HTC One Max Is Huge, Which Isn't Always a Bad Thing

REVIEW: HTC's One Max has a bright 5.9-inch full-HD display, a great camera and a fingerprint reader. Some will find it too big. Others, just right.

"That's huge!" This is the first thing people say when you put out the HTC One Max, the third smartphone in HTC's One family of devices. While the HTC One has a 4.7 inch full-HD display and the One Mini a 4.3-inch HD, the One Max boasts a 5.9-inch full-HD 1080p display. Friends, family, acquaintances, over and over again say the same word: "Huge."

One evening, though, after a handful of folks had done their laughing about the Max (because guffawing and laughing are other things that happen when the hilariously large Max is pulled from a bag or coat pocket), one woman shrugged off its size.

"Women just throw their phones in their bags. It doesn't really matter if it's big or not."

It was a good point, and a critical one for the One Max.

If your ideal phone is one that fits in your front pants pocket, you could stop reading here. But if size isn't an issue—if you enjoy a big, bright, beautiful display and what it facilitates—then the One Max is a phone to seriously consider.

I've traditionally been in the first camp. When the One Max arrived on my desk, "ridiculous" may have been a word I said out loud. But the Max has swaying power. In David Pogue's 2012 review of the Apple iPhone 5 (the 5S has the exact same dimensions), he called it "well on its way to becoming a bookmark." At the time, I read it as high praise, and the remark stayed with me. But after two weeks with the One Max, I began to think: Who wants to look at photos on a bookmark?

It's the combination of the Max's camera and display that will make me sad to return it, particularly at this time of year. It's what you grab for when you want a great shot, even in the low glow of holiday twinkle lights.

HTC has explained that the Max has an UltraPixel camera and that it has developed a sensor with the "largest pixels available in a smartphone." If you're demanding specs, the Max has a 4-megapixel camera. But its pixels, "the most light-sensitive pixels on a smartphone," HTC said, enable each to capture 300 percent more light than competing 13-megapixel smartphone cameras.

Simply put, it takes great photos that you will want to look at, on its crisp, bright 5.9-inch full-HD display, over and over again. And still better, the Max makes photos seriously easy to share.

The phone makers have all been trying to address the matter of photo sharing. If you go to a party and take 10 photos, what is the likelihood that more than one other person will see more than the one photo you posted to Instagram?

HTC's Video Highlights feature is an elegant answer to the problem. Go to the Gallery app, tap Events, tap on an event (photos the phone has grouped together, understanding that they were all taken around the same time), and then slide the bar at the top of the app to Video Highlights. The Max can grab images and video and almost instantly combine them into a 30-second film that can be emailed, texted or shared via social media apps, among others.

A user can choose exactly which photos to include, choose a theme and select the music—or let the Max do it. My nephew came over to make a gingerbread house with my daughter, and I took about 20 photos and two short videos. Normally, afterward, I would have mailed one or two photos from the day to the grandparents. With the Max, I created a 30-second video of the day, including lunch with my sister- and brother-in-law and the toddler dance party that followed, in literally about 7 seconds. I emailed it to a few people, and they've emailed it to others, and everyone related to those two kids is loving content that, without the Max, they wouldn't have seen.

Other Key Features

There are three other key things to know about the Max. One is that HTC continues to invest in what it calls BoomSound technology and the Max has two strong, front-facing speakers. I would put it on the counter playing music while I made dinner, and there was no issue of volume or clarity over the noise of pots and clattering dishes and various conversations.