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HTC One S

review htc one s ics sense 4.0 ice cream sandwich krait benchmarks

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#1 Nexus18

Nexus18

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 16:43

HTC released their new range of mobiles recently called the "One" which includes the flagship mobile "X", the mid-range "S" and the lower end "V", however, does the "S" really belong to the "mid-range" class......lets find out! :p

I will only cover the areas, which are most important in this review (IMO) and try to keep it as brief as possible as being android and sense, this would be a very long review if I covered every area!

Features:

Some of the main specs.
  • Dimensions - 130.9 x 65 x 7.8mm
  • Weight - 119.5g
  • Display - Super AMOLED capacitive 4.3" 540 x 960 pixels (256 ppi pixel density) touchscreen, 16M colours and is corning gorilla glass
  • RAM - 1GB
  • Chipset - Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon
  • CPU - Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait
  • GPU - Adreno 225
  • Storage - 16GB internal combined with 25GB extra of dropbox storage for the next 2 years, no SD card slot
  • Camera - 8MP, autofocus, LED flash, simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, face & smile detection. VGA camera on the front of the device
  • Video - 1080P@30FPS, stereo sound rec. and video stabilization
  • OS - Android V4.0.3 (Ice cream sandwich) combined with Sense V4.0
  • Radio - Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Battery - Standard battery, Li-Po 1650mAh
For a full list of features, check here.

Packaging & Accessories:

I was surprised at just how small the box was when I received it! The width and height was barely any bigger than the mobile itself, saying that though the box is sturdy enough and has a minimal design.

Inside the box we have the standard accessories;
  • Charger
  • Micro USB cable
  • Standard HTC ear phones
You may be wondering where the battery is? For the HTC One series mobiles, the battery is non-removable, therefore you can't use spares or/and use an extended battery etc. however, is the battery life sufficient enough that we won't really need to worry too much about this.......find out later ;)

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Build Quality:

Now this is where the One S is truly the "one" for design, build quality and "perceived quality". The "S" has a uni body chassis made of Aluminium, which is then treated to Micro Arc Oxidation, this is essentially treating the aluminium case to a plasma bath and 10000 volts is then passed through, which means that it is carbonized, which in return gives a very nice matte finish and a ceramic feel to the case, this apparently increases the durability a lot as well (I am not willing to test the durability out though :p). The MAO process is only for the black model though, the gray model is anodized Aluminium, you have medium and dark shades of grey.

I have used a number of top end devices ranging from the Desire, Galaxy S2, iphone 4/4s, One X etc. and IMO the One S is easily the most "premium feeling" mobile to date and best looking device there is (of course some may disagree and say different). It is super thin at 7.8mm and super light at 119.5g.

If you have a read around on a few forums, there are many people who loved the "X" for the screen etc. and were going to buy it but once they tried the "S" out in the shop just before they were going to buy the "X", they ended up walking out with the "S" instead due to build and perceived quality, this just shows how good it really is.

Unfortunately there is a fault with the black models (due to the MAO process), there is a chipping issue, which seems to be affecting the majority of black "S" owners even under extreme care and use, tiny black chips are coming out of nowhere and leaving a silver layer visible especially around the USB port. I have had this mobile for three days now and have not got any chip issues except around the micro USB port *touch wood* :p

This will not be too much of an issue for people who keep their mobiles in cases etc. (I will be getting a case anyway)
If you have sweaty/greasy hands, sweat patches and fingerprints will easily show up on the back of the mobile.


I would suggest that everyone waits for a few weeks first though until it is confirmed that the problem has been fixed with new batches instead of returning the mobile every few days.

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On the front of the mobile at the bottom, you have touch sensitive controls, which are the standard ICS buttons, back/return, home and multi-tasking window. At the top you have your standard HTC logo along with the ear piece grill, front VGA camera and a notification LED, however, the LED isn't separate, it is underneath the ear-piece grill, which is pretty tacky from HTC, the Desire notification LED was much better.

