HTC One Review

June 3, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


The HTC One is an Android smartphone with with a 4-megapixel camera and a 28mm equivalent lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/2 and optical image stabilizer. HTC's so-called "UltraPixel" camera features a backside-illuminated sensor with a pixel size of 2.0 µm and sensor size of 1/3-inch, both much bigger than rival smartphones. The HTC One also offers a 4.7 inch Full HD 1080p, 468 PPI touchscreen with Touch AF, 8fps burst shooting, built-in flash, Geotagging, Full 1080p HD videos at 30fps, HDR mode for both stills and video, and the innovative Zoe shooting mode, which takes up to 20 shots and a 3 second video to create a "living photo" that you can share with friends and family. The HTC One is available now in black or silver for around £500 / $575.

Ease of Use

The HTC One is a large but quite light smartphone that just about fits into a trouser or jacket pocket, weighing 143g and measuring 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3mm. It has a very solidly built unibody design that feels like it should withstand the odd knock or two, although we'd suggest investing in a suitable case to help protect it from scratches. The lens is a 28mm equivalent optic with a fast maximum aperture of f/2, alongside which is a small built-in flash that's not particularly powerful.

The HTC One offers 32Gb of built-in memory, with no external memory slot, although it would take a lot of 4 megapixel photos to fill all the available space. There's no physical shutter release button on the device, with the shutter fired instead via the touchscreen, which is a rather strange design decision on such a photographer-friendly smartphone. You can take a shot either by tapping on the subject to focus and then pressing the camera icon at the side of the screen to fire the shutter, or tapping on the subject to focus and fire the shutter at the same time.

The combination of the wide-angle lens, f/2 aperture, effective built-in image stabilizer, relatively large pixel size and the maximum ISO speed of 1600 makes this smartphone much better suited to hand-held low-light photography than most other comparable devices. The HTC One offers a built-in, lens-based image stabilisation system that HTC claims offers a 3-stop advantage compared to smartphones with no anti-shake. In practice we could hand-hold the HTC One in fairly dark conditions and still get sharp results for both stills and video without resorting to using the rather ineffective built-in flash.

Front Apps

There's no means of gripping the HTC One the front or rear, making it a little difficult to get to grips with, especially since its unibody design is very smooth. The lens isn't that close to the edge of the body, so you don't have to be too careful not to let your left forefinger stray into the frame. We had more problems shooting in portrait mode because the On/Off button is located directly under your left forefinger, inadvertently turning the device off on a few occasions.

Press the small On/Off button on the top and the HTC One quickly readies itself for action in around a second, jumping straight into the camera mode if you were previously using it. We'd describe the general performance of the HTC One as very snappy, with little waiting around for the camera to take a picture - its certainly just as responsive as the majority of compacts that we've reviewed.

By default the HTC One uses the Normal scene mode. The other available modes are Portrait, Landscape, Backlight, Text, Macro, Night, HDR and Sweep Panorama. All of the modes provide the full range of camera options, allowing you to change settings which include the ISO speed (Auto, 100-1600), Exposure, Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness (+2 to -2), White Balance (Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flourescent, Incandescent), Crop (Wide, Regular, Square), Self-timer (On, Off), Continuous Shooting (On/Off, Limit to 20 Frames, Auto Review), Face Detection (On, Off), Auto Smile Capture (On, Off), and Geo-tag Photos (On, Off). Compared to an entry-level compact camera, the HTC One has a similar amount of options.

Camera Mode Image Displayed

The HTC One has an HDR function to help even out tricky exposures, for example where a bright background would normally throw the foreground into deep shadow. You can see from the examples on the Image Quality page that this feature produces a photo with noticeably more dynamic range than one taken using one of the standard shooting modes, but at the same time without replicating the often "false" look of many HDR programs. It also usefully works when shooting video too. The HTC One also offers an extensive range of 15 creative effects.

The Sweep Panorama mode lets you capture a panoramic image very easily without the use of a tripod. All you need to decide is whether you would like to start from left or right, top or bottom. Then press and hold down the shutter release while doing a "sweep" with the camera in hand. Exposure compensation is available before you start the sweep, but the exposure is fixed once you depress the shutter button. After you are done with the sweeping, the camera does all the processing required, and presents you with a finished panoramic image. Note that if you do the sweeping too slowly, or you let go of the shutter release button too early, the panorama will not be completed.

The HTC One can shoot High Definition video clips at full 1080p or 720p HD with stereo sound in the MP4 format at 30fps. There's also an MMS friendly option (176x144 pixels), plus Slow Motion, Fast HD (60fps) and even Video HDR options. You can see examples of all these modes on the Sample Images page. Note that you can't take a still image during video recording.

Effects Menu Playback Menu

In the unique Zoe mode, activated via the combined camera/video icon on the middle-left of the screen, the HTC One automatically captures up to 20 photos, a 1 second video before you pressed the shutter button and a 3 second video after you pressed it. You can then choose the best shot from the sequence, combine them into one file to create a Sequence Shot, remove unwanted objects, retouch the imagess, and share the highlights from your day or an event in a 30 second video clip on the HTC Zoe Share server.

The 4 megapixel JPEG images are quickly committed to memory in a single second, the screen momentarily blanking out and then displaying the captured image before the user can go on to take a second shot. You can take a burst of images on the HTC One at 8fps as well as just a single-shot, a handy feature that many smartphones don't offer.

The small thumbnail icon in the top-right corner is for playing back your images. You can browse through your photos by flicking them from side-to-side, zoom in and out by pinching, highlight, share, and delete them. The HTC One also offers quite a comprehensive Edit option, with the ability to add effetcs, frames, retouch and transform the image.

The HTC One is a stylish, full-featured and very responsive smartphone, with only the lack of a physical shutter button being a major disappointment. Now let's take a closer look at its image quality...