A periscope. An asthma inhaler. We’ve even heard the RE from HTC referred to as other things we won’t print, but one thing remains clear: HTC wants you snapping more pics. With the RE, HTC is moving past their time as a phone maker, and headlong into the world of accessories. Is the Re, which draws comparisons to devices like a GoPro, worthy of your attention, or is it another strange device we’ll soon forget? A review should answer that question nicely.

Hardware

The RE is a cylinder, bent 90-degrees about 90% of the way up. Plastic throughout, RE is about 1-inch in circumference (1.04 inches if you want to be precise), making it comfortable in-hand. On the bottom, you’ll find a micro USB port for powering the RE, and a door hiding your micro SD card slot.

At the apex of the curve, you’ll find the only thing on the RE you’ll actually interact with: a button. The silver, plastic circle is your only real visceral connection with RE, and serves as its lone button for snapping pics or taking video. More on it in a minute.

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The lens faces forward, and takes up the entire end of one side. At 16mp with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, it’s no slouch. It has a 148-degree wide angle, with f/2.8. RE is also IP57 dust and water resistant.

A small pinhole microphone is also present, as is a speaker, and a 1/4-inch female adapter sits on the bottom for tripod mounting. WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 are your connectivity options. An 820mAh battery powers you along, which HTC says gets you through 1,200 pics or 1.2 hours of continuous recording.

Software

Though there’s no display on the RE, there is software. An app, available for iOS or Android, takes you through your HTC RE’s lens, and lets you control settings or remotely control your small cam.

There’s also a means for securing the content on your RE camera. On pairing, you’ll be asked to set-up a password for your RE camera. Smart move, and gives you license to control your content should you lose your RE somewhere. We hope future app updates include a guest mode.

It’s in the app you’ll also get some granular control over things like resolution or video frame per second count. For something as simple as the RE, the app is a nice accompaniment; not too fussy, but leaves you satisfied with its capabilities.

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Use

There are two main ways to use RE: handheld and tripod mounted. Handheld, you’ll simply stroll along and snap pics at your leisure using the rear button. Mounted, you would be best served using the app to snap pics or switch to video.

The button on the RE is worth a brief discussion, here. I’m not fond of its shallow travel; it responds tacitly to your press. There is nothing to let you know RE understands you if you disallow the shutter sound, making sly pic taking a hit-and-miss proposition.

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This is only made more pronounced by RE’s sometimes slow shutter. Often, I pushed for a picture, and heard no shutter sound. A firmer press started a video, potentially ruining a moment.

With the button being less responsive than I would have liked, it seems snapping a series of pics isn’t as seamless as I’d hoped. Each time a pic was snapped, RE wanted a second to regroup before I asked it to take another. It wasn’t necessarily slow, but it wasn’t quick, either. If you want to grab 10 pics per second for a gif or something, your phone is a better option. Quick-burst snaps are also easier via the RE app.

Results

Below are some sample pics taken with RE. As you can see, it’s not hard to get some blurring if you’re not careful. Lighting also seems to be key, and close-up shots are not RE’s forte.

Without a viewfinder, RE as a handheld is pretty strange. It’s also kind of exciting, and reminds me a lot of the Polaroid Cube I tested not long ago.

Video

Below is a sample video from RE from our sister site SlashGear, filmed at its maximum resolution of 1080p at 30fps. Not bad, but not flagship smartphone quality, either.

Verdict

Two things need to be addressed, here: who is RE for, and should those folks buy one?

First, RE is for those who like to get out and have fun. If you’re a serious photographer, RE will let you down. If you like capturing life’s little moments, and need something that can stand up to elements a bit better than your phone, RE is great. You can take a dip in the pool, white-water rafting, or some other activity that could have you worried about water or debris damaging your phone.

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RE is also neat in that it can be handled single-handedly, making it useful in more circumstances than your smartphone. You could snap candid pics at a family get-together, or at a concert, all without having to stop and pose your camera for the shot.

At $199, RE is a bit heavy on the wallet for my taste. HTC recently had a one-day fire-sale on the RE, so we’re hoping one pops up again soon. If it does, RE is a good option. Even $50 cheaper, I’d say RE has a market.

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HTC wants us to think of RE differently from a GoPro or Sony’s action cams. At $199, though, that’s just not going to happen. If you’re coming out of pocket, you compare on price, and that’s the company RE has chosen to align itself with.

The RE takes good pics, and adequate video. It has a feature set that makes it really useful, and the accompanying app is simple but adequate. If RE were $99 — and it probably should be — I’d advise you snap one up. At double that, I just can’t, even though I’d like to.

Highs:
Easy one-handed use
Wide-angle lens
Ready to go right out of the box
Good landscape photo quality
Decent video quality
Tripod mount
Nice app
Waterproof

Lows:
Price
Shorter than desired battery life
Close-up shots blurry
Sensitive to lighting
Shutter button a bit flimsy