HTC One SV review
This latest model brings with it 4G connectivity and NFC but in every other respect seems to be pretty much a middle-of-the-road handset with specs that hardly wow it goes up against cheaper 4G capable rivals from Huawei that are otherwise similar in spec but significantly cheaper in price. Can the One SV compete?
It has been quite a while since I have been in the review seat and HTC have made some changes with HTC Sense 4.1 and several other tweaks to their long standing lineup of bundles apps.
I've had the HTC One SV with me for a few weeks now and have been using it as a backup phone. So, read one to find out more about it and what I think of it as a daily phone.
The 10 Second review:
- Device: HTC One SV
- Price: around £350
- Summary: A good looking mid-range phone with the benefit of 4G and NFC
- Best of: Design, look and feel. 4G connectivity, bright display
- Worst of: Lack lustre performance, average specs and premium price
- Buy it now from: Clove Technology
- Also consider: Huawei Ascend P1
What's in the box?
- HTC One SV handset
- Mains charger
- MicroUSB sync/charge cable
- Wired headset/headphones
You may also want to check out my HTC One SV unboxing video for a more detailed look.
HTC One SV specifications:
- Dimensions - 128 x 66.9 x 9.2 mm (5.04 x 2.63 x 0.36 in)
- Weight" - 122 g (4.30 oz)
- Display - Super LCD2 capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 480 x 800 pixels, 4.3 inches (~217 ppi pixel density)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- 3.5 mm headset jack
- Beats Audio sound enhancement
- Memory - microSD, up to 32 GB, internal - 8 GB, 1 GB RAM
- HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth - v4.0
- microUSB v2.0
- Camera - 5 MP, 2592x1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
- Video - 1080p@30fps, video stabilization
- Front facing camera - 1.6 MP, 720@30fps
- Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
- CPU - Dual-core 1.2 GHz
- A-GPS support and GLONASS
- Battery - Li-Ion 1800 mAh battery
As ever, we'll start with the front of the device. Here you'll find the 4.3" display. On the One SV the screen is a Super LCD2 panel which is bright and colourful. However, its resolution is just 480x800 which, compared to other devices on the market at the moment is a little low-res. 480x800 screens have been around for ages and this is perhaps one of the first indications of the compromise we experience with these mid-range devices. However, that said, the screen is good quality, clear and works well even it strong daylight.
Also on the front we have a large speaker area at the top which also hides a small LED that illuminates to display alerts and to indicate the charge status. To the right of that a 1.6 MP camera caters for video calling as well as self-photo applications.
Below the screen are just three capacitive buttons, back, home and menu. Seems that the search button has now been dropped.
HTC One SV Front View
Looking to the top of the handset the power button is located on the right side (looking at the screen) which means that it should fall quite easily under your index finger when holding the phone. This power button location seems to have become the standard for many manufacturers over the past few years. Next to that the 3.5mm headphone socket. The top placement of this too makes good sense as the phone stays the right way up in your pocket if you are using your headphones. Finally there is a small hole for a secondary mic which is there to aid noise suppression.
HTC One SV top view
On the bottom there's not much going on, the micro USB sync/charge connector sits right in the centre with another small hole for the primary mic right beside it.
HTC One SV bottom view
To the left side there've really nothing to see but you get some idea of how slim the One SV is. Once upon a time the left side would have been home to the volume control but this seems to now have been universally moved to the right.
HTC One SV left side view
The right has that volume control that I just mentioned and, again, nothing else to see. Whilst I appreciate the neat and clean design it would have been nice to see a camera button on the side here too. One may reasonable have expected one of the volume buttons to have worked as a shutter button when the camera app is open but that's not the case. Shame.
HTC One SV right side view
On the back you'll find an 8 mega-pixel camera with single-LED flash.
The back of the HTC One SV is made of a one-piece white plastic. It has a very curvy design which make it feel slimmer and lighter than the 9.2mm and 122 gram specs would suggest.
