Cast your peepers over the HTC One V and you'd be forgiven for experiencing a spot of déjà vu. That's because the One V recycles the look of past classic the HTC Legend.
While the basic shape is the same, including the distinctive chin at the base, it's not a carbon copy. The One V is thinner, sleeker and more moodily coloured than its predecessor. Under the hood it's beefier and the screen is a smidge bigger.
The phone is fully refreshed on the software front though, running the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and packing HTC's newest Sense software overlay, Sense 4.0.
Should I buy the HTC One V?
The One V is sitting pretty in the mid-range of Android smart phones. It's not a phone for those chasing the biggest bragging rights. But if you have less cash to splash and more modest mobile needs, then this phone should catch your eye -- not least because it looks very fine indeed. It also comes with ICS as standard -- something that sets it apart from its mid-range Android fellows.
Large-handed folk may find the One V's relatively small size -- certainly in these days of enormo-phones -- a little cramped for poking and prodding. For anyone with small or average-sized hands and pockets, it's perfectly proportioned.
The One V isn't the fastest phone around. Web browsing especially taxes its single-core chip. So if you're after a hyper-responsive phone, you should splash your cash elsewhere.
Alternative Android devices to consider at this SIM-free price range include the Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus, the Samsung Galaxy W, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray and the Motorola Motoluxe -- none of which can boast ICS out of the box.
It may be the budget option in HTC's new One Series but the V doesn't stint on software. It features both ICS and HTC's latest Android topper, Sense 4.0. HTC's overlay makes Android really simple and straightforward to use, with a friendly feel and some handy widgets to pimp out your home screens.
Just don't expect to get every software bell and whistle that owners of the other two One Series devices enjoy. This incarnation of Sense 4.0 has been pared back to fit more modest hardware.
For example, the One V's Recent Apps menu is not the 3D deck of cards you'll find on the One S and One X. Instead, you get Google's vanilla ICS take, with flat, square thumbnails that stack up vertically. This is really just a cosmetic change -- the thumbnail menu is slightly less fancy to look at but no less useful. You can still flick thumbnails off screen to delete and it's easy to view and scroll back through your recent apps.
Ice Cream Sandwich has been cut down slightly -- specifically, you don't get Face Unlock on the One V because it doesn't have a front-facing camera, which is a shame. But other ICS features, such being able to flick notifications out of the notifications tray and having the option to encrypt the data on your device, are present and correct.
Another Sense 4.0 feature that isn't on the One V is the ability to pinch on a home screen to jump into a thumbnail overview of all your home screens. Without this overview option, you're stuck with swiping back and forth to get around. HTC also appears to have removed the option to expand or reduce your number of home screens. Plus, the One V has a lot fewer preloaded widgets than its brothers.
Similarly, there's no pinching into an overview of all your app screens on the apps menu. And don't expect fancy lock screen widgets or live wallpapers either. On the lock screen, you can opt to display the apps or folders that are on the home screen launcher bar, where you can then pull an app or folder into the ring to dive straight into it. But that's as interesting as the One V's lock screen gets.
In my view, these trimmings are all sensible tweaks -- aimed at ensuring the software isn't let down by the V's more modest engine. Overall, Sense 4.0 on the One V is still a great Android overlay that adds more than it takes away.
Processor and performance
The One V has considerably more grunt than the phone it was modelled on. While the Legend had a 600MHz chip, the One V has a single-core 1GHz processor powering its engines.
I found performance to be a mixed bag. As you'd expect, it's nowhere near as blisteringly quick as its more expensive sibling, the HTC One S (which has a dual-core chip), nor was it blighted by awful sluggishness. Menus are fairly nippy, the gallery loads pretty quickly and the camera is super-speedy at snapping.
It's not all good though -- the One V can keep you waiting around. The biggest snooze is for apps to download, which can take minutes, depending on the size of the app. Apps won't load up instantly either, especially heavy-duty ones. And the software keyboard tends to be a tad slow to fire up.
When it comes to full-fat HTML5 websites, the One V starts to seriously chug. Even browsing desktop versions of less taxing websites appears to cause the One V problems -- with a noticeable lag and stuttery scrolling raining on your browsing parade. Still, at this price in Androidland, some performance judders are par for the course.
The One V did relatively well in the GL Benchmark standard Egypt test, running at 32 frames per second. In Antutu's benchmark it achieved as much as 2,736 and in Quadrant's test it scored a high of 2,044.
Sealed inside this chinny slab is a 1,500mAh battery. During my testing, battery life was very good -- I reckon you'll easily get a day's use without needing to charge it. The One V is certainly not afflicted with the battery issues that have dogged its big brother, the One X. Doubtless, the V's single-core chip and smaller screen help keep battery drain at bay.
Design and build quality
The HTC Legend won all manner of plaudits for its sexy looks. CNET UK's past mobile master Flora Graham dubbed it "a stone-cold fox" in her 2010 review. So has HTC pulled a design blinder again with the One V?
In a word: yes. Although the One V isn't as instantly dazzlingly as the Legend, thanks to more muted colour choices, I've grown to prefer its sleek form over the original. My review sample was black but there are two other moody shades to choose from -- grey or brown.
