SoC and Performance
The HTC One features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 mobile SoC. This SoC is a combination of Qualcomm’s APQ8064 applications processor and their MDM9215 modem. This is the same SoC that can be found in the Samsung Galaxy S4 (US version), and LG’s Optimus G Pro.
The Snapdragon 600 chip
has four Krait 300 cores as well as numerous DSPs that complement it for various applications. It also has an Adreno 320 GPU, which is the same GPU as the APQ8064 located in the Optimus G, Nexus 4 and many other numerous phones like the Droid DNA. The SoC also has native USB 2.0 support along with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi support, even though the HTC One has a Broadcom BCM4335 handling the 802.11ac. It is capable of 1080P capture and playback, which are both crucial to enabling the HTC One’s 1080P video recording and playback via the 1080P display and dual 1080P cameras. Benchmark Performance
Looking at performance alone, we’ve decided to opt for some benchmarks which give you an idea of how much faster the HTC One is when compared to the Droid DNA and One X.AnTuTu
AnTuTu is a heavily CPU-bound benchmark, but nonetheless a popular one. Here we can see that the HTC One bests the Droid DNA and other APQ8064 based devices, and more importantly, gives a more than 50% boost over the performance of the HTC One X.Vellamo
The Basemark GUI benchmark tests the GPU’s ability to render graphical user interfaces in a fast and smooth manner. Even though smoothness is not technically measured, it is theoretically tested by evaluating frames per second. In this benchmark, the One stays at the head of the pack when it comes to On-screen, besting the One X by once again and almost by 200% in the off-screen 720P test scoring 202 FPS vs. The One X at 77 FPS.Browsermark
This benchmark is a fairly complex in-browser benchmark designed to help the user evaluate how good their browser is and how it compares against others. It will also tell you which features are missing from your browser and give you an overall performance/ experience score. In this test, we like to test both the stock browser supplied with the device as well as Chrome since stock browsers tend to vary most. Despite the fact that we recommend Chrome for Android as a default browser given that it is usually faster than the default implementation, this time proved to be an exception.
While I can’t particularly speak to all of the details, the stock browser on the HTC One scores consistently faster than the Chrome browser. Chrome is scoring about 2,000 points every time it is tested, while the HTC Sense browser is giving scores of 2,500 and beyond, an improvement of over 20%.3DMark
3DMark is in our opinion, one of the best 3D benchmarks out there, primarily because of its cross-platform friendliness and the fact that they’ve been doing unbiased 3D benchmarks for as long as I can remember.
In 3DMark, we saw more of the same in terms of GPU performance with the HTC One being three times faster (10,336) than the HTC One (3406) and just a bit faster than the Droid DNA at (9794). Considering that the APQ8064 in the DNA and Optimus G is an Adreno 320 and the GPU in the One is also an Adreno 320, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that they would score so closely.Software
In this section, we’ll talk about the software on the device, ranging from the OS to the custom UI and native applications.
HTC Sense UI – I have seen HTC’s Sense UI evolve over time in ways that have both been steps forward and steps backward. With the One, they introduced a new addition to Sense, Blinkfeed. Blinkfeed is supposed to be a social feed of all of your Facebook, Twitter and Flickr activity with the added benefit of having your calendar integrated into it as well. This is a clear bow to social media becoming a more integral part of people’s lives, however, Blinkfeed is also the default page on the home screen and cannot be deleted. Without things like Gmail, Instagram, and the ability to remove the feed altogether, it feels like more of a roadblock than an assistant. Blinkfeed cannot be removed, which to me is a big problem because currently Blinkfeed’s lack of functionality means that I have to change my default home page to another page. That would be fine, except HTC’s latest iteration of Sense does away with the infinite swipe feature of previous versions where the UI would simply go to the first page again once it reached the last page of the home screen. Instead, with this current iteration, I have to swipe all the way back to the previous pages going leftward (Blinkfeed is on the first left page of the home screen, Below).
I do like how HTC has integrated the world clock, alarm clock, stopwatch, and timer all into one easy to use application. I think it would be more appropriately named Time rather than Clock. HTC did a similar thing with their Phone and contacts inside of Sense by making the Phone dialer the default page when you open the phone application. You can then swipe left and get into call history or swipe right and get into your favorites contacts, followed by regular contacts, followed by groups.
