Before we get into the abounding analysis of this absolute altered Android phone, let’s alpha with the affairs experience. I, a RED fandom outsider, originally ordered Hydrogen One aback in August of 2017 aback pre-orders opened for this new Android buzz fabricated by a high-end agenda cinema camera manufacturer. At the time I had still been application a Nokia Lumia 1020 as my circadian disciplinarian aback annihilation abroad out there was able of alike advancing abutting to the angel affection of that device’s camera. But of advance that accessory was accepting old and Microsoft had chock-full acknowledging it and it was accepting to be time to acquisition commodity new. A smartphone from a high-end cinema camera architect seemed to be aloof what I was attractive for to advancement my accurate old Nokia camera phone.
While I had never acclimated a RED camera, I knew its acceptability for absolute big-ticket high-quality imaging and I was appealing aghast with what added camera makers like Hasselblad, Leica, Kodak, etc. had done in the adaptable buzz space.
RED took my money appropriate away. That should accept been a red banderole aback pre-orders should never allegation your acclaim agenda until what you ordered absolutely ships (there are rules about this at the FTC.) The company, in this case, seemed to behave added like a Kickstarter aggregation that didn’t apperceive what it was doing. I figured, “That’s accept if they accept my money appropriate now, as continued as it ships in like a brace months or so.“
Well, abreast from the email acceptance of my adjustment appropriate afterwards I had arrested out, I accustomed no communications from RED whatsoever until this accomplished August. Actively — a abounding year! At atomic on Kickstarter, the bodies aggravating to alpha a business absolutely acquaint with their supporters!
Okay, technically I got some chat afore that. I had emailed RED in May to ask for my abode to be afflicted — at the time email was the alone appropriate adjustment of communicating with the company. I accustomed an automatic response, followed by nothing. Over a ages later, I approved afresh with a “you never responded to this” email. This time, it took them 3 canicule to reply. I was auspiciously able to acquaint them the new aircraft address, but afterwards a year, there was still no assurance of the accessory at my offices.
I assuredly did some analytic and activate a RED Hydrogen One users accumulation on Facebook area bodies were administration rumors about the device. This is area I would assuredly be able to get some buzz advice about what happened to my $1,200. The information? Delays. This was not abstraction up well.
On August 6, 2018, I accustomed my aboriginal absolute bulletin from the Irvine, California-based company, and it was about a “Houdini” affairs area I could amount my pre-order in favor of accepting a “beta” ancestor early. The bolt was that I wouldn’t be accustomed to allocution about it until the official absolution or abroad they would attenuate the accessory remotely. But this bulletin was absolutely aloof a advanced that had accustomed at my inbox at 4am Eastern — all Houdini accessories had been appear for by the time I woke up anyway. I affectionate of ambition they had accustomed me as a Houdini tester so I could accept told them about all of the problems that you’ll apprehend about below. Affairs amateurish accessories to pre-order barter sounds affectionate of adumbral to me, and bypassing the arrangement of pre-orders to accord advantageous volunteers aboriginal admission seems appealing arbitrary as well.
When pre-orders were alive added than a year ago, I could accept called amid a $1,200 aluminum adaptation or a $1,600 titanium adaptation of the Hydrogen One. At the end of this September, it was acutely appear that the titanium adaptation was activity to be delayed. So, the bodies who ordered titanium phones would get an aluminum one as able-bodied as the titanium version. A $1,200 buzz PLUS a $1,600 buzz for $1,600! How is demography abroad banal and potentially dabbling some of their shipments fair to the aluminum buyers? Shouldn’t they get a discount, too?
On October 3, I accustomed an email from Hydrogen via this address:
That absolutely looks legit, right?
The email requested all barter to verify their aircraft addresses and it included a articulation to a Google Docs form. Okay, absolutely not a scam, then.
After some emails to RED support, they absolute that this was commodity they beatific out. The aggregation additionally absolute that my absolute aircraft abode was on book and that I didn’t accept to access my adjustment cardinal and aircraft advice into the Google Docs form. Is this aggregation so bad at eCommerce that they’ve absent customers’ aboriginal aircraft addresses from the pre-orders and had to accomplish a Google Docs form? Well, that catechism would be answered anon enough.
Towards the end of October, I had been accepting appealing anxious that RED still had no appraisal of aircraft or commitment dates and that was a botheration aback I would be traveling anon and added Pocketnow colleagues were traveling as well. We had no abstraction area or aback the buzz was activity be. I assuredly accustomed an email that my buzz had alien via FedEx. Adequate news, right?
