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Hands-on with the RED Hydrogen One at New York Comic Con

By Adam Z. Lein October 5, 2018, 6:00 pm

I fondly remember pre-ordering the RED Hydrogen One back in the summer… of 2017!

Yeah, this cinematography company has had my $1,300 for over 15 months with nothing to show for it. At least now, while I’m at New York Comic Con 2018, I finally get to see an actual physical sample of the phone. Now, these models are not the final phones that will be released in November —  just early development versions. We’re not even talking about the Houdini models that were sent to some of the pre-order customers who volunteered to forfiet their pre-orders to be beta testers and get early access to the devices.


Red had their own booth at NY Comic Con 2018 with a van and a small, un-lit tent.  Both the van and tent were showing off the glasses-free 3D display so that attendees could get a taste of the holography on the new phone.

The RED Hydrogen One refreshingly doesn’t look like any other phone on the market today. Although the camera cookie area does look kind of like something Motorola does.

Speaking of Motorola, there is also a set of contact pins on the back. These are meant for expansion packs (modules) just like what Motorola does with their Moto Mods.  There aren’t currently any modules available and there won’t be at launch either.  The one that I’m personally most looking forward to is the Cinema 2D module which will allow attaching regular DSLR camera lenses and will include its own imaging sensor. It will supposedly support Nikon, Sony, and Canon lenses, but perhaps those will require either different module versions or different mounting adapters.

Also on the back we’ve got the RED Hydrogen logo which is pretty eye catching and prominant.  There’s also a “Lit by Leia” badge that’s referring to the Leia 4-view glasses-free 3D display.  I’ll talk about that a little later.

It’s great to see a new phone with a dedicated camera button as you can see in the above photo as indicated by the red dot. It’s kind of a small button though.  Doesn’t feel quite as nice as the dedicated camera button on the old Lumia 1020‘s camera grip attachment, but it’s better than nothing, and certainly better than using a volume key.  The flat area on this edge is where the fingerprint sensor is. Personally, I think this is a great location for the fingerprint sensor as your finger is probably going to hold the phone in this position anyway.

The other edge also has these grippy indentations and fins along with two big volume up/down buttons. I love the big volume buttons. Too often we get phones with just a tiny sliver volume rocker that’s difficult to feel for. You’re going to be able to have some excellent motor memory for these volume buttons!

The grips along the edges really make the phone easy to hold.  It’s much more comfortable than the thin & shiny phones that are popular these days.

The industrial design here is pretty great too. It looks like the screw holes holding the thing together are covered by little “H” covers.

The top bezel has a whole slew of sensors as well as the stereo cameras for recording “4V” 3D content. I tried out the selfie camera and could see myself in 3D right on the screen. It was extreemely cool! There will be a 3D video calling app for this phone at some point so that you can 3D video call other people who have the same device.

Do you like phones with thin bezels? This isn’t one of them. But look at that cool “RED” logo in the bottom chin!  Oh, also, we’ve got some great speakers in there. At least, according to the spokespeople at the RED NYCC booth here.  My demo required headphones, and the show floor was probably too loud to get a sample of the speakers anyway.

The RED Hydrogen One runs Android of course and the company has done some launcher and icon-pack customizations as well as adding some 4V 3D specific bundled apps.

Above is a 2D photo of the 2D view of a photo shot with the Hydrogen One’s camera. I wasn’t allowed to photograph the 3D mode because regular 2D cameras don’t pickup the 3D effect properly. Actually, the 2D camera seems to pick up multiple off-set frames from the 3D image and it doesn’t look good at all, so that’s why you aren’t going to see that here.

The stereo cameras on the back are both 12 megapixels, and I didn’t get to seriously test them, but I played with the camera app a bit. There are some manual controls where you can change the ISO and shutter speed via sliders. You can also change the resolution of course. Unfortunately there was no RAW mode in the camera software, so I imagine it will only output compressed JPGs and H4V formats. That’s disappointing. As a professional, I would certainly want more post-processing control.

In the end, the Comic Con demo consisted of wearing some headphones and looking at a 3D sizzle reel showing alot of 3D animation content created by RED partners.  It looked great, but tilting the screen I could see frame offsets pretty easily.  I can’t remember how the screens looked on the old HTC EVO 3D and LG Thrill 3D phones that we reviewed here long ago (back during the previous 3D screen phone trend), but I’m pretty sure this is a bit better. I only got to see a couple minutes of 3D content as well, so I’m not sure if it will cause headaches like some other glasses-free 3D screens can do. I’m still looking forward to my pre-order finally shipping someday so I can really put it through its paces though.


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