This year's flagships have been quite impressive and almost every company has impressed us in some way or the other. Now it’s HTC’s turn. The Taiwanese company has been one of the oldest Android smartphone makers and has produced some aesthetically attractive devices over the years.
The One flagship series has seen a lot of attraction which includes some of the best looking metal-body smartphones from HTC. The past two years however have not really been good for the company. It has faced tough competition in the high-end as well as the mid-range from established as well as new Chinese players.
Their new strategy this year seems to divide their devices in three categories, the lower-end ones in the Desire range, the premium range in the One series and an all rounder top of the line device, which is the HTC 10.
We took the device for a spin to see if the it can save the company from falling apart.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
HTC has taken elements from the One A9 and One M9 to create this beautiful metal smartphone that is hard to resist. The front is completely covered with glass which is slightly raised and curved to give it a smooth flowing finish. The back is all metal, including the edges which have been chamfered giving the handset a very distinctive look. It also fits very well in the hand and surprisingly doesn’t feel very heavy for a metal smartphone.
Looking at the prominent elements, you get a big slit above the display which houses the one part of the dual stereo speakers and the earpiece. Apart from that, there is a large front camera and a notification LED. Below the display is a capacitive type fingerprint scanner accompanied by the back and multitasking buttons which light up as you touch them. The fingerprint scanner also acts as the home button.
On the right edge you will find the SIM tray and very solid looking volume rocker and power/lock buttons. On top edge is the headphone jack, the microSD card tray on the left and on the bottom edge is the microphone, a USB Type-C port and the second half of the stereo speakers. Moving to the back you will notice very familiar looking antenna bands on the top and bottom, the camera which is slightly raised along with a dual-LED flash, a laser guided autofocus mechanism and a rear microphone. One feature that is probably missing is waterproofing, although it is IP53 rated so it can withstand a few splashes.
The smartphone is very well polished and it is easily one of the best looking and well built smartphones of 2016.
You get top of the line features on the HTC 10 which you might see on most of the flagships smartphones that were launched this year including a Snapdragon 820 processor which comes with four Kyro cores, two clocked at 2.15GHz and two at 1.6GHz. There’s an Adreno 530 GPU for graphics as well 4GB of RAM which sounds pretty good for handling multitasking.
For storage you get 32GB of inbuilt memory and you get an option of expanding it further using a microSD card as there is a dedicated slot. There is a 5.2-inch quad-HD (2560x1440) resolution display with a curved glass finish, a 12MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, a fingerprint scanner and a 3,000mAh battery. Connectivity wise you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C, A-GPS, GLONASS, NFC and DLNA. Surprisingly there is no FM Radio onboard.
Last year HTC chose to have a more subtle 5-inch 1080p display on the One M9 and then it went on to confuse Indian consumers by not launching the phone at all, rather the company gave us the One M9+, E9+ and ME with quad-HD (2560x1440) resolution displays. This year the HTC 10 comes with a 5.2-inch quad-HD display utilising a brand new 5th-gen Super LCD panel.
The display looks brilliant and comes very close to Samsung's Super AMOLED with nice contrast and saturation levels. It is probably the second best display on a smartphone available in the market today. Colours are quite accurate and the dynamic range also seems excellent. Viewing angles are also impressive although at a certain angle we noticed RGB bands, but they aren't very distracting.
In terms of brightness it can keep up with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S7 or even the LG G5 in most situations, although under direct sunlight it seems to struggle a bit. And since we are talking about flagships, the HTC 10 lacks one feature that both of the above mentioned smartphones offer, always on display. Sure it isn't a deal breaker, but it is nice to have.
Probably one of the most prominent changes for HTC's flagship this year has been the software. The company has worked closely with Google to improve its UI since the earlier versions haven’t been able to hit the right spot. Running on top of Android 6.0.1, the new Sense UI is lighter than ever. It feels almost stock like and is very fast and fluid. HTC has removed a bunch of its own apps and replaced them with the ones that Google offers, for instance the gallery app is now replaced by Google Photos, even the calculator, calendar and browser. This is good to see as you don't have to juggle between multiple apps serving the same purpose and it brings a lighter and smoother experience.
You still get Blinkfeed, HTC’s news and social media aggregator that sits to the left of your home screen. Pretty useful if you don't want to go through multiple apps, although we did notice that you cannot add your Facebook or Instagram accounts anymore, that's a bummer. As usual, you can completely turn Blinkfeed off. There is also an app called Boost+ which has started creeping up on almost all new HTC devices. The app is supposed to keep the smartphone stabilised by clearing caches and junk files and also lets you secure apps with your fingerprint.
If you like using themes, then you are in luck as you do get the option to apply themes and even download a few. There are also ‘Freestyle layout themes’ which transform your homescreen into an interactive page with objects and items replacing traditional icons to open apps. I'm not a big fan of this, but it's fun to play around with them.
