HTC One Review

Introduction, Design and Display

Saying that the HTC One is an important handset for HTC would be an understatement. The device is crucial to the company that just a year and a half ago passed for one of the biggest Android success stories, but is now struggling to squeeze out profits. The One name is not coincidental - HTC is hoping this device to be the one to really change the tide for it and the company has put its best effort in it, refining the design to near perfection.

Pressured by declining revenues, the company has harnessed its best engineers into the task of making a truly groundbreaking device, one that can compete with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4 juggernaut.

To make that device, HTC has focused on four key areas - design, screen, sound and camera. The HTC One brings the best out of HTC’s industrial design legacy. Clad in a beautiful aluminum body, it comes with a 4.7-inch bright and vivid display and an impressively loud and clear front stereo speaker setup. Lastly, HTC took a huge risk with its new UltraPixel camera, going against the market trend of more megapixels, and instead using just a 4.3-megapixel sensor allowing for very large pixels for superior low-light performance.

On paper, this looks like a killer combination. But now, at last, the final device is in our hands and we are ready to put all of HTC’s ambitious new features to a test. Read on.

What’s in the box:

  • SIM card removal tool
  • Earphones
  • Micro USB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • User Manual


In a world of plastic Androids, the HTC One stands out. It’s different - a gorgeous-looking slender device with chamfered edges and a slightly curved back that lays in the hand almost organically. It’s extremely ergonomical and even though it’s a big phone, it is comfortable to hold and operate. Thickness comes at 9.3mm, or 0.37 inches, and it weighs a well balanced 5.04 oz (143 g).

The HTC One has a body made out of aluminum, a front and back aluminum plates (you can choose between silver and black colors) with two tiny stripes of white plastic on the back allowing for better signal.

The front comes with two large speaker grills, the holes drilled symmetrically on the top and bottom of the device, promising an exciting sound experience. The device comes with a new button layout and instead of the standard three capacitive buttons you only get two, and an HTC logo in the middle instead of the third. What’s missing is the multitasking button, which you now access by double-tapping the home key. Long holding the same home key fires up Google Now. This new layout is a bit strange and having the back button on the left makes it a bit of a stretch to reach. You get used to it over time, but it doesn’t feel like the perfect setup.

Physically buttons are large and comfortable to press. The volume rocker is on the side and the lock key, which doubles as an InfraRed blaster, is located on top. Its top location is a bit of a stretch for the finger and we would have preferred to have it on the side, but it is a compromise made so you can use the One as a remote control for your TV. We got used to its position fairly quickly. On the bottom, there is a microUSB port that doubles as an MHL one. Finally, on the back, in the top central part, there is the large eye of the UltraPixel camera.

The One is a culmination of HTC’s years of design experience. It brings the best of the company’s industrial design legacy in a device that is ergonomical, looks good and feels even better.


HTC is known for making some of the best screens out there. Last year’s HTC One X set a gold standard for screens in Android land with a bright and vivid 720 x 1280 display, and this year the bar was high.

With the HTC One we can safely say that the company meets the expectations. The device features a 4.7 inches Super LCD 3 display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels.

The screen is extremely detailed, sharp, and for the tech geeks - pixel density comes at the whopping 468ppi.

Colors are stunning, they just out at you with deep blacks, vivid reds and blues, and a great contrast. Viewing angles are also amazing.

If we had to pick the nits, we’d mention that HTC has toned down the maximum brightness and the One’s screen is slightly dimmer than say an iPhone 5. With reflections from the panel, this might make using the handset in direct sunlight a bit hard, but not impossible.

HTC One 360-Degrees View


The HTC One comes with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with the brand new Sense 5.0 skin. HTC’s skin is leaner and meaner than before, and it just flies on the quad-core Snapdragon 600 chip.

Firing it up, you are instantly taken into the new BlinkFeed. A tile-based news and social updates aggregator, BlinkFeed is set as your default home panel. We like the overall functionality - you can set up BlinkFeed to read your Twitter account, Facebook, or check out news, and it’s a well done app that looks a bit like Sony’s TimeScape, if we had to compare it to something. Not everyone will like it, though, and luckily you can easily replace it with a more traditional icon-based Android home panel.

