The 2013 HTC One: a beauty and a beast

htc one 2013 review ycp

HTC One front full view

Verdict: Must-buy.
by yellowchilli.
review unit provided by HTC.

HTC takes a great gamble by stepping into the field with a 4 megapixel camera when the current competitors already exceed 10 megapixels, with 41 megapixels being the highest out there. And they rationalise this by telling people that they don’t actually need that many pixels and that some of these new features, such as Zoe would not be possible with a high resolution camera.
HTC One back quarter

The HTC One does well in everything that matters on a smartphone and it doesn’t waste much time with gimmicky features that nobody uses. And they continue the painstaking tradition of putting a lot of resources into the overall design, and succeed in making a phone that immediately grabs you, making you feel that you’re ready to accept compromises just so you can own a piece of this beautiful device.
It’s enough to make you feel the iPhone 5 is genuinely out-dated.

HTC One bottom right chamfer

Specs and info
4.7 inch display
1920×1080 resolution
Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
2 GB of RAM
Ultrapixel camera (4 megapixels)
firmware version tested: 1.29.708.4
Price: $700-800usd unlocked.

HTC One front top boomsound speaker
Design and build quality
++++++ the overall design is aesthetically sublime, materials used are premium and tough. Its metal body goes through 200 minutes of cuts in a CNC machine and whatnot but most importantly, their labour of love really shines through
++++++ Power button is also the infrared transmitter! Awesome integration
HTC One top power button infrared transmitter

Making Galaxys S4 designer jealous and wonder day and night why he hadn’t integrated the infrared transmitter into the earphone jack, since 2013.

+++ in-hand feel is good. despite having the same width as the recently reviewed Blackberry Z10, it feels more comfortable in hand likely due to the curved back fitting more ergonomically
—- lacks a hardware shutter button. considering the emphasis of photography for the phone, this appears to be a major oversight.
— the one-piece volume rocker becomes loose with use.
HTC One right side volume rocker loose

this thing is loose HTC. FIX IT.

— it’s going to scratch and it will be very visible. I specifically requested a black version to see if I will get the chance to see the anodised layer scratch off. I didn’t go as far as do a scratch test and it has not gained any superficial damage during my test period, my suspicion is still present [EDIT] just check out our drop test.
– once again the capacitive buttons get shuffled around a bit. Gone is the Menu button as is HTC’s tradition, but this time round there isn’t even a Multitask button. it’s clear HTC wants to make the best out of the screen real estate by not using Android’s virtual buttons a la the Nexus series. And this time round, it succeeds but mostly because developers are catching on and bringing their codes up to date with the API level.
HTC One front bottom boomsound speaker

Single tap Home to go home, long press for Google Now and double-tap for multitask.

HTC One front full view display

preparing for our 10 storey drop test. not.

++++++ 469 pixels per inch? 1080p? gorilla glass 2? this is the most beautiful display. ever.
++++ the SLCD3 has natural accurate colours, contrast level is not quite that of the AMOLED panels but is very close

HTC One back camera
++++++ Event Highlights is a unique feature seen only on the HTC One so far. Essentially it picks still photos, Zoes and videos, mashes them together to create a minute-long video, complete with visual effects, style filters and one of the preset mood soundtracks. All this, automatically and in the background without any user action. Of course, you can make your own by picking your own content, filter style and music. See for yourself. It’s simply breath-taking and the random factor sometimes produces hilarious Highlights.
+++++ the sensor lets in a massive amount of light in lowly-lit environments
+++++ not a single shutter lag is achievable on this phone.
++++ Zoe (zoetrope) is a cool new feature that takes full advantage of the second generation ImageChip through dual-path encoding (taking pictures while recording video) that will change the way you take pictures. It’s especially useful for capturing objects that are in motion or for erasing things that are not desirable in a still photo (no more photobombs!).
+++ Ultrapixels, also known more or less conventionally as 4 megapixels is enough for regular consumers but not photo buffs. Know that you’re not going to be able to crop your pictures like you can with bigger sensors.
+++ lenses of different effects come built-in and are fun to use.
+++ Following in Nokia Lumia 920’s footsteps, the One also has an OIS, also known as an Optical Image Stabilisation. Essentially, this works by sensing your movements and counters the camera lens in the opposite direction to lessen the shake and blur.
++ the overall photo quality is good. accurate colours, relatively little noise for darkly-lit areas. But it’s just not quite as much of a selling point as HTC might have you believe.
+ the intuitive camera UI is back. Camera shutter button sits just on top of the Record button for videos.
+ the HTC One comes with a nice photo editing suite.
HTC One camera sample photo editing suite effects

