The Titan II is HTC’s top-of-the-line Windows Phone device. Its step-up features include a bigger screen, 16GB of storage and of course, LTE.
When Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 2 years ago, there were certain hardware specifications that manufacturers had to adhere to which positioned it at the high end of the market. Since then, the specifications haven’t changed that much even though the market has moved far ahead.
While I was writing this review, Microsoft announced the next iteration of Windows Phone family. Windows Phone 8 addresses a lot of my issues with the Titan II’s specs except for the fact that it wasn’t available 6 months ago.
The benefit of the strict hardware specifications is that it makes life easier for developerss because there are less hardware configurations to worry about. Less configurations means you don’t need to worry about getting your app to run on 100’s different phones so there’s no fragmentation.
It also allows Microsoft to spend more time optimizing Windows Phones instead of trying to make it run on as many configurations as possible.
The problem is that Microsoft’s current specifications aren’t enough to compete with high-end Android phones and the iPhone. This puts Windows Phone OEM’s at a disadvantage.
The result is many higher end Windows Phones aren’t all that different from their mid range and even lower end siblings. The example I like to use is the Lumia 710, 800 and 900. They all have the same processor, RAM and screen resolution. Now let’s look at the Android powered HTC One X, S and V. They all have different screen resolutions, in some cases different processors and RAM. The jump between each device is noticeable whereas with the Lumia’s it’s less so.
The screen measures 4.7” across diagonally making it the biggest available on any Windows Phone. Like all other Windows Phones it has a resolution of 800x480. While 800x480 usually looks pretty sharp on a 3.7” device you’re probably wondering how it looks on a 4.7”. To me, the effect is not as bad as I thought it would be. Text isn’t as smooth as it is on the HTC One X but it doesn’t feel like I’m staring at text from an 8bit Nintendo either. It’s definitely sharper than an old school Android device (3.2” 480x320) or iPhone (3.5” 480x320). So, if you’re coming from one of those, it’s still a step up.
The only time I really notice the low resolution is when I’m zoomed out viewing webpages. The 800x480 screen is unable to display really small text clearly. Internet Explorer doesn’t reflow text when you zoom in so you often have to view text while you’re zoomed out - it’s not very flattering.
So, while the display isn’t as bad as you’d think, it’s very unfortunate that Windows Phones doesn’t currently support higher resolutions. Yes, the 800x480 doesn’t look that bad but what’s going to happen when people compare it with what you get on Android or iPhone?
While the Titan II’s display isn’t cutting-edge like HTC One X’s, overall I wouldn’t say it’s a bad device. Black levels aren’t great but they’re acceptable. The viewing angle isn’t as good as the HTC One X or the Lumia 900 but it’s not terrible either. There isn’t that much off-angle colour shift.
The Titan II has a unibody. Besides the display, a piece over the camera and the SIM card cover on the bottom of the back the Titan II doesn’t have any seams. The body covered in rubberized paint. It’s a weighty phone - I suspect underneath the paint is a lot of metal.
It’s not as sleek as the HTC One X but has more of a work-horse/substantial feel to it like last year’s HTC Amaze and Raider. It feels like a very solid phone.
headphone jack, secondary microphone, power button
volume and camera buttons,
camera, flash, speaker, SIM card slot.
Now, one of my favourite things about Windows Phone is the camera button. I like this button a lot whenever I’m using my Lumia’s or other Windows Phones. While I use it a lot on the Titan II, I found it sometimes gets in the way when I’m using it with my right hand. The problem is I have to squeeze the phone when I reach across the screen with my thumb. This often caused me to press and hold the camera button.
Now when it comes to Smartphone operating systems there are 2 approaches. The iPhone’s ecosystem is a tightly controlled - there are only a handful of devices that run iOS. As such there are only a handful of configurations that developers have to worry about.
Android on the other hand is wide open. There are many Android devices which is good because you get lots of choice. On the other hand, this means that developers have to worry about many different configurations.
