The HTC One might be taking the company’s limelight at present, but the One moniker features in a large number of HTC phones, and the latest to hit my reviews bench is the One SV. The HTC One SV is a 4G supporting phone, and it’s available on EE. In fact, it’s one of just a pair of handsets you can get on EE at present for free on contract. The other is the Huawei Ascend P1.
So, considering that you can pay up to £59.99 for handsets on EE (that’s the price of the 64GB iPhone 5), something has to give, right? Well, the HTC One SV is not a star player, but it is far from being a turkey either.
Certainly the design of this handset is neat – with one peculiar exception. Its rounded corners are nothing special but they do have visual appeal and the sample I was given to review had a very distinctive grey/blue backplate, which I really liked. Its rubbery finish helps with grip and the way it curves into the long edges is a nice touch. Not only does it look distinctive, it helps the phone feel comfy in the hand. The HTC One SV has a relatively large screen at 4.3in, and so the hardware is a bit bulky. But that curvature helps the handset meld into your palm.
The edges of the handset have a three-layer finish comprised of the backplate, a black rim that surrounds the front of the phone, and a metal-look blue strip sandwiched between the two. The latter is wider at the top and bottom of the phone than on the sides. It’s this touch that makes the HTC One SV look distinctive.
I’m not so sure that the effect would be as eye-catching in the black or white versions of this phone, and whatever colour combo you go for, the HTC One SV is still a plastic phone. That’s not a serious issue though. The build feels robust and I had to exert quite a bit of pressure to flex the phone between two hands.
What annoys much more is the deep crater that is the front speaker grille above the HTC logo. It’s hugely recessed, and after a couple of days of use it had collected fluff from my pockets that was difficult to clear out.
There’s nothing to quibble about with regard to button and connector placement. Mains power is delivered to the battery via a micro-USB slot on the bottom edge while the on/off switch and headphones slot are on the top. There’s a volume rocker on the right edge. The rocker is long and has a notch in its centre presumably designed to help you operate it by touch alone, but I found the notch so subtle that it was difficult to find without looking. Fortunately, the rocker itself protrudes enough from the edge of the handset making it easy to locate when the phone is tucked away in a pocket.
Getting the backplate off is a bit of a challenge. There’s a sort of recess by the micro-USB port, but you’ll still need fingernails to encourage it to part from the main body of the phone, and it is quite flimsy. Both microSIM slot and microSD card slot are under the backplate. The latter, but not the former, requires you to remove the battery for access. So you can hot-swap microSD cards - if you can remove the backplate!
That capability is quite important. HTC has equipped the One SV with 8GB of storage, but much of this is already occupied by pre-installed software, so that a little less than 4GB was free on my review sample. Isn’t it interesting how there’s a bit of a trend these days for handset manufacturers to tell you how much memory is installed but not how much is actually available?
HTC is wedded to Beats Audio and the usual logo makes an appearance on the backplate next to the rather neatly drilled speaker holes. This visual setup is something of the norm for HTC.
I’m not convinced that Beats Audio adds much value. Yes, it does crank up the bass tones in tunes, but this can feel overdone on many tracks and it’s only available through headphones and not through the HTC One SV’s speaker. Furthermore, it is either on or off – you don’t get any EQ controls at all. Oh, and there are two music apps on the HTC One SV but Beats Audio is only accessible through one of them.
While this is a budget handset, HTC has not scrimped too much on the processor. The 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 is quite capable, and the 1GB of RAM that sits in support helps it nip along. NFC is built-in too, a nice feature to see on a relatively lowly phone like this one.
It is disappointing that the Android version is Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0), and the 5-megapixel main camera is rather behind the times, too, though it does shoot 1080p video. But these features would mark the HTC One SV out quite happily as a mid-range handset.
One feature drags the phone down, though, and unfortunately it’s the one you’ll be most aware of. It is the 800 x 480 resolution on the 4.3in screen. It’s a very low resolution these days, and if you're into web browsing you’ll notice the regular need to zoom in.
Now, it has to be noted in the screen’s favour that viewing angles are good, video renders well enough not to make me grumble, and colours are sharp enough, so it’s not a disaster. In fact it is perfectly usable for most purposes. But still, that resolution feels so last year that it is difficult to forgive.
The HTC One SV is arguably a handset the company could have done well not to release. The low-resolution screen is a real let down, and if you don’t need 4G there are plenty of better featured handsets to turn your head. If you do need 4G and are on a very tight budget, then I suppose you might be tempted – but check out the Huawei Ascend P1 first if you must have your handset for free. If you can get your hands on more cash, I'd also look at EE’s £20 and £30 choices.
Manufacturer and model
HTC One SV
1.2 GHz Qualcomm S4 dual-core
4.3in, 800 x 480 pixels
128 x 66.9 x 9.2mm