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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.

Given the fact that HSPA+ data speeds are often equal to or even greater than LTE speeds, this is a meaningful advantage -- particularly when compared to Sprint, where LTE connectivity is still rare and painfully slow 3G service is the only alternative.

I found voice call quality on the HTC One unit I tested -- which was a Sprint-connected model -- to be perfectly fine; I could hear people loud and clear and those with whom I spoke reported being able to hear my voice without any crackling or distortion. HTC says the One has several call-enhancing features, like ambient noise detection and dynamic volume adjustment, but I was unable to detect any noticeable increase in quality based on their presence.

The HTC One supports near-field communication (NFC) for wireless payments and data transfers. It does not, however, support wireless charging.

Cameras

By now, you've probably heard about the HTC One's unconventional approach to smartphone imaging. In short, while most manufacturers brag about a large megapixel count for their smartphone cameras, HTC has opted to go with fewer but larger megapixels on the One -- a change the company says results in better real-world performance for the types of pictures most people take.

The HTC One's camera uses 4 megapixels -- "UltraPixels," as HTC calls them. According to HTC, that configuration allows for 300% more light to be captured than what you'd get with a typical 13-megapixel smartphone shooter.

The One features a bunch of other fancy-sounding camera technology, like a dedicated image processing chip, an f/2.0 aperture and a high-frequency optical image stabilization system. In my real-world tests of the device, all that stuff added up to pretty solid performance.

The One's most impressive images seem to be those captured in low-light environments.

The One's most impressive images seem to be those captured in low-light environments: I found the One could take sharp-looking images in dimly lit areas where higher megapixel smartphones failed. At times, the One even produced lighter and more detailed images than I could see with my own eyes -- and that was without the use of a flash.

When it comes to other types of photos, the One does fairly well -- but it does have its limitations. Due to the low megapixel value, the highest resolution you can get on a photo is 2688 x 1520. And if you carefully inspect an image blown up to that full resolution, you can sometimes see some quality loss in the fine detail.

Does that matter? For most people, probably not. Images captured with the One look great at the sizes used for the majority of online viewing and sharing.

 

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