The HTC One SV is a one of the first mid-range handsets to boast 4G connectivity. It has a 1.2GHz dual core processor with 1GB of RAM, comes with 8GB of internal storage and packs microSD card support. The screen is a 4.3-inch, 480x800-pixel resolution Super LCD2 panel, and around the back there’s a 5-megapixel snapper. The One SV is running Android 4.0 -- otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich -- as well as version 4.1 of HTC’s own Sense user interface skin.
Because it’s 4G, the HTC One SV is currently exclusive to EE -- the only network in the UK to offer 4G connectivity on its contracts. For £36 per month on a two year contract, you can get the phone and a 500MB monthly allowance. Alternatively, the handset can be picked up for around £280 SIM free and unlocked.
Should I buy the HTC One SV?
It’s commendable that HTC is looking to bring 4G speeds to the masses, but aside from being able to download an album in double-quick time, there’s very little else on offer here that will impress mobile buyers.
The One SV is basically a weaker iteration of last year’s HTC One S, with a slower processor, inferior camera and lower-resolution screen. 4G is the only tangible advantage this newer phone offers and when you consider the relatively high cost, it’s hard to justify paying nearly £1,000 over the course of a two-year contract just to have the benefit of speedier downloads. By this time next year, the One SV will look positively archaic in technical terms.
There’s little sense in choosing such an average device when other 4G-ready handsets are already available, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE. They might cost you a little more, but you won't be regretting your purchase 12 months down the line.
The One SV abandons the unibody construction showcased by so many of HTC’s other recent handsets. The back of the device pops off to reveal a removable 1,800mAh battery, micro-SIM bay and microSD card slot. High-end blowers with back covers you can remove are becoming increasingly rare these days, but there are definite plus points to this arrangement.
For starters, you can double up on batteries and carry a spare with you for long trips, and having a snap-on cover means that you don’t have the SIM and SD-card ports on the edges of the device, which results in a less cluttered external design.
The front of the One SV is a fairly plain slab of black Corning Gorilla Glass 2, with the earphone grille providing the only real landmark. It’s actually more of a indent than a traditional grille, and its depth means that dust and fluff accumulates inside it faster than I’d personally like. During the course of the review I found myself constantly having to dig debris out of it with my keys.
The back cover is plastic, but boasts a rubber-touch texture designed to increase grip. Around the edge of the phone you’ll find the volume rocker and power button set into a metallic-finish plastic casing. While it doesn’t feel like an expensive phone exactly, the One SV certainly feels like a sturdy, high-quality device. With the rear panel clicked firmly into place, you’d have little reason to think this wasn’t an entirely sealed design, like those of its more illustrious siblings.
The One SV’s 4.3-inch screen is the same size as the one on the One S, but the resolution has taken a hit. The One S had a 540x960-pixel panel, while this more recent offering can only muster 480x800 pixels.
That delivers a pixel density of 216ppi, which isn’t going to win any awards these days. Thankfully, the use of Super LCD2 technology does mean an above-average image quality, with bold colours and rock-solid viewing angles. Even so, when placed alongside the (cheaper) Google Nexus 4’s 768x1,280 pixels screen, the One SV ends up looking quite blocky.
The One SV is packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset, which is comprised of a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU and Adreno 305 graphics processor. This arrangement is held together by 1GB of RAM, which means that performance isn’t anywhere near as smooth as it is on some of the leading Android devices on the market -- many of which are boasting quad core chipsets and double the amount of memory.
I ran the usual selection of benchmark tests on the One SV, and the results were hardly awe-inspiring, although it does manage to outclass many rival mid-range devices. On AnTuTu Benchmark, the One SV earned a score of 10,962, which puts it well below all the quad-core Androids but above the likes of Samsung's Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note. Quadrant Standard ranks the HTC’s 4G phone above the likes of the Galaxy Nexus and LG Optimus 2X with an overall score of 4,622. Finally, there’s Vellamo, which tests web performance. It gave the handset a rating of 1,472, which is just shy of the Samsung Galaxy S3 but above the Sony Xperia S.
