|Style & Handling|
Pros: Stunning build quality and design, top tier performance, great sound quality through the internal speakers and a mighty impressive camera.
Cons: The BlinkFeed timeline is a nice idea but it needs work.
Verdict: The HTC One is among the best handsets available. It’s a jack of all trades but also a master of most, with very little that it doesn’t do well.
From first glance the HTC One is a remarkable handset. With an all-metal body it’s the most premium and attractive phone that HTC has ever built. Combine that with truly top-end specs and features like a quad-core processor and an innovative Ultrapixel snapper and it becomes an incredibly compelling package.
We’ve not been shy about how much we like the look of HTC’s new flagship, but it really is beautiful. Clad in brushed metal it grabs your attention long before you even get it in your hands, easily outclassing most of the competition. If looks could kill we’d stay well away from the HTC One, but as they can’t the reality is that HTC have built themselves one of the most physically desirable handsets around.
The back of the phone is all silvery metal, broken only by HTC’s logo and a camera lens (which sits flush with the body). Things get a lot more interesting on the front, which is home to a vibrant 4.7 inch 1080 x 1920 Super LCD3 display. It may not be quite as big as the 5 inch beast found on the Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s not far off, and what it lacks in size it makes up for in resolution, with an eye blisteringly high 469 pixels per inch.
The screen takes up almost the entire front of the phone, with just a narrow strip at the top housing a speaker and the front facing 2.1 megapixel camera. There’s a similarly slim bar at the bottom, which is home to another speaker along with soft-touch home and back buttons. All in all there’s very little wasted space here, keeping the dimensions at a sleek 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm.
Not only does the HTC One look the part, but it also feels fairly sturdy. Being built from metal certainly helps, while the screen makes use of Gorilla Glass to repel scratches. You’ll find a volume rocker on the right edge of the handset, a SIM card slot on the left edge, a micro USB port on the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone port and power button on the top. You can’t get to the battery, which may disappoint anyone who likes the idea of being able to carry a spare with them. While there’s also no micro SD card slot, so the built in storage (of either 32 or 64GB) is all you get, but that should be more than enough for most people.
On the system
Despite running Android 4.1.2 the interface on the HTC One may not seem all that familiar as it’s been heavily modified by HTC. We’ve always been big fans of HTC’s Sense interface and it’s arguably at its best here.
The star of the show is undoubtedly BlinkFeed, which pulls data from social networks, news and entertainment sources and more and puts them into a single feed- so you can get all the web content you want in one place. Even better that place is your homescreen, so you’re never far from the things you care about.
Ultimately HTC plan to incorporate more than 1500 sources for users to choose from, but unfortunately at the time of writing there were only 11, making it rather more limited than we’d like. It also didn’t work perfectly either. Twitter feeds for example can quickly bury everything else if you follow a lot of people. It’s also entirely dependent on an internet connection, so if you’re somewhere with no signal you can’t use it. It’s a great idea, but could do with a few tweaks.
The 4.7 inch screen on the HTC One is utterly sublime. In fact with a 469 ppi pixel density it’s the sharpest display on any phone in existence, while viewing angles are great too.
The other star of the show is the sound quality. HTC’s phones have always been a cut above the rest thanks to Beats Audio, but now for the first time you’re also treated to BoomSound, which comes courtesy of two relatively large speakers on the front of the handset for loud, distortion free sound.
With a quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon processor powering it we expected great things from the HTC One and we weren’t disappointed. Coupled with 2GB of RAM it really is impressively powerful and can handle the latest games with ease.
All that power initially seemed like it might be draining the battery at an alarming rate, but we quickly found that turning DropBox sync off made a world of difference. It’s still not the best battery performance we’ve seen, but you should be able to get about 24 hours of moderate use out of it on a single charge, while if you’re planning a gaming or movie marathon you’re looking at around four or five hours.
Four – a lucky number?
HTC have taken a bit of a gamble by putting a 4 megapixel camera in the HTC One. Customers are used to big numbers and 4 just doesn’t sound all that impressive. But there’s more going on here, as HTC have used Ultrapixel technology to ensure that the lens takes in far more light than other camera phones. This leads to a seriously impressive level of detail- easily rivaling anything the 8 megapixel lens on the iPhone 5 can muster.
It doesn’t fare quite so well at night or in darker indoor scenes, but it still holds its own against other smartphones, while the 2.1 megapixel front facing camera is more than adequate for self-portraits and video chats.
The camera innovations don’t end with Ultrapixel technology, as HTC have also packed it with features that they’ve collectively dubbed ‘Zoe mode’. This allows the camera to shoot a 3 second video clip, which simultaneously takes 20 rapid-fire pictures. It can then make a slide show from your clips and even add music and effects to it. Zoe mode also has a feature that lets the camera start caching images before you even press the shutter, so you need never miss a moment again.
There’s a decent raft of editing features included too, from general photo-fixing options to more unique features like a face-tweaker which allows you to rewind a photo to a couple of moments earlier, which can be useful if someone’s eyes are closed or you don’t like their expression.
There’s very little to dislike about the HTC One. The BlinkFeed needs a bit of work and we wouldn’t say no to a bigger battery, but it’s a beautiful, high powered handset, with a stunning screen, great audio quality and loads of innovative features. All in all it’s almost impossible not to love it.