While Anand played with AT&T’s other launch device - the Samsung Focus - and later on the LG Optimus 7, I got to play with the HTC Surround. HTC's entry into the fray stands out on AT&T. Ok, that was a terrible pun. 

It's an interesting form factor, let's just say that. The Surround is put together like a landscape slider, except instead of a keyboard, you get a speaker that runs the entire length of the device. The speaker only slides out a mere 1.25 cm. As a result, the slider mechanism itself feels very sturdy, and there's very little space between the display and main base, not enough to slide a fingernail into. There's no spring mechanism on this slider, it’s just friction and two clicks that hold it in place. 

In case it isn't readily apparent yet, the HTC Surround's primary differentiator is audio playback. There's a small button at the top of the device which cycles through SRS surround emulation and some Dolby audio enhancements. The speaker is actually impressively loud when you’re playing back music, as long as you remember to slide the thing open. 

The speaker grille feels like brushed aluminum, and looks reasonably classy. On the back, when the speaker is slid out, you get a pop up kickstand. It's different from the EVO's kickstand - this one is narrower and rests differently. Where the EVO's is like a leg, the Surround's is like a small base that slides out. It’s just as sturdy honestly and does a great job propping the device up. 

The Surround makes a tradeoff - on one hand, you get the increased thickness of a slider, but none of the keyboard goodness. Honestly, I haven’t found myself want for a keyboard on WP7 yet, especially considering lack of landscape homepage support. There’s definitely a market out there for devices that have good audio and emphasis on music playback. If that describes you, the Surround is perfect. It’s loud, pumps out undeniably the best sound quality from that big speaker of any smartphone I’ve ever used, and even has a kickstand so you can prop it up anywhere. Of course, the Surround also doubles as a loud alarm clock too. 

Battery life is middle of the road for the WP7 devices we’ve tested thus far, but much better than the other AT&T launch device. Oh, and the HTC Surround charges very quickly as well. As we noted before, we’re going to have longer more comprehensive reviews of these devices up when they’re ready.

The First Phones: Samsung Focus Final Words
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  • serkol - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    "Flipping through pages upon pages of square app icons just isn’t the most efficient way to do it. Folders help reduce the clutter, but they don’t fundamentally address the problem."

    Try placing folders onto the iPhone dock. I've placed 4 folders there. Tap on the folder (in the dock), and it opens up the folder, then tap on the app. This look like 4 mini "start buttons" - very convenient, and looks very good.
    Reply
  • bobjones32 - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    FYI Anand - there's a dedicated Facebook app in the marketplace that was posted today. Actually created by Microsoft, not Facebook. Any chance you can update this article or write another quick one once you have a chance to take a look? The screenshots in the Zune software look interesting, at least. Reply
  • Regenweald - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    The xbox live integration on this alone makes it a much more attractive platform that anything else out there.( i thought I was going to have to buy an xbox for the new plants vs zombies exclusive content, lol) I'm looking forward to WP8. Many persons have sold WP7 short without anything to actually go on, but now, it already seems like the most complete platform out there. Full windows integration, ZUNE, XBOX and Facebook. Reply
  • Dobs - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    All sounded great for me until IE mobile - What a let down.
    Basically a deal breaker. Other faults I reckon I'd be happy to live with until they fixed them.
    My high hopes sunk :(
    Reply
  • RetroEvolute - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    How did this let you down? The article didn't really have much of anything to say negative about the IE browser included in Windows Phone 7. Unless you're just one of those people who hate anything with the name IE or Internet Explorer...

    If you haven't already, try the IE9 Beta for Vista/Win7. It's a huge improvement from their previous versions, and you may just like it.
    Reply
  • Dobs - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Did you read page 9 (Rebuilding a Brand: IE mobile)?

    The benchmarks, blocky text and..
    "Slower page loading times aren’t as big of a deal anyways, since you can leave the browser and go do something else entirely while the page keeps loading."
    This statement instantly reminded me of dial up internet - not a smart phone.
    I don't open a browser to then go and test my multi-tasking or my patience.

    Like I said - I'll wait for now. If IE mobile is fixed I'll seriously reconsider.
    I don't currently have a smart phone and had been patiently waiting for win7 phone as I thought it might be The One - but it looks like I'll continue waiting.

    And I don't think browsers for PC have anything to do with a phone review - Thanks anyhow.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I dont think the benchmarks matter that much if actual real world browsing is still good, which it is, and that sites are rendered correctly, which they are.
    Compared to the current state of many other phone browsers at the moment IE on WP7 seems atleast decent. Other browsers might have greater speed and specs on paper but they wont run as smooth and they often have trouble displaying certain pages.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Just read the Engadget review and they also like the browser:

    "we've got to say that web browsing on Windows Phone 7 is actually a really pleasant experience. "

    "Loading the desktop version of Engadget was just a hair slower than an iPhone 4, and just as importantly, rendering new parts of the page as you scroll is plenty fast -- not instantaneous, but fast enough so that you never find yourself consciously waiting for it to catch up. Zooming -- which is accomplished with a pinch gesture, of course -- is buttery smooth. The phone accomplishes this in the same way you're probably used to from other devices: when you first zoom in, it uses the same render resolution so that it can at least show you something without going blank, then it renders the appropriate level of detail as it catches up (Google Maps works the same way on almost every platform). It works well. Zooming in and out of a page -- even when still loading up content -- was super fast in our testing, and rendering happened in a split second, meaning hardly any time spent looking at jagged pixels. We're tremendously impressed with how well the browser works "

    However they go on to mention that because of no Flash (yet, Adobe are working on it) that watching streaming video is out of the question for now as the browser also dont support HTML5 video.
    Reply
  • MacGyver85 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I was at the launch event in Belgium at the Microsoft HQ and had the chance to ask a few questions. One of which was if they'll be moving to the IE9 rendering & javascript engine once it is finalized. The answer was a resounding yes. The guy also said that they are already using some parts of IE9 as well in addition to IE7 and 8. Reply
  • ishbuggy - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Does anyone know how WP7 will handle updates? I really hope they enforce updates across all the devices so you don't get stuck with old software versions months after new ones have come out like with android. Reply

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