Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • Android OS
  • 4G
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7GHz CPU
  • 2GB DDR 2 RAM
  • 4.7-inch Full HD 1080p Display
    • 468 ppi
  • HTC UltraPixel Camera (Rear Camera)
    • 4.0-megapixel BSI CMOS Image Sensor
    • F/2.0 aperture
    • 28mm lens
    • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
    • Smart Flash
    • 1080p Full HD Video
      • HDR Video
      • Slow Motion Video Recording
    • Continuous Shooting
  • Front Camera
    • 2.1-megapixels
    • HDR Capability
  • HTC Zoe (Picture Gallery)
  • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi
  • DNLA Certified
  • HTC Connect
  • Dual frontal stereo speakers
  • Pros
    • Sharp-looking metallic smartphone
    • Good low-light photography performance
    • Individual pixels on image sensor are much larger in size than average smartphone image sensor pixels
    • Slightly above average image quality versus other smartphones
    • Fun special effect options for still images
    • Zoe mode provides good hybrid still image/video capabilities
    • HD videos have a slightly above average quality versus other smartphones
    • Full HD touchscreen display is sharp and bright
    • Dual speaker setup provides above average audio quality when viewing videos
    • Smartphone camera works fast thanks to quad-core processor
    • Photographs and videos tend to have excessive noise and chromatic aberration when lighting conditions are harsh
    • Photos almost look over-processed at times, leading to slight softness and noise
    • Image quality flaws are noticeable when viewing images at large sizes
    • Overall image quality can't quite match that of an entry-level point-n-shoot digital camera
    • Battery drains quickly in some usage scenarios
    • Cannot remove battery on your own
    • No optical zoom option
    • No memory card slot to add more memory
    • With only 4MP of resolution, you need to compose photos properly each time, rather than relying on cropping
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 39.2 seconds
    • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode = 3.3 seconds
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.6 seconds with no review; 6.3 seconds with minimum review time
    • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.8 seconds with no review; 8.3 seconds with minimum review time
    • Continuous shot = 10 shots in 1.3 seconds at 4MP
    All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    Don't let the 4-megapixels of resolution listed with the HTC One smartphone camera fool you. Using pixels on the unit's image sensor that are quite a bit larger in size than is average for a smartphone camera, the HTC One's camera is able to capture images at a quality that is a little bit above average versus other smartphone cameras. The HTC One is able to work fast in all tasks, including photography. This device's full HD display screen is sharp and bright, and the touchscreen is responsive. Don't expect this unit's camera to match what you'd find with an average point-n-shoot digital camera, but it performs adequately in most situations, especially in low light.
    Pick This Up If...
    You are seeking a smartphone camera that especially performs well in low light versus its peers, while also offering faster-than-average overall performance.
    When considering the camera in the HTC One (M7) smartphone, you have to realize that the specification list is not going to tell the entire story.

    HTC has chosen to include only 4-megapixels of resolution in its primary camera for this smartphone, which lags well behind all newer digital cameras and most newer smartphone cameras in the market.

    The 4MP number doesn't fully explain what HTC has done with this smartphone camera though, choosing to sacrifice the resolution measurement to create pixels on the image sensor that are larger than average, called UltraPixel technology. The HTC One has a 1/3-inch image sensor, which is similar in size to many smartphone cameras, but its pixels are 2-micrometers by 2-micrometers in size, which is anywhere from 43% to 82% larger than a standard pixel in a smartphone camera image sensor.

    Ideally these larger pixels should give the HTC One (M7) an ability to perform better in low light settings than most smartphone cameras, and HTC has succeeded here.

    When you pair the nice camera in the HTC One with quite a few good smartphone features and a high quality touchscreen display, you have a very solid overall device that deserves plenty of attention.

    (NOTE: At this point I have to mention that the primary focus of this review will be in relation to the HTC One's built-in camera, not on the device's smartphone features.)

    When testing the HTC One I found it produced a good image quality. This smartphone camera's 4MP of resolution can create images at a level at least equal to and often slightly better than that of smartphone cameras with twice as much resolution. I can't say that the HTC One (M7) can consistently create images that are of a higher quality versus a brand-name, entry-level point-n-shoot digital camera, but the HTC One will do an adequate job for photos that you plan to share on social networking sites.

    This smartphone was able to create pretty sharp images quite often, outperforming many smartphone cameras currently on the market, thanks in part to the camera's fast f/2.0 aperture lens. In fact, the HTC One's typical image sharpness is almost equal to what you'd find with an entry-level point-n-shoot camera.

    At times you will have a slightly out of focus image. For example when I tested the HTC One in a strongly back-lit scene, the smartphone's camera couldn't quite create the image sharpness that it did in more typical lighting situations. You also will see photos shot with the HTC One suffering from a slight blur from camera shake on occasion, which is a common problem with smartphone cameras that only offer an on-screen shutter button, It's difficult to touch the screen while consistently holding the smartphone device steady.

    As occurs with many smartphone cameras, the HTC One created photos with accurate colors most of the time. This smartphone camera did have some problems with creating the proper exposure in some situations though, especially in high contrast and low contrast scenes. You may notice quite a bit of noise and some chromatic aberration in high contrast scenes as well, which is an area where point-n-shoot digital cameras easily surpass this model.

    When the lighting is good, the HTC One performs pretty well. But as with many smartphone photos, tricky lighting can give the HTC One's camera undesirable exposure and noise problems.

