Review: HTC One

The HTC One is, in nearly every way, the finest device HTC has ever built, and it’s one of the best Android phones you can buy right now. A couple of things keep the One from being perfect. Battery life falls short, for one, and the camera takes a left-field approach to smartphone sensor technology that, while ambitious, left me wanting. Still, the One is largely a delight, especially if you’re the demanding sort when it comes to superior hardware finish and raw performance. If you’re looking for a new Android phone for use on a 4G LTE network, it would be a mistake if you didn’t consider it.

The new HTC One boasts an all-aluminum body that’s truly gorgeous. In fact, the attention to detail seen in the design of the entire phone is spectacular. Frankly, it needs to be. Apple’s iPhone still defines smartphone design language, and Samsung’s marketing muscle is delivering massive sales. Meanwhile, HTC has seen its sales nose dive over the last couple of years. The company needs a hit, and it knows it. This month, it’s putting two big bets on the table: the First, a $100 AT&T phone with Facebook Home pre-installed, and the One, a $200, multi-carrier flagship device meant to compete with the best offerings from the other hardware giants.

Like last year’s One X and One X+, the One follows the bigger-is-better trend in screen size. The phone’s display — a 4.7-inch touch panel with a 1920×1080 resolution and a density of 468-pixels-per-inch — is a stunner. It’s bright and renders colors faithfully, and both text and images are remarkably clear. It’s a bit dim in direct sunlight. Not so dim that it’s unusable, but dim enough to be annoying and make you cup your hand over the screen to see it clearly.

Above and below the screen, rows of pinholes have been machined into the case. Beneath these “grills” are notification lights, and, more importantly, a pair of front-facing speakers. This is a very cool addition. Hold the phone in landscape mode to watch a video, and you get a decent stereo audio image. The One’s speakers won’t replace your Jambox or your earbuds, but they are the best built-in smartphone speakers I’ve ever heard. They’re good enough that a speakerphone conversation actually sounds natural, and not like a tin-can-and-string arrangement.

Other notable hardware appointments: The plastic power button doubles as an IR blaster so you can use the phone as a TV remote, and charging is accomplished through a standard microUSB port on the bottom. The cellular and Wi-Fi antennas sit hidden behind two thin strips of plastic that arc across the back of the phone. Even here, where plastic and metal meet, the phone feels nearly seamless.

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