The material used for the back is very smooth and feels almost like PTFE to the touch. This means that fingerprints are not a problem here at all but one criticism I do have is how slippery this makes the handset feel. On a couple of occasions it's almost slipped from my hands as I have been taking it out of a pocket. Make sure you hold on tight.
HTC One SV back view
Unlike other models in the HTC range at the moment the One SV isn't of uni-body construction. The whole white portion of the back comes off to access the battery compartment, SIM card and MicroSD card slot. The back cover also has the NFC antenna built into it and you can see a couple of contacts on the inside to pick this up.
HTC One SV MicroSD and SIM card slots and back cover with NFC antenna
- Bright, colourful Super LCD2 screen
- HTC's new Sense 4.1 UI
- Good battery life
- Attractive design
- 480x800 res display a bit dated
- Slippery material for back cover
- Unexciting specification, disappointing performance
- No camera button
Much is being made of 4G LTE at the moment and this year it's going to be a very big topic here in the UK. As of today, EE is the only UK network to offer 4G and they are pushing it hard at the moment. With EE if you want a 4G contract there is a premium (tax) to pay that's pretty steep and with the data allowance cap where it is I'd imagine that loads of people are going to have nasty surprises when they seen their first bills!
The other big network providers in the UK are set to also roll out 4G this year but interestingly Three have announced that they will provide it for no extra charge!
For a phone with a 4.3" screen the HTC One SV is physically quite large. Big rounded corners and wide bezels around the screen mean that the device is perhaps larger than it need be. There are smaller phones out there with the same size screen.
Overall the One SV performs well. I've been using it for a few weeks as a secondary device and have been impressed with it. A number of people that I've met have commented upon it, saying that it looked nice. Perhaps this is because the iPhone has become such a common sight?
Where I was able to get 4G connectivity the phone is REALLY fast and browsing the web is a good experience, way better than my home broadband connection. If you are going to be doing a lot of surfing be prepared to be zooming in and out of webpages quite a bit though as the 480x800 display is one of the more limiting factors here. Perhaps I notice this more having come from the iPhone 5 with its retina display?
Upon starting the phone for the first time (or following a hard reset) we're presented with a setup wizard that takes us through some of the essential steps required to get up and running. The process, pictured below, is exactly the same as other HTC devices.
So you'll see from the images above there are 9 screens to take you through the setup. Language, installing the SIM, transfer from old phone, internet connection, sync, WiFi Setup, Google location, email setup. Each of these screens either require you to ask a few simple questions or fill in certain information. As with other phones, you don't have to go through the whole of the setups, you may choose to skip through the bits you don't need and just concentrate on the more relevant parts such as the WiFi settings. Should you wish to do so you can rerun the setup process at any time the icon in the apps menu.
Once the setup is out of the way we start with the familiar HTC lock screen with the unlock ring bottom-middle. Dragging the ring to the middle of the screen unlocks the device while dragging one of the four icons at the bottom in to the centre of the ring unlocks and launches the relevant application.
Once unlocked we are presented with the main homescreen, which any HTC user will immediately recognise, it's looked very similar to this for years!
The home view starts off in the middle and there are three additional screens on each side that are accessed by swiping from side to side. From far left to right they are:
- Blank screen with space to customise.
- Gallery view cycles through the photos on the device.
- Music player widget.
- The middle, 'home' screen has the now iconic flip style clock with a weather summary. The lower half of the display has shortcuts to Play Store, Facebook and a folder full of favourite apps.
- The next screen has the Google search bar complete with voice search option. Below is the People widget which displays favourite people and groups for quick access to contact them.
- Calendar widget.
- Finally, the 7th page is left blank for you to fill yourself.
Of course this is just the default setup of the homescreen. You can add and remove shortcuts and widgets to your hearts content. Fortunately HTC give you an awful lot to choose from, more than your average Android handset. To customise it's simply a case of pressing and holding a blank portion of the screen to add something new or else pressing and holding an existing item in order to remove.
If navigating backwards and forwards between the 7 homescreen pages help is at hand in the form of the helicopter view that HTC call Leap. You can either pinch any of the homescreen pages or press the home button twice to be presented with a zoomed out overview of what's happening on each page. This Leap view can be handy if you don't know which screen you've put a widget on but overall I'd say that it's more for show-off factor than practical use.
