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HTC One

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked GSM
Manufacturer: HTC
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Editor's Choice

What's Hot: Stunning design, quality aluminum alloy casing, superb full HD display, fast, pleasing software customizations.

What's Not: No removable storage, battery isn't user replaceable. Has only 2 of the usual 3 capacitive buttons.

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Reviewed April 18, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Editor's Note: Read our review of the HTC One M8 that replaces this model.

The HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 are the two Android smartphones to beat as of spring 2013. This is HTC's flagship phone and it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with the very modern and sleek HTC Sense 5 UI. The smartphone has a 4.7" full HD Super LCD3 display that's simply one of the best on the market and it's currently the fastest phone with wonderfully high benchmark numbers. The HTC One will be available April 19 on Sprint and AT&T for $199 with contract ($299 for the 64 gig model on AT&T) and it will be available this spring from your favorite "uncarrier" T-Mobile. HTC is also selling a SIM unlocked 32 gig model as well as the SIM unlocked and bootloader unlocked 64 gig developer edition for $575 and $650 respectively. For our review, we look at the AT&T 32 gig model.

HTC One

Specs at a Glance

The HTC One has the new Snapdragon 600 quad core CPU clocked at 1.7GHz, 2 gigs of RAM and 32 or 64 gigs of storage. The phone has 4G LTE, dual band WiFi (including support for 802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, a GPS with GLONASS, a consumer IR port for AV gear control, USB OTG host, a front 2.1MP camera and a 4MP main UltraPixel camera. The HTC One supports DLNA and Miracast wireless display and it has stereo speakers with Beats (called BoomSound).

Design and Ergonomics

The HTC One features a unibody aluminum casing that's available silver with white accents and black, though not all carriers will offer both colors. It looks and feels like a high quality product with styling and design that equals the iPhone 5. Simply put, this is a stunning and elegant phone. At 5 ounces it feels serious but not too heavy and the size is in line with other 4.5" to 5" smartphones. The casing is milled from a single piece of aluminum alloy, that's injection molded with polycarbonate in blank areas that allow antenna access. In fact, HTC's design and diversity antenna make for perfectly good reception despite all that RF-blocking metal. The phone has absolutely no flex and no unsightly seams. Given the thin design and conductive aluminum, the phone does get warm (sometimes quite warm) when playing 3D games like Real Racing 3. However it never overheated when playing games or recording video. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 2.

HTC One

The curved back with tapered sides makes this relatively large phone feel comfortable in hand (disclosure: I'm 5' 10" and have large hands and long fingers). The fairly straight edges provide grip points so the phone won't easily slip from your fingers. The aluminum back is by no means slick and it doesn't show fingerprints. Good stuff. At its thickest point, the HTC One measures 0.36", which isn't as uber-skinny as the 0.31" Sony Xperia Z, but it is slimmer than the Nokia Lumia 920. The phone's front 2.1MP camera is located above the display as is the notification LED.

The headphone jack is up top, as is the power button that also functions as the IR window for the AV remote. The phone has a micro SIM card slot but no microSD card slot--that's right, there's no expandable storage. For those of you with large media libraries that you want to carry with you, the 64 gig developer unlocked and AT&T 64 gig versions are the ones to get. The micro USB port also supports USB OTG host (we've used it with flash drives) and MHL out for HDMI to a TV, monitor or projector. Given the sealed unibody design, the battery isn't removable. In fact, the phone is very difficult to take apart, so even adventurous types won't want to disassemble the HTC One to replace the battery.

HTC thinks different when it comes to front facing buttons, and we're not sure that's a good thing. The One has two capacitive buttons rather than the usual three: Home and Back are here but not the Menu button. The HTC Logo sandwiched between the capacitive buttons is merely a logo; it doesn't function as a button. We like capacitive buttons since screen real estate isn't taken away by on-screen equivalents, but apps that don't support Google's preferred new way of doing things will get a bottom overlay strip on-screen just for the on-screen menu button. The buttons aren't very sensitive to touch, and we sometimes had to hit a button a few times before it registered.

