Review: HTC One V
When HTC announced the One series phones back at the Mobile World Congress, the swankier One X and the One S got all the attention whereas the One V was mostly ignored due to its run of the mill specs.tech reviews Updated: May 30, 2012 16:34 IST
When HTC announced the One series phones back at the Mobile World Congress, the swankier One X and the One S got all the attention whereas the One V was mostly ignored due to its run of the mill specs. While it’s true that the One X and the One S are the more interesting of the trio, in the end the One V will probably end up outselling both of them due to its price. It’s also when you consider the price is when you realize that its specs are perfectly in line with what other phones in that price have to offer. The One V even has a couple of things that the others don’t, such as Android 4.0 pre-installed and an aluminum unibody. Let us take a closer look at this phone.
Unlike the One X and the One S, the One V’s design isn’t particularly original. It looks practically identical to the HTC Legend that came out two years ago. Having said that, other than the basic shape, no two parts on the two phones are identical. The One V is thinner, narrower, shorter and lighter than the Legend. There are no physical keys below the display, nor is there an optical trackpad. There are also several other minor differences.
The One V’s design is much more refined and sophisticated than Legend’s. The front of the phone looks a lot simpler and cleaner. You will notice that the display area is slightly raised above the aluminum body and is not completely flush. Above the display is the earpiece underneath a long grille. Unfortunately, the One V does not have a front facing camera.
Below the display are the three capacitive keys like the other One series phones that consists of the back, menu and multitasking keys. Finally, there is the characteristic chin that was much more common on older HTC phones but has faded over the years.
On the left side of the phone, we find the micro USB port. Unlike the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V, there is no micro HDMI port here. On the right are the volume control keys, which, as you may have noticed, have switched sides on recent phones whereas older HTC phones always had them on the left.
On top of the phone are the 3.5mm headphone jack, power button and the notification indicator. The indicator is design in a way such that it can be seen from the front, top and the rear of the phone, although it’s brightest when seen from the top.
On the back is the 5 megapixel camera lens with the LED flash near the top. At the bottom is a small plastic cap that comes off and conceals the SIM card slot and the microSD card slot. Unlike the other One series phones, the One V does not support micro SIM cards. What it does have in common is the battery, which is non-removable.
You will also find the loudspeaker placed underneath the plastic cap and due to the angle of the chin it doesn’t get covered when you place the phone on a surface.
The One V uses an aluminum unibody design, similar to the Legend. The metal surface has a really nice matte finish with a coarse texture. This makes the phone feel really great and light years ahead of the cheap, plasticky phones you usually see in this price range (Read: Xperia neo V). Build quality is great too and the phone feels well put together. Despite the metal construction, the phone is surprisingly light.
The HTC One V has a 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 resolution, Super LCD coated with Corning’s Gorilla Glass. The display on this phone is really amazing. Warm, rich colors in particular look great. Other things such as black levels, viewing angles, outdoor visibility are also excellent. We’re glad to say that HTC has continued their tradition of using top-notch LCDs on their phones, despite their pricing.
Hardware and Software
The HTC One V has a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 SoC that includes a 1GHz Scorpion CPU and Adreno 205 GPU. In terms of memory you get 512MB, which is a downgrade from some of the older HTC phones such as the Desire S, Incredible S and the Rhyme that had 768MB.
As for storage space, HTC claims to offer 4GB of internal memory but all you get out of that is a meager 1GB. The only purpose of this memory is to install apps. Since the phone also needs another memory for storing photos and videos in case the user does not plug in a microSD card, HTC has given a ridiculously low 95MB of memory that exists just for the sake of it. As such, a memory card for this phone is a must. Thankfully, the phone comes with an 8GB memory card.
Then you have the usual connectivity features that include HSPA, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS and USB 2.0. The phone supports Wi-Fi Direct for directly communicating with other Wi-Fi Direct devices without having to go through a router or an access point. There is no GLONASS or NFC support.
