the Mango update to WP7, users also have access to updated Bing search features and Local Scout (for providing nearby restaurants or shops).
The Titan II comes equipped with a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with a dual-LED flash and a BSI sensor for low-light shooting. I was happy to see that the white balance issues that plagued the Lumia 900’s camera were not present here. In fact, the quality of the photos I snapped with the smartphone was actually quite impressive, with images coming out clear and crisp.
I was also impressed with how the camera could achieve a shallow depth of field, albeit when the subject in question was extremely close to the lens. Meanwhile, the BSI sensor helped quite a bit with low-light shooting; as you can see in the sample image here, I shot a photo in the shadows beneath my desk, yet there really isn’t much noise at all. In fact, it looks more like I took the picture out in the open underneath the lights. I had to shoot in some very poorly-lit areas before I ran into any noticeable graininess.
The camera’s 720p video was decent, but nothing too special as it tended to suffer from motion blur pretty easily. Still, much like the photos, the picture was sharp and colors were well-saturated.
The battery life of the Titan II was excellent, especially for a 4G device. Given the size and capacity of the battery, I tried giving it a real push by keeping email push on, as well as Wi-Fi, location (GPS), and brightness on the maximum setting. Despite my best efforts to drain the battery as fast as I could, I still managed to get three full days out of it with legitimate usage for other activities like browsing, gaming, and finding directions (admittedly, I only made one 15-minute phone call during that period).
And after my intensive stress test of the battery, I tried seeing how long it could last with the same settings on, but much less usage in terms of web browsing and other activities. Truth be told, that didn’t help me squeeze too much more out of a single charge; I managed to get roughly another 16 hours of usage out of it.
With all the attention and recent marketing that the Nokia Lumia 900 has been receiving lately, it’s easy for people to overlook the HTC Titan II, or perhaps not even hear about it at all. But while I personally did not find it to be quite on the same remarkably high level as the Lumia 900, I still thought that the Titan II was a great Windows Phone offering from HTC.
It has a disappointing display and it’s too big and bulky for my tastes, but at least the latter issue was somewhat mitigated by its contoured design. Aside from that, it’s mostly pros with the Titan II, including an outstanding camera, a powerful processor, and 4G connectivity. It will run you a bit more than the Lumia 900, but if you’re not fond of Nokia’s unorthodox design choices or you’re looking for a better-quality camera, then the Titan II might just be what you’re looking for.