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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  • bplewis24 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Check out page 26. It's dedicated completely to how the "update" process works. In short, it's more like iOS than Android....which is sounds like you'd prefer. Reply
  • ishbuggy - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Yeah I accidentally skipped that page :P
    I really hope it works out as well as Microsoft hopes it will
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Will AT be reviewing the Nokia N8 and E8 Symbian phones? Nokia is pretty obscure in the States (since they mainly sell direct from their website, with no carrier subsidy), but are pretty big in Europe and Asia. Reply
  • epyon96 - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    With such a glowing review from you, it's almost enough to bump Windows 7 above my initial choice of getting a blackberry. I need a physical keyboard. I'm very picky about it. You are simply a very engaging writer.

    I really hope Windows 7 mobile comes up with a superior keyboard version
    Reply
  • VashHT - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The Dell phone coming out looks like it will have a really nice keyboard, I think it is called the venue pro. Also ATT is supposed to have a keyboard phone by LG I think. Reply
  • heelo - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The Venue Pro *looks* great, but it's somewhat of a monster in size and weight.

    If I weren't stuck on a T-Mobile family plan, I'd probably opt for that LG Quantum. Like Anand said, WP7's interface is extremely usable on smaller screens, and the reasonable form factor and physical keyboard likely make for a very convenient real-world user experience. The drawback is that the looks and (supposedly) build quality are sub-par.
    Reply
  • EarthwormJim - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    OMG a screenshot of me in action is on the Xbox Live page!! Woo-hoo Reply
  • gstrickler - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    That's the ugliest and least interesting home/start screen I've ever seen on a smartphone. It may be functional, but even a 6 year old crackberry looked better (and I don't like the BB). The rest of the UI doesn't look too bad, but the start screen needs some work. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I couldn't agree more. I find it funny that people are claiming this UI is "100% right" as if everybody is going to like it. Obviously it's a matter of preference, but I just cannot see the overwhelming majority of people getting into this UI. I find it appalling to look at and couldn't imagine using it every day.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Dont know what you're smoking but most people prefer an easy to use simple looking UI thats functional rather than cluttered eye candy.
    From the vids i've seen it seems to be the smoothest running, most functional, fastest, and natural UI on any phone to date.
    Reply

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