As the successor of last year's HTC flagship One X and as the only 4.7-inch smartphone with a full HD display (which results in record pixel density of 469 ppi), HTC One is already competing for the position of the best Android OS smartphone of the season. In order to fight off the competition from Samsung and increasingly dangerous companies like Sony and LG, HTC has equipped its One with several unique features that might prove to be game-changing in the eyes of many purchasers when deciding on which smartphone to buy.
Along with the aforementioned screen with its unprecedented pixel density, HTC One also brings an elegant aluminum unibody, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 chipset with four Krait 300 cores running a 1.7 GHz clock and Adreno 320 graphics, 2 GB of RAM, stereo speakers on the front side of the device, and the new Sense 5 UI, which provides a personalized information stream to the home screen known as BlinkFeed. Other features include a battery with a 2300 mAh capacity and an innovative back-facing camera that uses so-called "ultrapixels" -- sensors that capture three times more light than those used in most smartphone cameras. Although the latter feature will likely garner the most interest among potential purchasers, it in fact reveals the only serious shortcomings of the HTC One.
Editor's Note: This review is for the international version of the HTC One. For our review of the U.S. version, click here.
It is impossible not to notice how much HTC One resembles the Blackberry Z10 (as well as the iPhone 5) when seen from the front, and HTC's own Windows Phone 8X when seen from the back. However, despite this dose of unoriginality, this is a superbly designed device and everyone can see it is a top-notch model the moment they hold it in their hand. The aluminum unibody, which is 9 millimeters thick in the centre and slightly rounded, slims out to just 4 millimeters towards the edges. It feels fantastic when held in the hand, regardless of its size, and it gives the impression that this is a significantly thinner smartphone than its actual dimensions dictate (137 x 68 x 9 mm).
Apart from the display, the front also sports two stereo speakers (situated above and below the screen), a front-facing camera, and an ambience sensor. Two capacitive keys are on the bottom of the display (back and home) with the HTC logo in between. There is no menu activation key -- the user can chose whether they want the menus to activate with a long press of the back key or with gestures supported in Sense 5.
The back side features only the camera lens and flash, above which is a short slot in the aluminum unibody intended for NFC communications, since NFC signals cannot penetrate metal. The bottom edge includes a tiny microphone and a microUSB slot, equipped with MHL technology. The right side features the volume control switch, while the left includes a Micro-SIM card slot that is opened by a pin-like ejector, provided in the package.
The upper edge includes a 3.5-mm audio slot on the right side and a somewhat awkwardly-placed power key on the left side. Seeing how there are no physical keys on the screen surface, the only way to turn the device on from stand-by while holding it in the right hand is to press the power key with the forefinger. If this key were placed more logically on the right side, it could be reached with the thumb and the forefinger, but instead this setup takes getting used to even after several days of usage. The good thing is that the power key includes an infrared transmitter and the smartphone can be used as a universal remote control.
The 4.7-inch, 1920 x 1080 full HD screen with Super LCD3 technology is surely the HTC One's strongest asset. So far, we have had the opportunity of seeing only 5-inch Full HD displays, which means pixel density is a record high on this device. The difference between imaging on a 469 ppi density display (HTC One) and 441 ppi (on 5-inch screens), however, is impossible to grasp with the naked eye. Still, due to other features this display offers, supreme imaging is far more emphasized on this device than on any other smartphone presented before HTC One.
It is not about the shorter diagonal, of course, but the wider viewing angle and the very good contrast this screen provides. Whiter tones are well lit -- they seem almost milky white. The colors are vivacious and precisely interpreted, while black tones are quite dark, although slightly "pushing" towards the bluer part of the spectrum. But this is a tiny flaw which has repercussions only on color saturation and does not decrease the superior imaging in practice.
I have only seen better contrast and color saturation on Super AMOLED screens, but if it is taken into account that the contrast is maintained on the HTC One even when the device is exposed to direct sunlight, it is even easier to forget about the bluish tone of the blacks. This is surely one of the best smartphone displays on the market, providing a rounded and pleasant experience. Purchasers will be more than pleased with it. It does not hurt to mention that the display is also covered with Gorilla Glass 2. It is quite reflexive and attracts a lot of fingertips, but it can easily be cleaned.
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