HTC One review
UPDATE: HTC sent us a handset with updated software, so we have updated our review. The phone performed identically in our power and battery life benchmarks. We also took the opportunity to perform some more camera testing, and put the phone side-by-side with the Sony Xperia Z.
In the year 2013, few things are as hyped as a new premium smartphone. There were adverts for the Sony Xperia Z all over the national press, technology journalists (ourselves included) are falling over themselves to pick up on any rumours about the Samsung Galaxy S4 and even staid, businesslike BlackBerry hired Alicia Keys to be its Creative Director. By contrast, HTC has been relatively quiet about the new HTC One.
There was a launch press conference in London but, acrobats aside, there were few gimmicks. Make no mistake, though; this is the big one. HTC has fallen far behind Apple and Samsung in sales, and it hopes this is the top-end phone to revive its fortunes.
First impressions, thankfully, are great. The One is a gorgeous phone, and we think it wipes the floor with the Sony Xperia Z. The combination of metal rear, bevelled metal edges and edge-to-edge screen are class itself, and make the Xperia Z feel square and tacky, despite its glass rear. The HTC One’s curved back also makes it comfortable to hold – a minor downside is that it’s tricky to type when it’s lying flat on a desk.
The metal-backed HTC One is a thing of beauty, and even out-classes the Sony Xperia Z’s glass chassis
We were also seriously impressed with the screen. It’s a 4.7in model with a Full HD 1,920×1,080 resolution, leading to a huge pixel density figure of 468ppi. When compared side-by-side with the Xperia Z’s display, we preferred the HTC One’s screen, thanks to its superb contrast. It has incredibly deep blacks (for an LCD at least), and our test photos showed rich, vibrant colours and plenty of shadow detail.
The Xperia Z had the advantage when it came to looking at web pages, however; its slightly larger 5in display meant text was ever-so-slightly larger and easier to read when web pages were fully zoomed out, helped by brilliant white backgrounds, compared to the very slight grey tinge on the HTC One.
Last year it was 720p, now Full HD 1080p screens are becoming the norm on top-end smartphones
This difference was borne out in our subjective web browsing tests. Both phones rendered graphics heavy web pages at a similar speed, but when zoomed in and panning around a web page, the Xperia Z would stutter when coming across a large image – a problem we didn’t have with the HTC One.
Luckily, HTC has provided a huge 2,300mAh battery to power the fast processor and bright screen. The handset managed 8h 32m in our continuous video playback test, which is a strong result and bodes well for all-day battery life.
An Android smartphone can be beautifully designed and have an amazing screen and top-notch chipset, but none of this will make any difference if the software is rubbish. HTC sails closer to the wind than most on this front, as it heavily customises Android with its latest Sense interface.
Sense has always divided opinion, but this time HTC has really pushed the boat out. Running on top of Android 4.1.2 is Sense 5.0, and with it comes the end of the traditional Android homescreen, with its mix of widgets and icons.