and this is how the Xenomorph was conceptualised.

—- Zoe should be as simple to access as the soft Shutter button or the soft Record button. But instead, it’s a toggle, and then another tap on the Shutter button.
— Each Zoe shot produces 20 frames of stills and when they all get uploaded to Google+, you know you’re going to spend a long time sorting through them. While this is exactly how Zoe works- produce still frames from a 3 second video then let you scrub through them one by one, it’s not practical to have them all placed inside the DCIM folder (which is what gets uploaded by Google’s Instant Uploads and Dropbox’s Camera Uploads)
— video quality is ok, but not quite sharp enough. but see for yourself in the numerous vids I took.

Photo samples- click to enlarge

HTC One camera sample indoor

her name is CoCo. Say hi Smile

HTC One camera zoe still sample outdoor daylight motion coco

One of the resulting still photos from a Zoe shot. Dual path-encoding working hard here.

HTC One camera sample macro outdoor sunlight zoomed

a zoomed in shot.

HTC One camera sample lens effects

these artsy lens effects are built-in.

HTC One camera sample outdoor sunlight

nice view… bad photo?

HTC One camera sample outdoor night streets hong kong causeway bay

and now, the HTC One camera’s main strength: lowlight shots.

HTC One camera sample outdoor night streets hong kong

and one more. this is quite incredible

HTC One camera sample outdoor night shot lowlight

and in even more darkness. noise is starting to show here

HTC One camera sample night indoor lowlight didi

here we have a picture taken in complete darkness except for some illumination from a desk lamp. not great but still better than what most smartphone cameras can do.

Video samples- don’t forget to change the resolution to 1080

Left over video from taking a Zoe shot.
1920×1080 video sample. it also demonstrates to a certain extent how well stereo sound is captured.
and here is one of those very cool Event Highlights.

Software features
HTC One blinkfeed
HTC one lock screen
+++++ Sense 5 is tweaked for practicality. For the first time, HTC’s Sense UI is lightweight, now-two dimensional and flat, and devoid of the usual heavy animations.
+++++ Blinkfeed dominates your homescreen. Because it IS your Homescreen- as in you return to it when you tap Home. And it’s a very good thing. All your social feeds and notifications, local news of varying categories, TV guide, and various other Blinkfeed tiles from built-in apps are all in one place. These in turn can be shown sorted by broader categories e.g. Highlights show a bit from each source, or if say you only want to see facebook stuff you can just pick Facebook.
HTC One blinkfeed local sources

here’s where you can pick local news sources for your Blinkfeed. you can also choose the country of these content sources, but sadly not mix them up.

+++ TV remote and its infrared counterpart is a nice addition. This is definitely the right direction as even Samsung feels the need to add this to their upcoming Galaxy S4. What’s great is that you can even mark your local TV channels and it’ll mix the TV guide into your Blinkfeed (or check the entire listing). Compatibility with different television sets seemed ample and it could also learn infrared signals from TVs that’s not on their list.
HTC One tv remote setup

+++ 2 GB of RAM is plentiful and this time round, HTC has tweaked it so that multitasking works as it should, unlike in the One X where it was aggressively killing background processes left and right. Double-tap the Home button to bring up app thumbnails and tap to resume an app. Flick upward to dismiss and close an app from the multitasking screen.
++ universal search is still here and also integrated into the app drawer. Quite possibly one of the best ever software enhancements by HTC.
htc one app drawer search

betcha Microsoft’s Winows Phone app search was photocopied from HTC

+ HTC Share is a new sharing service by HTC. First thing I did was share with a friend but her Windows Phone 8 was not able to view the link. The option is there if you need it.
HTC One HTC share

useful? no. gets in the way? yes.
HTC One htc share uploading
Here’s the Zoe clip.