Size wise, the One V is the smallest of the three One Series devices by far, with a 3.7-inch display. The handset feels sturdy yet lightweight and its hand-friendly size makes it effortlessly pocketable. It's also slender -- only a smidge chunkier than a biro -- and this svelte aspect lends it a premium, classy feel.
The V's distinctive chin inherited from the Legend (and before that the HTC Hero), is likely to polarise opinion. I definitely sit in the 'love it' camp. In my view it turns what would otherwise be a fairly standard rectangular slab into something quirky. But if you didn't like the Legend's pointed chin, you'll at least be pleased to learn that HTC has softened the angle so the One V is slightly less 'Jimmy Hill' than its parent.
The V's metal casing is silky smooth across the chin but lightly textured on the back -- an example of HTC's attention to detail in forming this well-crafted phone.
To help ensure the handset doesn't make a break for freedom by ejecting itself from your grip, HTC has added rubber patches to its top and tail. Push down on the bottom, pushing away from the body of the phone, and the rubber rump slides off to reveal the SIM and microSD card slots.
The battery is non-removable, as with all the new HTC One Series devices -- so it's bad news if you like to carry spares.
When it comes to buttons, there are only two physical keys -- a power key on the top and a volume rocker on the right-hand side. Both were nice and responsive during my tests.
On the front are the same three touch keys found on all of HTC's new One Series phones -- back, home and recent apps (which can also function as a menu key if you long-press it). These also work well and I found them responsive to even the most delicate of taps.
Ports wise, in addition to the microSD card slot concealed under the V's rubber bum, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack up top and a micro-USB port on the left-hand side for charging and transferring stuff to and from the phone.
The One V's LCD screen is bright and brilliantly colourful, without having an overly saturated colour cast. It's definitely one of the V's best assets. I also found the touchscreen's responsiveness to be excellent.
The One V bucks the current trend to slap huge screens on phones, essentially turning them into mini tablets. At 3.7 inches, it's roughly the size of the screen on Apple's iPhone 4S -- and half an inch bigger than its Legendary ancestor's screen.
Resolution is 480x800 pixels so density is 252 pixels per inch. That's a pretty decent amount of teeny-tiny squares for a phone at this price. The resolution is not quite as crystal clear as that found on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray but it's far superior to what's on offer from the Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus, for instance.
The physical size of the One V's screen is fine for all manner of mobile tasks, from looking at photos to playing YouTube videos or using apps. But if you're browsing the desktop version of a text-heavy website, you will need to zoom in slightly to make the words large enough to read.
People with big hands will probably also find the on-screen keyboard a little cramped, especially in portrait mode.
All devices in HTC's new One Series are blessed with its new image processing chip, an f2.0 lens and a back-side illuminated sensor, along with fancier camera software, which includes the ability to snap a continuous burst of photos or single stills while you're shooting video.
HTC also claims its new auto-focus locks on in less time than it takes to blink an eye. I certainly found the camera to be very snap-happy indeed. It can take a photo in less than half a second.
The One V has the lowliest pixel count of the three One Series devices -- with a 5-megapixel snapper, rather than the 8 megapixels you get in either the One S or the One X. Despite being the runt of the litter, the One V's lens wasn't terrible. When the light is right, it can capture some great colourful shots.
Even when the British weather is threatening to rain down the apocalypse, the One V produced some atmospheric photos of London at its moody best.
In general, photos taken with the One V can be soft on detail, and it struggles in low light or with extreme close-ups, but that's to be expected at this price. The phone will happily deputise for your basic point-and-shoot camera for snapping Facebook-friendly shots of your mates when you're out and about.
Shooting 720p resolution HD video, it's not Full HD, but for capturing quick clips it's more than serviceable. Image and audio quality are fairly good, without being super-stunning.
The One V comes with only 4GB of on-board storage but there's a micro-SD card slot. Side-loaders rejoice as this should allow you to beef up your virtual shelving space by up to 32GB.
One V owners also get to grab 25GB of Dropbox cloud storage free for two years, which can be used for backing up any snaps you take on the phone by taking advantage of a handy photo auto-sync feature.
Like its One Series siblings, the V includes Beats Audio technology so you'll find the logo branding its rump.
Audio quality is warm, rich and bassy when you've got Beats Audio toggled on. Turn it off and things get a whole lot flatter.
The One V doesn't come with Beats Audio earphones in the box so you'll want to plug in a decent pair to make the most of its audio smarts.
The phone's rear speaker can be pumped up pretty loud, at least according to my ageing ears. You could certainly irritate the top deck of the bus with your taste for screechy pop.
Call quality was excellent -- I had no trouble hearing voices on the other end, nor they me. During testing, I didn't experience any dropped calls either.
The One V is an attractive addition to Android's midriff. It's certainly not the cheapest Android phone around -- you can now get a 1GHz-packing Android handset for £100 -- but unlike the unruly, Gingerbread-flavoured majority, the One V serves you Ice Cream Sandwich right out of the box.
The One V has clearly had bags of care and attention lavished on it by HTC so it looks and feels super-stylish. And there's a decent camera, pleasing sound and, of course, apps aplenty waiting for you in Google's Play shop. The only disappointment is slothful web browsing and general sluggishness. So if speed really is of the essence for you, you're better off shelling out a little more and bagging its more premium brother, the blisteringly fast One S.