HTC One S review: Recipe for a great handset

By Andrew Rafter,

HTC had a difficult time during 2011; too many handsets watered down their brand and subsequently saw the Asian handset maker lose market share to both Apple and Samsung.
Well, they’re back with a new focus and three new handsets – we got our hands on the HTC One S, which is their new mid-range handset. To call it middle-of-the-road would be a little disingenuous as the specs are way above many flagship handsets on offer.

HTC One S

Specs
It might be occupying the middle of their new range of handsets, but the One S is packing some impressive specs and features. First of all it has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen, while it’s bright, sharp and impressive to look at – the lack of resolution does show off AMOLED’s weaknesses: you can clearly see a honeycomb effect within the pixels. It’s never normally noticeable on AMOLED screens, but with the relatively low resolution it’s very noticeable on the One S – it’s not a deal breaker, but worth noting.
The resolution is on the lower end of the spectrum, especially for the price. It has a resolution of 540 x 960, which gives it a pixel density of 256ppi. It’s not class leading by any means – the Sony Xperia S leads the pack with 342ppi, the iPhone 4S has 326ppi and the HTC One X take the runners up spot with 312ppi – but it’s reasonably impressive all the same.

The One S comes with a snappy dual-core processor, 16GB of onboard memory (although, can’t be supplemented with SD cards for more memory and only has 10GB is available to use), 8-megapixel camera, capable of shooting 1080p video (the same camera you’ll find in the One X), 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen and music-enhancing Beats Audio technology.

Looks and build quality

The most striking thing about the One S is the looks. It’s one of the first HTC handsets to feature a unibody design. This means it is one of, if not, the most solid handset you can get on Android; there’s no creaking and it’s sure to last a lot longer than many of its plastic counterparts.

The back panel is non-removable, aside from a small section at the top of the handset where you put the micro SIM. Those of you who carry around a couple of spare batteries will not be pleased to know that HTC has removed the ability to change battery as the phone is completely sealed. But, thankfully, it’s a decent 1650mAh power plant that’ll last at least a working day with heavy use.

Performance

The HTC One S comes with an admirable dual-core processor that pushes the handset along at a fair old lick, it’s obviously not as snappy as the One X, but you’d be hard pressed to actually notice the speed difference, both handsets run Android ICS like a dream. Its dual-core CPU, dedicated graphics processing and 1GB RAM mean you can skip between apps without any annoying lag, and apps run butter smooth.

Camera

The best thing about the HTC One S is the camera; it’s the same camera you’ll find in their flagship handset the HTC One X. Across all of our tests it performed remarkably well. Shutter lag is almost nonexistent, although the camera doesn’t perform that well in low-light conditions, but there’s no doubt in, our mind, it is the best camera HTC has ever created, and is easily on par with the iPhone 4S’.

Verdict

The HTC One S is a great phone. For the money you’re getting a powerful, yet incredibly thin, handset that comes with Ice Cream Sandwich out the box (ahem, take note Sony) – throw in a very good camera, solid build quality, music-enhancing Beats Audio technology and you’ve got a recipe for a great handset.