 

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Display

I could spend all kinds of words telling you just how great the HTC One's Super LCD 3 display is, but I'll cut to the chase: it's superb. Awesome. It's one of the best screens on a mobile phone. I can't imagine anyone wouldn't love it. OK, now for the specifics: it's a full 1920 x 1080 with an absurdly high 468ppi pixel density. Honestly, once we surpass the mid 300's, most eyes can't see the difference. It looks very sharp with smooth text and clean graphics. Colors are natural and balanced (more so than Super AMOLED displays) and blacks are deep. Contrast is excellent and the display looks painted on when viewed from an angle because the image doesn't degrade off axis. The ambient light sensor works well and keeps the screen fairly bright, unlike Samsung Galaxy phones whose auto-brightness is too dim for my tastes.

The HTC One and the iPhone 5 (326ppi) have two of the most impressive smartphone displays on the market (the HTC One X is no slouch either). Yes, the One has higher pixel density than the iPhone 5, but the naked eye isn't sharp enough to see the difference. Where the HTC One wins is resolution: it's significantly higher than the iPhone 5's 1136 x 640, and that higher resolution makes sense given the significantly bigger panel compared to the 4" iPhone 5. That big display feels like you've made the move from a 32" to 55" TV: it's simply capacious. Of course, you'll pay the price in the added height and width of the HTC handset.

BoomSound

Is the name BoomSound cool or kinda embarrassing... I'm not sure which, but I can tell you these are the best speakers you'll hear on a mobile phone. Granted, that doesn't say much since phone speakers are often meek and mono, but the front-facing stereo speakers with Beats Audio enhancement sound like a tablet or Ultrabook more than a phone. The HTC One makes my Samsung Galaxy Note II sound thin. If you listen to multimedia through speakers, you'll appreciate BoomSound and its built-in amplifiers. Oddly, the speakerphone and notification sounds aren't as impressive as multimedia audio, but they're certainly adequate and comparable to other phones.

Sound through the headphone jack is very clear and the included trendy spaghetti wire earbuds are better than average for bundled buds, though we like the richer bass in Apple's EarPods better.

Calling and Data

The HTC One on AT&T is a quad band GSM world phone with 3G HSPA+ (which AT&T likes to call 4G) and LTE 4G. On Sprint, the One supports that carrier's CDMA network with EV-DO Rev. A 3G and LTE and it has GSM roaming. T-Mobile's version is likewise a GSM world phone with 3G and 4G LTE. So far, Verizon hasn't said they'll offer the One. All variants have a micro SIM card slot on the phone's left side, and HTC includes a SIM eject tool in the box (a paperclip works too).

Data speeds on our AT&T model in the Dallas, TX area were excellent on the carrier's LTE network. Download speeds averaged 18.5Mbps and uploads averaged 15Mbps, with download speeds as high as 33Mbps. Those are good numbers for our area. Web pages download quickly and thanks to the fast CPU, they render quickly too. The phone ships with both the older Android web browser that works with Adobe Flash Player (and yes, Flash Player is pre-installed) and the Chrome web browser. We're absolutely thrilled to have the quickly disappearing Flash Player for those videos with no HTML5 equivalent.

Call quality on our AT&T phone has been good, but not as crystal clear and loud as the Samsung Galaxy Note II, iPhone 5 and BlackBerry Z10 on the same network. Good news: our first review unit was defective and our replacement AT&T HTC One and our recently received Sprint HTC One have excellent call quality for incoming and outgoing voice.

Bluetooth behaved well with a variety of headsets and BMW built-in Bluetooth, and the bug we noted on the HTC One X+ is happily behind us. Volume is good and there were no problems with call clarity on either end.

Horsepower and Performance

Powered by a very fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad core 1.7GHz CPU with Adreno 320 graphics and 2 gigs of RAM, the One is currently the phone to beat for speed. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will soon be here with the same CPU, and will likely score similarly to the HTC One. But for now, the HTC One earns serious bragging rights with some first place benchmark scores.

