HTC One V (Virgin Mobile) review: HTC One V (Virgin Mobile)

There isn't much third-party software on the this version of the One V to speak of. There's the airG app to connect to the Canadian social networking site, Dropbox for storing files in the cloud, Twitter, and TuneIn Internet radio. Virgin Mobile has placed a few of its own software titles on the phone such as Downloads for purchasing ringtones and wallpapers, My Account to check your service status, and Virgin Mobile Live to stream a curated list of music and videos.

Camera
It's clear HTC made improving camera performance in the One series a major priority. All three handsets (the One X, One S, and One V) use special hardware to improve speed and image quality. As with the One X and One S, I found my One V test unit to focus on subjects quickly and capture pictures nearly instantly.

Of course, the One V's 5-megapixel shooter has lower resolution than the 8-megapixel sensors found in many of today's high-end smartphones. As a result, the camera produced images that were comparatively soft and lacked crisp detail. Indoor still-life shots weren't as clear as I would like either. On the whole they were dark and colors didn't pop off my desktop monitor when I viewed them.

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Indoor still life shots could be clearer. Brian Bennett/CNET

The HTC One V, however, is a real trouper in low lighting. Equipped with its BSI (Back Side Illuminated) sensor and nimble auto focus, I was able to shoot pictures of fast-moving children -- something that gives many phone cameras can't handle.

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Snapping pics of kids in low light was easy. Brian Bennett/CNET

Video performance was was adequate but not outstanding and the One V's autofocus had trouble keeping subjects in focus. Also, even though HTC says the phone records video in 720p HD quality, movies I shot were grainy with details on the soft side. As with many phone cameras, images I shot outdoors in strong to moderate sunlight were more pleasing, with brighter, more saturated colors.

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The HDR mode brightened shadows but created artifacts. Brian Bennett/CNET

If you tend to grab for your phone often to snap photos, you'll love the HTC One V's wide range of shooting modes, scene settings, and fun filters. Also, just like the One X and One S, the handset's camera app let's you fire off multiple shots continuously by pressing and holding the shutter icon on the screen. Additionally you can snap pics while the video camera is filming. Be sure to check out our Camera phone image gallery to see how the HTC One V stacks up against other handsets.

Performance
The HTC One V may technically be member of the One series but don't expect it to offer jaw-dropping application performance. Proding the One V's Android 4.0.3 operating system along is a modest single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor. As a result, the phone doesn't respond with the same greased lightning quickness as the One S and One S. Menus and applications appeared and opened without much delay but I did experience some hesitation on the One V's part.

Every so often the device would stutter while I swiped through various home screens, especially if the One V was preoccupied performing other tasks simultaneously such as downloading apps or syncing e-mail.

Linpack benchmark tests confirmed the One V's pokey processing, with the phone notching a low score of 34 MFLOPs (single-thread) completed in a long 2.5 seconds. That's not enough to beat the HTC Evo Design 4G's (Boost Mobile) score of 40 MFLOPs. HTC's top-of-the-line One X, however, turned in a nimble 99.3 MFLOPs (0.84 seconds) on the same test.

The biggest performance weak spot of the HTC One V for Virgin Mobile though is its slow 3G connection. I clocked downloads in New York at a low average of 0.84Mbps. Upload speeds were just as sluggish, coming in on average at 0.56Mbps.

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The One V's 3G data link is slow going. Brian Bennett/CNET

One bright spot is the HTC One V's call quality. When I tested it on Virgin Mobile's CDMA network in New York, callers described my voice as clear with no static or other audio issues. On my end I heard voices that were warm, lifelike, and loud. The speakerphone doesn't produce much volume, I could easily converse with people even in a medium-size conference room.

HTC One V (Virgin Mobile) call quality sample Listen now:

The HTC One V's 1,500mAh battery lasted decently long during anecdotal battery drain tests. The handset played an HD video file continuously for 6 hours and 4 minutes. By comparison, the HTC One X clung on for 6 hours and 35 minutes in the same situation.

Conclusion
Going with a prepaid wireless carrier often means having to settle for an aging handset running outdated software. Pouring more salt in the wound, is the steep unsubsidized price you'll likely pay, often hundreds of dollars more than phones sold by major post-paid providers. The $199.99 HTC One V on Virgin Mobile bucks the curve. Not only does this device offer the modern Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, it's compact, sports a premium design plus an attractive display. Frankly it's currently the best buy on Virgin Mobile. Sure it's not a quad-core or even dual-core superphone or have 4G data access, but for a no-contract handset it's a serious deal. I certainly feel it's a better bargain than the $299.99 HTC Evo V which has marginally better specs or the $649.99 16GB iPhone 4S that's outrageously expensive.

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