There are a few other applications like weather, tasks, voice recorder, and notes that all function fairly well and provide relatively good utility for their intended uses. However, they do not necessarily do anything ground breaking in terms of software.Photography and Video
The camera of the HTC One is a huge focal point that HTC has decided to accentuate when it comes to this device. They have spent so much time and money on this feature that it has its own explanatory website on HTC’s site to explain all of the intricacies of the Ultrapixel camera and how it is better than standard smartphone cameras. We’ll just give you our impressions and results for both the camera interface, experience, and our actual photos.
With the One, you get a 5 megapixel main camera and a 2 megapixel front-facing camera, both of which do 1080P video. The camera interface on the One is not drastically different from previous versions with the exception of the Zoe Camera which allows you to capture short videos that playback in the gallery or to create your own short video compilations using them. We want to give kudos to HTC for thinking ahead and implementing this before applications like Vine and Instagram (on Android). However, with applications like Vine and Instagram effectively enabling users to do the same thing, this feature becomes less relevant and mainly stays within the phone’s own applications. The ability to share this to HTC’s website and then share a link is no doubt very nice, but it lacks the social connectivity that Instagram, Facebook and Vine have. The Zoe Camera needs to be directly integrated into these applications to remain relevant. Otherwise, I will continue to not use it at all (other than the first few days that I had the phone).
One of the nice features of the camera is that it has a panorama feature which works fairly well. I managed to stitch together a nice panorama of a couple cities in Croatia that came out fine and did not have many issues with varied exposures or artifacts where the photos had been stitched together.
I also took a few HDR photos, even though I personally hate HDR as a photographer. It does illuminate some places that might be a bit darker or too light in some photos. I found the HDR feature to be pretty quick and does not require one to hold the camera up for 2-3 seconds while it captures those photos. The camera is able to get the three exposures quickly enough to enable for almost instantaneous HDR once the three photos are stitched together in-camera.
(Left, spot metering off, Right, spot metering on)
In this picture, I had a hard time getting the camera to ignore the incredibly bright stage lights which blew out all of the people on stage. As you can see from the photo, you can actually make people out as opposed to having them completely blown-out. Do note, that some in-camera zoom was implemented to enable these two photos, but no editing was done at all. I also took a similar comparison photo while in Taiwan (below).
(Left, spot metering off, Right, spot metering on)
One great feature of this camera that I like the most, is the spot metering
. Generally speaking, most smartphone photography suffers from either overexposure or underexposure. This is the primary reason why we see so many photo applications out there to help users improve the visibility of their photos. People generally throw away photos that are out of focus, but over/underexposed photos usually get a chance at retouching. As such, you see lots of people using apps like Instagram or Aviary to fix these problems. With the HTC One, if you know how to use spot metering (simply touching the spot on the screen you wish to spot meter), you can effectively decide what gets over or under exposed. Along with photos that were perfect the first time because of spot metering, I've successfully fixed many photos that initially came out poorly on the first shot. Spot metering also usually means that the camera focuses on that spot as well, which means that your photos should theoretically come out sharper than a field meter.
One of my biggest complaints while using the HTC One has been the fact that the phone tends to focus/spot meter on the area around the shutter button when I am trying to take a photo. I have had this happen to me enough times for me not to think that it is me being fat fingered. There have been at least 5 to 10 instances (out of 1000) where I try to press the shutter button to take a picture and instead it focuses on whatever is directly above the shutter button in the photo I am trying to take. I don’t know how HTC can remedy this effectively, but it is a notable annoyance.
Below is the camera's software, I labeled the different parts of the camera to give you an idea of the placement of all of the buttons. Generally speaking, when this issue occurs, it happens between the zoom bar, the image preview and the shutter button. Yes, the shutter button is the biggest by any measure, but I do have fat thumbs.
Moving on to the front-facing camera, we can tell that the sensor being used is nowhere near as good as the Ultrapixel sensor. In low-light the front-facing camera is absolutely noisy and horrendous, but it still does catch some low-light photos well enough to be salvageable in some editing. In good lighting, such as daylight, this front-facing camera is fantastically sharp and incredibly good. Because they continued to make the lens of the front-facing camera flush with the front of the phone, there is no dust buildup and the camera can remain nice and sharp with a nice rub of some cloth to clear off any dirt or dust.