    Perhaps the most common drawback to the HTC One's photographs is that they appear to almost be over-processed, which gives them an unrealistic, flat look at times. This over-processing can explain the odd appearance of noise and chromatic aberration in scenes that have plenty of light.

    You do have a few options for manually controlling the shot with the HTC One, such as making adjustments to the ISO or white balance settings, but these settings don't seem to fully overcome the problems related to the over-processing.

    When it comes to low light images, the HTC One's UltraPixel technology performs nicely. When paired with the smartphone's built-in LED flash, the HTC One's primary camera created very good low light photographs. This model isn't going to be able to exactly match the low light performance of the typical point-n-shoot digital camera that has a larger flash and more resolution, but the HTC One can outperform many smartphone cameras on the market in scenes that lack light.

    Thanks to the HTC One's Zoe mode, action photography typically has pretty good results. While shooting in Zoe mode, the smartphone's camera records a series of images over a 3-second burst, allowing you to later pick any single image from the burst. This is the HTC One's hybrid still image/video mode, which often is found only in advanced point-n-shoot cameras.

    One advantage to having images that top out at 4MP of resolution is that those images don't require a lot of storage space, which allows the HTC One to record and share its photos more quickly than many other smartphones. Because you cannot add more memory to this model -- there's no memory card slot -- having photos that don't require a lot of storage space is a benefit. You can choose from either 32GB or 64GB of internal memory.

    However if you shoot a lot of Zoe mode photos, you're going to find the camera's internal memory filling much more quickly than with single still images. Sometimes you may end up in Zoe mode without realizing it, so it's a good idea to check the camera's settings periodically to ensure you're not using storage space too quickly.

    Of course the downside to having a low pixel count in your photograph is that cropping is going to drastically reduce the image's resolution. If you have shot a 12MP photo with a digital camera and you crop out half, you still have an acceptable 6MP of resolution. But cropping the HTC One's 4MP photo the same way will leave you with only 2MP of resolution. When you also consider the HTC One has no optical zoom lens -- just like nearly all other smartphone cameras -- it's very important to compose your HTC One photographs properly when they're shot, so you don't have to crop them later. Move close to your subjects to make up for the lack of an optical zoom.

    The low resolution problem becomes more pronounced when you shoot at the 4:3 aspect ratio. While this aspect ratio is a common one with digital cameras, these photos are limited to 3MP of resolution with the HTC One, versus the maximum 4MP found with 16:9 aspect ratio images.

    You can shoot full HD video with the HTC One, and the video quality is good compared to other smartphone cameras. You will find some of the same problems with tricky lighting conditions when shooting video as you find when shooting still images, especially when it comes to noise and chromatic aberration in the video, but the video quality is easily good enough to share on social networking sites.

    And your videos and photos will look great on the large and sharp display screen included with the HTC One (M7). The HTC One's touchscreen measures 4.7 inches diagonally, and it's a responsive unit. It offers full HD resolution (1920x1080), and it has 468 pixels per inch. It's a great looking screen, and it's tough to go back to a non-HD touchscreen after testing smartphones like the HTC One.

    I like the stark look of the HTC One. Unlike some other smartphones that focus on colorful devices and multiple buttons, this smartphone has an aluminum body with a basic silver color that exists on both front and back. (A black model is available too.) Adding a few stripes on the back of the camera as well as rounded corners provides an interesting addition to the basic design. The back is curved, which makes this device easy to handle, even though it measures only 0.37 inches in thickness. There are no gaps in the smartphone's body, other than the SIM tray.

    The HTC One (M7) includes a quad-core Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz processor from Qualcomm and 2GB of RAM. The smartphone has Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS capabilities built inside the body. If you enjoy gaming or watching videos on your smartphone, the HTC One's dual speaker setup is great. The speaker grills above and below the large touchscreen work well and provide nice balance.

    Battery life is mixed with this device. You should be able to use the smartphone and camera for a full day under typical usage patterns, just charging the unit overnight. Constant use of the large touchscreen for watching Internet videos or for playing games will drain the battery much more quickly though, as will extensive use of the Wi-Fi connection. Ultimately I would like to see better battery performance from the HTC One, as few things are as frustrating as draining your smartphone's battery halfway through the day.

    Bottom Line - As those who have used digital cameras in the past several years know, the megapixel count of a camera's resolution doesn't tell the entire story of the camera's ability to create high-quality images. While having more resolution available is desirable, many other factors contribute to the image quality that you're able to create with your photos. As HTC markets its HTC One (M7) smartphone, it's counting on the fact that photographers understand this concept. The HTC One smartphone camera offers only 4-megapixels of resolution, which is well behind not only all digital cameras manufactured in the past few years but also most smartphone cameras. However HTC is offering UltraPixel technology with the HTC One (M7), which means this smartphone camera offers larger-than-average sized pixels on the image sensor. The HTC One therefore performs well in low light, easily surpassing most smartphone cameras. This device also does a nice job in other types of light, offering above average image quality versus its smartphone camera peers. The HTC One does seem to have some problems with tricky lighting conditions, yielding images that have excessive noise and chromatic aberration. As long as you aren't going to view its photographs at large sizes though, you'll be pretty pleased with the overall performance of the HTC One's camera, especially versus other smartphone cameras. Just don't expect the HTC One to consistently produce the types of images that would match what you're able to create with entry-level point-n-shoot cameras from brand-name manufacturers.

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