Friday, July 20, 2012

HTC One V




Small, compact smartphones are becoming a rare sight on carrier shelves these days. Indeed, much of today's cellular buzz centers around big-screened mobile machines such as Samsung's ubiquitous Galaxy S III, the HTC One X, or its Sprint variant, the HTC Evo 4G LTE. Yet there's still a place for phones of tiny stature, especially if they're well-crafted like HTC's One V. Sculpted from one piece of aluminum and shamelessly sporting a curved chin, this handset surely will turn heads. The $129.99 HTC One V for U.S. Cellular isn't outrageously priced, either, but it is saddled by a weak processor and slow 3G data.


Design

Part of HTC's past success has stemmed from having the courage to craft phones with daring designs. A classic example was the HTC Legend, which was carved from a single block of aluminum. The HTC One V furthers the Legend's high-class looks by flaunting its unibody aluminum chassis.

Colored in a silvery champagne gray, the One V's metal surface is matte, possessing an almost almost sandpaperlike roughness. Like its big brother the HTC One S, the handset's texture absorbs moisture, repels fingerprints, and provides a sure grip.

The HTC One V takes another design element from the Legend playbook, a distinctive curved chin at the base of the phone. Love it or hate it, the One V's sloping bottom edge helps it stand out in a world filled with basic flat slabs.
HTC One V
The One V has a chin reminiscent of the HTC Legend and the older HTC Hero.


With softly rounded edges and compact size, the One V's small stature also makes it an oddity. Compared with the massive 4.7- and 4.8-inch-screened monsters now flooding the market, the HTC One V's 3.7-inch, 800x480-pixel-resolution LCD screen feels practically lilliputian.

Despite its minute size, the display produces accurate colors and wide viewing angles. It doesn't get as bright or render images as sharply as the HTC One X. That said, the One V's screen doesn't oversaturate and distort colors like the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED (800x400) display.
HTC One V
The HTC One V sports a small 3.7-inch (800x480-pixel) LCD screen that produces accurate colors and wide viewing angles.


Measuring 4.74 inches tall by 2.35 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick, this device is tiny enough to use one-handed and slide into pockets without drama. It's been a long time since I could say that about any new Android phone save the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE. At a hair over 4 ounces, the One V shouldn't weigh you down either.

HTC keeps the One V's ports and buttons to a minimum. On top you'll find a power key and 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side houses a long, thin volume rocker while the handset's left side contains a Micro-USB port. Three capacitive buttons for back, home, and recent programs sit below the screen. Keep in mind the phone lacks a front-facing camera for video chats.
HTC One V
A back compartment holds a microSD card slot for adding additional memory storage.


Features
As the lowest phone in HTC's One series lineup, the HTC One V doesn't come equipped with the same powerful components that grace the One X and One S. Even so, the handset runs the same modern software, including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC's Sense 4 user interface layered over it.
Designed to be less intrusive than previous Sense versions, Sense 4 skips many of the fancy graphics effects, such as the perpetually spinning 3D carousel of home screens and in-your-face weather graphics.

To unlock the phone either flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen to the center, or drag icons into the ring to quick-launch major phone functions. Pulling the camera symbol inside the ring for example powers up the One V's imaging system to snap pictures and shoot video without navigating through menus. Other lock-screen shortcuts include the Web browser, text messaging, and phone dialer.
HTC One V
Use quick-launch icons to unlock the phone.

As on the HTC One S, and HTC One X, you have seven home screens to choose from, each ready to populate with app shortcuts and animated widgets. You'll find HTC's classic weather clock front and center on the main screen. One difference though is that tapping the widget's digital readout launches a world clock that lists capital city times in basic text, not the slick 3D globe visual found on the One X and One S.

Hitting the weather portion of the clock does pull up a detailed forecast but the One V lacks the graphics-heavy weather wallpaper that the One X and One S have as an option. On those phones it displays animations in the background and on the lock screen corresponding to current atmospheric conditions.

The bottom of each home screen contains a tab with the same four quick-launch icons shown on the lock screen. I definitely appreciate being able to swap these icons for others or even create and add folders holding multiple app icons. Changes made here are also reflected on the lock screen and placing application shortcuts on top of one another creates a folder.

Sense enhances the browser too, with a Pure Content Reader view that removes ads and displays only the text of a selected Web page. You can also select pages and video to bookmark for later enjoyment offline.

Tapping into the power of Android, the One V has the usual allotment of Google services installed, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, plus the Play Store for downloading apps from a catalog of over 700,000 titles. Additionally, Play serves up digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. I couldn't find HTC's Watch app, however, which hawks its own library of TV shows and movies for rental or purchase.
HTC One V
Easily create folders for neatly storing app shortcuts on any of the One V's home screens.


