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HTC Amaze 4G Review: Impressive Camera Phone

At a Glance
  • HTC Amaze 4G

    PCWorld Rating

The T-Mobile/AT&T merger is on, but that isn’t stopping the carrier from putting out some very awesome phones this year. The HTC Amaze 4G ($260 with a two-year contract) is sort of like a hybrid of the myTouch 4G Slide with its awesome camera and the HTC Sensation with its unibody aluminum design. It is a bit on the heavy side and HTC Sense might not appeal to everybody. It is also a bit on the pricey side.

(Portions of this review were taken from the HTC Sensation review due to its similar user interface as well as the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide because of its same camera technology)

Design

Like the majority of HTC’s phones these days, the Amaze has a sturdy yet attractive unibody aluminum design. The Amaze stands out from other phones, however, due to its more rounded corners and light silver and black motif. The backing has a combination of aluminum and soft rubber, giving it both a unique look and comfortable feel in hand. Measuring 5.1-by-2.6-by-0.46-inches thick, the Amaze slips easily into your pocket or bag. The aluminum design comes with a bit of a trade-off, however: It tips the scales at 6.1 ounces.

The Amaze has a 4.3-inch qHD (quarter high definition, 540-by-960 pixels) super LCD display. The display looks gorgeous with bold, yet natural colors, deep blacks, and bright whites.

You’ll find all the touch and hardware buttons on the Amaze, but like the myTouch 4G Slide, it has two camera buttons on its left spine: one for capturing video, one for taking photos. While I always appreciate a shutter button, I’m not sure if two is necessary. When I was trying to take a picture sometimes I took video by mistake because I hit the wrong button. The buttons are two different sizes (video capture is smaller), but I still made that error a few times.

Gingerbread with HTC Sense

Like the EVO 3D, the Sensation 4G sports the latest version of the Sense user interface, with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) running underneath. Sense is the prettiest of the Android overlays, and the latest version has some sweet features.

One of these features is a new customizable lock screen, which works similarly to the lock screen in iOS 5. You can pick a theme for your lock screen (the phone offers quite a few of them to choose from) and then select four apps that you visit most frequently. When you turn on your phone, you'll see the four apps at the bottom of the screen. To unlock the screen, simply drag the circle into position over an app, at which point you'll jump straight to that app. Thanks to this feature, you don't have to go through multiple menus to reach your e-mail or other frequently accessed items.

The new version of Sense has a spruced-up Walls system, too. Rather than having to flick back and forth between your walls, as you do in the stock Android operating system, you can flick the Sensation 4G's screen to make the walls spin. The effect is reminiscent of a rotating carousel. And like the older version of Sense, you can pinch anywhere in your homescreen to see thumbnail-size images of your walls.

You'll find a clutch of new widgets in Sense, but my favorite is the gorgeous new Weather widget. HTC has a solid tradition of creating visual weather apps, and it's nice to see the company continue to improve them.

There are a few downsides to Sense, however. If you’re an Android purist or just like simple, clean interfaces, you’ll hate its sometimes unnecessary animations and busy widgets. It also seems to slow down performance as well.

Camera Is…Amazing

Like the myTouch 4G Slide, the Amaze has an 8-megapixel camera and an HD camcorder that can shoot video in up to 1080p. The camera has a backside illuminated sensor, which is fairly standard in point and shoot cameras these days and is ideal for shooting in low-light situations without need for a flash. The Slide's F2.2 lens is a wider aperture than many recent cameras, which also translates to better low-light shooting without the flash. The easy-to-use camera interface lets you pick from a variety of shooting modes, including Manual and Automatic modes.

The SweepShot mode is similar to Sony's Sweep Panorama mode, which is very cool. You press the shutter and move the camera from right-to-left, and the camera stitches together a panoramic image instantly. This mode is incredibly fun to play with and the photos look pretty good (see example) though sometimes they don't stitch up accurately.

The ClearShot HDR mode is a lot like the iPhone's HDR feature. It snaps a group of photos in rapid succession at different exposure levels, then "stacks" them in the camera to bring out highlights in shadowy areas and create an HDR shot. In my opinion, HDR can either look really cool or really bizarre and blurry. It is fun to play around with, though (take a look at the

example).

BurstShot is a really unique feature for a phone camera. This mode takes pictures in rapid succession as you hold the shutter button down (paparazzi style). BurstShot is useful for snapping photos of quick-moving objects, like kids and pets.

Macro mode lets you take close-up shots of objects like the example here. You can get as close as about three inches to your object before the camera starts to lose focus.

These modes are also found on the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide, but the HTC Amaze also has a few unique camera features. One of these features is SmartShot, which takes five consecutive photos and then stitches together

Image quality is excellent for a phone camera. A lot of camera phones have a difficult time handling colors. That said I was disappointed with how the Amaze handled low light photos and video. Photos turned out grainy and muddy and video looked almost pitch-black.

Performance

With a 1.2GHz dual core processor, the Amaze The Amaze scored a 986 on the Vellamo benchmarking app. This ranks the Amaze toward the top of the list alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab and slightly below the Droid Bionic.

The Amaze supports T-Mobile’s faster HSPA+ 42mbps network. Data speeds were impressive with an average download speed of 7.68Mbps and average upload speed of 1.71Mbps. The fastest download speed we got clocked in at 7.39—about as fast as we’ve seen on Verizon’s 4G LTE network!

Call quality over T-Mobile’s 3G network was very good. I had solid coverage all over San Francisco and did not experience any dropped calls.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to ditch your standalone camera, the HTC Amaze is a solid choice. But the camera isn’t the only standout feature of the Amaze: From its slick design to its fast performance and dazzling display, the Amaze is all-around good phone. If you’re looking for a stylish phone with a excellent camera, but don't mind a little extra bulk, the Amaze is ideal for you.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pros

    • Excellent 8-megapixel camera
    • Solid, attractive design
    • Big, bright, crisp display

    Cons

    • Pricey
    • Heavier than most phones
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