But assumption what… it was activity to the amiss address! And according to the RED Hydrogen Facebook user group, I wasn’t the alone one.
Thankfully, an email to the woman whose name was listed on the FedEx tracking advice accustomed me to accept the amalgamation captivated at the bounded FedEx centermost so I could aces it up. It was there on a Monday morning, but FedEx wouldn’t let me aces it up until Tuesday for some reason. Regardless, continued afore accepting the device, I accept been met with a complete abridgement of professionalism from this aggregation — commodity that agog admirers ambuscade on amusing media and in the H4Vuser forums assume to appeal from the tech media.
At atomic now we can activate our review.
One of the big affairs credibility of the RED Hydrogen One, at atomic in 2017, was activity to be its modular capabilities. It was activity to be agnate to the Moto Mods that we’ve apparent with the Motorola Z alternation area there would be some cyberbanking contacts on the aback of the buzz and you could breeze accessories on to add functionality.
There was declared to be a array bore and a 2D cinema bore which would acquiesce for adhering disposable lenses from manufacturers like Sony, Nikon and Canon depending on which adapters you bought. The buzz was additionally activity to be able to action as a adviser for added RED agenda video cameras. I was absolute absorbed in the 2D cinema camera adapter as that was activity to accept a beyond sensor to board the beyond lenses.
All of that articulate alarming to me! But none of that has been put out though, so what we’re larboard with is a modular buzz with no modules. Maybe we’ll see these modules in 2019, as RED CEO James Jannard says. Maybe we’ll see them in addition 18 months? Maybe never?
From what I hear, there are no anatomic prototypes about appropriate now, so anticipation by their clue almanac so far, I wouldn’t be captivation my breath. In the meantime, we accept to adjudicator this based on what we do have.
For a buzz that was appear in 2017, we’ve got mostly 2017-style hardware.
The RED Hydrogen One runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset (not the newer 845), but that’s still got eight cores so it should be fine. We’ve additionally got 128GB of accumulator forth with 6GB of RAM and a microSD aperture for abacus added storage. The awning is 5.7-inch LTPS LCD with Quad HD resolution, topped with Gorilla Bottle 3. You’ve got a fingerprint clairvoyant in the ability button.
There’s additionally Bluetooth 5, NFC, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, aGPS, a USB-C charging/data port, a 3.5mm angle jack, and a ample 4,500mAh battery. The ambit are 164.78 x 85.71 x 10mm and it weighs 263g. For cameras there are two 12-megapixel sensors on the aback and two 8-megapixel sensors on the front.
When the RED Hydrogen One assuredly arrived, I was absolute afflicted with the packaging. Aboriginal of all, this is a pre-order version, so the packaging from AT&T, Verizon or added versions will apparently be different.
This archetypal comes with a big bottle & metal RED Hydrogen logo “coin” forth with a agenda from CEO James Jannard adage how this is the “single best agitative project” he’s anytime formed on. I don’t apperceive what we’re declared to do with the bread thing. I assumption it’s a cardboard weight.
The box central the box is appropriately absorbing and includes a crazy arresting logo with a bright red annular gem in the middle.
The charger isn’t all-encompassing either. It’s got RED logos on the AC adapter and cable.
The RED Hydrogen One feels like a weapon. Imagine assumption duke or a abundant hunting knife — that’s what this feels like. It’s all atramentous aluminum and it is heavy.
The aback is a admixture of metal ridges and a adaptable arrangement forth with that adventurous annular logo. Actuality you can additionally see the access for abeyant amplification modules.
The larboard bend has big feel anchor ridges forth with astronomic aggregate buttons in two of the ridges.
One of the ridges on the appropriate bend is collapsed and that’s area the ability button and fingerprint scanner are. Oddly, you accept to absolutely columnist the ability button in adjustment for the awning to deathwatch up and admit the fingerprint. Unfortunately, there are no programmable fingerprint scanner gestures for authoritative added aspects of the buzz — commodity we’ve appear to apprehend from phones from the Google Pixel alternation and others.
The asperous edges feel adequate enough, but as you can see in the above, baby specks of clay and aliment tend to get ashore in there.
Another backbone on the appropriate bend includes a camera bang button which accurately has a half-press-for-focus action and captures with a abounding press. Unfortunately, the button does not consistently barrage the camera, abnormally aback the accessory is locked. Accepting to about-face the buzz on with a ability button press, afresh move your fingers to the camera button and columnist that to barrage the camera requires some feel acrobatics and that induces a greater bead risk.
Make it simple: columnist the camera button, barrage camera instantly.
Yes, there’s a able headphone jack at the top.
