RED Hydrogen One Review

What's up guys mkbhd here and this is the red hydrogen one and it's this is a really weird phone and a lot of ways there have been so many questions about this thing is a really a $1,295 device i new red cameras are expensive but why is the phone so expensive what's so good about it is it like a red camera in your pocket who is it for what makes it special what is a holographic media machine and why does this exist you got questions I got answers and I've actually been in the unique position of not only using the phone for the past couple months but actually seeing and following along with the development of it behind the scenes for almost as long you guys might remember the video I did on the early prototype of the hydrogen back and it was still somewhat of an idea

I was into it I shared it red wanted to share with you what they were working on with the world but since then a lot has changed and it's all landed on this the final retail shipping version of the red hydrogen one and as it exists it is the most frustrating phone that I've bought this year [Music] so as a smartphone this thing is pretty scattered it definitely doesn't resemble any other phone in pretty much any way on the outside like it clearly doesn't fit in with the 2018 glass sandwich design and notches and actually think it's perfectly fine being different I would describe this as more of a modern industrial look it's a huge phone first of all it has only a 5.7 inch display which we'll talk a lot more about in a bit but it's not the biggest screen out there but it has the huge bezels around it there's a giant forehead and a chin with big speakers in them and we'll also talk a lot about those and a pretty serious looking array of front-facing cameras and sensors and an LED notification light and then the back is this two-tone look with exposed carbon fiber and aluminum and just open seams and ridges and textures and there's also a lot of text all around this phone so it looks and feels industrial and then you have this whole rubberized side grip which with my hands is fine the way I hold the phone

But yeah it's basically the opposite of an iPhone as far as build and slipperiness goes matter of fact here's my little anti plug don't put Adi brand skin on it don't put a case on it it feels like it already has a case on it it's built like an absolute tank it turns out that's a big reason why this phone cost $1,300 these materials the carbon fiber and metal but beyond that there's pretty much no other reason why someone would spend that much on this phone let's get into all the other things it's a big phone like I said and it makes a pretty good use of that space keeping a headphone jack up at the top the microSD card slot USB see at the bottom and it's packed in a 4500 milliamp hour battery so the biggest in any phone I've tested so far no IP rating yet though but they say they're working on it probably because of those exposed pins on the back I'll tweet or share an update if they do get approved for IB 68 or 67 or something like that but then on the inside since this phone's been in development for a year now it's using specs from a year ago so Snapdragon 835 six gigs of ram 128 gigs of storage and expandable and that huge battery so yes you did hear that right I said Snapdragon 835 not Snapdragon a 45 and to be honest if you just handed me a phone and asked me if I could tell if it was the eight five or 8:45 I probably wouldn't but when you're spending $1,295 minimum for this phone you kind of expect the latest and greatest highest end hardware and that's not what you're getting here but to be real the performance is actually fine as it should be because there's pretty much no skin or any sort of heavy customization happening here I've always said staying near stock Android is great for both performance and hopefully quick updates so I can confirm on performance but there's no word on Android P for this phone but I've gotten maybe seven or eight software updates since I started testing pretty much all of them have been camera related though but yeah basically the only customization we'll find in the hydrogen software is this red launcher which is actually pretty good it feels like Nova Launcher and has a lot of options and then some ugly custom icons and some pre-installed apps for holographic content but yeah that's why the performance and battery life are actually good the software is simple enough and you've got six years of RAM okay so this is the part where we should address the frustrating part of this phone what is a holographic media machine why is that the tagline for this phone well