Here are some sample photos that I’ve taken with the HTC One:
In addition to photos, there is no doubt that this camera takes great videos. We took this camera with us to the San Diego Safari Park to test the camera’s video capability at 1080P as well as testing to see how well the microphone picks up audio since it is supposed to be an impeccably designed microphone.
Network Speeds on LTE, Wi-Fi and Network Portability
My personal opinion is that I am pretty happy with the HTC One's camera, however it does seem a bit grainy in more neutral light situations and darker lighting environments. Anything that seems to be a pretty neutral tone seems to bring on some sort of noise, which can be a bit annoying. However, in brighter environments there is generally zero noise/grain.
With the HTC One, we initially did not have a chance to test some of the speeds of the LTE capability of this device because LTE had not launched yet on T-Mobile. However, thanks to the roll-out in multiple cities over the course of the past few months, we’ve had extensive experience in testing the LTE speeds. San Diego has been especially good for the HTC One as the market is not nearly as saturated as places like San Jose or Los Angeles.
Since I got this phone, I have also travelled to Taiwan and Croatia. Being in the tech industry, this means that you need to be able to buy any SIM and be able to pop it into your phone and immediately get data. In Taiwan, this was no issue and I was able to get the phone up and running within minutes using their HSPA+ network. Similarly, a prepaid card in Croatia yielded quick results in terms of both deployment and speeds. Both devices got me about 12 Mbps down and 4 to 6 Mbps up as an average speed. Croatia’s T-Mobile guarantees speeds of 75 Mbps down; however, those are for month to month customers, not prepaid. We may go and see whether or not these speeds are possible on the One relatively soon.
In addition to the mobile network speeds, we also tested our Wi-Fi speeds on the 802.11ac Western Digital MyNet AC1300. Since this router enables speeds greater than the speed of our internet, which is 55 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, we expect to see speeds somewhere around there. In my testing with the Speedtest.net app, we were actually able to get faster speeds over 802.11ac with lower latency (about 2ft away) than I did over gigabit wired on my PC.Note: All of the above speeds are on T-Mobile LTE around San Diego except for the first one, which is Wi-Fi. One result, which is slower than the rest is LA T-Mobile LTE, which explains the slower speeds.Calling and Messaging
When it comes to calling and texting, these two activities are finding themselves to become less and less relevant activities that are performed on a phone. Even so, HTC does a great job here as we’ve spoken about the way that the phone is built and how easy it is to navigate to the important things that you would normally look at while staring at your phone’s dialer. Personally, the call quality is impeccable from both ends and I can clearly hear people and they can clearly hear me. Because of the quality of the speaker on this phone, I rarely ever find myself needing to use speakerphone but when I do, it’s the loudest speakerphone I’ve ever used on a phone. The loudness of the HTC Boomsound dual speakers is unbeatable when being used as a loudspeaker.
Messaging is fairly simple and straightforward with a trace keyboard integrated into the device’s keyboard. Personally, it is not that bad, but I find the predictive nature of the keyboard to be a bit inaccurate. It does not necessarily guess the worlds that I pick precisely unless my fingers swipe over the right keys in a jagged, sharper manner. With Swype, I could easily and very quickly acquire my words without worrying about how accurately my finger came near the letter. As expected, you can attach a multitude of media to a text message ranging from audio, video, pictures, calendar entries and contacts, making the messaging app a simple one stop shop for MMS and SMS.Listening to Media
Normally, I would not set aside a separate part of the review for something as simple as listening to media, but the HTC One’s front-facing speakers sound so good and are so loud that they needed attention. HTC really deserves major kudos for finally doing something that nobody has done since the PPC days, which is a front-facing stereo speaker setup.
When you combine the HTC One with the HTC Doubledip Flip case, you basically have a portable mini sound system that you can easily enjoy sound from in any room. Admittedly this is not as loud as a wireless speaker, but it blurs the line between a smartphone speaker and an external one. While it is true that the HTC’s Boomsound does not have much bass, it still has more bass than almost every other loudspeaker on a phone.