The microSD/SIM agenda aperture doesn’t crave a tiny metal pin apparatus to open, but the attenuate barb aperture is absolute difficult to get a anchor on. I had to use a knife to pry it open.
The advanced adverse cameras accept this absorbing inset to them. They’re abiding so that 3D photos can alone be taken in account mode.
To the appropriate of the earpiece is a ample anchorage for a multi-color LED notification light.
The bifold 12-megapixel rear cameras accept a adequate bulk of amplitude amid them in adjustment to get that stereo abyss aftereffect and 3D imaging. There’s additionally a bifold LED beam — which doesn’t assignment for 3D photos for some acumen — and a microphone aperture on this bright annular protrusion. We’ve got nice big front-facing speakers on the front.
The big affair about the RED Hydrogen One is that it uses a new diffractive lightfield backlight awning from Leia Inc. that makes things attending three dimensional afterwards you accepting to abrasion polarizing glasses that clarify the abstracted frames to anniversary of your eyes. RED calls it a 4-View holographic screen, but it’s absolutely aloof bulging a alternation of account frames to users’ eyes. Giving acclaim area it’s due, the RED’s bigger than the HTC EVO 3D, LG Thrill 4G/Optimus 3D, and Nintendo 3DS because it projects four frames to actualize the 3D aftereffect instead of aloof two. You can still see the anatomy offsets misalignment adequately often.
Just like aback we had 3D glasses-free Android phones in 2011, the Hydrogen One suffers from a absence of accessible content.
We can’t absolutely photograph the abounding aftereffect of the 3D awning aback added cameras don’t shoot in 3D. These 4-View images can’t be displayed on websites or on YouTube either. And we can’t alike allotment the files with you as the proprietary formatting requires a RED Hydrogen buzz to associate into them.
The 3D awning is affectionate of air-conditioned in the baby scattering of amateur and videos that you’ll acquisition in the Leia Loft app abundance and Hydrogen Arrangement video abundance if you can get it to work. The artifacts and errors are abundant beneath apparent in motion graphics.
With photos in 3D mode, the awning looks appreciably pixelated. It feels like application a 320 x 240 awning that we acclimated to accept on smartphones 15 years ago. I never absolutely cared abundant about pixel body as continued as I could apprehend my calendar, maps, and email, but activity aback to commodity area you can see those little squares is absolutely jarring. The detail is aloof so absent.
With still 4V photos, it’s abundant easier to see edges ghosting and accurateness problems. The awning splits the images into four angle and your eyes are declared to aces up two of them in adjustment for your academician to put calm a 3D angel like they do in absolute life.
Unfortunately, the bump of these altered frames to anniversary eye is far from perfect. I showed this to a acquaintance and she hated it. She couldn’t angle attractive at 4-View photos as they were causing her eyes to “bug out”. I can see this botheration too, both in the photos I took and the ones I activate on the HoloPix amusing network. Often, I see added of the bifold edges and devious particles than the 3D aftereffect and that’s unfortunate.
The awning gets absolute dim in 3D mode. You’ll appetite to attending at it in a adequately low-lit room. The awning reflects blaze as able-bodied and that charcoal the 3D aftereffect appealing easily.
On aboriginal boot, the buzz plays this loud complete aftereffect with a articulation that says “Hydrogen”. Well, that’s an consequence made.
You afresh see a motion logo that animates in 3D. Next, it’ll analysis for updates, not acquisition any, and afresh you’ll go through the accustomed Google sign-in screens. Alike admitting this arrangement didn’t acquisition any updates, there absolutely is a big day 1 amend to install so the aboriginal affair I did was go to the settings and chase for updates again.
RED fan reactions to aboriginal reviews panned the media for application pre-release software aback the aggregation alone bumped bottomward final images a day afore the embargo date. James Jannard absolved these reviews as sensationalist. I disagree.
In any case, alike afterwards the update, I activate it black that we’re still ambidextrous with Android 8.1 Oreo as added phones accomplish the alteration to Android 9 Pie.
The RED Hydrogen One is mostly banal Android with a scattering of custom 3D programs and a custom 3D camera app.
The Leia Loft app abundance is area you’ll acquisition accordant apps that accomplish use of the 3D screen. There are 11 amateur accessible and 5 apps, 3 of which are already pre-installed. One of them is a acknowledgment app and the 5th is below:
Holopix is an Instagram-style amusing arrangement angel administration app that supports the H4V 3D photos. Weirdly, in account mode, all the photos are circumscribed to a square, but in mural approach you can see the accomplished thing.
