The Titan's build quality still gives us a buzz every time we pick it up. If dwarves carved a smartphone out of an alien meteorite, this is precisely how it'd look. Detach the aluminum unibody case and it's all black and gold underneath, with exquisite molding and perfect rigidity. How far things have come since the plasticky flab of the TyTN
and TyTN II
, when HTC smartphones couldn't even spell out their mythical names while keeping a straight face.
The 131.5mm (5.2-inch) height and 70.7mm (2.8-inch) width might sound intimidating, but only until you realize that the Titan is a mere 5mm (0.2 inches) taller and wider than a familiar 4.3-inch smartphone like the Sensation XE. Moreover, the 160g (5.6-ounce) weight is only nine grams (0.35 ounces) heavier than the XE -- a barely noticeable difference. What's more, the Titan's slim 9.9mm (0.39-inch) waistline puts the XE's 11.6mm girth to shame and goes a long way in canceling out its other excesses.
So, is the Titan's size really that big of an issue in everyday use? Only occasionally. We found that it was generally easy to forget about when tucked away in the pocket of our straight-cut jeans. On the other hand, don't count on putting your car key or credit card wallet or anything else in there -- the lack of maneuverability increases the chances of a scratch, and in fact we managed to get a nasty nick after just a couple of days by making precisely this mistake, despite the Gorilla Glass screen. Aside from all this, as you'll see below, we believe the Titan's mass is justified by the fact that it has major pay-offs in terms of how enjoyable it is to use for everyday tasks.
For the sake of thoroughness, we'd better mention a minor issue with the build quality, which shouldn't put you off unless you're really fussy: the way the core of the phone slots into the aluminum case is not quite perfect -- if you squeeze the phone through its z-axis you get a slight movement. However, this flex is silent rather than creaky and hence easily forgotten.
The headset that comes with the Titan is predictably cheap and awful. HTC might be banging the Beats Audio drum
with its latest Android handsets, but you'll find no Dre-approved headphones here. On the other hand, for the sake of experimentation, we switched out the standard headset for the YourBeats headphones that came with our Sensation XE and everything sounded great, especially when we turned on the 'Loudness' EQ in Windows Phone settings. Moral of the story? Don't worry about the lack of Beats Audio branding on this phone, just buy yourself some decent headphones if you haven't already. Artists like Kanye and Jennifer don't bust a gut for a pittance just so you can destroy their art with out-of-the-box cans.
Now for the downer: the Titan's musical abilities are severely hobbled by its lack of storage. It was disconcerting to transfer across a small sample of albums to test the music playback and discover that we'd already used up 1.5GB out of our 12.6GB allowance. Wasn't cheap and plentiful storage meant to be one of the main benefits of avoiding an iPhone? Of course, we'll one day store everything in the cloud, but that day is not yet here. Ask a ticket inspector on the London Underground whether we'll ever be able to stream Spotify tracks in the tunnels and she'll probably fine you for being obnoxious. Depending on your listening habits and music collection, the lack of a microSD card could well be a deal-breaker.
Performance and battery life
The Titan's 1.5GHz second-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 may only be single-core, but it destroys HTC's older WP handsets like the 1GHz Trophy
. WP Bench gave our Titan an overall score of around 96, versus just 50 for the Trophy. This superiority extended through every part of the system: the CPU completed tasks in half the time, data transfer rates were almost doubled and the GPU also delivered double the frame rates.
Is it a problem that this phone is only single-core? Nope, not unless you're really going to miss 1080p video recording. For most other tasks, the processor will serve you just fine: sites like Engadget and the BBC rendered quickly, apps opened and closed without delay, and the voice recognition feature of Bing processed our mutterings efficiently. Nope, if you're held back by the behavior of the Titan it won't be due to the hardware so much as to Mango. The young OS still doesn't handle multitasking very well, and the browser often shows glitches in the way it lays out a website: the main BBC News page often nudged the lead picture out of its column, for example, which is something we haven't witnessed on Android, iOS or even BlackBerry devices. Incidentally, the Sun Spider browsing benchmark gave the Titan a poor 6,500ms result, but we're not sure what to make of it because there's not much to compare it against: the latest Sensation XE scored around 3,500ms, but the WP7 HTC Trophy scored took an unbelievable 45,000ms -- so we're not sure this benchmark can handle cross-platform comparisons.
One area that definitely benefits from having just a single core is battery life, and we have no complaints about the Titan in this regard -- despite the extra demands that will inevitably be made by the larger display. We put it to use all day and the 1,600mAh battery still had plenty left in reserve by the time we hit the sack. In fact, one day we forgot to plug it in for an overnight charge so we left the house with battery already at 60 percent and yet we still made it to bedtime with room to spare. We'd stop just shy of claiming two full days of low-to-moderate use -- it's more like a day and a half. For the record, the WP Bench battery test gave us three hours at medium brightness, which was virtually identical to the HTC Trophy, with its meager three-inch screen and 1GHz processor.
Network performance seemed average on the UK's Three network, with 3G reception and data speeds matching other handsets we carried around. Calls sounded crisp, although we can't say we noticed much of an impact from the Titan's secondary noise-cancelling mic. Usually our environment was quiet enough for it not to be necessary, or so loud that any beneficial effect was drowned out -- but we can believe it'd make a difference in certain situations.
The Titan's WVGA resolution equates to just 198 pixels per inch. No matter how much HTC tries to gloss over this issue, the fact remains that those pixels are visible on text and vector graphics (although not so much on photos), and they do nothing to add to the otherwise delightful aesthetics of the OS. Zooming out on a webpage quickly causes the text to become blocky and unreadable, which partially cancels out the large panel's ability to display vast swathes of a page in one go.
Arguably, this isn't HTC's fault, because 480x800 happens to be the resolution currently required by Windows Phone. Microsoft clearly just wants to keep things simple at this stage, and in any case it's looking at Windows 8
for the tablet form factor, so it's made no room for diverse screen sizes with WP 7.5. But does the end user really care who's fault it is? We've come to expect effective resolutions greater than 300dpi, which is the point at which we can truly forget that we're even looking at pixels, and the Titan falls well short of that.
On the other hand, resolution isn't everything and the Titan's Super LCD display actually has a lot going for it. For a start, it's a higher quality panel than the one used in some HTC handsets like the Sensation and Trophy. Whereas those handsets would look slightly washed out when viewed at anything than head-on, the Titan's brightness and color rendition remains consistent even from extreme angles. At the optimum angle, the blacks look deep, the colors look rich and saturated in keeping with the WP style, and photos and video come across absolutely fine. It's not Super AMOLED, but should satisfy the majority of users.
Just like the display, the camera unit in the Titan is also significantly better than some of HTC's other recent models. Everything about it is faster, smoother and more intelligent in how it deals with automatic focus and exposure. The dedicated camera button is tactile and responsive, the software gets into gear fast, and settings are readily accessed and altered. We love the fact that you can actually hear the whir of the autofocus shifting the lens inside the camera -- it tells us it's a big unit.