With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich installed, the One SV is behind the curve when it comes to Google’s mobile OS. Android 4.1 -- codenamed Jelly Bean -- launched last year, and while there’s a chance that the One SV may receive an update in the future, it seems silly to purchase a phone running old software when so many other handsets are more up to date already. The Nexus 4, for example, is rocking Android 4.2.
HTC’s own Sense user interface is also installed, and makes several changes to the core appearance of the Android OS. I particularly like the way it unifies all of your media and allows you to connect several social networks within the UI itself. It also includes some of HTC’s own apps, such as a custom browser, task manager and mapping program. A couple of years back, these alternatives were welcome, but these days Google has upped its game and its own offerings are unquestionably superior. This means there’s little reason to favour HTC’s bespoke apps, leaving them largely redundant.
4G LTE connectivity is the One SV’s biggest selling point, and if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a solid signal, you’ll be blown away by the speed. File transfers and uploads are lightning-fast and streaming video and audio presents no problems. However, if you’re on the cheapest EE contract -- which is still £36 a month, don’t forget -- then you’ll only have a paltry 500MB to play with. That’s likely to get swallowed up very quickly if you become too download-happy, leaving you searching for a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot - which renders the whole speed thing a bit pointless.
4G coverage isn’t fantastic at present -- hardly a shock when you consider that many parts of the UK don’t even have reliable 3G yet -- so be sure to check that your area is well served before committing yourself to an expensive 24-month contract. You might find that you’re better off opting for a cheaper 3G handset with another network, and doing without 4G until the coverage improves.
Like so many new Android phones, the One SV features a near field communication (NFC) chip, which means you can transfer information just by holding your phone next to a compatible device. It also means you can use clever NFC tags to automate many functions on the phone, such as silencing your ringer or opening an application.
Camera and video recording
The One SV’s 5-megapixel camera isn’t going to win any awards when it comes to picture quality. While colour replication is reasonably good, there’s heavy compression when you zoom in close on snaps. Macro shooting is generally good, but the autofocus sometimes gets confused if you're looking at bold colours in awkward lighting conditions. If you only intend to upload your photographs to Twitter or Facebook then there’s little reason to grumble, but treasured images deserve better.
Video recording is available at 1080p, and the results are generally decent. The usual problems with fast-moving objects remain, but if you keep your hand steady and avoid exaggerated, Michael Bay-style panning shots, the resultant footage will be acceptable enough. Don’t bother using the zoom function, either -- all it does it make the videos look hopelessly blocky and pixel-heavy.
Battery life and storage
Battery stamina is one area where the One SV scores points over its more powerful rivals. The 1,800mAh power cell isn’t taxed unduly by the relatively humble CPU, and as a result you’ll easily get through an entire day without having to concern yourself with locating a plug socket. If you plan on hitting the 4G heavily then you can expect the phone’s staying power to drop, though. For those times when you’re away from home, you can always pick up a spare battery, as unlike so many recent devices, the One SV has a user-serviceable power cell.
There’s 8GB of storage on offer, of which 4.15GB is available to the end user. Unlike the Nexus 4, which allows access to all of its internal memory for application storage, the One SV limits you to just 1.11GB. Thankfully many apps and games will allow you to copy some data over to the microSD card. There wasn’t one included with the phone I reviewed, but the One SV supports cards up to 32GB in size -- something the aforementioned Nexus 4 does not.
It’s good to see that the selection of 4G phones available in the UK is growing, but the One SV is a very peculiar addition to the roster. Those who crave faster download speeds are likely to be individuals who wish to position themselves at the cutting edge, yet this phone feels like something from 12 months ago. The dual-core processor is weak when compared to rival Android devices, there’s no Jelly Bean on board and the screen is disappointingly low-res.
If you’re massively concerned with getting fast data transfer on your mobile then you’d be much better off investing in a more powerful 4G device, like the Galaxy S3 LTE or HTC One. If 4G doesn’t bother you all that much then you can pick up the very similar HTC One S for less cash, or better still, the brilliant Nexus 4 -- again, for less money than this handset.