HTC Incredible S review: Media
The HTC Incredible S comes with a number of different modes for media playback, be it video, audio or DLNA streaming. It's adept at most, but has trouble with some basic playback in certain areas.
The music player on the HTC Incredible S is still only slightly above average - and the internal supply of 1.1GB of storage is paltry when you consider you have to have applications installed to that as well.
However, it comes with an 8GB microSD card as standard from The Carphone Warehouse, meaning you've got a lot more freedom to chuck as much content on there as you like.
The audio output is boosted by the addition of Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual surround sound, adding to the equaliser, although only the middle option really makes a difference sonically in a positive fashion - the rest seem to get too high-end heavy to our ears.
It's not a terrible experience sonically, but only the bass booster option in the equaliser offered the best all round sound.
The media interface is the same as it ever has been on the HTC Android brigade - namely, swipe-able album art that takes you from song to song, and a separate menu to slide along to get to artists, albums and playlists.
Having played with a roughly similar interface on the Windows Phone 7 offerings, we prefer Microsoft's offering here if we're honest - the option to swipe through albums to change songs is so much slicker, where on the HTC Incredible S it's not instant.
A couple of nice touches: after the artist, album, genre etc there's now 'Connected Media' that searches for DLNA-enabled devices.
This means if you've got a Windows 7-enabled PC or a Playstation 3 turned on you can see all the media contained on that and stream it straight across... and it really works well.
The other new feature is the addition of an Amazon MP3 store link - hit that to search for new music to buy and download. It doesn't add a lot in terms of media functionality, but it's an easy (and sometimes quite cheap) way to get that song you've been thinking of.
Another point - if you've got a pair of iPhone ready headphones, we found they will work without adaptor on the Incredible S, although the volume controls won't be active.
Video on the HTC Incredible S isn't bad - the lighter screen might be a draw on the battery, but this leads to some pin sharp video quality.
Video processing is quick and we saw very little evidence of judder in nearly all the file types we threw at it.
The Incredible S doesn't seem to have the range of file playback we've come to expect from today's high end smartphone - no DivX support, for instance.
MP4 and M4V files played back with no problem, as did WMV and 3gp, as you'd expect. DivX isn't supported, so unsurprisingly didn't play back.
HTC claims that AVI files are supported, but we chucked a number on the Incredible S and only one played back - they were all encoded in the same batch, so we've no idea why it was being picky.
However, the non-working files also ground the phone to a halt - not what we'd hoped for.
Sometimes even finding the video you want can be a challenge, as whether you survey your video list via the Videos app or through the gallery (the former is just a shortcut for the latter) you're presented with a bunch of grey tiles which should be thumbnails of your videos.
With no labels in sight, you have to wait an extraordinarily long time to find the vid you want, where on the old Desire this was presented in a swipe-able horizontal list, and the thumbnails appeared in seconds.
It seems the AVI files were to blame here, but there was no caching of the thumbnails, so over and over again we had to wait for the loading to see which video was wihich.
A simple trip to the App Market sorts this out, as something like mVideo Player irons out all the issues, but we maintain you should never have to install third party software to do basic things.
Another issue that's still present from the Desire HD: files that would previously play in whichever screen size we wanted would only play in heavy zoom or 4:3, even though they were encoded in widescreen.
We tried the same ones on the original Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S and they played fine. At least the Incredible S brings the option to zoom in, but third party software can stretch the video with no problem, so why can't the native player?
However, the addition of Dolby Mobile here (as well as SRS virtual surround sound) is a real boon and benefit, really making your movies come to life providing you've got a decent pair of headphones. - it's really worth upgrading as the in-box buds might feature an inline controller, but are poor sonically compared to a decent pair.
Another new trick for the HTC Incredible S - DLNA streaming to a big-screen TV. The penchant for manufacturers these days is to actually pop an HDMI port on the phone itself (think LG Optimus 2X) and have that mirror the phone content.
It's overly complicated compared to just being able to easily send the content across, and that's what the Incredible S does with the Connected Media system.
If you've got a DLNA-enabled TV (or are willing to buy the overly-expensive HTC dongle to turn it into one) then it really is - it's a feature that really will impress friends.
All you need to do is open up the application or click Share in the long-press menu of the media you want to pump to a big screen, and if there's a relevant display in proximity it will instantly begin playing on it - if there are multiple options the phone will present you with a list.
Simply select it and in seconds the TV will start connecting and play the media you've chosen. HD files take a little longer to get going, but the effect is the same - you can play a movie you've captured or got on your phone with no problems.
We should say if you're showing off an HD movie you've downloaded from elsewhere from the HTC Incredible S, it's not the equal of the wired-up Nokia N8, which can also support 5.1 surround sound, but for 99% of the tasks you'll want to do the HTC wireless method just looks so cool when you're sitting on the sofa just chillin'.
However, HTC could still have done better here in our opinion: free downloads like Eyecon or Skifta can do the same thing as the Connected Media program, but also stream in data from a DLNA PC or games console - it's way cooler and something we think should have been on here by default.
We'd advise you don't try and show off a photo album using this method - it takes AGES to scroll through each one, so best to stick to music and video. You know, for parties and whatever else posh people with DLNA TVs do.
Just make sure you select the right file when you're showing off the trick to family at Easter - that Spank Inferno video from your mate down the pub isn't going to go down well with the chocolate bunnies.
The final media cog of the HTC Incredible S machine is the FM radio, something that people sometimes forget about functionality-wise.
It's the same old story: you need headphones to make the radio work, there's no RDS for station names unless they're in ultra-strong signal areas (clue: there are none anywhere in the world, ever, when it comes to a mobile phone) and there's no FM transmitter in sight.
The signal is pretty poor too, making it hard to get a station even when you know a standalone device can pick up a clear signal without an issue.
But the automatic station searching is cool, and while it doesn't work all the time at least the home screen widget is easy to use.