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Review: HTC One for Sprint (Harman Kardon Edition)

Form Performance Basics Music Extras Wrap-Up Comments  9  

May 6, 2014, 2:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is selling a special edition of the HTC One with Harman Kardon headphones and tuning for improved sound. This could be the Android smartphone audiophiles have dreamed about.

Is It Your Type?

The HTC One has been re-envisioned this year to be even more powerful, easier to use, and better looking than its predecessor. HTC and Sprint teamed together with Harman Kardon to create special audiophile version of the One. It's the same One we know and love, but with a little something extra to tempt music lovers.

Is it for you? Answer these questions: Do you like pretty, well-made things? Do you prefer metal over plastic? Do you want the best of the best in your mobile phone? If you answered "Yes" to any of these, then the HTC One might be for you.

(NOTE: HTC is using "One" as the name for the phone it released last year as well as the new phone it is releasing this year. You'll see HTC sometimes refer to the new, 2014 One by its model designation, which is M8. The 2013 One's model designation is M7.)


(NOTE: We've already reviewed versions of the One on AT&T's and Verizon's networks. We've carried over significant portions of the text from our initial reviews and changed the text where appropriate to reflect performance on Sprint's network and Sprint's modifications to the device.)

Every so often something comes along that resets the rules. We saw that last year when HTC introduced the One, a stunning aluminum-and-polycarbonate smartphone that was both gorgeous and well made. Nearly everything about the One was exceptional, and it was among the most well-reviewed devices of the year. It may be hard to believe, but HTC actually improved the hardware when compared to last year's phone. The 2014 One is almost a piece of art.

This year's One has more aluminum, and the metal now wraps fully around the phone and forms the side edges as well. Aside from the glass front and some narrow bands of plastic, the One is mostly metal. There is absolutely nothing cheap or chintzy feeling about this device. It's a hardcore piece of metallic awesome.

When viewed side-by-side, the new One has softer corners and edges than the old One, and is slightly taller. The bloodlines are clear between the two, and it is obvious they come from the same genetic stock. The new One is being offered in three shades: dark gray, silver, and gold. All three shades feature a brushed aluminum exterior that feels exquisite. The Harman Kardon Edition One has special coloring: gold accents on the front and back, and a dark black finish on the sides and back. Personally, I like the look of the regular models better.

HTC said it made an effort to soften the look and feel of the phone. This means the edges have more aggressive tapering and are less sharp. The black plastic bands (white on the silver model) cross the back in two places, just as with last year's phone. HTC also placed a plastic band on the front to provide it with a nice frame.


The aluminum is smooth and slippery. In fact, I've never encountered a more slippery device. I've dropped the One quite a bit. The back panel is gently curved to allow the One to sit deeper in your hand. There are no hard corners or seams. Last year's One had a sharper edge where the glass on the front met the side edges. This year's model does away with that edge and the chamfered side surfaces are angled perfectly to meet the glass. As good as it feels, there's no denying that the One is a big phone. It's not overly heavy, but it isn't light, either. It may be too big for some. Even so, the slim profile means it will easily slip into pockets.

The materials and build quality are second to none. Only Apple makes hardware in the same class as this. The design and manufacturing are top notch. The One puts most other smartphone designs to shame. One downside I've discovered: the aluminum on the back surface is prone to denting. I've got two big dents on my device now.

The One's front face has the now-familiar BoomSound dual-speaker setup. There are machine-drilled holes in the plastic panels above and below the screen to house the speakers. In the top set of holes, one tiny opening is reserved for the notification light. There are also some sensors and the user-facing camera above the screen. HTC has done away with physical buttons on the One and now uses the on-screen control buttons that are part of the Android operating system. This is a welcome change. The screen, which measures 5 inches, has plenty of bezel above and below, but minimal bezel along the sides. This gives the One a bit of an oblong look, but I'm not put off by it.

The SIM card tray is located along the left edge of the One, just like last year's model. It requires a SIM tray tool or paperclip to eject it. Of note, HTC has switched to a nano SIM card, which is the same size SIM card used in the iPhone 5 and just a handful of other phones at the moment. Both the micro-USB port and 3.5 mm headphone jack are positioned on the bottom edge of the One. The volume toggle is on the right edge; it's a thin strip that has a reasonably good profile. Travel and feedback are decent. One bit of news that should make people happy: the new One supports microSD memory cards up to 128GB. The memory card tray is positioned on the right edge and also requires a SIM card tool or paperclip to eject. The screen lock button is on top. It is placed in a strip of black plastic. This strip also houses the infrared port. The lock button itself has a low profile. I wish it were easier to find with my finger, though travel and feedback was all right.


As with last year's phone, the battery of the One is sealed inside. The back panel houses two cameras, a dual-LED flash, the NFC antenna, and microphones for recording audio. All of these elements are arranged in a pleasing way. Sprint's logo isn't etched into the metal on the back, but the Harman Kardon brand is painted on.

Simply put, the One's hardware is impressive. It should appeal to most anyone seeking a high-quality smartphone.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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May 11, 2014, 9:11 AM

One downfall

Looks like there is one major downfall with this. It's on Sprint. So that makes it basically a useless brick.

May 6, 2014, 2:50 PM

Is the HK edition really using a different DAC?

I thought the HTC One M8 supported FLAC playback already. Is there really a different DAC in the HK edition or are the differences just software and bundled headphones along with exclusive color? What is the DAC in the normal M8 if it's different than the one in the HK edition? It is unfortunate that DAC specifications/chip information are not ever listed or available in spec lists for any phone unless HTC specifically decides to mention it like with the HK edition.
Its just different software. You can convert any M8 to the HK edition. Its on XDA.
The M8 supports 24-bit FLAC at 92KHz. The HK M8 supports 24-bit FLAC at 192KHz.
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