Everyone has their own motives to prefer one Android manufacturer over another, that’s for sure. But independently from your perspective on Android’ s evolution over the time, you will probably eventually reach the conclusion that the two most important manufacturers of the ecosystem are HTC and Samsung.
Much ink has been spilled on Samsung’s role as leader in the Android universe, with some even claiming that the Galaxy brand is eclipsing Android. In the other corner, HTC is not doing nearly as well right now. The Taiwanese manufacturer has reported financial losses for the past few quarters, despite the fact that the One X, the One S, and the Droid DNA have all received great reviews, and have at least aided HTC retain some of its fan base.
In this context, HTC really had the chance to steal the spotlight with the new HTC One. But have they nailed it? Is the HTC One better than the current best mobile device from Samsung, the Galaxy Note 2?
We have set the stage, so let’s begin dissecting our contenders in the usual round: display, design & build quality, software, and hardware.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display running at 1280 by 720 pixel resolution, and boasting a 267 pixel per inch (PPI) ratio. Although the color accuracy issues that are known to affect SAMOLED displays are present, the Galaxy Note 2 features the best display (quality-wise) on any current Samsung device.
However, full HD is the new standard for flagship Android devices. The HTC One is equipped with a 4.7-inch Super LCD 3 display that uses a 1920 x 1080 resolution (commonly known as 1080p or full HD). This is the display with the largest PPI ratio ever (468). But there’s more – the panel features top-end brightness and contrast levels, as well as accurate color reproduction.
In the context of this section, the conclusion is that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a larger display, which is better suited for consuming media (as well as S-Pen input, more on that later), but the HTC One comes with a more compact display of noticeably better quality.
Verdict: The HTC One wins this round thanks to its extra crispness and more natural color reproduction.
Design and build quality
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 uses a plastic body with heavily rounded asymmetrical corners, a narrow-ish bezel, and a physical home button flanked by two capacitive buttons. Measuring 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm (5.95 x 3.17 x 0.37 in) and weighing 183 g (6.46 oz), the Note 2 is, design-wise a slightly odd device, very similar to a large Samsung Galaxy S3.
Ease of use is decent for such a large device, although many argue that the Galaxy Note 2 is just too large to be used with one hand. Build quality is not much better than the Galaxy S3’s; it still feels a bit too plasticky, especially for such a high-end device.
In the HTC corner, the One features an aluminum rounded back and slightly rounded corners. There are two capacitive below the screen (which HTC shuffled compared to last year), and dual speaker grills (we’ll get to the stereo speakers in the hardware section).
What you really need to know is that the HTC One is a a premium, well built smartphone.
Verdict: While design is a matter of personal taste, the HTC One is the better built smartphone.
CPU, GPU & RAM
The second generation phablet from Samsung is powered by the in-house Exynos 4 Quad chipset, an overclocked version of the chip that went inside the Samsung Galaxy S3. The 1.6GHz quad-core A9 processor is paired with a Mali 400MP GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The Galaxy Note 2 generally provides high-end performance, which is reflected in benchmark results.
However, the HTC One uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, basically a souped up version of the Snapdragon S4 Pro (the SoC used inside the Google Nexus 4 and the HTC Droid DNA). The quad-core Krait processor runs at 1.7GHz per core, the Adreno 320 GPU has been overclocked as well, and Qualcomm promises results that are up to 40% better than the previous generation.
Early reports have shown that the HTC One smashes previous records in benchmarks. The HTC One should be noticeably faster, especially when performing heavy duty tasks, than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
Internal and expandable storage
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions. Additionally, Samsung is one of the few Android manufacturers that have opted not to ditch microSD slots for their flagship devices.
The HTC One will be available with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, and lacks the option to expand that storage via a microSD card. This may or may not affect you personally, but the lack of expandable storage matters to a lot of people.
Cameras and speakers
As far as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is concerned, there’s not really much to praise here, as the phablet uses an 8MP primary camera sensor and a 1.9MP secondary sensor, and has a mono speaker.
HTC’s relationship with audio firm Beats has translated into a specially designed audio amplifier for the 3.5mm jack. The addition of dual speakers with BoomSound tech should ensure that the One is a popular option for audiophiles. To complete the multimedia section, the HTC One is the first device to use the proprietary UltraPixel technology, one that features three overlaid sensors that work together to provide the best picture quality. Early sample images have proved inconclusive so far.
The HTC One uses a 2300 mAh battery, which doesn’t look like much, considering that HTC’s new flagship has to power a full HD panel and an overclocked SoC.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 seems to be better equipped in the battery department, as it houses a 3100 mAh battery.
Verdict: The HTC One is faster, offers superior multimedia options, but it also has a smaller battery and lacks a microSD card slot. You decide which is more important!
Android version and software tweaks
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was originally released with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but has since been updated in most parts of the world to Android 4.1.2. Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has been oftenly criticized for its design, although on the other hand, it has also been praised by users for its Smart Functions and S-Pen capabilities.
As expected, the HTC One will feature Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box, with HTC’s revamped Sense 5 overlaid on top. The most notable new feature, called BlinkScreen, turns your homescreen into a live stream that mixes social updates with calendar events and more, much like what’s going on with the live tiles of Windows Phone.
While the UI itself was redesigned, and is now, subjectively, better looking than the Samsung TouchWiz UI, the Galaxy Note 2 can really do more things than the HTC One, primarily thanks to its Multitasking feature and array of S-Pen enabled apps.
Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 wins this round in my book.
If you’re looking for a phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a great option. It has a larger display, the S-Pen is quite useful for the creative, can work with SD card slots, and is equipped with a large battery.
However, if you are looking for the best Android smartphone out there, the HTC One is, at this point, my new first choice. It features a sleek and (more) compact design, the fastest SoC around, and an amazingly crisp panel. Flavor that up with its camera and audio capabilities, and it feels like a darn shame that the HTC One doesn’t have a microSD card slot and a larger battery. It would have been the ultimate smartphone.
What do you guys think of this battle? Let us know which way you swing in the comment section below.