The premise sounds strong. Get a Verizon 4G LTE Android Gingerbread phone with front and rear facing cameras, an ultra sharp HD 720p display, a 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor and a pair of Beats Headphones by Dr. Dre. The HTC Rezound also promises, “Beats Audio technology for studio sound.” When the package arrived I wasted no time ripping it open to get my eyes and ears all over this baby.
My initial reaction unfortunately, was akin to the disappointment one might feel getting home from a blind date that didn’t match expectations. However, as the Rezound and I got better acquainted, I grew to respect its personality even if I wasn’t awed by its flash and sparkle. I couldn’t help thinking that if this phone had come into my life a year ago I would have fallen in love with its abilities. But ahhh, what a difference a year can make.
The Rezound’s physical characteristics made the first impression. The ultra high resolution 4.3 inch screen simply seemed small to me. I’ve been using a 4.5 inch screen and recently reviewed Verizon’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus with its 4.65 high-def window. In fairness, the Rezound’s screen is clear and sharp, but it didn’t impact my eyes the way the Samsung super amoled displays do. I never felt the WOW! factor.
I began setting up the phone to work with my Google accounts and social networks. The HTC Sense software which rides on top of the Android Gingerbread system operates easily, but to me it represents an unnecessary layer of complication. It does work smoothly, however, and I notice a few expert reviewers really seem to love it. My only setup problem was pushing the volume rocker and power/lock buttons. Clearly the designers were going for a smooth minimalist effect, but the switches are recessed deeply into the top edge and right-hand side of the phone making it difficult for my fingers to operate them. This 6.1 ounce phone sits nicely in your hand, but feels heavy. The Galaxy Nexus, even with its much bigger screen only weighs 5.1 ounces by comparison.
OK, so I wasn’t falling in love, yet…but it was the music that really attracted me to this device in the first place, so I was still filled with anticipation as I carefully unwrapped the red Dr. Dre Beats earbuds. Engadget’s Sharif Sakr enlisted the help of North London’s AMS Acoustics to scientifically measure the Beats performance. Sakr’s article sums, “The Beats Audio software isn’t complete marketing vapor, but it’s still inherently gimmicky… you could achieve a better result… simply by downloading a third-party music player that lets you play with the EQ settings yourself.”
Clearly they weren’t over the moon, but I listen to music for a living, believe I have great ears, and determined, “I’ll decide this for myself, thank you very much.” Lot’s of bravado, but ultimately, I had to agree with Mr. Sakr.
I listened to a wide variety of music with the Beats earbuds and compared the sound against my Subjekt TNT low profile headphopnes ($49.99) that fit over the ear. I listened to music recorded in analog like Steve Miller’s classic “Children Of The Future” and various Beatles tracks; then tried edgy country music like Brad Paisley’s “American Saturday Night,” and Colt Ford’s “Chicken & Biscuits.” Next I played alternative rock from The Black Keys new album El Camino. Throughout I did A/B tests comparing the Beats with the TNTs. As long as I was careful to keep the Beats tightly inserted in my ears they slightly edged out the headphones. I was using the Google music player which with Android/Gingerbread does not allow EQ adjustments. The Beats have a preset U-shape sonic curve boosting the bass and the treble. Had I been able to adjust the EQ, I feel certain that the TNTs would have equalled or surpassed Dr. Dre. And, in real world situations like running or walking, lightweight headphones remain in place over your ears while earbuds tend to slide.
Now for some of that personality which I “grew to respect.” This phone operates on Verizon’s incredible 4G LTE network which means you enjoy lightning fast data transfers and rock solid phone connections and the dual core processor in this unit drives it relentlessly fast. You’ll find it impossible to make it shudder or bog down. A year ago these specs would have placed Rezound at the top of the pile. But today, with the Galaxy Nexus offering 4G LTE and Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), one has to wonder if the Rezound is still a compelling alternative. Amazon currently offers the Galaxy Nexus for $99.99 or the Rezound for $79.99 with 2-year contracts. HTC says the Rezound will get a 4.0 update, perhaps as early as March… that should make Rezound owners very happy.
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