Gorgeous design; Nearly flawless display; Impressive audio quality; Strong overall performance
Missing camera features and other perks; Steep price tag; Galaxy S4 has better camera
The HTC One Google Play Edition is the pure Android phone to get if you want the best display, design and audio quality -- if you're willing to splurge.
The HTC One is arguably the best Android smartphone you can get. But what if you want all of the great aspects of the One's hardware without HTC's custom interface? Well, you're in luck, because Google has released the HTC One Google Play Edition. Running stock Android 4.2.2 and available for $599 through the Google Play store, this unlocked device gives you immediate access to Google's latest Android updates and the ability to customize the One to your exact needs. But does that make the HTC One Google Play Edition worth the price of admission?
Along the top, HTC combined the One's power button with an IR blaster for controlling your cable or satellite box or TV. (Of course, without HTC's Sense TV app installed, you'll have to find your own app.) To the right of the power button is the handset's 3.5mm headphone jack.
We have two minor complaints about the design. First, the Home button is to the right of the HTC logo beneath the screen; we found ourselves reaching for the logo until we adjusted. Second, the power button is a little too recessed for our liking.
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Weighing 5.1 ounces and measuring 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, the One is larger and heavier than Samsung's Galaxy S4, which weighs 4.6 ounces and measures 5.31 x 2.69 x 0.25 inches. However, we'll gladly deal with the One's heftier chassis given its more premium feel.
While watching a 1080p trailer for "Pacific Rim," the fine details of the movie's giant robots and monsters were easily visible. Scenes inside the robots' neon-drenched cockpits that appeared too dark on other handsets looked absolutely amazing on the One's display. Viewing angles were especially wide, though glare was an occasional issue.
The One has one of the brighter smartphone displays, registering 455 lux. That's far better than the smartphone category average of 294 lux. However, the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition came in at 461 lux and the iPhone 5 is still tops at 525 lux.
What more can be said about the HTC One's dual front-facing BoomSound speakers? This is the best sound you're going to get out of a smartphone, period. And while the HTC One Google Play Edition provides the purest Android experience around, it still comes with Beats Audio, so everything sounds spectacular.
While listening to Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves," we could easily make out every note from the synthesizer. Bass hits were deep and pounding, too, ensuring the song's menacing tone came through loud and clear. With Beats Audio switched off, songs were still loud, but sounded slightly distorted.
While the lack of features may drive away some users, those who want to customize their handset to their heart's content will be happy with Google's blank slate. Plus, HTC One Google Play Edition owners will always be the first to receive the newest Android OS updates. No more waiting months for your carrier.
No surprises here. The HTC One Google Play Edition comes with the standard Android keyboard. You get features such as auto-capitalization, voice input and gesture typing. And the new Google keyboard offers next-word suggestions and current word completions.
The HTC One Google Play Edition's performance matched up evenly with the carrier version in various benchmarks. On the Quadrant benchmark, which gauges CPU, graphics and I/O performance, the Google Play Edition scored 11,783. That's neck and neck with the standard HTC One's score 12,426, and well ahead of the category average of 4,131. That's also about even with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition's 12,490.
On the AN3DBench graphics test, the HTC One Google Play Edition notched 7,690, while the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition scored 7,600. The standard HTC One scored 7,724, while the standard Galaxy S4 scored 7,570. Those are all better than the category average of 7,257. On the 3DMark graphics test, the HTC One Google Play Edition registered 11,944, slightly better than the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition's 11,719.
Camera and Camcorder
We tested the Google Play Edition of the HTC One's camera side-by-side with the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the S4's shot generally looked better. The Samsung produced more pleasing colors and had better exposure, while HTC's images looked softer (especially when we zoomed in). We were more impressed with the One's low-light performance.
The One's 2.1-MP front camera features an 88-degree wide-angle lens. While they were sharp, captured images looked somewhat distorted, giving our images an almost fish-eye lens quality.
Naturally, Google's suite of apps is front and center, including YouTube, Drive, Hangouts, Gmail and Google Currents. While we like the fact that the handset is incredibly light on bloatware, we do miss having certain preloaded options.
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4G LTE Connectivity
The HTC One Google Play Edition supports 4G LTE connectivity on both AT&T and T-Mobile's network.
Battery Life and Call Quality
The HTC One Google Play Edition's irremovable 2,300mAh lithium polymer battery lasted a decent 5 hours and 59 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web browsing over 4G LTE on 40 percent brightness). While that endurance is shy of the 6:08 smartphone average, it was still better than the Sprint HTC One's time of 5:17. The Google Play Edition also outlasted Google's version of Samsung's Galaxy S4, which clocked in at a disappointing 5:12.
Call quality over AT&T's voice network was clear and crisp. We didn't notice much feedback or static during our calls. Our caller on the other end of the line said we sounded clear, as well.
Between the Google Play Editions of the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, we give the edge to the One. While the S4 has a sharper camera and a lighter design, we prefer the build quality, aesthetics, display and speaker on the One. The HTC also lasts slightly longer on a charge. We just like the standard HTC One with Sense even more.
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|Phone Display Size||4.7|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.2.2|
|CPU||1.7-Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm Snapdragon 600|
|Memory Expansion Type||N/A|
|Display (main)||4.7-inch 1920 x 1080 display|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||2.1MP|
|Camera Resolution||4 MP|
|Audio formats supported||M4A|
|Audio formats supported||AMR|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||WMA|
|Audio formats supported||WAV|
|Audio formats supported||OGG|
|Audio formats supported||MIDI|
|Audio formats supported||MP3|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||3GP|
|Video formats supported||3G2|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.4 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|