Based on market performance, both approaches can be successful. Still, in order to help foster a device ecosystem, Microsoft has gone the more developer friendly route with tight controls when it comes to what hardware is allowed on a Windows Phone.
As such, while Windows Phones all look different on the outside, inside they’re all quite similar and as far as the look and feel of the software goes, they’re all exactly the same.
So, while the Titan II looks completely different from say the Nokia Lumia 900, the hardware specifications aren’t all that different: Both have the same processor but the Titan II’s is clocked at 1.5Ghz vs 1.4Ghz on the 900. Both have 512MB of RAM, 800x480 displays. Both also have 16GB of storage but that’s more because of how Nokia and HTC have decided to position their devices in the market. They’d have a hard time selling either phone at a higher price point if they included 32GB.
The 900 has a 4.3” AMOLED display (I suspect it’s the screen that you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy S II though they have been tuned differently. The Titan II has a 4.7” LCD display.
While it has a smaller display the 900 has the bigger battery: 1830mAh to the Titan II’s 1730mAh.
Besides the size of the screens, the big difference between the Titan II and 900 is that the Titan II has a 16 megapixel camera vs the 900’s 8mp. More is better right?
Since both the Titan II and 900 run Windows Phone, their software are pretty much the same. There’s no HTC Sense or Nokia customizations. The only real difference between the 2 is that HTC has some programs which only run on HTC Windows Phones and Nokia has some which only run on Nokias.
Here’s a list of the HTC exclusive programs: HTC Watch, Photo Enhancer, HTC Connected Media, HTC Location, HTC Hub, Connection Setup, Compass, Attentive Phone, Dock Mode, Notes, Flashlight, Love and Converter.
HTC watch allows you to use HTC’s video streaming service. Photo Enhancer allows you to warp people’s faces or add special colour effects. It doesn’t allow you to crop photos.
HTC Location is actually Route 66. It’s a navigation program which allows you to download maps over WiFi so that you don’t use any network data - it’s useful if you don’t have a data plan or if you want to minimize roaming. You’ll find the same feature on Nokia Drive. Unlike Nokia Drive you only get 30 days of voice guided navigation with Route 66. You have to pay if you need navigation after 30 days. (it’s free on Nokia Drive).
HTC Connected Media is a DLNA program. I was able to use it to browse and then watch videos from my local DLNA server. When I was browsing my local server, I wasn’t that impressed with the interface. The Windows Phone interface isn’t well suited for browsing lots of files. Nokia doesn’t include a DLNA program with their Windows Phones (not at this time anyways).
While the Titan II’s camera software looks like the stock one you get with Windows Phone, HTC has made a few changes to it. The most useful change is that the Titan II switches automatically to macro mode when you get up-close. Other Windows Phones simply won’t focus when you get up-close unless you tap menu and switch to macro mode.
Other camera settings you don’t get on the Lumia 900 are: Image stabilizer, Red eye reduction, Sharpness, Brightness, Face detection, Smile capturing, Panorama shot and Burst shots.
The Panorama shot feature allows you to take 3 pictures and then stitches them together. If you take a lot of pictures you’re probably better off grabbing Photosynth from the Marketplace.
Burst mode captures four, 8 megapixel images at around 3 or 4 frames per second.
When it comes to software, the most interesting thing about the Titan II is that HTC has customized the camera software.
If you’ve used the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III, you’ll notice that the Titan II’s camera software is pretty slow. Both focusing and shot-to-shot speeds take a while.
The camera is capable of capturing very high quality images but most of the time it doesn’t. I find most of my pictures have a tiny bit of blur to them. My hands aren’t extremely shaky and I always try to hold whatever phone I’m using as steady as possible so I don’t normally have this problem.
Video is only captured at 1280x720. Captured video looks alright, captured audio tends to sound slightly over-driven.