You have your standard orange/amber colour which means that the mobile is charging and if it is blinking orange/amber, your battery is low and a green LED means the battery is fully charged and if it is blinking green you have a missed call, text etc. The blinking will last only for a few minutes if you have a missed call, text etc. I am not sure if this is a bug or the way that it is suppose to be, to try and save power......however, it should keep blinking until you have unlocked the screen IMO.

It is easy enough to see when indoors and not at an extreme angle, however, outside on a bright sunny day or/and looking at the mobile from the slightest angle, you will really struggle to see the LED.
  • On the right side, you have your volume rocker, which is nice and long, however, not very good feedback is given when you press it and it feels a bit wobbly
  • On the left side, you have the micro USB port, which is for charging the mobile, connecting to the PC or if you have an MHL cable, connecting to a TV
  • At the top, you have a 3.5mm audio jack and the power/lock screen button. The lock/power button is a bit awkward to press, especially if you're only using one hand and you really have to push it in a certain way, but this is a good thing as it means there won't be any issues of it constantly turning the screen on or the device off when it is in your pocket
  • On the back, you have "HTC" engraved in the unibody part along with the "beats audio" logo and with two small pieces of plastic at the bottom and top (which feels great as well, but obviously not as sturdy as the rest of mobile). The top piece of plastic houses the 8MP camera (with a nice red metallic outer ring for the black model and a blue outer ring for the grey model), LED flash and microSIM card slot. The bottom piece of plastic houses the speaker.
  • And of course on the bottom you have the mouthpiece
As you may have noticed there is also no SD card slot and for a lot of people this is an extremely important factor if the internal storage isn't enough and this is the main reason why a lot of people haven't got the "S" and have gone for the "X" instead as it has 32GB internal storage or are now waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S3, hoping that it will include the SD slot.

To try and make up for the lack of a SD slot, HTC have partnered up with Dropbox to give any owner of a "One" series mobile an additional 25GB onto their current storage for free for the next two years, which combined with the 10GB of internal storage on the "S" for photos, videos, files and 2GB for apps etc. is more than enough for me (I have 30.9GB of dropbox storage now).


The "S" has a 4.3" SAMOLED qHD (540 x 960) display, but it doesn't have a RGB pixel arrangement like the Galaxy S2, instead it has the pentile pixel arrangement. It isn't as bad as what some people make it out to be though. Also it has been modified apparently, so lower power consumption, better colours etc. The screen is still super sharp, vibrant colours, great viewing angles and best of all, blacks are black!

Obviously compared to the likes of the iphone 4/4s, Galaxy Nexus, a couple of Sony's mobile screens and especially the One X screen, the "S" won't look as good but that doesn't mean that the screen is poor. Yes it would have been nice if a 720P res or/and RGB pixel arrangement was used instead or the IPS display from the X but the current screen is perfectly fine IMO, viewing videos and pictures on the "S" screen is great. Viewing the screen in direct bright sunlight is not a problem at all with the brightness set to 100%, I could easily read text and view pictures on neowin, I tried to get a good accurate picture showing this, but failed :p

Of course some people will prefer the AMOLED based screens over the IPS due to having the more vibrant colours, pitch-blacks, I personally love AMOLED screens and IMO they are better for viewing videos on the mobile than LCD IPS screens.

Obviously if you are downgrading from one of the mobiles that have a better 720P screen etc. then you wil notice the pixels but I suggest before you make your mind up on the screen without actually seeing it first to have a good look at it in a store. I personally don't notice the pixel issues with pentile unless I put my nose right upto the screen :p It is a bit more noticeable when you have white text on black backgrounds though, but again you still have to go looking for it. The screen is A LOT sharper and more vibrant than the desire AMOLED screen.

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Unfortauntely the "S" doesn't have NFC either, granted in the UK (and probably most of the world) it isn't very popular yet and purchasing items using it still isn't a big thing (yet), there are more uses than just purchasing items using NFC though, such as tags, which means that you simply place your mobile on/near the tag and it will perform a certain action. Considering quite a few mobiles are coming out with this, it would have been nice to have anyway.

Software:

No point having a very nicely designed mobile with great hardware if the software is terrible to use.

