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July 5, 2013

HTC One Review

HTC’s most promising release ever is the HTC One. The Taiwanese company probably pulled all stops to make this handset the best and most desirable smartphone in the market. Check out our full review of the HTC One after the break.

HTC’s naming conversion has become a bit confusing with the introduction of the One. It used to be a single letter nomenclature (One X, One S, One V) but with the flagship device, they’ve dropped the letters altogether. We don’t know why they kept on changing naming conventions every year but we don’t think it’s good for marketing.

Design and Construction.

There’s no denying that the HTC One is a masterpiece of a smartphone design. Both the materials used and the craftsmanship are a perfect blend of a desirable handset. If there’s one manufacturer that can match, or even surpass, that of Apple’s iPhone 5.

The generous application of aluminum in a unibody design gives the HTC One a very solid build. This all-metal and glass construction is a rare combination and a tricky attempt in the engineering department as it introduces a lot of complications (signal loss, heat dissipation, etc).

The top side of the handset is where the power button is located. It also doubles as an IR blaster so you can use it as remote control for your TV. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits beside it. On the right side is the volume rocker, while the left side is where the micro SIM card slot is found.

The HTC One’s design was slightly inspired by its predecessor, the HTC Butterfly. In fact, the recently announced HTC Butterfly S combines all the goodness of the Butterfly and the One into a single device.

The HTC One uses dual stereo speakers, both of which are placed at the front so when you’re playing music or watching movies, you get the full power of the system. It’s a minor engineering decision that makes a lot of sense although we’re curious why other brands have not actually employed.`

That elegant and premium feel, attention to detail and materials used in constructing the HTC One is something HTC should indeed be proud of.


Just like the previous flagship handsets, HTC continuously banked on Super LCD3 as its main component for display panels. Super LCD offers brighter whites compared to AMOLED and has better outdoor visibility and less glare in the outdoors.

With a screen resolution of 1080p of 1920×1080 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 469ppi which actually the highest we’ve seen in any flagship handset ever released in the market (others are normally in the 441ppi).

Images are very clear, text are crisp and easy on the eyes, and outdoor visibility is pretty decent.

The thick glass panel spans from edge to edge on the horizontal lane. The top and bottom corners though are terminated with a thick piece of aluminum alloy and looks like it was sand-blasted and laser-cut to give a somewhat polished finish. The same aluminum block also houses the speaker grills created by punching hundreds of tiny pin-holes into the slab.

The narrow bezel extends towards the side and spills over the edges with what could be Gorilla Glass. At the bottom corner of the panel is where the HTC logo is printed along with only two (2) soft buttons — one for Home and another for Back.

OS, UI and Apps.

With the new HTC Sense UI 5.0, the home-screen of the HTC One was totally re-designed to show Blinkfeed — a custom tile of social feed status, videos from HTC Zoe, and updates from friends on Twitter or Facebook.

The feeds are represented in tiles of varying sizes to give an impression of variety, much like the Live Tiles of Windows Phone 8. The only other widget that occupies the homescree is the Weather widget with date and time.

The shortcuts that hover at the bottom end links to the App drawer, Call, SMS, Browser and Camera. There are 3 additional screens aside from the Blinkfeed homescreen but you can just add more screens as you need them.

HTC Sense has really differentiated itself from the other typical homescreen UIs of other brands. Blinkfeed reminds us of Flipboard which we really liked.

The native virtual keyboard is pretty easy to use, responsive and the predictive text is decent to accurate. We liked the simple uncluttered layout, spacious keys, that allows us to type really fast with either one or both hands.

Since it’s powered by Android Jellybean, you have access to Google PlayStore to download more apps, games and widgets/themes if you’re not too keen with Sense UI. We’ve always been a fan of HTC Sense UI and this new versions looks really nice and clean.

We liked some of the native apps for music, movies and even the TV app which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section.

Multimedia and Camera.

It used to be that HTC’s biggest strength in the multimedia department is the fact that they have Beats Audio incorporated into most of their handsets. While that is still true, we think the additional features, native apps and design itself has added more value.

For one, we loved the idea of the dual stereo speakers positioned at the front — one at the top and another at the bottom. Once you flip the phone horizontally and watch a movie or music video, the entire power of the sound is delivered right in your face. That means very strong sound volume, not muffled nor directed elsewhere. We have to say, it is the best sounding handset we’ve ever tested and reviewed — hands down.

The power button is made up of a translucent material because it also serves as the IR blaster (pretty neat implementation there) which allows you to use it as a remote control for your TV. There’s a native TV app that includes some Channel Guides, Schedule of Programs and Recommendations. The apps is actually powered by Peel but customized for HTC.

Much has been said about the UltraPixel camera of HTC and while we were skeptical before, our actual experience on the field has totally impressed us. Yes, it’s just 4-megapixels but the level of performance, sharpness, speed of focus, and over-all quality of both stills and videos are excellent.

