For the past week and a half our own Brian Klug has been hard at work on his review of HTC’s new flagship smartphone, the One. These things take time and Brian’s review, at least what I’ve seen of it, is nothing short of the reference piece we’ve come to expect from him.

In the same period of time I’ve been playing around with a retail HTC One and felt compelled to share my thoughts on the device. It’s rare that I’m so moved by a device to chime in outside of the official review, but the One is a definite exception. By no means is this a full review, and I defer to Brian for the complete story on the One - something we should be getting here in the not too distant future.

I’m not a financial analyst, but HTC hasn’t been doing all that well over the past few quarters. There’s a general feeling that the aptly named One is HTC’s last chance at survival. Good product doesn’t always translate into market dominance, but it’s a necessary component when you’re an underdog. Luckily for HTC, the One is great.

Design

Over the past two years HTC has really come into its own as far as design is concerned. The difference between the HTC One X and the plethora of flagships that came before it was remarkable. Moving to the One, the difference is just as striking.

I don’t seem to mind plastic phones as much as everyone else, but the One is in an appreciably different league compared to its peers. It’s the type of device that you just want to look at and touch. Given how much you do end up looking at and touching your smartphone, HTC’s efforts here seem well placed.

The One looks and feels great. The proportions are a little awkward in my hands, but I fully concede that’s going to vary from person to person. Despite the heavy use of aluminum, I don't feel overly worried about scratching/damaging the finish.

The challenge with any smartphone is to build something that looks distinct in a sea of black rectangles on a wall in a store. With the One (and arguably the One X before it), HTC does a good job of balancing the need to be seen with the need to be subtle. Elegant is the right word here.

While I’m sure there will be comparisons to the iPhone, the fact of the matter is that the design cycle on these smartphones falls somewhere in the 12 - 24 month range. With something as sophisticated as the One, you’re looking at the longer end of that spectrum. For what it’s worth, if I had to estimate I’d say design work on the One probably started before the iPhone 4S came out.

Smartphone Spec Comparison
  Apple iPhone 5 HTC One Samsung Galaxy S 3 Samsung Galaxy S 4
SoC Apple A6 1.3GHz Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz Exynos 5 Octa (1.6/1.2GHz) or Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz
DRAM/NAND/Expansion 1GB LPDDR2, 16/32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 16/32GB NAND, microSD 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32/64GB NAND, microSD
Display 4.0-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch SLCD3 1080p, 468 ppi 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p, 306 ppi 5-inch Super AMOLED 1080p, 441 ppi
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 (depending on region)
Dimensions 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm 137.4mm x 68.2mm x 4mm - 9.3mm 136.6mm x 70.6mm 8.6mm 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm
Weight 112g 143g 133g 130g
Rear Camera 8MP 4MP w/ 2µm pixels 8MP 13MP
Front Camera 1.2MP 2.1MP 1.9MP 2MP
Battery Internal 5.45 Wh Internal 8.74 Wh Removable 7.98 Wh Removable 9.88 Wh
OS iOS 6.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.2.2
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, GPS/GNSS 802.11ac/a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC, GPS/GNSS, MHL 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (HT80) + BT 4.0, USB 2.0 NFC, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL 2.0

 

The Camera
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  • DEECEE - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    Pentile AMOLED at 1080P on a 5 inch display is ONLY a problem in tech spec, not in actual user experience. I normally don't look at a phone screen through a microscope, and neither should you to care about Pentile AMOLED. Reply
  • Montago - Friday, March 29, 2013 - link

    I've owned a Nokia Lumia 800 that has an AMOLED Pentile display -- its HORRIBLE !

    the resolution might have been the real problem (480x800 pix) - text was jagged and unreadable - some pictures looked good, others didn't ...

    The problem is that you don't notice this problem when testing in the store, it gets anoying over time when you start noticing... i don't know if the SGS4 monitor has the same problems, but i bet they are there.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    Samsung puts among the worst displays in their smartphones. What are you talking about?

    Forget about 440 PPI making the Pentile drawbacks irrelevant, their color calibration and contrast are terrible as well.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    their contrasts are the best, given that blacks are perfect (no backlight) Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    Well yeah, the blacks are vastly superior on Samsung's AMOLED (as you literally can't get any more black being as theres no backlight) but that's not the same thing as contrast balance. The contrast on my S3 and my S2 before it was pretty badly calibrated, and it varys a lot with each phone as my friend also has an S3 and the contrast is different (poor quality control). Contrast on the One X and iPhone 5 are better calibrated, and colours too. I'm sure it's the same with the One.

    But then with AMOLED you also get better pixel response times. So theres trade-offs for both LCD and AMOLED. If Samsung just fix the colour and contrast calibration then their displays definitely have the potential to be the best as the underlying OLED tech is superior to LCD in so many ways. I don't think the colours and contrast have anything to do with OLED itself, just that Samsung do not properly calibrate their displays.

    BTW the S4 has uses a new diamond shaped pentile display layout, meaning the gaps between each sub pixel are much smaller (the larger gapes caused the fuzzyness/jaggies on the S3 display and others). Meaning the S4's pentile display will look better than the S3's pentile display even if it was still the same resolution. This combined with 1080p res should make it irrelevant if it's pentile or not as i doubt you'd be able to see the difference with human eyes.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    But that is what people said about the S3 when it first came out and I could see it immediately when I bought it. Coming from an iPhone the lack of quality display on the S3 is jarring. Text looks so much worse, it really ruins webpages and books. Reply
  • krumme - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    There is certainly room for improvement here, as text imho is not sharp enough. But as explained earlier, that will probably be history now for s4. Besides, the brightness seems to have improved a good deal also. Thats perhaps more important for most people. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    The galaxy note 2 looks better than both of them. Reply
  • krumme - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    As you have an S3, you might want to change the color profile to neutral. There is something besides the calibration and the black/white dynamics. There is dynamics of the individual colors, and thats what makes a lively picture and real world resemblance.
    You better get used to oled, because its comming to all high-end phones in the future.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    Blacks can't be more black? Nope.

    I have a phone with a Super AMOLED 720p screen, and I'd wish for a good quality LCD in a heartbeat. My old Desire HD's screen has far, far better colour and appearance. Only the size and sharpness is better on my new one.

    AMOLED degrades, horribly, leaving a tint.
    Also, blacks aren't as black as you think. Turn on your AMOLED phone at night in a totally dark room, put a totally black screen up on it. It still has a faint grey glow, and infact, now you'll notice the horrible degradation of the screen - it manifests on mine as what look like "ink blots" only visible in very dark situations. Confirmed by many others around the internet.

    Do not champion OLED. It's a technology leading us to planned obsolescence.
    Reply

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