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HTC’s best yet: HTC One (2014) reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:32 pm 08/04/2014

Last year’s HTC One was one of the best handsets of the year, and in 2014, the company plans to impress customers with something even better, continuing the reliance on metal, simplicity, and a camera that can handle its own.

Features

Another year, another model, and for 2014, HTC is keeping the “One” moniker it gave to phones to simplify things two years ago.

In the new edition, you’ll find upgraded specs that put the handset on par with its fiercest rival, the Samsung Galaxy S5, sporting innards that are close to identical in so many ways.

For starters, you’ll find the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, the 801 model clocked at 2.5GHz with the Adreno 330 graphics chip, running alongside 2GB RAM and 16G storage, though this last part can be upgraded through the microSD slot.

Android 4.4 “KitKat” runs on the One (M8) out of the box, making it up to date as far as Google is concerned, with HTC’s Sense 6 overlay running atop Android.

Connections are now standard for flagship handsets, and you can expect 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, DLNA, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, Near-Field Communication (NFC), infrared for controlling your TV, and the Category 4 LTE (4G) connectivity that every major telco in this country now supports.

Wired connections are — as always — very limited, and you’ll find microUSB here, running the regular 2.0 version that most phones have been charging from for years. Data can also be transferred this way simply by plugging the phone into a computer using this port and a microUSB cable.

Cameras are included, of course, and they’re actually main features, with dual 4 megapixel cameras on the back as part of HTC’s “Ultrapixel” technology, complete with a flash, while the front-facing camera is rated for 5 megapixels. Both cameras are capable of capturing Full HD 1080p videos.

All of these specs sit underneath a 5 inch touchscreen, capable of showing Full HD’s 1920×1080 resolution, flanked on each side by speakers which HTC calls “BoomSound” technology.

Buttons are few and far between, and even less than previous HTC handsets, as the soft buttons have been taken off and moved to the on-screen Android display, with the bottom section of the screen showing the back, home, and multitask buttons, though these can be changed depending on the program running.

Physical buttons are also lacking in abundance, with merely a volume rocker on the right, and the power button up top, which has been relocated from the left of the phone and is now on the right.

Ports are equally small in number, with merely the microUSB port and 3.5mm headset jack sitting next to it on the bottom of the handset.

In a first for HTC, the company has shifted to the nanoSIM, with the pin-ejected tray for this located on the left side, the opposite side of where the microSD slot is (right side, above the volume rocker).

The battery is built into the handset and is rated at 2600mAh.

Performance

Back in 2012, the simpler naming scheme didn’t exactly pay off, with a One X, One XL, One S, and One V, to name just the ones we remember off the top of our heads. Last year in 2013, HTC seemed to get the gist of a simpler naming convention, with the One, One Mini, and One Max making up the whole “One” range.

And this year, it looks like we’re back for another One, as HTC shows off the new 2014 edition One, also known by the product name of “M8,” fitting since the 2013 edition One was known as the “M7.”

So here we are with the evolution of the 2013 One, and for this product, HTC has increased the specs, updated the body, and redeveloped the camera, so how does it fare?

Pick up the phone and you’ll find a familiar high quality experience, which is something HTC totally nailed last year with the metal body of the One. While few manufacturers seem keen on investing in metal phones, HTC is keeping with the material, with the 2014 One staying in metal, and even relying on more this time around.

In the hands, it’s clear you’re holding something made to survive, with a decent amount of heft and a body that has virtually no unwanted creaking or twisting.

As far as body perfection goes, this is it in a handset, and we’re thrilled.

Switch it on and you’ll find a bright and colourful 5 inch screen greeting you back, with more than enough light to make the viewing experience possible inside or out, which will please most people.

There’s a touch less pixel clarity here — sorry, it’s a numbers game, and with Full HD at 5 inches, the number is 441ppi against last year’s 469ppi — but it’s still perfectly sharp, making text and webpages readable without zooming in using your fingers.

The screen is now accommodating the soft buttons that normally sit under the screen, but HTC has made them sit on a translucent black bar, with the display still sitting beneath.

It’s a much better look for the built-in button design Google normally goes with, and helps to make the screen feel like it’s framed on all sides by the aluminium casing of the handset, which is something you don’t always get, especially when there’s a big black bar at the bottom just for screen-based buttons.

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Price (RRP)

$899; Available on plans from Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone;

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

One of the best built phones you'll feel; Excellent system performance; Solid mobile speeds; Expandable memory (yay!); Camera that works very well in low light; Front-facing camera is 5 megapixels; Clear Full HD screen; Remote control support is still here; Day-strong battery life; BoomSound stereo speakers are still the best speakers on a phone;

Product Cons

Rear camera is still technically only 4 megapixels; Most camera features won't be used by people; Extra features won't even work in macro mode; No 4K video camera support; Slippery;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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