On the software side, the One V runs on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC’s Sense 4.0. The Sense UI on this phone is scaled back version of what we saw on the One X. A lot of the animations from the UI have been removed taking into considerations the weaker hardware of the One V. These include the 3D cube animations when you move through the homescreens (they merely slide on the One V) and in menus with tabs at the bottom. HTC has even removed the custom multitasking screen with the large screenshots in favor of the simpler layout found in stock ICS. However, they have limited it to display only the last six app thumbnails unlike stock ICS which shows thumbnails for every app you opened.
To some, this might seem like a disadvantage but we see this as a plus point. All of the stuff mentioned above was gimmicky and frivolous to begin with and we couldn’t be gladder to see it all go away on the One V. We wish HTC hadn’t bothered with them on the One X and the One S as well.
We want to point one thing about the software in this review regarding the missing menu button on the One V. Just like on the other One series phones, the One V does not have a dedicated menu button. While apps optimized for Android 4.0 display an action overflow button near the top of the screen, indicated by a vertical ellipsis, older apps still rely on the rational menu to display additional options. The One X and S take care of this by showing a menu bar at the bottom of the screen in such apps, a terrible solution in our opinion. The One V handles this much better. You have to press and hold the multitasking key for the menu to pop up. This seems like a much more elegant solution, however, it’s not immediately apparent. The phone doesn’t tell you this and we couldn’t find any mention of this in the user guide as well.
Hopefully, this should help inform people about this hidden functionality on this phone.
The performance on the One V is a bit of a mixed bag. When you are swiping through your homescreens or through the application drawer, the phone is butter smooth. In fact, at times it even felt smoother than the One X we had for review. However, launch an app like Messages or Settings and the phone gets noticeably sluggish.
Every time you open an app, you have to stare at the brown background of the default theme for 1-2 seconds before you see the contents. And this is for the built-in apps. Third party apps can take much longer. There is no sense of urgency and everything on the One V works at a leisurely pace.
Things can get even uglier at times. The widgets drawer often blanks out when you open it, and takes a while before it displays all the widgets. The photo gallery widget drove us crazy by crashing every single time we used it. It’s not because it was buggy, but because it was having a hard time loading the images fast enough to keep up with our scrolling.
Thankfully, we did not have any trouble with 3D games, which all worked very well. Even third-party apps worked fine once they took their time to start up.
Multitasking remains a concern, however. Switching between apps or even quickly closing and opening another often causes the phone tostutter and it’s not as smooth as you’d want it to be. We believe the culprit here is the RAM. 512MB doesn’t seem enough for a phone running on ICS, especially with a custom skin on top. HTC should have used at least 768MB of RAM, if not 1GB.
Don’t get us wrong. The phone is far from being unusable and its performance is in line with the other phones in its price range. It’s just that at times it can be exceedingly smooth, which is why you are caught off-guard when the phone decides to throw one of its tantrums. Also, things should improve later on as the phone gets software updates.
The HTC One V has a 5 megapixel camera with backside illuminated (BSI) sensor, f/2.0 aperture and 2.8mm wide angle lens. The particular type of sensor, the wide aperture and the lens all help the camera capture as much light possible to help low light photography. A wider aperture also means that the exposure time can be shorter, which leads to less blurry shots.
The camera application has been carried over from the other One series phones. The still and video interface has been combined and you can capture a picture or record a video from the same screen. The settings are also grouped together in the same menu. You get a lot of scene settings, such as HDR, panorama and group portrait. Then there are special filters, such as the ones you get in Instagram that you can apply even before you shoot the picture. In the video recording mode you can take still photos while you are recording the video by pressing the camera shutter button. There is also a slow motion option that records 2x slower video at a lower resolution (480p).
The One V also has the superb burst mode feature from the more expensive One series phones. By default the phone is set to capture up to 20 pictures but you can disable it, after which there doesn’t seem to be any limit. We managed to take up to around 80 pictures with the phone stopping at different number of shots every time, presumably restricted by the free storage space. The phone then presents them all to you. You can just press Back, at which point the phone saves them all, select delete and then choose which pictures you want to delete or select the best pic, at which point the phone deletes the rest.