Since HTC includes what appears to be a non-branded pair of Beats headphones, you can enjoy the bass-heavy Beats audio or turn it off and enjoy fairly good quality sound through headphones of your choice. I was actually able to plug in a pair of gaming headphones that generally require a good amount of power to be used and the HTC One handled them well. Battery Life and Charging
The HTC One was initially met with some (unwarranted) hesitance since it 'only' comes with an already sizeable 2300 mAh battery, which is comparable to almost every flagship phone out there. Under normal usage scenarios, this phone will get about 8-10 hours of usage. This primarily depends on how many applications that you have that are constantly polling over the network. Being connected to Wi-Fi will also positively affect your battery life, but for the most part, one can expect a full working day out of the phone without having to top-up for a charge.
Above is heavy usage on Wi-Fi
Using the phone mostly over Wi-Fi, you can expect to get about 12 hours of usage a day depending on how often you check the phone. After all, the largest consumer of battery life nowadays is the display, so the more often you check your phone’s screen, the worse it will perform in terms of battery life. This is one of the reasons why smartwatches are so attractive. A smartwatch’s screen will theoretically be OLED and be designed to consume as little power as possible while still allowing you to ‘peer’ into your phone. The phone’s Bluetooth connectivity does not seem to affect battery life much, nor does having Wi-Fi constantly on, but for the sake of maximum power I shut them off when they are not needed.
In terms of charging, I don’t think I ever really had to charge the device from a completely dead state; however, it appears that from my experience most full charges took between 2 and 3 hours, with 3 hours being a nearly empty battery. This phone does have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600, which features Quickcharge 1.0, however, this feature is not enabled. Perhaps, we will see the next HTC phone with Snapdragon 800 and Quickcharge 2.0 implemented to reduce such lengthy charge times.Value and Accessories
When it comes to the HTC One, the accessories supplied with each model may vary, however, it seems standard practice for HTC to include a stereo headset and wall charger with the device. Neither of these two are necessarily the real reason why the HTC One is actually a value.
When you take into account on-contract prices (AT&T)
you can see that the HTC One sells for $199 (32GB) and $299 (64GB), that is already a savings of $100 on contract when compared to the iPhone which sells for $199 starting with the 16GB variant. Similarly, when compared to the Galaxy S4, you can see that the Galaxy S4 gives you half the capacity of the HTC One at $199 on contract and charges $50 more than HTC for the same capacity (32GB). In addition to that, Samsung does not offer a 64GB model, which means that the 64GB One essentially has no competitors in terms of value. When you take into account that the S4 and One have the same display resolution and SoC, while the HTC One has a full aluminum unibody, the choice between the two becomes quite clear.
The phone I purchased is the HTC One Developer Edition
, this device only comes in a 64GB silver variant and can only be purchased directly from HTC. What is special about this device is that it is completely unlocked, which means it is SIM unlocked and has an unlocked bootloader. This is a great device for developers to use for testing and for people that don’t want to buy a carrier branded device or just like flashing with ROMs. What makes this phone such a great value is that HTC is selling it for $649, this is compared to Apple, who is selling their 64GB iPhone 5 for $849
, a premium of $200 for nothing but flashy advertising and thin air.
In addition to all of that, HTC has sweetened the offer further by giving anyone who buys an HTC One between June 15th and July 15th a $25 Google Play giftcard (code). That means that if you are able to get the HTC One for any kind of a deal below $199 (we’ve seen numerous deals) the HTC One is probably the best value for any high-end smartphone out right now.Conclusion
The HTC One is the result of many years of HTC searching to make the perfect smartphone. We’ve shown how HTC has learned from their mistakes and taken many steps forward to improve upon their devices’ design. By releasing new phones and experimenting with new concepts, HTC has without a doubt elevated the level of competition within the smartphone arena. Without HTC’s One, we would simply have a battle between the plastic/cheap feeling Samsung Galaxy and the fairly solid, but boring iPhone.
Looking at all of the impressive features of this phone and how it compares to its predecessors, you can see how HTC has improved against themselves and their competition. Taking the device itself into account, HTC already has a winner, but with all of the added value that HTC gives you with the device’s build quality and storage capacity, there is no doubt that HTC has a winner.
When you take into consideration all of the aspects of this device, you can see why the HTC One is without a doubt the best phone that HTC has ever made. Not just that, it is likely the best Android phone ever made, but it is not without its own flaws. No phone is perfect, but HTC does a good job of trying.
Based on all of our testing, experience and analysis, I can safely say that the HTC One deserves our Editor’s Choice Award.
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