As I've already mentioned, there are some visual and practical changes to this new version of HTC Sense. First of all as you swipe left and right between homescreen you'll notice that each page now has a more 3D visual effect. Each page rotates like it was a face of a virtual cube (remember the HTC Touch?). In addition to this the items on each page are arranged in layers which you may be able to make it in the screenshot below-right.
The other minor homescreen change is where the swiping left and right between pages is concerned. You can no longer swipe left from the left-most page and end up back at the right-most as the navigation now longer wraps around.
The pull-down bar has been expanded to include, at the top, a list of the most recently used applications. This list can scroll to show a more used items and provides another way of getting quick access to things that you use frequently. In practice I think you'd want to add your favourite apps to the homescreen but this is another option.
Below the most recently used list you'll see more detail for the notifications shown in top-most bar. These may include message alerts, WiFi networks found, tweets and Facebook message updates. Anything that requires attention should be listed here.
You'll notice too that there is an additional Quick Settings button in here. This provides quick access to common control panel items allowing you to easily go in and switch WiFi, GPS or Bluetooth on/off for example. This I found particularly useful as it saves a lot of clicking or menu navigation that would otherwise be required to change these through the normal settings menu. Obviously you wont find everything in this list but the last item will take you to the full settings menu if you want to go via this page rather than from the homescreen.
HTC introduced the 'scenes' concepts some time ago and they have been updated with the newer version of HTC Sense.
These Scenes allow you to have multiple homescreen profiles so that you can set them up and switch between them at any time. This may be particularly useful if you use your phone for both work and personal being able to set up the homescreen with various widgets for each profile. Out of the box HTC provide Social, Work, Play and Travel Scenes on top of the default HTC Scene. On top of that you can also download more Scenes. The Scene selection is a lot easier now too as each one now provides you with a small preview image rather that a named selection list.
As with all Android powered devices there's an extensive Settings menu to allow you to change or set all manner of phone features. HTC even customise the settings menu with more colourful icons. Not an earth shattering change but does make it a little more pleasing.
As you would probably expect, the HTC One SV comes with plenty of apps pre-installed. Some are standard Android apps while others are specific to HTC. These include the common things such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps etc.
The phone dialler has undergone a slight redesign with the new version of sense. The number keys are large and easy to use while the other features such as people, groups and call history all work without drama.
Many of you ask us about keyboards on touch-screen devices so we always include a section here in reviews so you can see what they are like. Nothing out of the ordinary here and much as you would find elsewhere. In both portrait and landscape modes the keys are of a decent size and well spaced.
So as I have mentioned already, with 4G connectivity browsing the web is a far more pleasurable experience. Out of the box the One SV has two browsers available, the standard webkit browser that you get with all Android phones and then there's Chrome pre-installed.
As to which you might use it guess it would very much come down to personal experice. Both are readily up to the job, but as you can see from examples below, Chrome makes the text flow to fit the screen much better and this is important on a device with a lower res display. Just compare the text, webkit first followed by Chrome.
I'm guessing that most people buying this phone will be doing so for the 4G LTE connectivity. In this respect the HTC One SV is extremely capable and we saw speeds of up to 27Mbps down and 25Mbps up. When web browsing or watching YouTube videos etc. it's a real pleasure to use, very nippy and responsive.
Now I have plenty of criticism to make of the quality of the coverage and the dramatic inconsistency of the speeds I experienced. However, this isn't the fault of the handset but an issue with the mobile network, in this case Vodafone, being really patchy. In the results list below you can see that the speeds vary between under 3Mbps to over 12Mbps on the same afternoon in the same location. The upload speeds in most cases is awful.
I must stress again that this is the network and not the phone at fault. We'll be talking about 4G in more detail in another post!
WiFi on the HTC One SV is really solid. The antenna must be well placed as in practice I could pick up WiFi from a decent distance away and even indoors through walls etc. where other devices struggle the One SV seems to be far more successful.