+ Gallery comes alive with video previews. think newspaper in Harry Potter and how each picture is a short video. Now think he-who-must-not-be-named, and wonder how he breathes through those slits…..
HTC One gallery

would you believe me if I told you if Mila Kunis is my friend?

+ browser comes with a Reader mode
HTC One browser reader mode
+ parental controls is available. called Kid mode.

HTC One kid mode

Finally! your peace of mind when leaving your kid and your phone together until he goes blind from all that playing.

— Sense 5 has trouble with creating shortcuts from the app drawer. Instead of tap and hold an icon, you need to tap and hold, drag it to the top where it says “Shortcut”, then the app drawer fades and gives way to your home screen where you can drop the icon. Retarded.
HTC One app drawer

why HTC why?!

— Silent mode, Quiet mode, Blocking mode, Bedside mode or whatever it’s known these days is nowhere to be found. This is where you can set what nose the phone will allow at what time of the day e.g. when you sleep, you only want phone calls and alarms to come through and not notifications. This should be the mark of a modern phone HTC.
– Blinkfeed could be overwhelming for some and not immediately apparent how it can be disabled. It also breaks consistency by changing the way the Home button works so could become confusing for new users.

HTC One left side top boomsound speaker

HTC One left side view bottom boomsound speaker
Sound quality
++++++ these unprecedented front-facing stereo speakers really set forth a benchmark for what every mobile phone manufacturer. Beats audio is also available when using the internal speakers and really helps them reach their potentials pumping out rich sounds. HTC, at the risk of having it sound like a marketing gimmick, calls this Boomsound- and the name is dead on. Music is loud and clear, and is able to maintain a rich balanced sound through all volume levels. Seriously, you would not believe the sound is coming out of a smartphone at all. Movies are blessed with proper stereo speaker placements and delivers wide stereo effects where necessary- again this is not something that’s been done before.
++++ Beats audio profile does its job well, but it has now completely replaced all other equalizer options so you are going to have to trust it to make the right adjustments.

HTC One benchmark epic citadel

Epic Citadel benchmark high quality: 54.3 FPS

HTC One sunspider benchmark

Sundpider benchmark: a respectable 1090.6ms

HTC One Antutu benchmark results

Antutu Benchmark: 23584

HTC One quadrant benchmark results

Quadrant: o look there’s last year’s One X ..eating dust!

Performance and battery life
++++++ can the speed of this thing be challenged? (yer ok the octa S4 but it ain’t out yet!) [EDIT: our brief hands-on with the Octa S4 proves it] it’s interesting how HTC does away with the load time-masking animations (as is their tradition) but to be honest, animations- even if sped up- would only have slowed things down.
++ battery life is respectable and will get you through a day easily. but only if you know how to tune it and make a few compromises.
—- most users will fall into the battery drain trap by signing into a lot of accounts during setup. I did and couldn’t fix the problem until I did a factory data reset and then signing into essential accounts only.
—- the thing seriously heats up under heavy load and you will feel every bit of it through the heat conducting aluminium chassis.
— charging can take a bit long. whatever happened to that Qualcomm quick charge feature??

HTC One battery life test1
HTC one battery life test1 graph
HTC one battery life test2
HTC One battery life test2 graph
HTC one battery life test3

And finally: the best possible battery life scenario after I set everything up from scratch from a factory data reset. No battery drain at all.
htc one battery life test4
htc one battery life test4 graph

this is actually impressive.

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