HTC One review: first look
HTC hasn’t made a ground-breaking handset in a few years, but first impressions suggest the HTC One is a welcome return to form.
We’ve been hands-on with the new phone, and the One makes a superb first impression. Its body is constructed entirely from aluminium, with two diamond-cut bands that contain the aerials. The good looks are matched with excellent build quality – the 143g device feels as sturdy as anything Apple or Samsung can muster.
The air of quality continues with the 4.7in, 1080p screen. It’s a tad smaller than top-end phones, but it scarcely seems to matter when the 468ppi panel flares into life. There’s no sign of visible pixels; icons and images looked as crisp as we’ve seen on any phone, and colours are intense.
HTC hasn’t just been busy updating its hardware: the One includes Sense 5, and it’s the most radical evolution of HTC’s Android overlay to date.
The key new feature is BlinkFeed, which banishes the traditional homescreen we’ve become used to on HTC handsets. It’s designed to collect together content from your social networks as well as hundreds of media outlets chosen by HTC, and we’re told that BlinkFeed will adapt its content to your preferences as you click on its interactive tiles (which aren’t entirely dissimilar to those of Windows Phone 8).
It’s an attractive system, and it’s easy to use: swipe down the screen to load more tiles, click each tile to open stories, pictures or social networking post, and then scroll left or right to switch stories.
We have concerns about the customisation of this feed, though – HTC’s representatives were able to show us how to remove elements from BlinkFeed, but we weren’t able to add any ourselves. Emails won’t be seen on the BlinkFeed – they’re kept in their own app – but it’s still possible to use all of your old widgets, as the One supports six traditional homescreens alongside the BlinkFeed panel.
The HTC One’s camera is only 4-megapixels, and while that number is low by modern smartphone standards, HTC reckons its UltraPixel system will make up any lost ground. HTC says its sensor has larger pixels than most smartphone cameras, allowing more light to reach each pixel – whether this delivers the promised increase in detail awaits to be seen when the HTC One arrives in our Labs.
There’s optical image stabilisation, too – sample shots taken with the One showed plenty of detail, even in the inconsistent light of HTC’s demo area.
The oddly-named Zoe feature (which a reader tells us is named after “Zoetrope”), meanwhile, works by recording HD video and taking pictures at the same time. We were able to switch between frames and pick our favourite, and even use the multiple frames captured to remove unwanted elements from images.
The One’s Gallery app will also “remix” your videos and pictures on the fly: choose a theme, and it’ll use filters, transitions and music to create a slideshow.
Switching from video to audio, HTC also showed off its BoomSound system, which works with a pair of speakers and Beats Audio to deliver sound that’s meant to be a cut above what you expect from a smartphone. While there was more bass than usual, the One’s audio still sounded tinny, however.
Under the hood, there’s the new Snapdragon 600 chipset, which runs four ARMv7 cores at 1.7GHz and includes an updated Adreno graphics core. It’s a powerful chip, and we didn’t encounter any performance issues during our time with the One, but a quick SunSpider test recorded a time of 1,849ms – around half the speed we’ve seen from Nokia’s Lumia 820, and even slower than the BlackBerry Z10.
Our early verdict on the One, then, is that it’s a mixed bag: the stunning hardware and bright, high-resolution screen both make great first impressions, but we’re less keen on the camera software – and the jury’s still out on the BlinkFeed homescreen.
The One is set to hit shops in March and, like other high-end handsets, it won’t come cheaply – we’ve been told that it’ll be free on a £36-per-month contract on Vodafone and Orange, but upgrading to a 4G deal will cost you £41 per month for 1GB of data.
We’ll report back with a full review in due course but, for now, let us know what you think – will you be shelling out for the HTC One?