HTC One Review: Top Of The Premium Pops?

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UPDATE: After spending an extensive amount of time with the HTC One we have added our thoughts regarding the handset’s battery life. Click here to find out what we reckon.

The HTC One is the latest Android handset from the Taiwanese manufacturer and is aimed firmly at the flagship end of the market, featuring a stunning design, 1080p Full HD display and innovative UltraPixel camera.

Although HTC has always made great looking Android handsets with decent specs, the manufacturer has never really hit pay dirt in terms of sales. Even last year’s beautiful HTC One X never really got the public acclaim it deserved. Could the HTC One be the handset to remedy this lack of recognition and give the company a real contender in the high-end stakes? Read on to find out…

HTC One Front Top

Key Features

  • 4.7-inch 1080p Full HD display
  • UltraPixel Camera with HTC Zoe functionality
  • Android Jelly Bean OS with HTC BlinkFeed
  • Metal unibody construction
  • HTC BoomSound stereo speakers and amplifier
  • 1.7GHz quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB and 64GB variants available

Design & Hardware

Straight from the off, the HTC One leaves no doubt that this is a handset that means business. An all-metal and glass construction complete with polished chrome edges result in a look and feel that is 100% premium. The device is also full of lovely little touches such as the precision machine-drilled speaker holes which really add to the flagship feel. There is the distinct air of Apple’s finest when viewed front on but the HTC One is arguably even better looking, particularly in the silver colourway.

The stylish luxury continues when picking up the device, with the curved rear and tapered sides resulting in a ultra-comfortable feel. It’s not particularly light or slim, being thicker and heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S III, but this bulk comes across as reassuring rather than cumbersome.

HTC One Front Edge

Dominating proceedings on the front of the handset is a 4.7-inch display and it’s only right that the screen takes centre stage because it’s quite frankly a bit of stunner. Operating at full 1080p HD, the display is every bit as good as the specs suggest, with a level of vibrancy and clarity that has never been seen before on a HTC handset.

Although it’s not huge, the screen is of a high enough quality to be a real joy to use – even watching a full movie on it isn’t going to give you a headache. In fact, the Sony Xperia Z aside, the HTC One’s sizzling screen is the best display currently available on an Android smartphone.

The story is the same when checking out still images and the outstanding sharpness really comes to the fore with high resolution images. Even browsing menus is a pleasure, with icons virtually jumping out of the display. If you were being very fussy you could argue that that the display is bit heavy on contrast (resulting in occasionally unrealistic colour reproduction), but that would just be nit picking.

HTC One Front Apps

The rest of the hardware spec on the HTC One is just as impressive as the display. At the beating heart of the device is a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor which is helped along by 2GB of RAM. These make navigating around the HTC One completely lag-free, whether undertaking serious multitasking or getting involved in processor-intensive gaming.

Storage is covered to thanks to internal space options of both 32GB and 64GB. Annoyingly though, there is no expandable microSD card storage, so if you fill the onboard space up, it’s only cloud storage from there on in. That said, the preinstalled Dropbox app is pretty well-integrated into the device, making uploading and sharing pretty much seamless.

In terms of battery life the device offers decent enough performance without being anything to write home about, with a full days use possible between charges when the handset is used moderately. In fairness, getting a full day out of one lot of juice when the phone has such an impressive screen and the constantly updating BlinkFeed is pretty good really.

Software & Multimedia

HTC has plumped for Google’s Android Jelly Bean as the operating system of choice on the HTC One, but the manufacturer has taken the radical step of introducing a totally new style of user interface.

Known as HTC BlinkFeed, the innovative bit of functionality brings together live news, social network updates and even image galleries, into one unified space. The interface itself is similar in design to something like Flipboard, with a heavy emphasis on images, and is fully customisable offering feeds from a number of news outlets and social networks including Twitter and Facebook.

HTC One Front BlinkFeed

To be fair, BlinkFeed might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It really is unlike anything seen within an Android device and does take a bit of getting used to. Thankfully, the traditional Android homescreen is available via a simple swipe to the left from the BlinkFeed screen. It is even possible to revert to using the usual Android/HTC Sense interface as your homescreen within the settings.

As is par for the course on all Android smartphones, all of the Google bits and bobs we have come to know and love are firmly in place on the HTC One. This means seamless integration with Google +, Gmail, Google Now and the beautiful Chrome web browser. It is also quite refreshing to see that HTC has not preloaded the handset with tons of useless bloatware, preferring instead to provide useful stuff like Car Mode and Dropbox.

HTC smartphones have always been equipped with pretty decent cameras, but the HTC One really takes things a step further with its brilliant snapper. The company has bravely moved away from the idea of megapixels, instead introducing its own UltraPixel technology. Without getting a too techy and yawnsome, this basically means that the sensor lets in more light and pixels are larger, which results in a higher quality image.

HTC One Back Camera

Whatever the geekery behind it, the UltraPixel camera is a total revelation. It manages to capture images with a level of sharpness and saturation that is pretty much unparalleled in the smartphone world. Without a doubt, this really is at the front of the smartphone pack for camera technology.

But it doesn’t end there with the HTC One’s camera capabilities. The strangely named HTC Zoe is an utterly bonkers yet amazing camera mode that grabs a 3-second burst of HD video and 20 photos every time your press the shutter button. These visual snippets, which HTC like to call ‘Zoes’, can then be edited to within an inch of their lives with the ability to do things that would previously be the preserve of expensive programs like Photoshop.

With just a few taps of the screen it is possible to stitch a sequence of images together, add lighting to an image or even enhance the skin and eyes of any faces in the image. While this may all sound outlandish, in practice it works like a dream and is so simple to use that even total novices will be able to grasp it quickly.

HTC One Front Camera App

One of the most impressive features of HTC Zoe is the ability to erase elements from an image. For example, if you are trying to snap a lovely landscape image of somewhere picturesque and someone wanders across the scene, just a single tap will get rid of them from your snap. It really is that easy and really does that work that well.

Of course, you might want to keep your Zoe animated (no sniggering). This is entirely possible, giving you a little living photograph for you to keep in your gallery or even share via the HTC Zoe Share service.

If traditional video recording is more your bag, then the HTC One has this covered too with 1080p HD capture possible. Dual-capture is built right in so you can grab still images while recording and also included is a rather cool slow motion mode. To be totally honest, the video quality when shooting slo-mo is quite drastically reduced, but this doesn’t stop it being a fun little bit of functionality to mess around with.

HTC One Back Beat Logo

As is now the norm with HTC smartphones, the HTC One comes complete with Beats Audio integration and as such, all audio output is optimised and EQ’ed up to the nines. Also included is a new technology dubbed ‘HTC BoomSound’ which essentially consists a pair of stereo speakers on the front of the handset for an improved audio experience. Unfortunately, the output, while certainly being loud, is somewhat tinny with very little bass response to speak of. Still, it is a big improvement on the usual tiny onboard speakers that most handsets have.

Performance & Verdict

The Android handset market place is a busy one at the moment, so the question to be asked is can the HTC One really force its way to the front of the crowd? Well, thanks to its exceptional build quality, gorgeous display and mind blowingly good camera, this is a device that has risen immediately to the very top of the class. BlinkFeed might be a bit of an acquired taste and ‘BoomSound’ is not as impressive as it appears on paper, but even these cannot stop the device being absolutely top notch.

Although the competition is getting ever hotter in the flagship Android arena, there can be little doubt that, in the HTC One, the Taiwanese company has created a device that is one of the best Android smartphones currently available.