Benchmarks

Quadrant: 12,252
AnTuTu: 24,589
Geekbench 2: 2637
Sunspider: 1155

  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.1Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test
HTC One 12,252 37 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 24,589 1155
Samsung Galaxy S4 12,276 41 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 24,776 826
LG G2 19,762 57 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 32,990 823
Moto X 8357 43 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 21,377 1097
Motorola Droid Ultra 8581 43 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 18,965 1191
HTC Droid DNA 7823 78 fps (v.2.5 used) 14,578 1146
LG Optimus G Pro 11,994 28 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 18,561 867
Samsung Galaxy Note II 6001 66 pfs (v.2.5 used) 14,056 1052
Sony Xperia Z 7916 32 fps (GLBench 2.7 used, so results are lower) 20,403 1306
LG Optimus G 7235 59 pfs (v.2.5 used) 11,087 1289
HTC EVO 4G LTE 5086 56 fps 7001 1650
Motorola Droid RAZR HD 5055 51 fps 6760 1862
HTC One X 5001 56 fps 7074 1617
Samsung Galaxy S III 5102 51 fps 7011 1825

Benchmarks only tell part of the story; in actual use the phone is very fast with none of that telltale Android lag and it multitasks like a champ. The phone also handles demanding 3D games like Real Racing 3 and Ravensword 2 beautifully. And yes, it does get a might toasty when playing those games for 15 minutes or more. That said, we had no problems with overheating or throttling when playing those games.

UltraPixel Camera, Zoe and More

We had our doubts about HTC's new UltraPixel camera that's just 4 megapixels, but just as with dedicated digital camera technology, a large sensor with bigger pixels really can make a revolutionary difference, particularly for low light photography and capturing fast motion scenes. The HTC takes better low light photos that we've ever seen with a camera phone, and it rarely needs the flash. Even daylight photos hold up decently vs. the very good Nokia Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 with much higher megapixel ratings. In comparisons of daylight photos with those phones and the very good Sony Xperia Z (13MP camera with Exmor RS sensor), the HTC One's photos lacked fine detail when viewed at 100% on a PC monitor. Tiny details like the lettering on a street sign aren't as sharp and clear in the HTC One's photos, and while that won't be noticeable when viewing photos on the One's screen or after shrinking them for your next Facebook post, it does make a difference when viewing on a TV, PC screen or printing at full resolution. We also noted a slight purple tint on outdoor photos and a tendancy toward high contrast (but many folks enjoy lots of contrast). If you generally shoot photos in good lighting, you'll likely prefer the Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 cameras for their greater detail and better exposure settings. The HTC One's daylight photos often needs a little processing to improve contrast, something the built-in photo editor does well. If you're a low light shooter, you'll love the HTC One.

Switch to low light situations and the HTC One shines, and no we don't mean the flash that rarely fires. Contrast, brightness and color detail are unusually good, and even photos taken in near darkness (a wine bar, a living room at night lit by only one 60 watt bulb) had a surprising amount of detail and accurate color. Yes, the photos have noise as well, but we're hard pressed to think of any camera phone or point and shoot that wouldn't produce images with noise under the same conditions.

The camera has a fast f/2.0 lens, a backside illuminated sensor (BSI), HDR for photo and video recording, panorama sweep and a plethora of shooting features. The optical image stabilization reduces image blur and results in less video shake. It's really remarkable that most users won't notice the difference between the 4MP UltraPixel shots and those taken with today's 8-13MP camera phones.

The HTC Zoe feature shoots one 3 second video and 20 still photos that creates something like a Vine video. It's also useful if you want to pick the best shot of a rapidly moving subject. There's a separate on-screen button to start Zoe and a progress bar fills in to let you know when it's done. We also like the animations in gallery where video thumbnails play in grid view and HTC's customization of the event view where photos taken on the same day morph into a slideshow complete with a music track and special effects. You can choose from 6 presentations (visual effects plus a music track) but you can't use your own tracks or effects. Fortunately, HTC's selection is very good and that means it offers appeal even after the novelty wears off.

HTC BlinkFeed

BlinkFeed is addictive, really. By default it's the dominant home screen, though you can swipe to the standard home screen easily enough or set another screen to be your default. I'm a purist and I don't like fluff, but in a day I let BlinkFeed live to see another day... or 10... or forever. It's a highly visual news reader (something like Flipboard and Pulse, which I also enjoy), but it also brings in your TV show schedule via HTC TV, Twitter and Facebook feeds and calendar entries. It quickly became my one stop place for things I needed and wanted to know. When the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon broke, it kept me informed, just as it did for less weighty things like the next episode of Bones on TV and the latest tech tidbits. My only complaint is though it has a healthy set of news sources to choose from, you can't add your own favorite RSS news feeds. Bah.

