The One S has a 4.3-inch LCD display. It's not as curvaceous as the One X's display, nor quite as brilliantly bright, so it definitely doesn't look as fancy. But on the plus side, it is rock solid -- with absolutely no flexing along any of its edges (unlike the One X). The viewing angle seems good, with colours remaining deep at a considerable tilt. I also found the touchscreen very responsive.
Resolution is 540x960 pixels, which equates to a density of 256 pixels per inch -- considerably less than the One X (312ppi). It's not even close to the retina-slicingly sharp screen of the Sony Xperia S (342ppi). But the One S's screen does beat the Samsung Galaxy S2, which has a mere 217ppi. Expect the S3 to have a more competitive pixel count.
The camera on the One S has the same specs as the flagship One X -- with 8 megapixels, an f2.0 lens, back-side illuminated sensor and updated camera software. But the cameras aren't identical -- the One S has a definite tendency to over-saturate bright colours so shots can appear less natural than photos taken with the One X.
The One S's camera is very good though. Like its big brother, it can serve up impressive shallow-depth-of-field shots and beautiful close-ups. It's more fussy when dealing with tricky sun-and-showers April weather though -- conditions you'd expect to test a camera phone -- with variable light producing uneven exposures. Indoor lighting can cause lens flare too.
HTC's new camera software includes a burst mode for taking up to 99 photos in a continuous sequence by holding a finger on the shutter button. I encountered a bug with burst mode on several occasions on the One S device I was using. After tapping the shutter once and removing my finger, the mode was triggered when I didn't intend it several times, as if it had stuck.
Another feature of HTC's new camera software is the ability to snap stills while you're shooting or playing back a video. The One S also supports multiple levels of flash to reduce the risk of subjects being washed out.
Video can be recorded in up to 1080p resolution. Footage looks good -- especially in Full HD -- but the sound quality wasn't amazing in my experience.
As with all of HTC's One Series range, the One S is badged with the Beats Audio logo, and this partnership is purported to bring a range of audio enhancements.
The rear speaker produces clear sound but the audio tends towards being shrill and tinny, so you'll certainly want to plug in a decent pair of headphones to enjoy the best possible audio. The speaker is also sited on the back of the phone, rather than the bottom edge, so it's all too easy to muffle with your palm.
Don't expect Beats Audio cans to arrive in the box -- my review unit came bundled with a generic HTC set of earbuds, which should only be used in emergencies.
Call quality was fine, although there was some audible background humming during one test call. I didn't encounter any dropped calls or other connectivity issues.
The One S comes with 16GB of internal storage, which can't be expanded because there's no microSD card slot. However, also included in the price are two years' free access to 25GB of cloud storage from Dropbox.
If you're not already signed up for Dropbox, it's a very handy storage locker in the cloud, which can be used to transfer media to and from your phone. You can also configure the One S to automatically upload photos and videos taken on the phone to your Dropbox account for a handy back-up feature.
HTC says the One S has a 1,650mAh battery, but doesn't specify how long it will typically last. As with most modern smart phones, don't expect to get more than a full day's normal use out of the device without needing to charge the phone at bedtime.
I only had a limited time to test the One S so wasn't able to run a battery benchmark to give it a real going over. But, after more than 5 hours of testing (with the screen brightness moderated to one-third of its possible maximum), it still had a third left in the tank. So unless you're a really heavy user that dials the screen up to the max, then the One S should comfortably see you through the day.
The HTC One S is a very tasty handset indeed -- delivering lashings of Android goodness topped off with a sensible sprinkling of HTC's own software. The latter that makes Android easier to use for the majority of users who don't want to spend their evenings geeking around in settings menus.
Best of all, it's lighting fast, with menus and apps jumping to attention at the tap of a finger, thanks to a powerful dual-core chip that throws pixels around like a hyperactive clubber throws shapes. The lack of a microSD card slot will put some people off saddling this slender Android racehorse -- but with 25GB of Dropbox storage thrown in free for two years, that won't be a deal breaker for every Android lover.
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