One thing to note here is that the One V does not have the dedicated image processor known as the ImageChip found on the other One series phones, which is why it is impressive that the One V still manages to do the same things almost equally well.
If you read our One X review, you will know that we weren’t quite fond of the camera on that phone. In isolation, it wasn’t quite bad but it wasn’t worthy of a flagship phone, especially when the competition is packing theirs with top notch cameras. Thankfully, the One V fairs much better here. Not that it is better than the camera on the One X, but for the price the image quality of the One V’s camera is more than acceptable.
If you’re looking for accurate images, you won’t get them with the One V. The camera is tuned to produce saturated, high contrast images. While this might not necessarily be a bad thing, sometimes it does hurt the image quality. The high contrast results in poor dynamic range, meaning the dark regions are too dark and the bright regions are usually over exposed and washed out.
Overall the images are pleasant to look at. Even the low light images come out quite well. The various effects that the phone comes with are mostly useless, but the HDR mode can occasionally come in handy.
The video recording isn’t quite as good, as is often the case with phones in this range. It’s just 720p for the sake of it; there is no real detail in the videos and you often see blurry lines and jagged edges. It looks decent on the phone but not worth watching on the big screen.
Music and videos
The HTC One V comes with the Beats Audio branding that is now starting to become common on HTC phones. Even here it is nothing more than a sound effect that boosts the volume and the bass in the music and for some reason HTC thinks this makes the music sound the way the artist intended. Apparently musicians think everyone uses HTC phones with Beats Audio.
Anyway, coming back to the phone, we had some major issues with the audio quality on the One V. At first we thought this might be an issue with only our handset but after an online search it revealed that some others too have been experiencing it.
Basically, if you use a sentive pair of earphones you will be hearing a lot of CPU and radio noise in the background that sounds like the kind of sound you hear when you place a mobile phone that is on a call next to a speaker set. The noise is not constant but kicks in whenever you start playing something with sound, which can be anything. It does not change with the volume, which is why it is most noticeable when the volume is low. It’s also inconsistent, so at times it will be quieter than usual.
The reason for this could be poor EMI shielding. A similar problem was seen on the Samsung Galaxy S II that used the in famous Yamaha DAC. We are not sure what DAC HTC is using but it’s clearly not very good. We didn’t face this issue on the One X.
The problem is, if your phone has this issue, there is nothing you can do about it. You can get it replaced (good luck explaining it to your usual store keeper) but there is no guarantee that the new phone won’t have this issue either. It does matter what earphones or headphones you use. Sensitive in-ear earphones will make the noise that much more apparent than bigger, open back headphones. Also, at higher volumes it’s not really noticeable at all, so you can try that as well.
Moving over to video playback, the stock video player can play videos in AVI, MP4, MKV and WMV formats. As usual, the phone does not have support for AC3 or DTS audio, which leaves half of the MKV files without any audio. We tried playing some videos in DicePlayer app and they all played well up to 720p resolution. The videos look great on the display and even the loudspeaker sounds very nice. Too bad you still hear the static sound in the background when you use earphones.
The battery life on the One V is pretty good. With regular usage the phone would last us for a day and a half. In our video playback test, the phone lasted for almost five and a half hours, enough to play a movie thrice and still have plenty of power left.
Few days ago we gave the HTC One V the honor of the best all-round smartphone under Rs. 20,000 and we stick to it. There are a few other phones such as the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V and LG Optimus Black but none of them match the One V in terms of overall performance.
What tilts the odds in the HTC’s favor are the premium build quality and finish, superb display, good camera, good battery life and the latest version of Android. Unfortunately, things are not perfect, what with the occasionally sluggish performance and the high amount of noise through the headphone jack.
Still, for Rs. 17,435, the HTC One V is very good value for money and one of the best smartphones you can buy today.
First Published: May 30, 2012 16:00 IST