HTC Amaze 4G review: Upping the ante

Stefan Vazharov, 18 October 2011.
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Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

A solid 8MP shooter

The HTC Amaze 4G packs an 8MP camera that does stills of up to 3264x2448 pixels and records 1080p video @ 30fps. There’s a dual-LED flash / video light too. The camera unit has backside illuminated sensor and wide aperture lens (f/2.2) for better low light performance. Face detection is on board as well, along with some special shooting modes such as HDR and sweep panorama.

The camera interface is space efficient. Most of the controls are on the right side of the viewfinder, with the virtual shutter in the center. There’s a virtual zoom lever on the left. By default the viewfinder image is cropped so that it fills the entire screen, but you can switch that off (note that cropping to 16:9 reduces the output resolution to less than 8MP).

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HTC Amaze 4G camera interface

You can focus either by touching the screen, or with a half-press of the dedicated camera button. Geotagging is on board as well. When focusing, the camera unit makes a sound, suggesting it means business.

The camera of the Amaze 4G has zero shutter lag. The speed with which it takes shots is nothing short of impressive. It loads fast too – you can either access it from the lockscreen, or by long pressing the dedicated button. The process takes less than a second.

In order to boost the camera performance, HTC has added a handful of modes to select from. Along with the Auto mode, which selects the optimal settings in the current conditions, there is also SmartShot, SweepShot, ClearShot HDR, BurstShot, Night, Action, Macro, Portrait, and Manual. The latter allows you to modify the advanced settings yourself. With so many shooting modes, the HTC Amaze 4G looks poised to put even some point-and-shoot cameras to shame.

BurstShot mode helps you take 5 consecutive pictures in a short time interval. It is handy when you are shooting a sports event of a fast-moving object.

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Some of the camera shooting modes of the Amaze 4G

Despite the bold promises, the Amaze 4G is not among the best 8 megapixel shooters we've seen. Its photos have a lot of noise, even on a sunny day. The noise reduction keeps the visible noise down to an acceptable level, but at the expense of the fine detail. The dynamic range is also nothing spectacular resulting in frequently overblown highlights in mid- to high-contrast scenes. Macros turn out good but again, the fine detail suffers from the noise reduction.

The color reproduction is faithful but the white balance sometimes gets things off. The camera lens seems quite susceptible to lens flare with immensely deteriorates contrast in shots that have some sort of a bright light source in them.

We have prepared a number of camera samples. Check them out below:

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Macro camera shots

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General camera samples

The photos shot with the built-in HDR mode are not as seamlessly fused as we would have liked, but it does its job well. The only artifacts we noticed were present along high-contrast edges.

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HDR camera samples

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Samples shot in 16:9 aspect, low light too

SweepShot is what HTC calls its Panorama mode. It's really easy to shoot a Panorama image with it. The sweeping movement of the camera is assisted by an on-screen indicator, which guides you along and helps with the framing. And the result... As you'll see blow, the image quality is nothing spectacular but besides the somewhat awkward perspective distortion, the phone has done a great job in stitching it. There are almost no stitching artifacts and the exposure is nice and even throughout the frame.

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SweepShot panorama demo

The full HD camcorder is nice

The interface of the camcorder is similar to the still camera’s and there are lots of customizable options with this one. You can set the video resolution, recording limit and add effects.

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The camcorder interface

Just like the still camera, the camcorder has its dedicated hardware shutter button. It is slightly smaller and has a thin red line on top of it, suggesting you its purpose. It works quite nice too. The moment you press it and the camera starts shooting video. We are yet to see such a feature on another smartphone on the US market.

The Amaze 4G video quality is quite nice actually. The colors and contrast are nice, the action turns out smooth and there’s plenty of detail.

Videos are shot in MP4 format. The Amaze 4G camera boasts stereo audio recording at 44kHz, which is a huge improvement over the sub-22kHz mono sound that, say, the LG Optimus 2X or Samsung Galaxy S II record.

We have prepared a couple of camera samples for you. Don't forget to click 1080p on the Full HD video sample and open the video full screen.

Connectivity has all you need and some more

The HTC Amaze 4G has a complete connectivity set. This department benefits the most from the presence of the new Snapdragon S3 chipset. There’s quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and blazing fast dual-band 3G: 42Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink thanks to HSPA.

The local wireless connectivity has Wi-Fi b/g/n and full DLNA support (both client and server, for images, videos and music) and Bluetooth 3.0.

The Connected media app handles all sorts of DLNA connections – it plays media to and from devices on the network with just a couple of clicks. Apps like the gallery have such functionality built in too.

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The Connected media app flexes DLNA muscles

You have a long list of options for connecting to a PC - Charge only, Disk drive (mass storage), HTC Sync, USB tethering (use the phone as a modem) and Internet pass-through (the phone uses the computer’s Internet connection). The Charge only and Disk Drive now have big, thumb-friendly icons, which is great since they are used most often.

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Selecting a USB connection type • Starting the personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Last but not least is the HTC Portable Hotspot. It can support 1 to 8 devices (default Froyo app maxes out at 5), you can WEP, WPA or WPA2 encrypt the hotspot and you can enable “allowed users” only to connect or leave it open for all (unsecure, but the quickest setup).

The app can be set to power off automatically after 5 or 10 minutes of inactivity, saving your battery in case you forget to switch it off manually.

We're not over covering the connectivity - the "microUSB port" as we called it for convenience is actually a MHL port. If you plug a MHL dongle in it, you can output HD video over a standard HDMI connection.

The phone's UI is mirrored on the TV - the qHD resolution has the perfect 16:9 aspect ratio for connecting to HDTVs.

The icing on the connectivity cake is the NFC capability. The credit for it goes, once again, to the new chipset of the HTC Amaze 4G. Much like with the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II, there is a dedicated app, called Tags, in charge of handling the NFC functionality.

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NFC is a welcome addition to the connectivity set

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