HTC One In The House: Initial Impressions & Speed Test

htconehandson-3I’ll keep this short, mainly because I want to return to using it: we have an HTC One in the house.

While this is not the same hardware/software combination that will eventually come to Canada, visually it is identical to what you’ll eventually hold in your hands. And while the device is capable of connecting to LTE networks in Canada, its radio software is not tuned for them; it’s a European variant that happens to support Band VII, 2600Mhz. In fact, it supports 850/1900Mhz 3G as well, so this European variant will be fully-functional on Bell and Rogers (both of which offer 2600Mhz LTE in major cities). Don’t believe us? Here’s a speed test:

Pretty neat, huh? Even the U.S. doesn’t have that.

And what about the phone itself? We’ll keep most of our impressions for the review, but let me say this: the HTC One is gorgeous. It feels amazing in the hand, though that top-left power button is so vexingly placed as to be a nuisance.

htconehandson-5The 1080p display is easily the best I’ve ever seen on any device, ever; it’s like staring at a mural. But 1080p is overkill on a device this size, and we wonder whether battery life could have been preserved had HTC kept it at 720p. Yes, the trend is going the other way but, unlikely the jump from WVGA or QHD to 720p, this current generation won’t feel as drastic a change. Don’t let dissuade you from junking your 720p device, but if you’re rocking a Galaxy S III or One X, the One is a lowercase ‘whoa’.

htconehandson-1The precision detailing in this aluminum body is just astounding. From the etched speakers on the front to the slightly sloped chamfered edges, there is nothing HTC’s style mavens didn’t account for. Yes, it’s true, the device isn’t entirely aluminum — the two outer pieces encompass a polycarbonate middle, almost like a delicious smartphone Oreo cookie — but it feels no less exquisitely made as a result. It’s not oversized, either, though the One certainly necessitates two-handed use in some scenarios. This is about as compact a 4.7-inch smartphone you’ll ever see, so iPhone Math enthusiasts may want to pick one up to see what a larger Apple phone will feel like.

htconehandson-2I’ve had little time to test out the camera or battery, but I have high hopes for the former and tempered expectations for the latter. Indeed, from what I’ve heard, it may be prudent to keep a second charger handy to ensure all-day use. Then again, my mileage will hopefully vary.

The two capacitive button setup necessitates, once again, a virtual menu button for apps that haven’t yet implemented one natively. And because there is no third button to hack a menu key from, you’re likely stuck with it. While many of my favourite apps have been upgraded with a software menu button since the One X was released, popular ones like Facebook and Twitter still languish in Gingerbread design language. It’s an absurd chicken-or-egg scenario, and with Samsung looking like it will continue to buck the trend and ship the GS4 with a hardware menu button, developers have little reason to make the switch. It’s not a dealbreaker, mind you, but it’s certainly an annoyance.

htconehandson-7It’s clear right from the start that some of HTC’s choices will be controversial. BlinkFeed is an interesting idea and Zoe Share may change the way I use my phone’s camera. UltraPixel could be the biggest mistake HTC has ever made, but I doubt it. The dual-speaker setup is demonstrably superior to any smartphone I’ve used, and rivals some tablets and laptops I have at hand. They’re that good. Photo quality, in all their 4MP glory, is excellent, but I have yet to do side-by-side comparisons with popular handsets like the iPhone 5, Galaxy Note II and Lumia 920.

htconehandson-6The HTC One is a make-or-break proposition for the company. So far it looks like they’ve done right by their loyal customers and potential converts, but the year is still young.

As we work on the review, ask any questions you’d like answered and we’ll try to get to some of them in the review.