SunSpider (lower is better):
HTC Titan II 6545.8 Nokia Lumia 900 6766.2
Internet Explorer scores much worse than browsers on other platforms. None-the-less their browser’s performance is in the same ballpark as on other platforms.
Antutu (higher is better):
HTC Titan II 2579 Nokia Lumia 900 2511
While the Lumia’s processor is around 7% slower it’s AnTuTu benchmark score is only about 2.7% slower. The reason why the Lumia scores better than you think is because it has a higher Memory score. The Titan II scores slightly higher but no one’s going to notice unless you have them side-by-side and even then it’s hard to tell.
I’ve been playing a lot of geoDefense Swarm and have noticed that it skips occasionally on the Titan II. I did not notice this problem when I play on my 900.
The fact that the Titan II only has a single-core processor is a contentious ones. Many users like to point out that the Metro buttery smooth even on first generation Windows phones which had slower processors with inferior graphics performance. I don’t debate that. The problem is that not all 3rd party programs are properly optimized. I’ve been using the 900 and Lumia a lot and some of the games I play run slower on Windows Phone. The examples I like to use are Plants vs Zombies (PvZ) and Angry Birds.
While PvZ is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone I normally play it on my iPhones/iPad. On Windows Phone, PvZ hasn’t been updated to take advantage of the multitasking in Mango. Either that or PvZ consumes too much memory. Anyways, the program has to relaunch every time you switch tasks and then switch back. While this doesn’t happen on iOS, the real problem is that PvZ takes about 3 times as long to load on Windows Phone as it does on the iPhone.
Is the Titan II’s single core 1.5Ghz processor 3x slower than the iPhone’s dual-core 800Mhz processor? Probably not. While some of this may be due to differences in how programs run on iOS vs Windows Phone, I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with how much time was spent optimizing PvZ. I’m sure if Windows Phone supported a second core, it would make a difference here.
As far as Angry Birds goes I’ll compare it with the Android version. The Xperia Ray has the same processor core/GPU as the Titan II but it’s clocked at 1Ghz instead of 1.5Ghz on the Titan II. Even with 50% more clock speed I’ve noticed that it’s choppier on Windows Phone. To me it seems Angry Birds isn’t as optimized on Windows as it is on Android. Then again, more cores may help hide this fact.
To test the battery performance changed up the Titan II, I turned the screen brightness to maximum, turned off all wireless settings and played a video until the battery died. The results are in minutes (more is better).
Nokia Lumia 900 307 HTC Titan II 272
Sound Quality is good. RF performance is average. The maximum earpiece volume is average so you might have trouble in a loud environment.
In the end, it’s impossible to talk about a high-end Windows Phone without complaining about Microsoft’s hardware guidelines. They’ve taken a lot of Window Phone’s bite away.
Still, the Titan II manages to out-muscle its main competitor; the Lumia 900. It has a ever-so-slightly faster processor, a bigger screen and more megapixels. Is it better? I’d say between the 2 of them it’s a draw. The Titan II’s screen is bigger but I think the deep blacks of 900’s AMOLED display is more suited for Windows Phone.
The 900 is also a little easier to use. I found I accidentally pressed the Titan II’s camera button a lot because of the large size.
While the Titan II has a 16MP camera, I don’t find it any better than the 900’s in real world use.
Between the 2 of them it’s a tough choice. Having used both phones you can’t go wrong with either of them.
Seems like there are two kinds of smartphone operating systems. Those which are compatible with many types of hardware like android and those which are compatible with only a few types of hardware such as Apple and Windows phone.
The evolution of Windows and Apple seem a little slower but maybe they more stable. There's always a new flavor of Android and thousands of phone and Android version combinations. I don't know how stable Windows is but many that I speak to with Android phones complain about crashes and constantly having to reset.
I don't know about everyone else, but I'm more concerned about having a useful phone that doesn't crash all the time than having the latest voice recognition photo editing built-in.