Among the other big Sense 5.0 news is a completely reworked time and weather widget. HTC’s gorgeous weather widget from before was its signature feature, and now it has evolved to a much simpler and cleaner version of itself. Gone are the rain drops on your screen and the clouds flying at you, gone is the visual flare - instead you get quick functionality in an ascetic modern look.

And that’s the overall direction HTC has taken with the new Sense. Cleaner, modern looks, it has become a very nice unobtrusive skin. There are a few niggles, though. Adding widgets and shortcuts is unnecessarily complicated. While in stock Android you can easily tap and hold an icon in the app drawer to move it to the home screen, this for some reason is impossible on Sense. Instead, you need to long press an empty space on a home panel and only from there you can add shortcuts or widgets. Not a big problem, but it is annoying.

The app drawer on the other hand is rich in options - you can rearrange your icons in any way you like and you can even create folder inside it. Sense truly shines with its camera interface, though, and that’s something we’ll take a look further down below.

Processor and Memory:

The HTC One might look sleek on the outside, but it is a beast on the inside. Equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T chip, it runs without a stutter.

It features the new Krait 300 quad-core processor with the clock set at 1700MHz, 2GB of RAM and graphics are taken care of the Adreno 320 GPU.

Here is how it fares on some standard benchmarks:

Quadrant: 12481
AnTuTu: 22198
GL Benchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C24Z16 (Onscreen) - 3558 frames / 31 fps
Vellamo HTML 5: 2395
Vellamo Metal: 793

The HTC One comes in two versions depending on the memory. You can either get a 32GB model (of which around 26GB available to the user), or a 64GB one. That is plenty of storage space, and it justifies to some extent the lack of a microSD card memory expansion slot.Camera:

One of the most touted features of the HTC One is its new “UltraPixel” camera. UltraPixel is a fancy name HTC made up for its 2-micron pixels that are larger than on most other smartphones, as the sensor is the same size as the one in rival modules, but is used for only 4.3 instead of 8 or 13 megapixels. The sensor is of course a backside-illuminated one, with a very wide f/2.0 aperture and LED flash.

As you can see, the megapixel count and the resolutions are much lower than most other 8 and 13-megapixel cameras out there. In reality, though, high resolutions are only required if you plan on using a device's camera for large prints. For most people, 4 megapixels are just enough - definitely enough for sharing on Facebook and for small prints.

When it comes to the actual pictures, we are mostly happy with the results. Images turned out fairly sharp and dynamic range was good. Letting more light in brightens up the images and on a cloudy day you can almost instantly tell the difference. Colors under direct sunlight are rich, but detail is a bit spongy in single-tone areas. In low-light, though, colors tend to get washed out a bit, but images are noise-free.

The HTC One records 1080p videos with support for continuous auto-focus and there is HDR video as well. We noticed no skipped frames and the camera was quick to focus, and stable. What's really impressive, though, is video recording in ultra low-light situations - like at a party, a club or a concert. While virtually all other smartphones only capture darkness, scenes on the HTC One are sufficiently well-lit. The quality of the sound recording is also a small revolution. HTC is using dual-membrane microphones and they capture surprising depth in the low tones and are rich up high too. In reality you get clear distortion-free sound at even the loudest occasions. You can record street artists or concerts and have actually good audio quality.

HTC One Sample Video 1:

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HTC One HDR Sample Video:

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HTC One Sample Video:

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HTC One Indoor Sample Video:

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HTC One Slow Motion Sample Video:

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There is a 2-megapixel wide-aperture front facing camera that is great for video conferencing.

The camera interface is courtesy of Sense 5.0 and it delivers a stunning amount of settings and tweaks. The most notable one is the Zoe feature that takes one second of video before you press the shutter and then another three second video. You can pick any of the frames in the video as a still, so you don’t miss a moment, and the video also remains. It is a neat addition that adds life to your still photos.

You can also use a new feature called HTC Share to stitch images, video and sound into one whole, a kind of an album that gets updated to HTC’s servers.