It's because of three things the display the speakers and the cameras on this phone they're all specialized for something called four views so let's start with the display it's a 5.7 inch panel like I said LCD 2560 by 1440 so pretty high pixel density and through normal use in 2d mode normal mode it seems pretty good colors and contrasts are on point at first glance the viewing angles are good but I'll get back to that in a second what's unique is this special mode a glasses list 3d that works in portrait or landscape with specially formatted content for view content holographic content so don't let the word holographic fool you that's just like one of their marketing terms it's not like there's stuff like floating out over the display like a hologram and then in a no it's it's still a very much what you'd expect out of a glasses list 3d experience it's all on the display but it's more about depth and it's sometimes pretty good now obviously cameras don't show it pretty much at all so sadly I can't give you this experience this is kind of the best I can do but my best attempt at describing what you should be seeing is it's like this sort of shimmery trippy 3d depth effect that you can see when you look at it head-on I actually think when it's used well and content is shot for for view it's actually pretty good I've showed this to a couple people and their reactions have been more or less impressed when there's content specifically like I said made for this format things will sort of pop out of the screen and appear to fly at you like a 3d movie it's a good 3d effect it's fun some content doesn't look good though especially when it's more flat or there's less separation between a foreground and a background or if it's just poorly converted it just looks like a sort of a lame pixelated version of normal footage so it's hit or miss in this way but like any 3d effect also you don't really want to look at it for too long I fatigue is real hologram holographic is the word they use but it's it's hard to explain and it's kind of trippy whoa dude this is weird and there's there's different like so there's a movie trailer version of it where there's like things coming towards you and I think that's maybe the best use of it I've seen it's impossible to show on camera I've tried many different times no this will never show up on camera this yeah this is odd yeah okay so it has this cool mode but now as a result you also have some other downsides of the display a couple actually the fact that it works in portrait or landscape is pretty cool most 3d effects only work with the display one orientation but because of the hardware layer that makes this possible the brightness specifically suffers quite a bit so the hydrogen-1 screen just does not get very bright and then in 2d or regular mode you'll notice it looks I would describe it as kind of pixelated and I don't even have to pixel peep very hard to notice it especially on white backgrounds that again is because of that hardware layer this display tech so the 513 pixels per inch kind of doesn't mean that much if I'm constantly seeing what looks like these dots on the screen all the time look at this side-by-side with the pixel 3 display that's a big difference now the interesting news here is I asked Jim from read about this and he says that it's a combination of part hardware part software and that it can technically be improved with software updates and that it used to be worse and that it's gotten better to the point that it exists now I want to believe I want to believe that it can keep getting better to the point where it's almost totally gone but I don't know but what I'm gonna do is actually I'll post the entire little mini interview I did with Jim founder of red and you can hear exactly what he has to say for it his very PR answers or whatever but I'll link it right below the like button if you're interested in hearing that but yeah it's it's just I I can trust my eye about what I observe and then you can listen to what he says so that's the display and then you have these speakers flanking it they are also optimized for for view now in a big phone like this like maybe a razor phone or a pixel three I'm bracing myself for amazing speakers right like they they have these these huge spaces for big drivers they're not going to be easy to block I'm ready to be really happy with these speakers pull up some audio anything music games video whatever and the speaker on the hydrogen one isn't even louder than average [Applause] this speaker doesn't sound that great I put the volume all the way up to max and to be fair it doesn't distort much so that's an upside but it's also really lacking and a little bit tinny kind of sounds like a big weak laptop speaker in the first place it's a pretty big letdown to me there is one setting you can tweak though and it's called 3d audio and when you toggle it on it gets even worse now the 3d effect it creates is actually noticeable so then you start to hear the left and right stereo separation the sort of pseudo surround sound effect that you'd be similar to hearing on an iPhone but it's not that good and it's even more tinny now and still not very loud and then on the back there are those cameras this was one of the original reasons I was so excited when I heard red was making a smart phone like the space was getting interesting we had the pixel

