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Review: HTC One SV – a premium phone in a budget body

Allan Swann
March 12, 2013

Price: £315 (no contract), £26 On Contract
Reviewer: Alex Whitehouse

The One SV will impress people; faux modesty aside, this is something most of us want and something that HTC has gotten distinctly right. Whilst it fits in a middling price bracket the overall impression and underlying build quality of the SV are quite defiantly premium. As a package it has its downsides, but apart perhaps from the screen, no real weak points. This is a phone aimed at users who want a phone that hits all the major points and makes them feel as special as their wallets will let them be. At this the SV comes pretty close to succeeding, while throwing 4G into the deal.

LOOKING GOOD  

Looks wise, the SV will jump out at you in a shop. The simple, slightly rounded front has more than a touch of recent iPhones without engaging in any obvious mimicry – and with the exception of the giant, lint collecting speaker grille, is extremely attractive. This is followed through in the rear which uses plastic with a slight velvety finish; one that clings to the hand just enough to prevent the handset’s light weight from slipping. This is from the get go, a compact and attractive phone; turning it over in one’s hand, the feeling of a product that delivers more than its price never really fades. Often Android sees cheap plastic meet disappointed palms, but this is one of HTC’s strongest suits: the phone is at least as good in real life as in our photos.

GREAT MID-RANGE PERFORMANCE

Similarly pleasing, the internals are more than enough to deliver a full-fat Android experience. The many Android and Windows handsets have become engaged in an arms race, with the result of top-tier phones having become overpowered technology wise. The SVs middling Qualcomm processor and graphics actually deliver virtually the same end user experience as high end phones like the Galaxy S3, One X and Xperia Z. In usage the One SV is fast, smooth and will be powerful enough to see a buyer through the next few years. Android gamers may notice the graphics on their newest games run only acceptably and it’s here the SV will have the shortest lifespan. However unless you are this kind of dedicated gamer, the silicon powering HTC’s midrange unit is sensibly powerful and essentially indistinguishable from phones double its price. As a direct result of this, the battery can handle a full day’s workload with ease.

CHEAPEST 4G PHONE AVAILABLE

The standout feature here is 4G. In fact this is the UK’s lowest priced 4G handset, and for a certain demographic this will add to the appeal immensely. Our advice here is that unless you have a genuine reason to want 4G (and you will know if you do) it’s not as much of a selling point as the networks would want you to believe; at least not yet. Rounding out the technical stuff is high speed Wi-Fi (802.11N), NFC and good call quality should you ever use it as a phone.

SCREEN IS A FAIL

Less impressive is the 4.3 inch screen ‘ the only point where the SV’s premium credentials visibly fade a little. Colours feel washed out and the lower resolution display is certainly noticeable coming from a modern iPhone or top-shelf Android handset. During regular usage, we found it be tolerable even in direct (albeit British) sunlight but it’s hardly a selling point. Camera wise, the main unit delivers serviceable pictures with a quick response and some neat effects (including taking pictures during video taking) but falls short of being anything other than acceptable nowadays. Conversely the front camera is all you’ll need for video calling or a quick trip down ego lane.

HTC’s VERSION OF ANDROID REMAINS SOLID

Software wise this is a mostly positive setup. Shipping with an older version of Android, the HTC One SV serves up a modern software experience, while missing out on some of the features like ‘project butter’ (which smoothes animations). HTC’s ‘Sense’ overlay takes over to an extent here, giving relatively unobtrusive improvements to the standard Android software. Perhaps the best feature is the four customisable icons on the lock screen – these can be dragged into the unlock ‘ring’, catapulting you from wallpaper to an application. Most of the other elements of the software are subtle and bring the older Android more in line with newer versions, or add simple functionality and a bit of visual flair. We also found a good selection of apps loaded and very little bloatware, though be wary – this will vary depending on which network you buy the unit from.

The only question is whether this is just another ‘placeholder’ phone until the HTC One range launches (it didn’t make it in time for this issue), like the HTC One X+ was (reviewed in our January issue). As it’s a mid range phone, and no mid-range replacement has been named, I’d say it’s a safe bet for mid range users.

SURPRISE OF THE MONTH

Overall if you can put up with a camera which will miss the odd golden moment (or at least turn it into a silver one) and a very so-so screen, you’re left with an impressive package: an attractive, well made, cheap, fast, expandable and somewhat unique smartphone. The HTC One SV is not a phone that will sell out globally, but as it fits about 90% of users well, it also deserves success. Perhaps the best thing for buyers is that by not being an overly common device, its prime calling card of attractiveness won’t be undermined. What we have here is an average phone, with solid software, 4G and a big dash of sex appeal ‘ which actually leaves it a noticeably better than average phone.

VERDICT
It’s actually a very cleverly placed, attractive phone that has had at most minor shortcomings… except a poor screen. It feels great, is attractive, and has been criminally underrated by other reviewers.

PERFORMANCE
4star 100px

USABILITY
4star 100px

DESIGN
5star 100px

FEATURES
3star 100px

OVERALL
4star 100px

SPEC SHEET

Dimensions 128 x 66.9 x 9.20 mm, 122g

OS 4.04

Screen 4.3” capacitive touchscreen, 217 ppi, 480×800

Processor Qualcomm S4, 1.2GHz, dual core

GPU Adreno 305

RAM 1GB LP DDR3

Storage Internal 8GB, expandable via MicroSD (up to 32GB)

Cameras 5MP & 1.6MP, software stabilisation and single LED flash. 1080P at 30fps (main), 720p @ 30fps (front facing)

Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, DLNA & Bluetooth 4.0

Ports USB, MicroSD, 3.5mm

Battery 7.1 ‘ 8 hrs battery life

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