After extensive tests by the RED Army, Hydrogen One is released, a smartphone designed for doers, makers, content creators, and RED-heads devoted to the RED experience. What’s the verdict?
The newest “camera” from RED Digital Cinema if finally available, but only for some, as the world’s first holographic media machine, as the company likes to call it, is, at launch, only available through exclusive carriers: AT&T and Verizon in the United States, and Claro and Telcel in Latin America. The phone is available this November from the carriers mentioned.
“This is the single most exciting thing I have ever worked on,” says Jim Jannard. Hydrogen One launches after years of R&D, including an unprecedented development phase where RED’s most dedicated users—the RED Army—perfected the device’s performance through months of rigorous testing with a special pre-release model.
There isn’t, at the moment, much more information available than what was available months ago, and most of the comments about the phone refer to early this year and before. Despite the fact that they all suggest an exciting reception to the product, they mostly refer to the original information distributed by RED, as well as the opinions of those who saw a prototype.
RED Hydrogen One: The initial hype
Some of the comments published in recent months suggest the hype and excitement created around RED’s smartphone. Here are some:
USA Today got an exclusive first look at HYDROGEN One, describing the immersive experience of watching Pixar’s Brave in Holographic 4-View (H4V): “The arrow flying off the screen was coming straight for us, and had we not known better we might have ducked.”
CNET Senior Associate Editor Patrick Holland saw H4V in action as well and “came away beyond impressed” with the experience. “I was impressed and couldn’t believe how well the effect worked … the overall effect was immersive,” he wrote.
BGR indicated that it was going to be “…the most interesting Android phone of 2018”, while Business Insider pointed to Hydrogen One as “one of the more interesting smartphones we’ve seen recently”, and Android Central wrote that it was “anything but conventional”.
At launch, one comment from Viceland production manager Dana Salvatore, who is an early adopter, indicates how some may receive the new phone. She said: “This phone is worth the wait. All of the hype associated with the RED HYDROGEN One is completely justified.This is revolutionary. This is truly a glimpse into the future.”
What makes the Hydrogen One different
The specifications that make the RED Hydrogen One different are important to understand what RED Digital Cinema is after, launching a smartphone that costs $1,295 for the aluminum version or $1,595 for a titanium version:
- Holographic 4-View (H4V): An experience that’s better than 3D, no glasses. With the Hydrogen One, you have front and back Holographic 4-View recording capability, capturing images, videos, and selfies.
- Multi-Dimensional Surround Sound: A proprietary A3D algorithm converts audio into Expansive Spatial Sound, with or without headphones. Surround sound used to require a room jammed with equipment. Not anymore.
- Modular System: Enhance your Hydrogen One with stackable modules. A future cinema-capable camera in your pocket and an extend battery performance module, with many more additions to come.
- Industrial Design: Choose between an aluminum or titanium (highly limited edition available after launch) model. Both come with Kevlar panels, beautiful and functional RED-designed sides, and a 5.7″ QHD holographic display.
- Hydrogen Network and RED + Leia Loft: Explore Hydrogen’s exclusive Holographic 4-View apps. There is content to view, games to play, and apps to download … everything in H4V. The greatest living creators share work alongside next-gen tastemakers.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform: The Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform is designed to support cutting-edge camera capabilities, blazing-fast download speeds, and long-lasting battery life. Capture photos and 4K video as vividly as you see it. And with better graphics and increased performance, you’ll get the ultimate mobile experience.
- Augmented Reality (AR): Hydrogen One is ARCore enabled so you can try new AR experiences that transform the way you play, shop, learn, create and experience the world with others.
Disappointing video quality
The first reviews I saw published, though, suggest that if you’re not a dedicated user of RED products, you better look elsewhere for a smartphone. To this I may add that even if you are, you may want to wait for HYDROGEN Two, when – and if – it comes out. Marques Brownlee, published a video under the title “RED Hydrogen One Review: I Wanted this to be Great!” which says it all. But everywhere you look, the reviews seem to reflect the same idea that Android Central points to in their review: “Modular, ambitious, incomplete”.
Just as an example, let me pick some notes from one of these reviews. The same CNET Senior Associate Editor, Patrick Holland, that in June this year commented “I was impressed and couldn’t believe how well the effect worked … the overall effect was immersive” wrote a review of the final product titled “Red Hydrogen One review: A big budget 3D Hollywood phone with a disappointing ending”.
It’s important to read the whole review to better understand the title, but some of the notes from Patrick Holland point to “disappointing video quality at launch”. Holland says that he “can’t film in 4K at 60fps like with the iPhone XS or Galaxy Note 9” and also that “Footage captured at 120fps comes in with 720p resolution and doesn’t look great. The iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9 can capture good-looking slow-motion at 240fps in 1080p resolution.”
These and other comments, like the “Hydrogen One’s performance doesn’t look as stellar in comparison” do explain why the final score for the flagship smartphone from RED only receives 3.5 stars in a 5 star scale or 7.8 in a scale of 10, which then reveals that the camera size from this phone from RED Digital Cinema gets… 7 points. I believe that’s not what RED had in mind when the company announced the smartphone.