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HTC One S Review

HTC One S

Posted: , posted by Daniel P.

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Update April 11, 2011: We updated the camera section with the sample results from a second HTC One S unit, as the original one this review was based on seemingly had a flawed module, producing poorer than normal photos. 

The HTC One S features an 8MP camera with LED flash and a dedicated HTC ImageChip, which circumvents the default chipset manufacturer’s DSP. The result is an extremely snappy, sub-second camera, when we refer to the amount of time it takes to start the app, focus and take a picture. You still have to unlock the screen and fire the camera app first, of course, meaning that the Sony Xperia S will always beat it in the sleep-to-snap speed, but as far as picture taking speed goes, the One S is on par with the excellent sub-second cameras on the iPhone 4S and Xperia S, for example. Those “S”-es have to stand for something, right?

We also have a number of new Instagram-style effects and different scene modes like Group Portrait and Closeup to choose from, as well as HDR, panorama, face and smile detection modes, and geotagging, making the One S a pretty versatile shooter. The phone sometimes struggles with focusing in Closeup mode, making us tap on the subject many times before we get it to focus for a macro shot.

Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review
Camera interface - HTC One S Review

Outdoors the pictures came out with slightly oversaturated colors, good contrast and a fair amount of detail. White balance measurements were spot on, with no weird tinting. Although there are barely any over- or under- exposed spots, in very tricky lighting situations you might want to resort to the HDR function to get a better exposure. It is only good for that, though – HDR can actually make regular evenly lit shots worse; it is quite slow, hence blurs moving objects more than it should with the slightest tremble of your hand, and the end result is as if you have used one of the retro effects from the camera interface.

Regular samples - HDR samples - HTC One S Review
Regular samples - HDR samples - HTC One S Review
Regular samples - HDR samples - HTC One S Review
Regular samples - HDR samples - HTC One S Review
Regular samples - HDR samples - HTC One S Review

Regular samples

HDR samples - HTC One S Review
HDR samples - HTC One S Review
HDR samples - HTC One S Review
HDR samples - HTC One S Review
HDR samples - HTC One S Review

Camera samples taken with the HTC One S - HTC One S Review
Camera samples taken with the HTC One S - HTC One S Review

Indoors and in low light scenarios overall the phone performs pretty well, with the fast focus and shutter times helping to keep the photos relatively sharp. The amount of noise is kept in check in well- and medium-lit environments, and not for the sake of sharpness, while it shoots up in low light settings, but the pic still isn't blurry then if you hold the handset steady.

Strong - Indoor samples - HTC One S Review
Medium - Indoor samples - HTC One S Review
Low light - Indoor samples - HTC One S Review
Darkness with flash - Indoor samples - HTC One S Review

Strong

Medium

Low light

Darkness with flash


An LED flash rarely does a good job illuminating the scene outside a certain range – we get overexposed nearby sections or after a certain distance objects usually fall in darkness, or cast weird shadows. That tendency is not as visible with the One S, since HTC's new brightness setting of the LED flash based on measuring how close the subject is, did a decent job in our shot from about 5 feet.

The phone also takes good advantage of the embedded Ice Cream Sandwich functionality that allows you to snap a photo while shooting video. The photo and video shutter buttons are thus folded into one screen, but for some reason the phone zooms in slightly when you tap the video capture button, thus cropping a bit from the frame you see initially, which is annoying, as it always has to be on the back of your mind. That “zooming” phenomenon happens regardless if you are using the standard 4:3 or a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, and regardless if the image stabilization is on or off.

The phone records 1080p video with 30fps outdoors on a sunny day, but indoors the frames fell down to 23. Video is fluid (smoother than the one from the One X), with good contrast and accurate colors, but a bit soft and the bright spots got a tad overexposed on a sunny day. The stereo audio that the phone records is nothing to write home about, and picks up the slightest gust of wind.

HTC One S Sample Video:



HTC One S Indoor Sample Video:




Of note is the zippy continuous autofocus which (almost) seamlessly moved the attention of the sensor to an object we introduced right in front of the lens while filming, blurring the background, and then smoothly returned it to the previous scene when we took said object out of the frame. With the Xperia S, for example, we had trouble doing this quickly in 1080p mode. There is touch-to-focus on the One S, too, which helps a lot when filming a sporting event, for example.


Multimedia:

The music player sports a polished interface with the works – cover art, tunes categorization, equalizer presets and visualizations. Since the HTC One S is a Beats Audio phone, we also get the plumped base sounds when listening to music through the headphones, but when it comes to the loudspeaker, we'd like to see more strength, not only a clear enough sound. It also sounds a bit flat, especially in the base department, not that we expected much else from a speaker in a 0.3” thin phone.

The music player of the HTC One S sports a polished interface - HTC One S Review
The music player of the HTC One S sports a polished interface - HTC One S Review
The music player of the HTC One S sports a polished interface - HTC One S Review
The music player of the HTC One S sports a polished interface - HTC One S Review

As far as video playback goes, the One S ran everything we threw at it, DivX/Xvid included, out of the box, and at up to 1080p definition. While in the interface the oversaturated AMOLED screen colors look a bit tacky, watching video with this contrast ratio and the vivid colors is a joy.

The video player also allows brightness adjustments, screenshot capture, locking the controls, and has a sound enhancer mode, where you can choose from HTC presets, including Beats Audio in headset mode. You can also access basic trimming right from its menu, which takes you to the Movie Editor app, and the video player supports subtitles as well. About the only missing things are the ability to loop the video, and to adjust the screen color tone, like on Samsung's AMOLED handsets.

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HTC One S

HTC One S

OS: Android 4.1.1 4.0.4 4.0.3
view full specs
PhoneArena rating:
8Good
Display4.3 inches, 540 x 960 pixels (256 ppi) Super AMOLED
Camera8 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus, Dual-core, 1500 MHz, Krait processor
1 GB RAM
Size5.15 x 2.56 x 0.31 inches
(130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm)
4.22 oz  (120 g)
Battery1650 mAh, 7 hours talk time

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