RED Hydrogen One Review
For as long as the world has been seeing advent over advent of new smartphones – there have always been smartphones that were average, ones that were excellent, and ones that were just quirky and weird with nothing amazing to offer. Of course, if you’re looking for a smartphone that falls in the mainstream flagship models, there’s a high chance you’ll find something that’s sufficient, if not great, in all departments. But while mainstream smartphones like to stick a conventional approach (giving you slightly more feature-rich, faster versions of gadgets that have come before) – there’s always an outlier to make us question everything we haven’t questioned before. There’s also always space for such variety in the industry: phones that have sliding hardware, phones that fold – or offer anything that the current trend isn’t embracing.
The RED Hydrogen One, announced in 2017, happens to be a mobile that falls in the above described category. When initially announced, the idea of a 3D autostereoscopic display made us wonder if we had slipped back a few years into some type of a time warp. The presence of a Moto-style expansion port was another surprise in Hydrogen One, as well the unconventional design and the unusually steep price.
Will these odd features successfully deliver? Will this weird sounding phone actually make it off the drawing board? More than a year has passed since we asked all these questions – and now we finally do have our hands on the Hydrogen One. First impressions tell us this is definitely a unique design, but also quite confusing in many aspects. We also predict that it’s not going to have an easy time appealing to people on a mass level.
The internal storage is a staggering 128GB. This is definitely an uplifting feature that offers more than what most flagship phones do. There’s going to be no shortage of 3D pictures in your storage – and yes, 3D pictures take up a whole lot of space anyway. Expansion also happens to be specifically easy due to the no-tool-required microSD tray.
Battery Life is another special feature of this phone – with battery stretching across multiple days due to the huge 500mAh capacity.
View 3D Effect
This is obviously the standout feature of the phone – one that differentiates it from its rivals forms and of its most integral parts. The 3D effect is certainly a notch up from early generation displays. We’re not going to lie, it’s pretty damn cool. However, there are still a bunch of issues that keep it from being a slam-dunk. We’ll discuss these issues later the article.
THE NOT SO GOOD
It’s pretty clear that we’ll have to wait for a modular add-on to be released in order to get a proper RED camera. RED is a huge name in movie cameras, but it’s pretty clear that the cameras on the Hydrogen One are not any of their own special tech – but rather just commodity smartphone sensors. At the moment, Hydrogen One offers a pair of matched 8MP selfie camera up front as well as dual 12MP primary cameras. Having sets of two cameras both enables the capture of 3D photos as well as the traditional bokeh effect.
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
Hydrogen One’s screen is a good-sized 5.7-inch panel, but in the now obsolete 16:9 aspect ratio. You’ll also find a pretty noticeable bezel on the phone that goes for the effect of making the screen look smaller than it actually is. At the top, you’ll find perhaps the largest notification LED you’ll have ever seen – as well as the sensors and the front camera. Sadly, the notification LED is way too prominent and will compel you to turn it off. Both bottom and top – the screen is flanked by stereo speakers.
One thing’s clear – you won’t be mistaking any phone for being the Hydrogen One. With the presence of a Kevlar panel, a ridged back and grippy scalloped edges – the phone looks different from any of its rivals. Sadly, different doesn’t necessarily mean good as the phone seems like a handset trapped permanently and irreversibly in a bulky case. The solid metal build and heavy weight give the phone the impression of being robust. However, also remember that there’s no water resistance with the phone. So, aggressive styling still hasn’t equipped this phone to be more robust and secure than any other phone in the context of day-to-day handling. The long edges of the phone are occupied by shallow indentations, ridged for extra grip.
This isn’t the most important feature to many – but you’ll face the occasional distortion from Hydrogen One’s front-facing stereo speakers. This problem will persist even when A3D has been disabled.
All that being said, The Hydrogen One does try to specifically emphasize its A3D Sound processing and does aim to broaden the audio aspect.
We’ll say it – although the phone is quite capable, it’s certainly not up to the mark, nor offers anything that other phones don’t have to offer. We’re at the end of 2018, and this a device that launches with a Snapdragon 835. Not impressive!
Viewing 3D content is definitely fun. So is creating your own content with Hydrogen One’s cameras. There’s a wide variety of content available through RED’s Holopix app. This is the place where users share professionally produced media on the Hydrogen Network as well as their 3D pics.
The 3D bit is definitely intriguing – but is it worth the impact this system has on 2D viewing? Although some of the technical issues can still be overlooked and are tied directly to this effect, you’ll still see a grid of dots at all times oj the screen – specifically when the background is white. You’ll also find some backlight bleeding on the bottom and top edges. If you happen to be buying Hydrogen One through AT&T – you’ll be allowed access to a bunch of Hollywood movies in 3D that you can view on your device. Moreover, a few Android games also support the phone’s 3D mode.
When an app activates the 3D screen, you’ll notice a change in image quality instantly. And it won’t be a good change. The resolution will drop, and the whites will turn into yellow. You’ll also find a distracting abnormality whereby colors will transform into other colors as you look at the screen slightly off-axis. Even when you are king at the screen from the centre, the 3D effect won’t work as well as it should – as, you will spot blues and reds pop up where they don’t belong.
Here’s the thing – $1300 is a high price for any phone, even the most established flagship phones. Yes, you get some of it redeemed by the phone’s unique features – a kickass display, and huge storage – is it really worth more than a thousand bucks? In our opinion, the whole experience offered by the phone just isn’t polished enough to justify spending that much money.
Bottom Line: Should You Buy It?
Overall, RED Hydrogen One is a cool novelty that offers something you won’t fit in other phones in the flagship range. It happens to be more impressive in terms of technicality than in term so aesthetic – but the presence of many such technologies on the phone actually affects the other aspects of the phone – such as the perpetually visible matrix of mini dots – even you’re in 2D mode.
So, do we recommend you buy RED Hydrogen One?
The phone very much still feels like it’s a 1st Gen product – despite the advancements over early 3D phones. There are some individual features on the phone that are compelling. There are sides to the phone’s software and hardware that you won’t really find on another phone on the market. Although the 3D screen is an integral feature of the phone – it still needs a whole lot of catching on.
Red must offer a display experience that’s close to the quality you receive from conventional 2D displays- and it’s not quite there yet.
Software on the phone happens to be rough too – you’ll experience everything from the 3D effect getting occasionally (and inexplicably) stuck or the good ol’ app crashes.
When it comes to the pricing – it just absolutely doesn’t redeem anything about the shortcomings of the phone. Anyone who has $1,300 to spend on a smartphone has the option to choose from all the major, latest flagship phones in the market – including those with a 512GB storage. Unless you happen to be crazy about the 3D screen feature – or have put too much trust in unreleased add on modules – there’s not really any reason why you’d want to choose this phone over all the other available options.
RED Hydrogen One is an important step in the path that may lead us to a great phone one day, but right now, are still rough around the edges – and there’s not much to redeem for them.
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