ICS combined with the latest sense is unbelievably good! I was never a fan of sense on the desire, desire HD and sensation, sure it has great widgets and the homescreens looked pretty but the entire software just felt so bloated and there were far too many menus/sub-menus, which tried to make things easier to use and find but in the end it just made it more complicated and spending ages to get to one particular area.

Thankfully HTC made a comment about the recent versions and said they realised that they were bloating sense too much and adding un-neccesary things and that they would go back to what sense is suppose to be like, clean, minimal, light-weight and feature fulled and they most certainly have done so with sense V4.0. It is still not as clean and minimal as stock ICS.

Sense 4 with ICS is still feature rich for widgets and customizable skins, different lock screens etc. etc. They have got rid of the dock bar, which had your app drawer on the left, phone in the middle and personalisation menu on the right for adding widgets etc. instead we now have a standard dockbar just like every other android mobile, where you have the app drawer button in the middle and two shortctus to apps that you want to the right and left side of the app drawer (whatever you choose for your dockbar will also be on the lockscreen [if you choose to] for easy and quick access). We also have the same style of widgets to choose from including the famous clock/weather one and the notification bar is also transparent when on the homescreen but will go black when you are in an app or anywhere else apart from the homescreens.

The app drawer is very nice, you have your three tabs on the bottom, "all", "frequent" and "downloaded" and on the top you have "search", "playstore" and the "menu" button, which has the usual settings like arranging apps by name etc.

The lockscreen is the best I have seen on android yet as well (out of the box). You have 3 unlock types;
  • Face Recognition, which works very well and is extremely quick and if you haven't got enough light around you, it will use either the PIN or pattern lock instead
  • PIN, simply a keypad
  • Pattern, simply the same as every android pattern lock
We also have the sense modded versions of the stock android apps like the calendar, gallery, browser etc. The sense browser is the best browser I have used yet even better than the 3rd party ones that can be found on the play store, it is super quick and smooth even when browsing image/flash/GIF intensive pages with great rendering, and of course a very polished UI and some useful tweaks/features e.g. the full screen optimization so you get the most out of the 4.3" qHD SAMOLED screen without annoying bars at the top and bottom, which will only show when you scroll near the bottom or the top of the screen (I have noticed that sometimes the bars don't show at all and the only way to get them is to scroll to the very top of the web page).

The new keyboard with a ton of features is great to use, it now uses a dark theme and HTC have also integrated a swype feature, which works very well, it isn't as good as the proper swype keyboard though and so may not convert the hardcore fans! :p You also have cursor keys at the bottom, which means it is easier to move to specific parts in sentences. Does the keyboard top swiftkey X (once tailored to your texting style) though.......unfortunately no, swiftkey still has the best prediction there is with plenty of options as well and the new verison, which the team are working on should be much better.

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Performance:

This is another area where the One S is the best without a doubt, it really is the fastest/smoothest android handset to date. Many people will be going for the "X" purely because it is "quad core" and thinking more cores must mean it is better :p, but that is not the case. I had the "X", "S", Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Nexus side by side trying various tasks out and the "S" was easily the fastest & smoothest handset out of them. Everything on the "S" was done lightning quick and super smoothly as well, you name it launching & playing games, loading an image intensive site etc., installing/downloading a numer of apps at the same time whilst browsing, nothing slowed this phone down, the only area were I have seen some lag is on the animations for the tabs part in the sense browser. Granted the difference in speed and smoothness between the handsets listed above isn't a huge amount, it is still noticeable.

A number of people who own both the "X" and "S" have also said the same.

The WIFI signal strength is very good! I am getting at least two bars no matter where I am in the house and even when I am outside the house, I still get two bars and this is with the Virgin SuperHub. My Virgin connection is 60MB and 3MB upload, however, due to the SuperHub’s atrocious wireless performance, we only get 29MB download speed so once we get a new router and are getting our proper speeds through wireless, I will test the mobile out using the app “speedtest” to see what we get.


Here are a few screenshots for the people that love benchmark scores! The screenshot of the linpack score on the left is for "single thread" and the right "multi-thread".

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The Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait CPU combined with an adreno 225 GPU make this is a true beast of a mobile.

