Review: HTC One (2014)

The new HTC One is a very, very nice phone. It has even better hardware than last year’s model, and a few new smart and well-chosen software tricks. Some of the new software are mere gimmicks, but in the time I spent testing it, I came away more pleased then puzzled.

To put the HTC One through its paces, I took it to the happiest place on earth: Disneyland. It ended up being a great proving ground, especially for the camera, the usability of the the Sense interface, and the battery. I can report that overall, this is a solid, though relatively unexciting, upgrade to the previous One. It is instantly one of the two or three best Android handsets out there, and worth a look when it becomes available across all major U.S. carriers (prices will vary between $200 and $250). It goes on sale today, with a Google Play Edition coming soon. HTC could have pushed the camera a bit more, but other than that, it’s very hard to find fault with this device.

I’m not one for putting too much weight on specs, but let’s plow through these because the numbers are a key selling point of just about every top-tier handset today. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage with an easily accessible microSD card slot, and a 2,600 mAh battery. It has NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX support. The screen is a 5-inch 1080p display, slightly larger than last year’s 4.7-inch One with a slight drop in pixel density.

Of all the specs, the cameras are the only bring-downs. HTC didn’t beef up the rear camera. It’s the same 4.1-megapixel shooter as last year’s, although HTC did add a second lens to the backside to help it achieve some effects (more on that later). The front-facing camera has also been upped to 5 megapixels, but despite that fact, when I used it to shoot video, it looked pretty bad. Not even so-so, but bad — pixelated and low-res. It was actually bad enough that I regretted using it to capture some of my child’s happy moments, wishing I’d used the LG Nexus 5 that was in my other pocket instead.

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