HTC’s new flagship offers top of the line hardware to power it including the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, clocked at 2.15 GHz with an Adreno 530 GPU and 4GB of RAM. Now we know that hardware plays a vital role, but having a heavy UI over the OS ruins the experience. Thankfully HTC has addressed that with its new Sense UI which it lighter than ever.
We didn't face any issues at any point of time. Even after opening 20 apps in one go, there were no app crashes or loading problems. Everything from gaming to day-to-day usage felt smooth, apps open fast and even the gaming experience was satisfying thanks to the impressive frame rates. The smartphone runs cool mostly, but we did notice heating when you put the handset on charging or when you are using your mobile network with GPS for longer durations (hint: Pokemon GO).
Synthetic benchmarks proved that the HTC 10 is no slouch. Most of the tests including AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 3 pointed out that the handset has a lot of capability. Having said that, most of the results were a tad or two lower than the Galaxy S7 edge and even the OnePlus 3.
Other performance aspects including call quality, data connectivity and even Wi-Fi work flawlessly. Sound quality was one thing that we were looking out for and it's more of a mixed bag. While you do get impressive audio quality thanks to the built-in 24-bit DAC through earphones, the new speaker setup is just above average, it is quite crisp but not too loud like the early BoomSound front-firing speakers.
HTC has not had a very good reputation when it comes to the camera. In the past we have seen the company experiment with dual-lens setup and even lower resolutions with its ‘Ultrapixel’ technology. But we were left with slow camera apps, overexposed pictures and unpredictable autofocus.
This time there is a new 12MP camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor with 1.55µm pixels, an f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser autofocus, 12-bit Raw support and 4K video along with 720p 120fps slow-motion video. On the front there is a 5MP with an f/1.8 aperture and 1.34µm pixel size along with OIS, a first on any front facing camera on a smartphone. Sounds impressive, but is it worth?
Clearly it is the best camera that HTC has put on any of its smartphones. There is an updated camera app which is surprisingly good. You get a Pro mode, support for RAW images, slow-mo, hyperlapse, panorama, all packed nicely and easily accessible in drawer placed on the left.
The camera certainly has the capability to shoot good look pictures outdoors as well as indoors. Thanks to the f/1.8 aperture, you get a nice depth of field as well. Colours are accurate and even sharpness is on spot. Noise is controlled well in most of the pictures but low-light images do tend to lose details. There is also a noticeable haze and undersaturation in some pictures, although that isn't a huge issue. Both HDR and panorama work very well and yes you do get auto-HDR mode.
There is still one issue that HTC has not address and it is with overexposure. If you have a light source in your pictures, or a subject who has even the smallest light in the background, it just blows up the highlights, in turn ruining the whole exposure of the picture. The only way to tackle it is by using exposure compensations, but that again is not a real solution.
In the video department, you get 4K video recording which looks really impressive and stable. For slow-mo lovers, there is 120fps recording on board which doesn't look shabby at all, although a 240fps mode would have made it far more interesting.
The front camera is pretty good though and can capture some neat looking selfies thanks to the OIS and a large aperture opening. If you like shooting selfies, this will definitely impress you.
HTC has improved in the camera department, but it isn't all that impressive. Compared to the iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung Galaxy S7 it isn't really up there. It is however somewhere close to the camera we tested on the OnePlus 3.
The HTC 10 comes with 3,000mAh battery which is similar to most of the flagships that have been launched this year. On average usage it churns out about a day of charge but if you can push the limits and use the battery saver, you could save some for the second day. The handset gave about 3-4 hours screen-on time and yes the doze feature works well as we noticed a only drop of 4 percent when left overnight. HTC says that the handset supports Quick Charge 3.0 through its USB Type-C port, claiming to fully charge the phone in an hour. We couldn't test it though as the unit we received didn't come with a charger or a charging cable. We did however try charging it with a Nexus 6P charger only ending up boiling it.
Verdict and Price in India
HTC has always been known as the brand that makes good looking smartphones. It hasn’t really made a smartphone that is not only good looking but also delivers an excellent performance package. The HTC 10 comes really close to that ambition. It maintains the elegant metal design and is almost as powerful as most of the flagship smartphones out there. The software is lighter, more fluid while still maintaining that HTC charm. Even the camera sees a far better capability compared to older generations.
But today, consumers are looking for more. Better than the best, which is something that the HTC 10 does not promise. We are not saying that it is a bad smartphone, in fact it is one of the top five flagship smartphones to buy today, however if you are looking for the best, maybe try the iPhone 6s Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
The 32GB variant was launched at Rs 48,990 but there are places where you can get your hands on the device for about Rs 45,000, of course only if you can’t resist the HTC styling.
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