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HTC Surround review

Of all the Windows Phone 7 launch devices, AT&T’s HTC Surround is likely the most curious. It’s a landscape slider built on the same basic internals as the rest of its platform siblings, but there’s no keyboard under that screen — the quarter-inch slide reveals an aluminum speaker bar and integrated kickstand, which combine to create a tiny little stereo system of sorts. Mix in Windows Phone 7’s heavy Zune integration, add in a dash of Dolby Mobile and SRS Wow “virtual surround” audio processing, and top it all off with 16GB of internal memory, and you have what might be the ultimate phone for on-the-go media consumption. But does the Surround live up to all that promise? Read on to find out!


At first glance, the Surround is pretty nondescript — it shares some obvious design DNA with other HTC devices like the Desire, the Nexus One, and the Trophy, with a gray front and a soft-touch matte black black. Look closer and you’ll see it’s a little bit thicker and heavier, owing to the slider mechanism within — at .51 inches thick and weighing at 5.82 ounces, it’s about .05 inches thicker and an ounce heavier than the other HTC sets in this family. It’s not much on paper, but definitely noticeable in person — and compared to the Samsung Focus, also on AT&T, it’s a big .1 inch thicker and 1.6 ounces heavier. Considering the fundamental Windows Phone 7 experience will be virtually identical on every launch device, the Surround’s speakers have quite a burden to carry — they have to sound amazing enough to be worth the size and weight penalty. But we’ll get to that.

Up front, the Surround has a 3.8-inch LCD with the same 480 x 800 resolution as every other WP7 launch device. While the display is commendably bright and vibrant — we actually thought it was a bit too bright at the lowest setting — it’s still not up to the standard set by the iPhone 4 and Samsung’s Super AMOLED devices. On a phone built for video playback, that’s sort of an issue, and it’s one that’s on Microsoft to solve — WP7 doesn’t support higher resolutions yet. It’s also telling that even Microsoft refers to the Samsung Focus as having the best display of the Windows Phone 7 launch lineup — side by side the Surround’s screen is more color accurate, but somewhat more washed out. Obviously HTC has had its share of issues with OLED availability recently, but we’d like to have seen an SLCD display here — a serious video playback device needs more than just a pretty good screen.

Volume controls and the camera shutter button are on the right side, while the sleep/wake button and headphone jack sit up top and the requisite micro USB is located at the bottom. Round back you’ve got the five megapixel camera and flash, and tolerance between the two halves of the slider are pretty tight, although there is some variance here and there.

Sliding the phone open reveals the speaker bar, which hides a pair of drivers and houses a lone button, which engages the various surround modes. The kickstand is integrated into the display side of the casing and flips out horizontally. It’s a unique and interesting design, if not the most stable — navigating the phone while it rested on the kickstand resulted in a few topples. You also can’t really grab the phone and go when the kickstand is out — you can sometimes get the stand to close by sliding the phone closed, but it never feels quite safe, and we usually closed everything manually first. Not a huge deal, but a definite consequence of this design.

Speakers, surrround, and software

Obviously the main attraction with the Surround is the speaker bar and the promised “virtual surround” audio. Like we’ve said, there’s a lot of promise here, but unless the phone delivers the extra size and weight simply won’t be worth it. Unfortunately, we’re here to report… that they’re simply not worth it. We’re certain the good people at Dolby and SRS did their best, but we don’t think any amount of audio postprocessing can make tiny phone speakers sound good, and we can’t say we ever heard anything approaching “surround sound” from this thing. What’s more, the only indication of what surround mode you’re in comes from opening HTC’s Sound Enhancer app — pressing the button while playing back music or video in the Zune player doesn’t provide any visual feedback as to what setting you’re selecting. After a while we just started thinking of it as switching between “tinny” and “muffled.” We heard slightly more of a difference when we plugged in headphones, but no more than any other automatic EQ setting we’ve tried on other devices in the past, and hey — if you’re using headphones you’re kind of defeating the purpose here.

On a more positive note, the speakers do get nicely loud without distortion — we had no problems listening to music in the back of a Manhattan cab. But keep in mind that these are the only speakers on the device, so in the closed position they’re heavily muffled by the screen. That means you have to open the slider anytime you want to listen to anything, really — again, not a huge deal, but a consequence of this design that bears mentioning.

