Friday, March 1, 2013

HTC One preview hands-on and first impressions

You may have read a thing or two about the new HTC One. The new HTC flagship certainly has garnered a lot of attention lately, being HTC's third Android smartphone with a 1080p display - and the first to be announced for a worldwide release.

The One, formerly known as the HTC M7, features a new design that is a significant departure of their previous flagship, the beautiful One X. And it is beautiful. The new hardware design which looks sort of a blend between an iPhone 5 and Blackberry Z10, but do not let that statement fool you - the design has enough of its own identity to stand out from the crowd. Thanks to the good people at Three UK for kindly loaning me a HTC One for review.
Gone is the unibody polycarbonate design that graced the One X. In place are scores of aluminium, once darling of the tech world before giving way to plastic, but appears to be making a comeback. When it comes to design, the attention to detail by HTC engineers is unparalled, and it isn't surprising to find the same with the HTC One. The blend of anodized aluminium and polycarbonate gives the One a premium feel unlike most flagships I have held in the past couple of months - and that includes the Xperia Z. With a weight of 143g, the One isn't terribly light or heavy. It feels very solid.

Sat in between two aluminium shells is the screen panel holding a 4.7" 1080p display. That is 1080x1920 pixels across a 4.7" display - resulting in a mind boggling pixel density of 468 ppi. This is the smallest 1080p screen I have laid my eyes on, which is incredible considerig the ThinkPad T420s I am typing this one has a mere 1600x900 screen, and I consider it sharp enough for daily use. The display is a Super LCD 3 variety, a good upgrade over the Super LCD 2 display used on the One X - which some, including me, has described as one of the best displays out there. A layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 2 protects the screen from small scuffs and dirt - but remember, the screen here isn't scratch or shatter proof.
One the top of the screen lies the same front facing camera used on the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The 2.1 megapixel camera with f/2.0 lens has impressed me a lot on the 8X, not because of its quality, but due to its ultra wide angle lens capable of capturing 88 degree angle, making video calls and self portraits a walk in the park. On the bottom of the display are two Android buttons - the back and home button, with a button-less HTC logo sitting awkwardly between the two. Unfortunately the buttons doesn't appear to be sensitive enough. There is no menu button.

Sandwiched between the display and the back is the polycarbonate shell. HTC's decision not to go full out on alumnium is likely due to improving its wireless signal. After all, plastic is better than metal when it comes to all things phone signal. On the top you will find the power key (again in an unergonomic location), which doubles as an IR blaster. I haven't seen one of this since the old Palm OS, Pocket PC and Windows Mobile days (ah, good times...) and frankly I have no idea why anyone would want one now. A 3.5mm headphone jack sits alongside it. Audio is powered by Beats Audio, but you are clever enough to know that you should disable that glorified EQ by now.
On the right side lies the a volume rocker. Because it is made of aluminium, it looks somewhat out of place surrounded by the white polycarbonate. It doesn't exactly ruin the look of the phone, but it does appear randomly out of place. The micro USB/MHL port sits on the bottom, and the micro SIM card holder can be found alone on the left side of the One. Like most new devices with a micro SIM card slot, a pin is required to eject the SIM card.

Like the One X, the One's modest 2300mAh battery is completely sealed in and thus none user-replaceable. It will take some time to ascertain if the battery is capable of keeping up with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with quad core 1.7GHz Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU. There is also no microSD card slot to found, but this isn't surprising - the industry as a whole (bar Samsung) is moving away from expandable storage. The version I have contains 32GB of storage - adequate for most users but those keen of carrying as much multimedia as possible will want to hold out for a 64GB version. 2GB of RAM keeps the Android powered phone going. Early indications points to a very fast and capable phone, even with the new HTC Sense 5 in tow.
The One has a brand new 4 Megapixel camera with backside illuminated sensor (BSI). The sensor measures 1/3" in size and features unusually large pixel pitch of 2µm. What this means is the sensor here, which HTC calls 'UltraPixel', is capable of capturing more light than those found in your usual slim and thin smartphone. As a comparison, my Nikon D7000 SLR's sensor has a pixel pitch of 4.7µm, where as my Canon S90 sits just below at 4.3µm. On the other hand, both the Lumia 920's and One X's camera sensors have a pixel pitch of 1.3µm, and both are adequate low light performers, with the Lumia 920 winning thanks to OIS. Combined with a 28mm f/2.0 lens and optical image stablisation (OIS), the HTC One's camera is theoretically capable of taking some cracking, if small, images.

4MP might sound little, but I have always been an advocate of scaling back megapixels for raw quality especially for smartphones where it is just physically impossible to cram a large sensor in a sub 10mm phone case. In an age where the megapixel myth is more popular than ever, it takes a lot of guts for HTC to actually do this. Still, it remains to be seen if this new camera system is up to the task, and I will be dedicating this entire week to testing HTC's claim, alongside its ability to capture 1080p videos in 60fps, for a dedicated camera review.
After barely a few hours with the HTC One, I am feeling the love. The new design is gorgeous and the 4.7" display 1080p display is absolutely stunning, I have spoiled my eyes so much that anything less is inadequate. But the new design comes at a price, it isn't the most comfortable phone to hold, especially when compared to the curvaceous One X. The power button's placement for example isn't getting much loved from me.

The new HTC Sense 5 UI is a blend of typical Android with a new custom UI not too dissimilar to Windows Phone's Metro design. It isn't too radical, but a step in the right direction especially when compared to the aging HTC Sense of yore.

Keep an eye peeled for a review, very soon. If you have any questions regarding the HTC One, give me a shout on twitter or leave a comment below.

Many thanks to Three UK for loaning me the HTC One. Where others have failed, you have been a star. You can pre-order the HTC One. The One is due to be released mid March 2013.


Anonymous said...

Wow, how did you get it so early?

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

HTC One is a brilliant phone. It performs well in every section. I would chose One over S4 & Xperia Z.

I have compiled few posts about HTC One Blog