We also have 1GB of RAM, which essentially means better/more multi-tasking and of course this also helps with performance. Here are a few screenshots of RAM usage according to go launcher, built in sense task manager and the stock android/ICS manager:

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Battery Life:

The One S is truly exceptional for battery life, I haven't seen an android mobile that can achieve the same or better results out of the box as the "S" with similar or better usage as below (except the Motorola RZR :p), the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Nexus come close. Thanks to ICS when the mobile is idle, there is now very little battery drain. I will just post screenshots of my first and second charge and usage:

First charge and usage was; A few texts, 10-20 min of video, fair amount of browsing, installing lots of apps, tweaking and changing everything about, GPS, camera etc. and brightness was at 70-85% brightness for about 1-2 hours and dropped to 50% for the rest of the time, however, I didn't have my SIM in for the first hour of use (testing the mobile first to make sure it worked ok), wifi was on constantly as well.

Second charge and usage was; the same as above but a fair bit more browsing was done and a few games (angry birds and ROM emulators) and brightness was at 50% the entire time, plus this time the SIM was in for the entire time.

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I have disabled quite a lot of the apps that came on the mobile such as google+, facebook, twitter and a lot of other apps, which I don't use.

The battery life could be improved a bit more as well, as with sense, a lot of white is used throughout the UI i.e. messaging, gmail, youtube, system menus, colourful wallpapers, of course you can change a couple of those things with 3rd party apps.

Even though the battery life is very good, it would have been nice to have had the option to use an extended battery instead or/and to be able to use spares.

Media & Audio:

HTC have done great things regarding sense and the gallery & media capabilites. The gallery is is your standard modded app, photo albums are "stacked" and when you go into an album, the photos are in a "grid" layout then. Any image that is on your mobile is shown in the gallery, you can choose to show/hide certain albums though, but you can't do the same for individual pictures/videos. You also have all your other standard options, like delete, copy, cut, paste etc. We also have great editing features built into the gallery for photos and videos. The video player is very good as well, it has a great UI and features, there is no dedicated video app.

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The music app is also very nice, it is more of a "hub" as you have the option to choose playing the songs on your phone or to use soundhound to identify certain music that you want to find out more on, such as lyrics, name, artist etc. and other music options (I have disabled them though)

We also have the FM radio, which has a nice minimal UI. This supoorts RDS as well.

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The audio output of this device is outstanding, I don't have any equipment to properly test it though so you will just have to take my word for it :p As we all know, the latest big mutiplayer game BF 3 has got the best/most realistic sounds of warfare in a game yet and it sounds very impressive if you have a surround sound setup. I watched a few game play videos and trailers for it on youtube and WOW! The sound was so clear and great depth to it and not to mention it was very loud!

Camera:

This is one area where HTC has always been pretty poor at when compared to other brands of mobiles particulary Sony Ericcson and Samsung, especially for video recording, so have HTC finally sorted this out with the latest one series mobiles especially as they said in a statement that the camera is the main thing that customers look at in the shops and so they wanted to make it as good as possible? Also given that the ad for the flagship handset is based solely on camera/video recording capabilites.

A simple answer.............YES! They really have worked wonders with the camera side of things this time round, not just for quality but features as well. Combined with the 8MP camera, we also have an f/2.0 aperture and a dedicated image processing chip, which really helps!

Photos are taken extremely quick, literally snapped instantly so you will never miss that special moment and you have a rapid "gun fire" burst mode, which captures a lot of images in seconds and afterwards, you can choose the best one from the lot and have the rest deleted straight away.

Whilst recording you can also take photos at the same time without any lag and essentially zero shutter time again.