Even if the speakers sounded amazing, we’re still not sure the added size and weight would be worth it, since the Surround’s kickstand effectively defaults it to landscape orientation when placed on a desk, and there’s virtually no landscape support in Windows Phone 7. What little there is seems half-finished: the browser doesn’t have so much as a back button in landscape — let alone a URL bar — and the mail client does something wonky with the soft keyboard. Thankfully, the video player worked fine in landscape, but there’s no landscape navigation of the Music and Videos hub — it’s all portrait. That means if you’re playing songs on the Surround with the kickstand open, you’ve got to tilt your head 90 degrees to change tracks, adjust the volume, or hit pause. Same with video, outside of actual playback — all the navigation is done in portrait. That’s a pretty big oversight for a media device that’s designed for use in landscape mode, and while we can’t blame HTC for the limitations of Microsoft’s brand-new OS, we can say we don’t think carrying a landscape slider that just barely supports landscape display is such a bright idea.


We had high, high hopes for the 5 megapixel autofocus camera on the Surround — when we first started using it all of our shots looked gorgeous on the built-in display. Windows Phone 7’s camera app is amazingly fast and responsive, and the Surround wears it well — we snapped all manner of quick shots with no problems. It was when we pulled the images over to a computer that some of the bloom came off the rose — literally, as you can see above. Most of our shots were far less vibrant at full res than they appeared on the phone’s display, and we also detected some softness, white balance and shutter speed issues here and there. Don’t get us wrong, for a phone camera it’s a solid effort — it pops right up and focuses quite fast — but we’d say the iPhone 4 and (obviously) the Nokia N8 provide better overall image quality.

Wrap up

Well, what can we say? The HTC Surround does a fine job running Windows Phone 7, and if that’s the only criteria by which you’re going to measure it chances are you’ll be quite happy. But Microsoft is launching 10 devices this month, and there are two other choices on AT&T alone which do an equally fine job of running the OS. The Surround needed to bring a lot to the table in order to justify being bigger and heavier than the Samsung Focus while lacking the QWERTY keyboard of the LG Quantum, and we just don’t think a pair of average speakers and a kickstand provides that justification — especially since Windows Phone 7 doesn’t take full advantage of either. We’d love to be more positive about what is fundamentally a fine piece of hardware, but if you’re looking for a Windows Phone 7 device on AT&T at launch, we think you should (cough) focus your attention elsewhere.

Via Engadget


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How much data does video streaming use?

When it comes to internet usage, video watching is one of the main interests of users. Most users are mainly inclined towards streaming videos so it matters a lot to know how much data is required for it. Of course, we do require a smooth internet connection to be able to stream our favorite content online.If video streaming is your preference then you must consider high-speed internet like Spectrum internet for instance, that do not offer data caps. This means you do not have to worry about any extra fee surprises in your bill that are bound to happen if you run out of your data limit. Most of the providers in the United States do impose data caps so it is very important to find out an internet plan that assures a no data cap policy. For that, let us first have a look at the data that is needed for various video streaming platforms.YouTubeJust like using any other app on your smartphone, YouTube being one of the popular platforms needs data too. It nearly takes 562.5 MB of data per hour. This holds valid when you stream at around 480p resolution. In case you want better resolution, then you might require 1.86 GB per hour for 720p. For 1080p you might require 3.04 GB. For watching videos in 4K, you will require a massive 15.98 GB of data per hour.NetflixWe all agree with the fact that how much we love Netflix as it has successfully evolved as one of the most popular video streaming services. For subscribers exceeding 130 million, the internet speed is not much of a problem. An hour of video streaming in standard definition would need around 1 GB of data. If you want to enjoy high-quality video streaming, you might need up to 3GB. For ultra-high-definition, you can require up to 7 GB of data per hour.The selection of accounts can help you decide a suitable resolution for your connection. If you want to save your data, you can check the settings option and click the save button when you want.Amazon Prime VideoAmazon Prime Video was launched by Amazon as a streaming service in 2011 and has ever gained popularity among the users. Nowadays it is seen as one of the biggest competitors for Netflix. This service provides up to three resolutions for the users. Among them include good, better, and best. The Good enables streaming videos at around 480p in standard definition and utilizes a data of 800 MB per hour. The Better option allows an HD stream with a data requirement of around 2 GB per hour. The Best option consumes nearly 6 GB of data per hour. You should also know that accessing Amazon Prime Video on your mobile app results in low data consumption as compared to the desktop app.HuluHulu is another important video streaming option that uses somewhat less data as compared to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video This makes Hulu as one of the most economical options available. You require around 680 MB per hour of data for the standard definition. If you switch to a 720p high definition setting, the data requirement may jump to 1.3 GB per hour. 1080p resolution can need data up to 2.7 GB per hour. You can also stream live TV if you are using Hulu’s $39.99 monthly plan.SpotifySpotify is one of the best-known music streaming platforms but not everyone knows that it also provides a video service in certain areas. The company does not disclose much about the data requirements of the video streaming service. However it only notifies that video streaming requires more data as compared to music streaming and is much like the ones needed for other video channels. Mostly the videos are in high definition and can consume up to 3 GB of data for an hour streaming.VimeoVimeo does not have any details regarding data usage. The standard definition content can need up to 353 MB of data per hour. As far as the HD videos are concerned, they need up to 2.75 GB per hour.StanMany of us might not have heard of Stan as it is accessible in Australia only. The app usually provides four-tier quality. The lowest standard definition setting can require up to 1.13 GB per hour while HD and 4K can require around 3 GB per hour and 7 GB per hour respectively.DirecTVThe DirecTV website also does not display clear information about the required bandwidth. In case if your provider puts a data limit, you can always reduce your video quality. The data consumption parallels to the aforementioned video streaming platforms.Sling TVSling TV is another one of the highest quality video streaming service that uses around 2 GB per hour of data for its highest quality option. The data required for medium quality is 540 MB per hour that further lowers to 360 MB per hour for low-quality streaming options.Summing UpYou need to be aware of the data consumption involved in the video streaming service you are using. This can save you from exceeding your data limit and paying any additional cost.EDITOR NOTE: This is a promoted post and should not be viewed as an editorial endorsement.