The Hydrogen Arrangement app has about 16 videos in it that abutment the 3D screen. Some of the videos amount money, but best are short, chargeless demos. There are options to download or beck the clip. In my experience, downloads get ashore at 1% and afresh the app crashes continuously. You accept to go into the OS settings and bright all abstracts for the app to get it alive again. Alive about works too: with a 70Mbps downlink, alive would arrest afterwards a few minutes. There’s no adumbration that it’s buffering either. It would aloof stop working.
What little agreeable there is to be had on this buzz is mostly inaccessible.
The Hydrogen One includes a adequate accumulation of Google apps as able-bodied as amusing arrangement apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. I kinda ambition I could annul some of those, but no such luck. They’re broiled in.
We additionally get a nice absence accomplishments angel as able-bodied as an figure backpack for programs advised by RED. You can tap and authority icons on the home awning in adjustment to adapt their figure styles.
Before we get into the absolute achievement of the cameras, I appetite to point out a video that CEO James Jannard acquaint on the H4V user appointment aback in September. It is a analysis by a Hollywood becloud industry able called Michael Cioni and it shows off the camera’s depth-sensing and accomplishments becloud simulation capabilities.
The botheration is that alike in that video you can acutely see how abhorrent this clarify (a.k.a. computational photography) is at appearance and abashing the accomplishments properly. It’s embarrassingly bad! Afresh again, I feel that all phones attempting to do this are embarrassingly bad at it.
I can acutely see austere appearance problems in all of those examples, yet this Hollywood able is praising the RED Hydrogen One’s camera as accepting abundant apish abyss of field.
Above is addition archetype from that video. The mistakes, which I’ve accent with red circles, are all over the place.
RED’s association admirers and Houdini beta testers on the Facebook accumulation and H4Vuser appointment anticipation that these types of problems would be anchored in the final version. Or they didn’t alike see these big bleared botheration areas on their own photos. I was agnostic that it would be anchored because I apperceive in adjustment to do abyss of acreage simulation correctly, you charge a lot added z-axis acme map resolution and becloud capabilities that can go abaft the accountable afterwards interfering with the edges.
So, let’s see how the final adaptation does.
Above is a 100% crop of two photos from the Hydrogen One. On the left, the affected bokeh approach is angry on. Now this is a absolute basal shape, but still, you can see the edges are bleeding into the accomplishments blur. In the appropriate photo (without DOF mode), you can see that the edges accept tiny accoutrement afraid out forth with added arrangement in the dejected allotment of the scarecrow. The DOF bokeh simulation acutely fails miserably.
As anon as you get a accountable that’s a little added complicated, the aftereffect becomes alike worse.
The alone way that depth-sensing accomplishments becloud clarify would be adequate is if I downsample the photo to commodity like 640×480 so that there’s not abundant resolution to accomplish out all of the mistakes. Actually, the alone added way the depth-sensing accomplishments becloud clarify would be adequate is if it was non-destructable and adored as an alpha approach forth with the abounding RGB angel so that we could use it as a starting point for a adequate mask. That’s what Adobe does with their new accountable alternative accoutrement aback they apperceive that “artificial intelligence” isn’t consistently activity to be absolutely right, alike if it’s its own Sensei engine.
RED’s DOF simulation is absolutely annihilative and basically charcoal the photos in all examples I’ve seen. If I was a able camera maker architecture a phone, I would accept deleted this affection and put added accomplishment into professional-grade capabilities.
So, what about the fuller capabilities of those 12-megapixel cameras on the back? Well, for me, this is a huge decline aback I’ve been application 40-megapixel corpuscle buzz cameras aback 2013. I thought, “This is RED though, absolutely they charge accept at atomic a absolutely adequate 12-megapixel camera, right?”
In the aloft 100% crop, we’ve got a 2D photo from the RED on the left. On the added side, we’ve got the aforementioned crop from 2010’s Nokia N8, the aboriginal buzz with a 12-megapixel camera.
Look at the bolt in the Halloween adornment or alike the neon lights in the belletrist appear the bottom. In all cases, the Nokia N8 is assuming a cleaner, added abundant image. It additionally exposes bigger than the Hydrogen One, which assault out the highlights. You can’t alike accomplish out the neon ablaze tubing.
What’s that? You anticipate we should analyze it to a added avant-garde smartphone? Okay. Here’s the aforementioned RED sample commutual with a 100% crop from the triple-camera Huawei P20 Pro on the right. We acclimated the 40-megapixel sensor here, but attempt in the congenital downsampled approach that outputs 10-megapixel images.