Some photos below, unfortunately I don't really do the camera much justice in some shots :( so don't base a strong opinion on these shots alone, have a look around at other samples on the web :p:

http://i.imgur.com/o1KYo.jpg (depth of field effect was used)

http://i.imgur.com/i2yWp.jpg (depth of field effect was used)

http://i.imgur.com/PuSoV.jpg (no effects)

http://i.imgur.com/T8wif.jpg (no effects)

http://i.imgur.com/DGudD.jpg (no effects)

http://i.imgur.com/Uyelv.jpg (no effects)

http://i.imgur.com/SYzwV.jpg (this was taken in a pretty dark room with flash as you can see)

http://i.imgur.com/aZi7E.jpg (no effects)

http://i.imgur.com/7wN7I.jpg (HDR)

http://i.imgur.com/oMwDh.jpg (Macro shot)

Unfortunately HTC still haven't mastered the art of smooth video recording with smooth light metering focus. This is a problem on the software side as the hardware is more than capable enough of having smooth playback etc. so lets hope that HTC will fix this in an update. A few quick recordings can be found on my channel here, as well as a slow motion video of my cat! :D Unfortunately when using the slow motion feature, the video can only be captured at 768 x 432.

Now, this is where the camera is most impressive, the UI and features, you have a wide range of effects to choose from, all of which are very handy e.g. depth of field, HDR, slow motion video among others, which are a bit more "gimmicky" but still cool none the less.

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Conclusion:

It is a pleasure to use the One S for everything, be it games, social, media, browsing, camera etc. The premium feel to the mobile combined with a great sharp responsive touch screen (granted nowhere near the overall quality of the X IPS 720P screen when side by side) right down to the hardware and software make this mobile truly outstanding and the battery life is a huge bonus. I imagine that once rooted and a good custom ROM is out, the mobile will be even better!

I honestly can say that there is nothing that I hate about the mobile, the only thing, which I would have liked is for HTC to have included an option to use a black theme throughout the UI instead of mostly white and to have done a better job with the notification LED. Being a HTC phone, there are a lot of apps that still aren't neccessary for me (but may be useful for others), thankfully with ICS, you can disable apps that you don't need/use, therefore they will not use any resources :)

Usually I replace every stock app with 3rd party apps from the market such as go SMS pro, dolphin browser/boat/xscope, kaloer clock etc. however, this time I won't be as stated before, the new sense is great and IMO there is no need to replace the majority of stock apps. The only thing, which I have replaced is the launcher with go launcher and my own layout with custom icons (credits go to mrk for the layout idea, icons, minimalistic text widgets etc.)

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I will not be rooting (even though ads completely over run web pages and apps :angry:) or flashing a custom ROM on this mobile at all (unless HTC abandon the "S" and don't provide updates) as the software, performance and battery life is just great out of the box.


The question that you all are wanting to be answered though is, which mobile, the "X" or the "S"?

It is a very tough decision, they are both great mobiles and both have their strengths and weaknesses, the areas where the "X" is better than the "S" from my use and lots of research; is the screen, storage and NFC whereas the "S" has the better battery life, better performance, better build quality/perceived quality and it is more comfortable to use especially with one hand. From reading reviews etc. even though the camera on both mobiles is the same, the "X" appears to take slightly better photos whereas the "S" appears to record better 1080P content regarding smoothness, I have no idea why this is though.

Also, just like the "S", the "X" also has a fault as well, screen flicker.

Apparently the battery life should improve for the "X" in the next update, no idea as to how much, but I imagine that it won't be a huge difference and certainly not near the "S" battery life due to the screen.

I strongly suggest before making your mind up based solely on reviews, to go to a shop and try both out for yourself.


Unfortunately there is no such thing as the perfect mobile device yet, despite all the pros that the "S" has, it has many cons as well as has been stated throughout the review.

Pros:
  • Super thin and light whilst still having the best "perceived quality" yet and great build quality
  • Gorgeous vibrant & sharp SAMOLED qHD display
  • Android V4.0.3 combined with sense V4.0
  • Great hardware (best processor)
  • Great camera for quality and features overall
  • Amazing battery life
  • Very fast & smooth for everything
  • 25GB of dropbox storage
  • Great Audio Quality
Cons:
  • No NFC
  • No SD card slot and limited internal storage
  • Non-removable battery
  • Uses a pentile matrix instead of RGB
  • Notification LED isn't great
Thanks for reading and I hope this review has been helpful and as always any questions, ask away :)


Keep an eye on this thread for updates and for a mini review of a case (most likely a case mate barely there or tough case) and a quick video showing the mobile connected to the TV via MHL within the next few weeks.