As with other Android powered devices the HTC One SV has the ability to act as a Portable WiFi Hotspot, this is a feature that has been around for a while and hasn't really changed a great deal. It give the ability to share the mobile internet connection to other devices over WiFi effectively turning the handset in to a portable router. You can even connect multiple devices, just as laptops or tablets, at the same time.
This feature may be of particular interest and importance on this handset though, as it has the 4G LTE connectivity which means you
can get should be able to get really fast upload and download speeds. Works well in practice and has got me out of a couple of tight spots when there was no signal on my phone from another network.
One other thing to note about WiFi Hotspot mode, I've noticed that the phone gets quite warm when using it. It's handy on these cold days with it warming your pocket but is perhaps a little worrying.
The One SV has an 8 megapixel camera on the rear with a single LED flash next to it. The camera interface has been updated with the newer version of HTC Sense and works well with a neat and logical layout. The main controls for taking photos fall just under your thumb on your right hand when taking shots while the settings, which are quite extensive, are on the left.
Full HD 1920x1080 video recording is supported but you can change recoding modes dependent upon your needs and available memory space. Another nice feature is that you can take a photo at the same time as recoding video, a feature that had been mostly reserved for higher-end video cameras.
The camera takes photos really quickly and doesn't seem to 'hunt' for a focus which should mean you miss less of those quick shots you want to take and that are typically taken from a mobile. The quality of the sensor and the lens seems to be really quite good and on-screen previews look sharp and colourful.
However, once the photo has been taken and saved, that's where any praise I may have had ends. As with several other HTC devices that I have reviewed in the past, the One SV is doing something truly nasty with the images when it's saving them. Either it's doing some weird processing of the image or else it's doing really excessive JPG compression (or both) before saving them. The result, as you can see from the sample of the garden below, is that detail is lost and replaced with a mosaic of JPG artefacts typically seen when the highest compression is applied and leaves the image looking horrible not to mention over-saturated. There is no setting to be found in the interface for changing the compression or the output format so even at the highest resolution this is what you get.
Images below are straight from the phone, no editing or compression/cropping, click to see full-size and zoom in a little.
As you may know, we always run a Quadrant benchmark test on Android devices that we review and I always mention that you should just look at the results to give you a flavour of the device performance. Real-world performance and user experience can vary quite a bit depending on how YOU use the device and what apps you are running.
With the above said we ran the benchmark on the One SV and found the results a little disappointing. Despite having a 1.2Ghz dual core CPU the CPU score came in a little low particularly compared to other recently reviewed devices with similar clock speeds. However, the One SV is no slouch by any means.
When I found out that the HTC One SV was heading our way for review I brushed up on the specification. On paper it looked quite uninteresting, nothing we hadn't seen before in terms of the hardware and only the 4G and NFC to really set it apart from other HTC handsets from maybe a year ago.
However, what I ended up with was a smartphone that I really enjoyed using. I really like the design with the three-tone black front, silver sides and white back and I found that I fussed a lot less over the finger prints than I would other phones I use. The corners have a large radius curve and the back is sculpted to feel comfortable in the hand.
Battery life one the One SV is good. I found that I easily got a days worth of moderate use from it and didn't have to charge it during the day as I might my iPhone 5 for example.
This phone's only reason for being, in my mind, is that it offers 4G connectivity. I really cannot image anyone splashing out £350 for this phone to simply use it in 3G mode, there are countless other phones, even from HTC, that offer better value for money for a 3G only spec.
I mentioned earlier that there are alternatives if you are looking for a 4G capable phone. Certainly you can consider the premium offerings from Apple and Blackberry but they sit at a much higher price point. So what of the mid-range? You can indeed consider the Huawei Ascend P1 which is over £50 cheaper, has a faster CPU and higher-res display. But HTC's build quality is far better than anything that Huawei produce, HTC really have the design and build nailed.
So if it comes down to a straight shoot-out between the HTC and the Huawei, even given the price difference, I'd spend the extra money to have a phone that I could be truly happy to use.
Review by: Matt