If anything else, the HTC One has practically proven that picture quality is not all in the megapixel count.

The camera has very fast focus and contrast adjustment. For busy or chaotic scenes, there will be times when it re-focuses several times while looking for the dominant subject. HTC Zoe is a neat camera feature, allows you to get a few seconds of video footage on top of the still photo.

But, we still leave it to the actual photos that we took so you can judge by yourself. Here’s a collection of photos taken with the rear camera:

We were thoroughly impressed by the crispness of the images, the color saturation and most especially the depth of field (just look at that bokeh from one of the shots of the flowers). The camera can also take photos while recording videos or shoot a burst of up to 20 frames at a time.

Here’s a collection of snippets from the videos we took using the rear camera:

Don’t forget to tick the 1080p settings in the video before playing the track.

The camera allows you to set it at fixed focus or use the touchscreen to shift focus on various subjects in view. The fast focus and the depth of field that the camera can do is something very noteworthy.

Even our low-light samples are actually very clear, has less noise and still maintain a well-balanced contrast.

In the multimedia department, we think the HTC One has accomplished a lot of firsts and did very well with it.

Performance and Benchmarks.

The HTC ONe is buttery smooth, the HTC Sense UI is snappy and very fluid. Apps launch really quick and the system can handle dozens of simultaneous tasks running at the background. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 chip coupled with 2 GB of RAM can chew on almost anything we threw at it. We never saw the handset choke on anything in the course of our regular use for the past couple of weeks.

As for synthetic benchmarks, the Adreno 320 graphics scored really high on Nenamark 2 with a frame rate of 6.14fps. Both Quadrant and Antutu Benchmarks also gave impressive results at 12,428 and 24,0007 respectively.

HTC used a lightly underclocked Qualcomm APQ8064T quad-core Krait 300 which maxes out at 1.7GHz per core. This is to save up on battery life once all cores are on full power (a logical work-around). This is in contrast to the Galaxy S4 running on the full 1.9GHz Qualcomm chip.

Call Quality, Connectivity and Battery Life.

The HTC One has all the connectivity options needed in a smartphone, plus a little more. Aside from the dual-band WiFi 802.11ac, you get Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Infra-red, GPS and LTE.

With LTE, we’re able to connect to local networks and get speeds of up to 42Mbps (our random tests with Globe LTE averages at 16MBps down and 8Mbps).

Our standard battery bench places the HTC One running a full HD movie in a loop at 50% brightness and 0% volume. The results were a bit underwhelming and the handset only lasted about 7.5 hours.

In the last two weeks using the HTC One, we’ve never had any problems with it from the basic functions of making calls and sending SMS. Voice calls are crisp and loud, SMS notifications arrive on time and wireless connectivity like Bluetooth and WiFi worked flawlessly.

We’ve also been using the device as an LTE hotspot and it has done a good job at it. It’s also probably a power-saving feature but we’ve noticed that the hotspot automatically turns off after a while if it’s not actively used.

Then, there’s our little concern with the back of the device heating up pretty fast once it’s connected to LTE. Because the device is mostly made up of aluminum, heat build-up is quite fast although it dissipates as fast too.


HTC has a very strong and solid position with the HTC One. It’s absolutely beautiful, powerful, and has a great set of multimedia features and impressive UltraPixel camera.

Of course, it has its fair share of shortcomings. The average battery life and the lack of expandable memory are just some of the things you might want to nitpick about it. Nevertheless, we still believe that its strong suit outweighs the minor inadequacies.

If you have to save up for a phone now and will stick to it in the next 2 or 3 years, this is the One. No doubt.

HTC One specs:
4.7-inch 1080p Super LCD3 display @ 1920×1080 pixels, 469ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz quad-core
Adreno 320 Graphics
32GB internal storage
WiFi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP
Stereo FM Radio with RDS
GPS w/ aGPS support, GLONASS
IR Blaster
TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
4MP rear UltraPixel Camera
1080p video @ 30fps, 720p video @ 60fps
2.1MP front-facing camera
1080p video @ 30fps
Beats Audio
Li-Po 2,300mAh battery
Android 4.1.2 with HTC Sense 5.0
137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm (dimensions)
143 grams (weight)

The HTC One comes in silver and black colors and retails for Php32,990 for the 32GB variant (the cheaper 16GB and the higher 64GB are not available locally). It’s also available on a Globe plan for free at Php1,599 month with unlimited LTE.

What we liked about the device:
* Impressive design and build
* Great performance
* Impressive camera performance
* LTE connectivity
* Great display
* Very good sound quality
* IR blaster as remote control
* Large internal storage
* Built-in NFC
* Great Sense UI

What we did not like about it:
* Average battery life
* Heats up quite fast
* No expandable memory

Disclosure: The review units was given to us for free by HTC Philippines.