That was kind of the king of cameras for a while that iPhone 10's step their game up and then pixel three sort of expanded their lead we have all these other cameras with these multiple lenses and multiple cameras on the front and the back and then we heard red a specialty camera maker that I obviously love was gonna step in and make a smart phone which would have cameras on it this should be amazing I'm ready for this and well it turns out these cameras are just they're okay they're just okay it is dual 12 megapixel cameras in the hump of the back dual LED flash and the cameras are spaced out far enough apart for death detection and I've been sharing actually photos from hydrogen camera here and there for the better part of a couple months now among multiple software updates and are rapidly evolving color science and camera app but here's the thing to understand red doesn't make this camera this is a like an off-the-shelf camera probably a Sony IMX sensor or something like that the same kind you see in a bunch of other smartphones so the best that red can do is what they can get out of this sensor and their improvements in color science and HDR and software but Red's cameras like the one I'm using for this video are so incredible because red is so good and making the silicon the actual sensor that's used to shoot and then they control the entire image processing pipeline and they make the camera and the software and everything so they control the entire end-to-end but here with the hydrogen like I said they don't make these sensors they're just doing the best they can with off-the-shelf parts and software so if you were expecting some sort of extreme read quality camera built into the smartphone that's not what you're getting here hold that thought until the end so yeah photos from the hydrogen's built-in camera are all right there they're solid with color and dynamic range I left HDR turned on the whole time often Reds became a little bit muddy sharpness was pretty much always good but photos in general we're just hit or miss basically you have to give it a lot of light and it'll do fine but things start to fall apart in less than ideal conditions this isn't drastically better or worse than something I'd expect out of like a 1 plus 60 and obviously software updates will continue to make tweaks and adjustments over time but that's just where we're at now of course red is mostly known for their video cameras so how good is the 4k video here again with the built-in stuff pretty good but nothing exceptional or unbelievable again think 1 + 6 level or even LGV 40 level on a good day nothing to write home about at this point so the camera can also as you imagine capture more for view content both on the back with the dual cameras or even a for view selfie with the front-facing array so really read cares a lot about this for view maybe to a fault there is a whole solid inventory of content shot for for view some trailers and some cinematic footage and stuff like that it's great for demos and that's what I've been showing people and there's also an entire app store filled with apps and games that support the holographic display mode but if I'm looking at this right it looks like there's only about 20 apps in the whole store and while that probably is necessary for delivering for view content with the special mode - hydrogen buyers I guess you can't do through the Play Store I guess it's fine it just it just looks weird that you need a whole separate app store and a whole separate content store just for supporting for view like YouTube doesn't support for view for example and as far as photos no other phone out there can view for view photos either but to see what other people with hydrogens are shooting there's this app that actually like called hollow pix it's kind of like an Instagram but just for the 3d for view photos there's a lot of cool stuff on here that people are shooting but there's basically just a couple hundred users at this point just people with hydrogen's I have four followers on here so I check me out but also I've gone down through the list now you've probably noticed there aren't really a whole lot of overwhelmingly positive things to say about this $1,295 phone as it exists right now the one and only upside that I could possibly think of to save this phone and actually what makes it so frustrating is red what I didn't talk about her mentioned even at all in this video is the pins down here at the bottom of the back of the phone these exposed pin arrays similar to what we've seen on like moto phones as they've experimented with modularity are a sort of an unlockable key that hasn't been turned yet at the bottom of red site they have a whole section about modules expandable storage camera module and power pack modules all coming in 2019 so you can see you know a power pack module for extra battery life on the already huge battery or an expandable storage module for adding even more storage again pretty simple or the camera module the cinema module which would be adding a custom read made sensor and an interchangeable lens mount which would turn this via that that's what we want that would make this the red camera in your pocket that we were originally excited about from top to bottom read silicon interchangeable lens mount smartphone form factor that would totally level up this device

But as of right now that's just a complete fantasy that just exists in the text on that page for now I even asked Jim about this as well and he just confirmed what it already says on the site which is just 2019 sometime in 2019 I think I think there's really basically just two ways to think about this phone depending on how you feel about red this one is either an overpriced total flop with last year's specs and some gimmicky 3d or this is some revolutionary upcoming modular device somewhere between a smartphone and a portable cinema camera with this virtual reality moe - it all wrapped in one thing you probably already know which side to stand on as of right now there's honestly no way to recommend this phone for $1,300 like imagine this phone without red attached to it at all without the red label or the red name on it this is at that point just some hopeless like random Android phone probably a $400 device with no hope of ever getting modules but with red behind it if you trust red if you respect red and you think they're gonna stay behind this then this could be a really interesting device in the next year the only redeeming quality is the potential for future improvement if you trust red and I wanted this phone to be so good and parts of it are pretty good but as a complete package there's only a tiny sliver of people I could say should actually buy it as is and even those people should probably wait and save your money so I'll be waiting for the modules or hydrogen - whichever comes first either way that's been it thanks for watching talk to guys the next one base


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