HTC One review: sound and camera features
Last time we looked at the HTC One it was just a general overview. Those first impressions were positive, but having spent a little more time with the company's new flagship handset it's time to dig a little deeper and explore how well it performs - especially in those aspects that HTC are heavily promoting.
As noted previously, HTC have furnished the One with a pair of stereo speakers - on the front of the phone. It barely seems worth mentioning, but combined with the Beats Audio integration makes for a significant audio experience. As others have noticed, the One is the loudest handset you'll find in the marketplace and you'll have to fiddle with the settings to find an acceptable level for your notifications.
But for playing your music or listening to the radio, you'll get by without having to plug in external speakers and you won't sacrifice much at all in terms of sound quality. Aesthetics aside, the sound - and the sheer 'Boomsound' volume - of the One will be one of the first things you'll want to show off to your friends and family.
Much has been made of HTC's decision to leave the megapixel race and only furnish the One with a 4 megapixel main camera. To soften the blow, those 4MP aren't just ordinary megapixels, they're 'Ultrapixels' - bigger than normal and supposedly better at capturing light. When so much of the market is numbers-based it's a bold move. (The front-facing camera has had a bump up to 2.1MP, meaning your selfies should look better than ever.)
We found the camera interface to be a little fiddly at times (the buttons and icons are small) and it's not always obvious where some of the controls are in the various menus. Nevetheless, after a bit of familiarisation and re-adjustment, you'll find yourself with a phone that's more than capable as a carry-around camera without, perhaps, setting the world alight. (We should also mention this is a fast camera app - this thing is ready to go almost before you realise.)
Where it does succeed is in low-light situations and here, HTC's 'Ultrapixels' strategy seems to have paid off. Given so many people use their phones on nights out or in clubs and the like, the One will give you solid, flash-free pics in a way nothing much else on the market can.
Daylight shots are bright and colourful, especially when viewed on the phone itself. Occasionally you'll notice some overexposure where detail gets blow out - especially in strong sunlight - but there are menu controls buried away within the guts of the camera app to try and overcome these issues. Within the last couple of weeks, HTC have issued a software update that includes tweaks to the camera performance - an encouraging sign that they're not willing to just let things lie.
Alongside the usual range of filters and Instagram-style processing options, HTC have introduced the 'Zoe', a feature that sits between your standard still image and a video. These three-second clips (which you can dig around in to find the 'perfect' still) can be stitched together into short-form videos complete with soundtrack. It sounds a little gimmicky on paper, but is actually kind of fun once you've played around with it.
If you're the kind of person who's interested in such matters, you'll know that the HTC One has garnered significant plaudits over the last few weeks since general release. Samsung fans (of which there are very many) may not be swayed, but the reviews are in and most agree that, aside from a few niggles, the One is definitely 2013's most exciting and impressive new model. If, for example, you've finally tired of your iPhone, the One is the handset that could make you jump ship.
The fantastic build quality and top-range specifications - alongside some cute innovations like the 'Zoe' - should ensure that come awards time, HTC will get some front row seats - and almost certainly some podium action.