#2 Muhammad Farrukh

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 17:20

Awesome read (Y)

#3 Steve B.

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 17:37

Amazing review, really well written. Also out of all the cons there the only major downside is the pentile display. The other four I can easily do without (16GB is plenty for the majority of users, NFC isn't really that big, battery is fine since I'm used to it (iPhone), and again the LED is something the iPhone doesn't have).

(Y)

#4 macstar

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 17:54

great review! i was already decided to ditch the one s/x line and waiting for the galaxy s III, but after read the review and seen the lovely pics, i have to give it a 2nd thought...

#5 Steven P.

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 08:19

Thanks, I've submitted this to the front page (Y) http://www.neowin.ne...views-htc-one-s

#6 OP Nexus18

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 14:41

Thanks guys! :D Glad you liked the review! :)

#7 John Freeman

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 15:26

Im probably picking mine up sometime next month, but damn, i dont like the chipping issue. Here's me hoping they actually manage to fix in future batches.

#8 OP Nexus18

Nexus18

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 15:34

Went to edit a small part of my review there, but I can't find the edit button :o Can we not edit our posts after a certain time or is it due to this being featured on the front page? Just I have a few more things to add :)

Im probably picking mine up sometime next month, but damn, i dont like the chipping issue. Here's me hoping they actually manage to fix in future batches.


Hopefully the issue will be sorted by then :)

#9 Roger H.

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 16:48

From day one seeing both this and the X i thought i wanted the S because it's smaller. Now reading this review makes me even more sure i'm not missing out on anything compared to the X.

As for:

Cons:
  • No NFC
  • No SD card slot and limited internal storage
  • Non-removable battery
  • Uses a pentile matrix instead of RGB
  • Notification LED isn't great

- NO NFC = not a big deal to me. It's nice to have but i wouldn't be using it much if at all since I don't know anyone with it and wouldn't be using NFC at the stores with it anyways.
- SD Card thing - not a big deal to me again as I have a SGS2 now with 11.49GB of Storage (16GB total spit with Apps) and I don't even use all of that now. I also have a 16GB MicroSD card that sits there empty.
- No-removable battery not a issue again as i don't swap batteries now on my SGS2
-This pentile thing is blah - I had a Nexus One and apparently that was Pentile too? :ermm: Didn't notice "pixels" then either.
- LED notification - now that's a real con for me and actually miss it on the SGS2 also :(

#10 OP Nexus18

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 20:10

-This pentile thing is blah - I had a Nexus One and apparently that was Pentile too? :ermm: Didn't notice "pixels" then either.
- LED notification - now that's a real con for me and actually miss it on the SGS2 also :(


Yup the nexus one was pentile as well. The screen on the "S" is much better than the nexus one and better than the GS 2 as well :)

Don't get me wrong the notification LED isn't terrible....it is better than nothing at least :p But it is far from ideal and HTC should have just kept it the way it was with previous handsets.


Sorry I forgot to mention this (review has been updated with this info as well), the notification LED only blinks for a few minutes if you have a missed call, text etc. I am not sure if this is a bug or the way that it is suppose to be to try and save power......however, it should keep blinking until you have unlocked the screen IMO.

Hopefully HTC will sort this out in an update :)

#11 Oblivion

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:02

I think it's time to upgrade from my HTC Sensation :-)

#12 Oblivion

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:12

How much is this device priced at ??

#13 OP Nexus18

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 12:26

How much is this device priced at ??


In the UK, to buy it outright (brand new), it costs £370-420, the cheapest being from 3 directly :)

And contract prices vary from £21-30 for a 24 month contract and no up front cost.

#14 OP Nexus18

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 16:04

Just took a quick panorama shot:

http://i.imgur.com/pydpm.jpg

Not bad and I am pretty sure that I moved up and down a bit for each "shot", so it wasn't exactly even throughout as I had to readjust.


See if you can spot where the "stitching" hasn't quite worked out :p

#15 OP Nexus18

Nexus18

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 14:27

I have just finished reviewing the Case Mate Tough for the One S :)

http://www.neowin.ne...ase-mate-tough/



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