This one absolutely isn’t fair, but actuality we’ve got the RED Hydrogen One adjoin a RAW DNG attempt from the Lumia 1020 on the right. Obviously, the Lumia 1020 is way advanced of RED’s camera capabilities, but the affair is Nokia did it for $900 cheaper over bristles years ago.
Take a attending beneath at a few added photos attempt with the RED Hydrogen One.
It seems this camera accouterments is aloof some all-encompassing sensor. You know, commodity I’d apprehend to see on a $400 phone. I was assured commodity abundant bigger from a high-end agenda camera aggregation that makes $80,000 video cameras for Hollywood movies.
The camera software isn’t professional-grade either. Aboriginal of all, its user interface is appealing ailing designed.
The video/still approach about-face icons are adverse of what they should be, as are the H4V and 2D angel toggle switches. Aback the button says “2D” that agency you’re in 2D approach — the accepted adumbration is that acute the button will about-face users over to 2D mode. If you’re in still photo mode, you will not acquisition a camcorder icon. The button has a still camera printed on it, but that’s the one you accept to columnist in adjustment to about-face to video mode.
There is no RAW abduction approach either, so that’s a accord breaker for me. But the JPGs aren’t awfully candy if you about-face off the HDR and affected bokeh filters and you best absolutely should aback those don’t do absolute able-bodied at all.
The RED Hydrogen One has one of the bigger batteries in a smartphone at 4,500 mAh and accordingly has able-bodied added than a day’s use of array life. Obviously, this depends on how abundant you use it, but this is a actively big battery. There charge be some ability issues, though, because the array does go bottomward a lot added bound than my Huawei P20 Pro. The Huawei has a abate array but it stays abreast 100% afterwards about 3 hours of use while the RED Hydrogen One is already bottomward to 90% by then.
Since we pre-ordered the RED Hydrogen One about one-and-a-half years ago, our amount was $1,200. Today it will advertise for $1,300 on AT&T, Verizon, and the RED website. And that’s for the aluminum adaptation — the titanium adaptation costs $1,600, but it’ll be attenuate to appear by.
RED did a lot amiss with the absolution of this phone. It should not accept been appear until James Jannard knew he was activity to be able to advertise it. The aggregation should not accept taken pre-orders until it was accessible to be sold. It should not accept taken pre-order money until it had shipped. It should accept developed the buzz and amplification modules at the aforementioned time so that both would be accessible at the aforementioned time.
It shouldn’t accept been a disaster.
I’m accommodating to bet that as RED continues developing the 2D Cinema camera module, it’ll acquisition that some modifications to the buzz would be all-important to accomplish it assignment better. Do those amplification pins action abundant throughput? Is there abundant processing power? Is the appearance counterbalanced and accessible to hold? They apparently won’t apperceive until there’s a alive prototype.
The congenital cameras are absolute black too. For some reason, they added chintzy customer filters that no appreciative able columnist would accede application for annihilation added than a lark.
Is this meant for accumulation bazaar consumers or artistic professionals? I absolutely don’t know.
If it was for artistic professionals, we would accept apparent RAW support, abyss map adored in alpha channels, programmable tonal curves, bracketing, custom metadata presets, programmable book allotment conventions, custom cellophane PNG watermark overlays and maybe alike commodity as basal as chiral focus.
If this is declared to be a 3D media machine, area is the media? 16 abbreviate videos and 11 games? Yeah, it annal 3D video, but there’s no way to allotment it with anyone and to adapt it you accept to archetype the book to a absolute computer and do this awe-inspiring book renaming affair aloof to get Premiere Pro to accessible it.
It’s absolutely sad to see commodity that I’ve waited so continued for about-face out so black at such a aerial price. Allotment of me wants to accumulate this buzz about as a joke. You know, like how a absolutely bad cine can be so bad it’s good? A lot of the added RED admirers are action that this will be absolutely adequate anytime and that alarming modules will be accessible someday, so it ability be account befitting as an aboriginal adopter. Addition allotment of me can’t delay for someday. It wants my $1,200 aback so I can absorb it on commodity far added above like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. And I anticipate that allotment has won me over.
Jules Wang contributed to this article.
Adam has had interests in accumulation technology with art aback his aboriginal use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a clear designer, photographer, systems ambassador and web developer at a baby architecture close in Westchester, NY. His adulation of technology extends to software development companies who accept generally implemented his account for account and affection enhancements. Adaptable accretion has become a call for Adam aback his aboriginal Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and autograph about smartphones for Pocketnow.com aback they aboriginal appeared on the bazaar in 2002. Apprehend added about Adam Lein!
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