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HTC 7 Surround
Type: Smartphone
From: HTC
Usage: Mobility
HTC 7 Surround
With great expectations and a shot at 'Best Window 7 Phone Ever,' The new HTC 7 Surround is indeed a great smartphone. It's just not as great as it thinks it is. Jim Squires explains.
Posted December 08, 2010
The latest operating system vying for dominance in the handheld market, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system (OS) launched earlier this fall followed by a slew of new smartphones that use it.

The HTC 7 Surround is a recent Windows Phone 7 offering from the Taiwanese mobile giant HTC, one that sets itself apart from the crowd by featuring a unique, slide-away speaker on the back of the device and a kickstand that allows it to prop up like a portable movie player - which it is, among many other things.

As is the case with most HTC products, call quality here is flawless. After several weeks with the phone, not one missed call was experienced, and every conversation we had sounded crystal clear. Texting was a dream as well, as the HTC 7 Surround features an on-screen keyboard that manages to outperform even the iPhone in terms of comfort.

The interface of the HTC 7 Surround whole-heartedly embraces the Windows Phone 7 experience. Opting for form over function, apps are displayed as tiles on the home screen, and menus are all browsed using simple, intuitive finger swipes. It's very sleek, very stylish, and very simple to use.

What's more, many third party applications are attempting to reproduce this form factor. The Facebook app, for example, utilizes these unique swipe menus and tile presentations. It's a welcome surprise to see such big names on board with adopting the Windows Phone 7 style rather than the other way around.

The slide out speaker on the HTC 7 Surround features options for both Dolby Mobile and SRS WOW HD audio enhancement software. The speaker definitely manages to add some punch to your audio, but not as much as you might expect. The clarity in music playback is unrivalled, but the audio during movie playback - the one place you'd expect Dolby Mobile to excel - is slightly above average at best, with dialogue consistently sounding a tad on the "echo-y" side.

Even more aggravating is the excellent Sound Enhancer app that lets you tweak the sound of your audio via an on board equalizer, but only if you're wearing headphones. For whatever reason, sound tweaks for the speaker - the HTC 7 Surround's biggest selling point - are limited to switching between Dolby, SRS, and none.

Ironically, the sound on the HTC 7 Surround seems to be at its best when it's handling neither films nor music, but games. Due to the very nature of mobile gaming, players will be holding the device little more than a foot away from their face at any given time. Combining the sharp sound design of some Windows Phone 7 games with the slide away speaker of the HTC 7 Surround makes this device an easy pick for gamers in search of a smartphone.

As an added bonus, sliding out the speaker reveals a kickstand that lets owners rest their device in the same way they might rest a picture frame. Whether you're looking to blast some tunes at your desk or pop on a movie without wanting to hold the phone in your hands for the next 90 minutes, the kickstand is a simple but ingenious addition to a phone that's all about entertainment.

The HTC 7 Surround is also equipped with a 5 megapixel camera on the back. Despite snapping what appeared to be amazing shots when viewed on the phone's display, the end result when transferred to a computer were lacklustre at best. Video recording was even worse, with the autofocus unsure of what to do outside of daylight conditions.

While it may not live up to its lofty aspirations to be the hottest mobile phone for movie and music fanatics, the HTC 7 Surround offers competent performance and stunning sound quality for certain kinds of content. If you're a gamer that's being wooed by the siren song on Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7, the HTC 7 Surround has more than enough goodies under its hood to satisfy.

The HTC 7 Surround is available in Canada through TELUS for as little as $99.99 on a three year contract, or $449.99 with no term. In the US, the phone can be purchased as the HTC Surround through AT&T for $199.99 on a two year contract or $499.99 no term.
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