A re-imagined HTC Legend for the new smartphone world. That's probably the best way to describe it. The reassuringly solid aluminum unibody has returned and, given the 3.7-inch screen, you should almost certainly be able to handle the One V with ease. The anodized shell is tightly beveled -- almost to the point of being too sharp-- while the screen is raised slightly above the rest of the construction (a relief, then, that there's a layer of Gorilla Glass shielding it). In day-to-day use, we found the phone resilient to scratches on both the front and back sides -- possibly more so than the acclaimed micro-arc oxidized coating on the One S.
This slightly raised surface includes a trio of capacitive controls, including the ICS-friendly multitask button at the bottom right. The speaker grille is the only feature that disrupts the flat front -- presumably due to cost constraints, it isn't an integral part of the body like the machined speakers found on the One X and S. A front-facing camera is also conspicuously absent and we assume this was another cost-cutting measure. The frame is just 9.4mm (.36 inches) thick, and remains uniform through the phone's curved base. Yes, the chin is back and it'll be as divisive as ever. Unlike the Legend, it's a largely blank addition to the phone -- there's no optical trackpad this time, and all the buttons have migrated to other parts of the handset. It keeps the rest of the body flat while bringing the mic closer to your mouth. The rear, made in part from soft plastic, covers slots for the microSD and SIM (not micro-SIM) slots, but there's no battery access.
Removable storage is a necessity, not a choice on the One V, which arrives with under 1GB of useable space. To put that in perspective, you'll need a microSD card to use even the likes of Spotify and Instagram. The contoured sides are interrupted only by the volume rocker and non-MHL micro-USB port, hewing to the simple aesthetic marking the rest of the One series. Up top, you'll find the notification light alongside the headphone socket, with the power button also sitting along that top edge. The 5-megapixel camera and LED flash are both housed in a soft grey plastic panel similar to the removable cap at the base.
Admittedly, the whole design may appear pretty safe compared to HTC's recent forays, but it still registers as playful. We kept rocking the phone upwards onto that chin, and we dare say it's even a bit adorable.
The One V squeezes 800 x480 resolution into a 3.7-inch screen, and it's another Super LCD 2 panel, like the One X. And though it lacks high-definition credentials, with a screen density of 252 ppi it's not embarrassingly grainy. Viewing angles are also impressive, and it fares respectably outdoors. More importantly, though, it embarrasses existing entry-level phones -- a group where quality screen technology has often (if not always) been sacrificed. Sure, it doesn't stand up to the expansive likes of the One X or Galaxy S II, but color composition is excellent (better than the One S, even) and 3.7 inches isn't that small. At least, not for a lot of people. We noticed, however, on our two review samples that there was some worrying yellow discoloration on both screens in the top left corner and was especially noticeable when on full brightness white.
You're not going to get HTC's state-of-the-art imaging technology here -- a 5-megapixel sensor is a notable drop from the 8-megapixel shooter found on the rest of the One series. HTC's ImageChip is on board -- but the difference in performance is presumably due to that gap in processing power. The app still steers like the rest of the series, however, with the same stripped-down interface. The HDR mode, simultaneous video and still capture and faux-tilt shift have all made the transition to this humble handset, although burst capture and speedy shot-to-shot times have disappeared along with that dedicated camera chip. Compared to samples taken with the One S colors weren't as vivid, and while HTC's second-in-command had a tendency to over-do it on the contrast, the One V's results were still slightly drab. Fortunately, the f/2.0 lens is still in tow, which means low-light performance was predictably strong. The sensor often struggles with adjusting to sudden light changes, but it gets there in the end -- something that would be less forgivable on video capture.