Useful third-party software on the One V includes the Kindle e-book reader, the Audible audiobook subscription service, and TuneIn Internet radio (a personal favorite). U.S. Cellular injects the phone with its own selection of apps, such as Daily Perks for news and weather, and Mobile TV, which offers both live programming and full TV episodes and movies. Like similar services from other carriers, the service costs an extra $9.99 per month and is clearly designed to burn through your data minutes since it won't work over Wi-Fi.

Camera

HTC makes big bones about its One series phone's camera prowess. All three handsets (the One X, One S, and One V) rely on special electronics to improve speed and performance. As with the One X and One S, I found my One V test unit to focus on subjects quickly and capture pictures nearly instantly.

Of course, the One V's 5-megapixel shooter has lower resolution than the 8-megapixel sensors found in many of today's high-end smartphones. As a result, the camera produced images that were comparatively soft and lacked crisp detail. Indoor still-life shots weren't as clear as I would like either. On the whole they were dark and colors didn't have much punch. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator snapped crisper and more pleasing still-life images.
Still-life shots were soft but color accurate.

 
The HTC One V, however, managed to perform well in low lighting. Thanks to its BSI (Back Side Illuminated) sensor and quick auto focus, I was able to shoot pictures of fast-moving children -- something that gives many phone cameras trouble.
The One V was able to capture rowdy kids in low light.

 
Video performance was less inspiring, though, and the One V had a hard time keeping subjects in focus. Similarly, despite its claim to capturing video in 720p HD quality, movies I made were grainy and soft. To be fair, due to recent stormy New York weather, I recorded my test videos and images indoors and without strong lighting. I'll reserve final judgement until I can use the camera under better conditions.

Frequent phone photographers will certainly appreciate the HTC One V's feature-packed camera though. Just like the One X and One S, the handset's camera app boasts a wide range of shooting modes, scene settings, and fun filters. You can also fire off multiple shots continuously by pressing and holding the shutter icon on the screen, and you can nab stills while the video camera is rolling.

Performance

Just because HTC qualifies the HTC One V as a One series handset doesn't mean you should expect it to offer blazing application performance. Driving the One V's Android 4.0.3 operating system is an underpowered single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor. As a result, the phone felt a bit slow on the uptake. Menus and applications appeared and opened without much delay but I did experience some hesitation on the One V's part.

Every so often the device would stutter while I swiped through various home screens, especially if the One V was preoccupied performing other tasks simultaneously such as downloading apps or syncing e-mail.

Linpack benchmark tests confirmed the One V's pokey processing with the phone notching a low score of 33.6 MFLOPs (Single-Thread) completed in a long 2.5 seconds. Still, that was enough to beat the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator's showing of 16.2 MFLOPs (5.17 seconds). HTC's top-of-the-line One X, however, turned in a nimble 99.3 MFLOPs (0.84 seconds) on the same test.

One bright spot is the HTC One V's call quality. When I tested it on the U.S. Cellular phone in New York, it was roaming on Sprint's CDMA voice network. Callers described my voice as extremely clear, almost pristine with no static, compression, or other audio artifacts. To my ears, voices piped through the phone's earpiece were warm, rich, and loud. Additionally, while the speakerphone doesn't produce much volume, I could easily hear people even in a medium-size conference room.

Don't expect much in the way of fast data throughput though. The HTC One V for U.S. Cellular is strictly a 3G device. Downloads I measured with the phone roaming on Sprint's network in New York barely cracked an average of 1Mbps (1.06Mbps to be exact). Upload speeds were slow as well, coming in on average at 0.61Mbps.

The HTC One V's 1,500mAh battery lasted decently long during anecdotal battery drain tests. The handset played an HD video file continuously for 6 hours and 4 minutes. By comparison, the HTC One X clung on for 6 hours and 35 minutes in the same situation.

Conclusion

For $129.99, the HTC One V certainly has a price that isn't unreasonably high considering its solid mix of features. It also has a distinctive style, and a premium unibody design that stands out from the crowd. That said, $99.99 would be a much more attractive price for this phone considering its outdated processor and lack of a swift 4G connection. I recommend spending a little more cash and splurging for Samsung's latest superphone, the $199.99 Galaxy S III. While we haven't reviewed the U.S. Cellular version, based on our reviews of the device on four other carriers it offers a truly impressive Android experience. I'm talking a massive screen, 4G LTE data where you can get it, plus a nimble dual-core processor...the clear choice for die-hard Android fans. For those who don't need all that horsepower and prefer a more compact size, the HTC One V is a sensible alternative.

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