Internet and Connectivity:

The HTC One comes with both HTC’s home-grown browser and Google’s Chrome out of the box. Both are exceptionally good browsers, but the one from HTC has the advantage of supporting Adobe Flash, and is a very welcome addition. Say what you want about Flash but for many it is a necessity and we’re glad HTC caters to them. The browser also supports incognito mode, allows you to search for words on the page and easily switch between desktop and mobile versions of websites. You can also save articles to read later on, even when you are offline, and that’s plenty of functionality. Unsurprisingly, it all works buttery smooth - pinching to zoom in and out, and scrolling around is very snappy.

With 4G LTE connectivity on-board (European version is HSPA only) you have little to worry about when it comes to the HTC One’s download speeds (except for your bill at the end of the month). HTC’s flagship of course supports Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, DLNA and MHL.

Infrared blaster

Speaking of its connectivity options, we must also mention that the One comes with an IR blaster built into the lock key. It turns your phone into a sort of smart TV remote. To use it, you fire up the pre-installed HTC TV app where you can see program listings tailored to your cable provider. The app delivers an up-to-date list of what’s on now, what’s next and you can also use it as a remote to switch between channels, turn volume up and down, and so on.


The HTC One’s brilliant 4.7-inch screen is its biggest asset when it comes to multimedia. The device’s built-in media player chews through almost all file formats with only Divx/Xvid-encoded files not supported. For that we resorted to the MX Player on the Play Store, but there is a plethora of media player choice. With a third-party player the device easily digests 1080p files of all formats with no lag.

The deep and rich sound comes as one huge advantage.

In addition to Google’s standard suite of apps, HTC has also bundled its HTC Watch and HTC Music media services that are good apps on their own.


The two front speakers on the HTC One are not just a decoration. We’ve been dreaming about good sound on a smartphone for a long while, but knowing about the limitations of a small device like a smartphone, companies seemed to have given up.

The HTC One changes that attitude towards sound drastically. The front stereo speakers deliver an amazing sound experience, and you don’t need an expert to recognize the sound of this device among all other smartphones.

The two speakers come with a built-in amplifier and rock out at 93dB loudness, but it is not just how loud the sound is - it has a depth and a rich overall sound profile that is impressive for a smartphone as well. We suppose part of that comes from Beats Audio software magic.

You might underestimate the importance of sound on a phone, but it’s worth comparing the tinny sound from most other phones to the fuller, richer experience from the One to understand how big of a difference this is. That’s especially true for music lovers and video watcher - your ears will thank you later. Call quality:

Call quality is of paramount importance and on the HTC One it is excellent. Sound coming from the top speaker grill (it doubles as an earpiece) is loud and clear. On the other side of the line, our callers reported the same saying our voice was easily recognizable with its natural tones.

The HTC One has dual microphones for noise cancellation which works very well, isolating side-noise on a busy street with little of that getting in the way.

Battery life:

The HTC One features a 2300mAh battery that is supposed to get you through a single day of moderate use. The bright and big display, though, and the quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor are a bad combination for those craving battery longevity. In our hands on experience the phone has just enough juice to get you through the day. We will update this section with more exact details shortly.


HTC wanted a comeback and it brought its best with the HTC One. It is a brilliant device in virtually every aspect. Coming with a beautiful aluminum body that fits almost organically in the hand, it has a great and vivid, extremely sharp 4.7-inch screen. The stereo front speaker bring a small revolution in smartphone sound that you’ll appreciate instantly when you hear it. Performance is flawless on the new Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip.

HTC took a huge risk with the HTC One UltraPixel camera going against all trends for increasing megapixel count. The results however are not so bold. The camera shoots good but not great photos.
That’s far from being a deal-breaker, though, it’s just one area where HTC will have to put even more effort in the future.

Right now, the HTC One is one of our favorite Android smartphones - gorgeous, powerful, HTC has improved in all the right places and is ready for a fight. Samsung, it’s your turn now.

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  • Gorgeous aluminum design
  • Brilliant 4.7-inch 1080p display
  • Stunning, rich-profile sound
  • Buttery smooth performance


  • UltraPixel is a bit too hyped up, camera is good but not great

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