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HTC One deep-dive review: A smartphone that flirts with perfection

JR Raphael | April 15, 2013
With its high-quality hardware and stunning design, the HTC One is one of the best smartphones you can buy today -- but it isn't without its drawbacks.

A 3.5mm headphone jack is also on the phone's top. A textured metallic volume rocker lives on the right edge, while a micro-USB port is built into the bottom. You can use the micro-USB port as an HDMI out if you have an MHL adapter.

One odd touch with the One's design -- and this is admittedly picking a nit -- is the way the metal meets the plastic trim on the bottom edge. While the materials come together seamlessly elsewhere on the phone, on the bottom, the plastic is not completely flush with the metal; instead, it extends ever so slightly beyond the plastic, resulting in a sharp and uneven surface on an otherwise smooth device. Big deal? Not really. But given the attention to detail that's apparent in the rest of the phone's construction, it's a curious disconnect that, once noticed, is difficult to ignore.

Enough about the body, though; let's move on to the face. The bulk of the One's front is taken up by a 4.7-in. 1080p LCD display. At 468 pixels per inch, the screen is downright gorgeous, with brilliant colors and sharp detail that make images and text pop with stunning clarity. Even in bright sunlight, the One's Gorilla Glass 2-protected screen remains perfectly visible.

The screen is flanked top and bottom by dual front-facing stereo speakers that deliver the best audio I've ever heard from a smartphone. Music played through the One sounds full and clear and lacks the tinny, muted quality so many smartphone speakers possess. And it's loud, too: While the phone obviously couldn't replace a full stereo system, it sounds better than most laptop speakers and could easily suffice for listening to tunes at your desk or in your living room with friends.

A notification LED is hidden within the top speaker grille; it lights up different colors to alert you of events like missed calls and new voicemails. You can customize how and when the LED illuminates with the aid of a third-party application called Light Flow.

The button factor

Despite its commendable design decisions, HTC made one unfortunate move with the One's form: It opted to rely on physical capacitive buttons instead of the virtual on-screen alternatives Google recommends for modern Android devices. The setup takes a negative toll on the overall user experience -- and its effects are not insignificant.

The first problem is with the basic positioning of the buttons. HTC has opted to place a permanent Back key at the bottom-left, just below the screen, and a Home key at the bottom-right. Between the two buttons sits an HTC logo that serves no functional purpose.

 

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