HTC TV

Though Samsung has been doing consumer IR and TV remote for a while on their Android tablets, HTC TV, the relative newcomer, impresses us more than Samsung's latest on the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet. While the Note 8.0's TV app only listed a few of the many providers in our (Dallas, TX) area, HTC had them all covered. You can use the app to control your home theatre gear including TV, AV receiver and cable box via the IR port on the top of the phone--that's both cool and rare on a smartphone but we've seen it on Sony and Samsung Android tablets (the Samsung Galaxy S4 will also have this feature). Even more appealing is the content presentation: you'll side-swipe through featured shows (based on your preferences), a TV programming grid (always useful), your own locally stored videos and scheduled shows. Scheduled shows are those that you mark as favorites, much like iTV, and it will notify you of upcoming new episodes. While HTC TV is running, picking the phone up will wake it up from sleep (you can disable this, but it's quite useful). It also has top taskbar quick access so you needn't hunt for the app every time you want to control your TV or cable box.

Battery Life

There's surprisingly good news here: the 2300 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside the phone provides solid battery life. I easily made it through a full day (9am-11pm) on a single charge with moderate to somewhat heavier than moderate use that included lots of BlinkFeed checking, social networking, web surfing, streaming 30 minutes of video, playing an hour of locally stored MPEG4 HD video, talking on the phone for 30 minutes, playing Real Racing 3 for 30 minutes, controlling the home theatre gear at night and shooting 30 photos and 5 short videos. That same usage pattern killed our Sony Xperia Z by 4pm. While not quite as good as the Samsung Galaxy Note II with its huge standard battery, it's very good compared to other current high-powered smartphones with big screens and LTE 4G. HTC phones aren't fast when it comes to charging, and the HTC One is no exception. It took 4 hours to charge our phone from 10% to 100%, but it did reach 90% in 2.5 hours.

Conclusion

The HTC One is the company's best phone yet. You have my blessing: go ahead and buy one. It's not just fast, the display is superb and the design is elegant. Cutting edge CPUs and graphics are Android's bread and butter, much like PCs and it takes more to stand out: the HTC One has what it takes in terms of quality materials, build, design and solid software that doesn't overwhelm. Is it the perfect smartphone? No, because there is no perfect smartphone: we all have different needs and tastes, but I suspect the aluminum clad HTC One with its stunning full HD display will win quite a few folks over. But for those of you who insist upon removable storage or need a replaceable battery, this isn't your phone.

Price: $199 to $249 with contract depending on carrier for 32 gig model, $299 for AT&T 63 gig model with contract. Unlocked GSM models are $575 for 32 gig and $650 for 64 gig.

Websites: www.htc.com, wireless.att.com, www.sprint.com. www.t-mobile.com

Related:

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

LG G2 Review

HTC One max Review

Sony Xperia Z Review

HTC Droid DNA Review

Nokia Lumia 920 Review

iPhone 5s Review

HTC One vs. LG G2 Smackdown Comparison

 

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Specs:

Display: 4.7" capacitive multi-touch Super LCD3 display (468 ppi), Gorilla Glass 2. Resolution: 1920 x 1080. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor. Supports Miracast and DLNA. HDMI out via MHL adapter (not included). Works with HTC's Media Link HD wireless HDMI adapter (not included).

Battery: Lithium Ion Polymerrechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. 2300 mAh.

Performance: 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad core CPU with Adreno 320 graphics. 2 gigs DDR2 RAM. 32 or 64 gigs internal storage.

Size: 5.40 x 2.69 x 0.36 inches. Weight: 5.04 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band with 3G HSPA+ and 4G LTE. Sprint version has CDMA with EV-DO Rev. A 3G.

Camera: 2.1MP front camera and 4MP UltraPixel rear camera with BSI, HDR for photo and video and LED flash. 28mm, f/2.0 lens.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers with Beats Audio (BoomSound), dual noise cancelling microphones and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Has an FM radio.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX audio.

GPS: Has GPS with GLONASS.

Software: Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with HTC Sense 5.

Expansion: Micro USB port port supports USB host/USB OTG with dongle adapter (not included).

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