Gadgetslab: HTC One

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HTC

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm
Weight: 143 g
Screen: Super LCD3 capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors 1080 x 1920 pixels, 4.7 inches (~469 ppi pixel density)
Storage: 32GB
Processor: Quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300
RAM: 2GB
Camera: 4MP Ultrapixel main, 2.1MP front
OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean

WHAT’S HOT

  • It’s beautiful
  • Lots of processing power on tap
  • Great low-light camera performance

WHAT’S NOT

  • Can get quite warm
  • Battery performance could use a boost
  • No expandable memory

BOTTOMLINE

There’s a very good reason this is in the running for the title of King ‘Droid.

REVIEW

The top of the heap is a difficult place to reach, particularly in the highly competitive world of mobile phones. You have to give features people haven’t yet seen in a package that looks and feels good, and performs like every but the champ it is supposed to be. Fortunately, HTC has had a lot of practice in this area, and as they battle giants in the Android arena, their entry, the HTC One, has a lot going for it.

At the top of the list of winning features is the amazing feel of the device. Just looking at photos, you can see that it is exquisitely designed. Made from a single block of metal, the HTC One and its seamless body just ooze sophistication and class. Something as small as the detail given to the chamfered edge on the face of the phone does a lot to let you know that it is a premium device. All of these design elements translate beautifully when the phone is finally in hand. This is a device that just feels right. There is heft, but it isn’t heavy. It’s slim, but it doesn’t feel fragile. It has both curves and edges, and all in the right places. I wouldn’t go on to say that it’s a work of art, but it is a marvelous piece of tech engineering.

It’s a great size for a phone. The screen is about average by today’s standards, but any larger and you start grazing that line between phone and tablet. Instead of focusing on  at-out size, HTC gives you a painfully-sharp screen. With a pixel density that is through the roof, there really isn’t anything out there at the moment that can give you a sharper, cleaner display. Colors are vivid and sufficiently bright, though sometimes the screen is a little reflective when pitted against bright ambient light. It’s a display you’re going to want to look at, which is a great thing, as it is, for the most part, the way you will be interacting with the device. Worth noting is the Corning Gorilla Glass 2 HTC chose for the One, which not only gives superb scratch protection when put to real-world tests, but again helps push the top-tier feel.

Something I loved about the phone is the quality and orientation of the speakers. I watch a lot of video, and I listen to a lot of music. More than often, I share both with people. The front-facing, stereo speakers backed by Beats technology makes it so that the sound is also where the screen is. Why other manufacturers don’t do such a simple, obvious solution is beyond me. The HTC One’s speakers were more than loud enough to share music with a group of friends without assistance, even at a noisy venue. Trying to move to a larger space, though, and I was reminded that there really is only so much you can physically put in a device to give it oomph, but for such a small size, the One is extremely hard to beat.

Apart from the audio side of the equation, HTC has put a huge influence on imaging. On paper, the 4-MP main camera of the One seems to pale in comparison to the huge megapixel counts of its competitors, but megapixels aren’t everything. The sensor itself is even bigger than some dedicated point-and- shoot cameras. I have to admit that I didn’t immediately believe the claim, but the device’s performance in low-light is absolutely amazing. I had a few evening functions to attend over the course of my time with the One, and my shots came out significantly brighter than other high-end phones, just because the huge sensor can take in so much more light because of its size. It also helps boost performance where there is adequate light, allowing everything to look closer to how your own eyes see things. Still, no one solution is perfect, and in sacrificing megapixel count, the images start to look a little fuzzy once you start to blow them up.

The One makes up for that somewhat by offering extra features such as an action shot that merges several snaps into a single frame—so you see motion better—and an eraser mode that removes unwanted passers-by when you take pictures. Both work adequately, though in practice, I found that you have to hold the device quite still to get the most use out of the features.

Vying for the top spot means you need to have some muscle, and, man, does the One have some to flex. A quad-core processor might seem a little excessive, but man, does it show. At no point does the device struggle, even under huge system load. The extra power, however, gives you a little extra heat. The metal body of the flagship device means that the head dissipates from the core of the device quickly, but it also means that the body can get almost uncomfortably warm, particularly when you are running LTE on top of a heavy HD Video. More than once, I found my pocket uncomfortably sweaty (sorry) after leaving LTE connectivity live as the device happily uploaded image files to my Dropbox account. I doubt it has enough heat to burn you, but it can get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast. This also translates to quick burn times for the battery, which isn’t all that large to begin with. Data consumption and keeping the screen live for browsing easily killed the battery in well under a day while I was using it.

BuyMeter 45

The HTC One has the stuff to take the top spot. It has the power, features and form that make it more than a worthy contender for the Android Throne. If you have a little money burning a hole in your pocket, and you want one of the best Android devices money can get you, the HTC One is a good bet.

 

Words by Ren Alcantara
First published in Gadgets Magazine, September 2013