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Review: HTC One

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Screen

The One offers what has become the standard screen for flagship smartphones. The Super LCD 3 panel measures 5 inches across the diagonal and includes 1920 x 1080 pixels. Such screens offer a relatively good balance between real estate and usability, though I still found it hard to reach the far upper corner of the display with my thumb. How does it look? Luscious. It is incredibly sharp and very bright. Colors are rich and accurate. There's no color change when the phone is tilted side-to-side, but there is a wee bit of brightness drop off. It's nothing to get upset about, though. I found the One to be easy to use indoors and out, and had no trouble using it to take pictures outdoors on a sunny weekend afternoon. It competes well with similar panels from Samsung and LG.

Signal

HTC gave us an unlocked UK variant of the One for our first pass of testing. That means it isn't optimized for any U.S. network, nor does it include support for U.S. LTE. Our review unit was limited to HSPA+ at 42 Mbps. We tested it with an AT&T SIM card. Despite the lack of optimization, the One performed exceptionally well on AT&T's network in the greater New York City region. It consistently showed a strong HSPA+ signal and data speeds felt fast enough via HSPA+ that I didn't miss LTE (too much). Calls consistently connected on the first dial. I didn't miss any calls, nor drop any calls during my initial tests with the One. It did well in regions where the signal was weak, and managed to connect calls even when it registered only zero or one bars. Data speeds were a little bit slower in poor-signal areas, but I was still able to update apps without suffering too much delay. So while we can't yet speak to LTE performance, the general radio and antenna engineering looks promising.

(We'll update this review to report on LTE as soon as we're able.)

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Sound

The One has next-generation BoomSound speakers on board, and they sound great. The speakers have a more powerful amplifier and HTC claims the speakers are 25% louder than last year's. While we can't prove that claim, we can say the BoomSound speakers are incredibly loud for a cell phone. You can easily fill a small room with plenty of sound - whether that sound is your boss on a conference call or your favorite Pandora radio station. Regular phone calls are sent to just one of the two speakers. Calls are plenty loud and audible with the volume set between 40% and 60%. If you put it up much more than that and press the One to your ear, you might be in danger of damaging your hearing. Call quality was a little bit mixed. Most of the time it was good, but every so often I'd hear a bunch of noisy interference. Calls routed to the speakerphone are insanely loud. You can use the One to fill a board room with mostly clear voices.

Music - even stuff that's somewhat bass heavy - sounds great when pumping through the BoomSound speakers. The HTC One produces alarmingly loud ringtones and alerts. If you crank the ringtone volume, you won't miss them even if you're several rooms away. Seriously, I'm surprised my neighbors haven't filed any noise complaints yet. The vibrate alert is pretty good, but I'd prefer if it were a bit stronger.

Battery

HTC is making some bold claims with respect to battery life. According to HTC, the enclosed and sealed battery is 40% bigger than last year's. The phone takes advantage of a more efficient processor as well as tweaked software to provide a full day of heavy-duty use. I punished the One over the weekend and still had plenty of power left at the end of the day. I did discover, however, that if there's one activity that really drains the battery, it's taking pictures and shooting video (see usage charge below). It drops noticeably when shooting video.

Last year's One had a power saver mode that was quite effective at extending the life of the device. It turns off a bank of processors and a few other background sync items and really lets you extend the usable life of the phone. The new One still has this function, but HTC one-upped last year's device with an additional extreme power saving mode. This mode kicks in when the phone hits 5% battery life. It turns off almost all services except for text messages, phone calls, and manual email refresh. It even goes so far as to simplify the user interface for this low-power mode. According to HTC, this mode will let people send messages, make calls, and read their email for another 15 hours. Fifteen. In other words, you can still do the basics for the rest of the day even when there's next to nothing left in the battery. Extreme power saving mode can also be set to kick in once the battery hits 20% or 10% left.

It's quite safe to say that most users will get a full day of usable battery life out of the HTC One, and the power saving modes mean you can, theoretically, go a few days in between charges if that's how things shake out.

A few words about charging. The One supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 spec, which charges phones to full capacity quicker than they might otherwise charge. HTC said that the in-box charger supports the Quick Charge 1.0 spec, but it will offer an optional charger that supports Quick Charge 2.0 later this year. According to Qualcomm, Quick Charge 1.0 lets devices charge 40% faster, while Quick Charge 2.0 lets devices charge 75% faster.

Last, due to its metallic design, the One does not support wireless charging without a special cover accessory.

Battery  

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