This portable UV-C wand sterilizes your items and work space

In an age when cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer aren’t easily found, it’s a little tough to keep your personal items and space clean. Not wiped down and washed, but free from germs and bacteria.Rather than fighting your way through a store to find only to find out there are no wipes left, take a smarter approach. The SANITECH UV-C Wand, on sale for just $72.99, is the sort of thing you buy once and get to use over and over. Try that with those Clorox Wipes.About the size of an electric toothbrush, the SANITECH UV-C Wand emits a UV-C light that kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria within ten seconds. It cleans all sorts of surfaces, including clothes, bedding, phones, keyboards, laptops, and more. If your hands touch it, you can probably clean it with the SANITECH UV-C Wand.FeaturesUV-C light kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, & viruses within 10 secondsChemical-free for your safety & can be used on baby products, cosmetics, pet supplies, on home and public spacesLasts up to 90 minutes w/ full chargeBuilt for travel & convenienceBuy it NowPurchase the SANITECH UV-C Wand for just $72.99, a savings of 18% off the normal $90 price. Choose from Winter White, Flamingo Pink, and Seabreeze Green.Best SellersEarn Credits!For every $25 you spend in the AG Deals Store you get $1 credit added to your account. And, if you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.First Time Buying?If this is your first time buying, you are also eligible for 10% discount! Just be sure to subscribe for email updates.Free StuffNot looking to spend any money today? No worries. You can still visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and pick something anyhow.

How to set up a Messenger Room in Facebook Messenger

With the launch of Messenger Rooms, you can now participate in video calls from the comfort of your smartphone and without any extra apps.If you’re using WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger, you can now make a virtual room and invite your friends in a matter of seconds. This saves you the trouble of installing extra apps like Zoom.Today we’re going to look at how to set up a Messenger Room in Messenger.How to set up a Messenger Room in Messenger – The easy wayThe only real pre-requisite here is having the latest version of Facebook Messenger installed on your phone from the Google Play Store. Download it here.Step 1Tap on the People tab at the bottom on the Messenger app and choose to Create a RoomAt the bottom center of the screen, you will have the option of Share Link. Tap on it.With the Who Can Join, you can also control who joins the Messenger Room if you wish to keep the room exclusive to friends, family, etc.Step 2Copy the link in the box and paste it to the group or people you wish to share it with. They will also need to have the Messenger app installed and on the latest version of the app for it to work best.You can share the link via any app or medium you wish, but whoever has access to the link can join your room, unless you modify the Who Can Join settings in Step 1.From here, you just wait for your friends to join and carry out your business. When you feel the room has met its purpose, you can close the room by tapping on the X button at the top right of the room.Leave will mean that the room will still be there to return to for anyone who has the link. End Room will close the room and make the link invalid. This means you’ll have to make a new room if you do End Room here.We also wrote a guide on how to start a Messenger Room from WhatsApp. The feature will soon go live on Instagram globally, so be sure to look out for that as well!If you’ve used Messenger rooms, let us know what you think of it in the comments section below!