• Is bigger better? Our HTC Titan II review

    The Titan II is HTCís 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 havenít 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 IIís specs except for the fact that it wasnít 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 donít need to worry about getting your app to run on 100ís different phones so thereís 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 Microsoftís current specifications arenít enough to compete with high-end Android phones and the iPhone. This puts Windows Phone OEMís at a disadvantage.

    The result is many higher end Windows Phones arenít 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 letís 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 Lumiaís itís less so.

    The screen measures 4.7Ē 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 3.7Ē device youíre probably wondering how it looks on a 4.7Ē. To me, the effect is not as bad as I thought it would be. Text isnít as smooth as it is on the HTC One X but it doesnít feel like Iím staring at text from an 8bit Nintendo either. Itís definitely sharper than an old school Android device (3.2Ē 480x320) or iPhone (3.5Ē 480x320). So, if youíre coming from one of those, itís still a step up.

    The only time I really notice the low resolution is when Iím zoomed out viewing webpages. The 800x480 screen is unable to display really small text clearly. Internet Explorer doesnít reflow text when you zoom in so you often have to view text while youíre zoomed out - itís not very flattering.

    So, while the display isnít as bad as youíd think, itís very unfortunate that Windows Phones doesnít currently support higher resolutions. Yes, the 800x480 doesnít look that bad but whatís going to happen when people compare it with what you get on Android or iPhone?

    While the Titan IIís display isnít cutting-edge like HTC One Xís, overall I wouldnít say itís a bad device. Black levels arenít great but theyíre acceptable. The viewing angle isnít as good as the HTC One X or the Lumia 900 but itís not terrible either. There isnít 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 doesnít have any seams. The body covered in rubberized paint. Itís a weighty phone - I suspect underneath the paint is a lot of metal.

    Itís not as sleek as the HTC One X but has more of a work-horse/substantial feel to it like last yearís HTC Amaze and Raider. It feels like a very solid phone.

    headphone jack, secondary microphone, power button

    volume and camera buttons,

    microUSB jack

    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 Iím using my Lumiaís or other Windows Phones. While I use it a lot on the Titan II, I found it sometimes gets in the way when Iím 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 iPhoneís 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 theyíre all quite similar and as far as the look and feel of the software goes, theyíre all exactly the same.

    So, while the Titan II looks completely different from say the Nokia Lumia 900, the hardware specifications arenít all that different: Both have the same processor but the Titan IIís 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 thatís more because of how Nokia and HTC have decided to position their devices in the market. Theyíd have a hard time selling either phone at a higher price point if they included 32GB.

    The 900 has a 4.3Ē AMOLED display (I suspect itís the screen that youíll find in the Samsung Galaxy S II though they have been tuned differently. The Titan II has a 4.7Ē LCD display.

    While it has a smaller display the 900 has the bigger battery: 1830mAh to the Titan IIís 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 900ís 8mp. More is better right?

    Since both the Titan II and 900 run Windows Phone, their software are pretty much the same. Thereís 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.

    Hereís 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 HTCís video streaming service. Photo Enhancer allows you to warp peopleís faces or add special colour effects. It doesnít allow you to crop photos.

    HTC Location is actually Route 66. Itís a navigation program which allows you to download maps over WiFi so that you donít use any network data - itís useful if you donít have a data plan or if you want to minimize roaming. Youíll 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. (itís 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 wasnít that impressed with the interface. The Windows Phone interface isnít well suited for browsing lots of files. Nokia doesnít include a DLNA program with their Windows Phones (not at this time anyways).


    While the Titan IIís 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 wonít focus when you get up-close unless you tap menu and switch to macro mode.

    Other camera settings you donít 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 youíre 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 youíve used the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III, youíll notice that the Titan IIís 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 doesnít. I find most of my pictures have a tiny bit of blur to them. My hands arenít extremely shaky and I always try to hold whatever phone Iím using as steady as possible so I donít 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):

    SunSpider is a browser benchmark that test Javascript performance. While itís an extremely useful benchmark my real world experience is that the worse scores do not always translate into a noticable difference.

    HTC Titan II 6545.8
    Nokia Lumia 900 6766.2

    Internet Explorer scores much worse than browsers on other platforms. None-the-less their browserís performance is in the same ballpark as on other platforms.

    (higher is better):

    HTC Titan II 2579
    Nokia Lumia 900 2511

    While the Lumiaís processor is around 7% slower itís 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 oneís going to notice unless you have them side-by-side and even then itís hard to tell.

    Iíve 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 donít debate that. The problem is that not all 3rd party programs are properly optimized. Iíve 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 hasnít 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 doesnít 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 IIís single core 1.5Ghz processor 3x slower than the iPhoneís dual-core 800Mhz processor? Probably not. While some of this may be due to differences in how programs run on iOS vs Windows Phone, Iím guessing a lot of it has to do with how much time was spent optimizing PvZ. Iím sure if Windows Phone supported a second core, it would make a difference here.

    As far as Angry Birds goes Iíll compare it with the Android version. The Xperia Ray has the same processor core/GPU as the Titan II but itís clocked at 1Ghz instead of 1.5Ghz on the Titan II. Even with 50% more clock speed Iíve noticed that itís choppier on Windows Phone. To me it seems Angry Birds isnít as optimized on Windows as it is on Android. Then again, more cores may help hide this fact.

    Battery Performance:

    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

    RF performance:

    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, itís impossible to talk about a high-end Windows Phone without complaining about Microsoftís hardware guidelines. Theyíve taken a lot of Window Phoneís 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? Iíd say between the 2 of them itís a draw. The Titan IIís screen is bigger but I think the deep blacks of 900ís AMOLED display is more suited for Windows Phone.

    The 900 is also a little easier to use. I found I accidentally pressed the Titan IIís camera button a lot because of the large size.

    While the Titan II has a 16MP camera, I donít find it any better than the 900ís in real world use.

    Between the 2 of them itís a tough choice. Having used both phones you canít go wrong with either of them.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Is bigger better? Our HTC Titan II review started by howard View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. labjr's Avatar
      labjr -
      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.
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      I've used many iOS and Windows Phone devices and they're not immune from crashing either. Still, they do crash less than my Android stuff.