HTC 10 Preview: HTC Finally Got it Right, Maybe

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HTC is playing it safe with its new flagship smartphone, simply called HTC 10, and finally giving fans exactly what they want.

In fact, with its up-to-date specifications and advances from 2015’s flagship, the HTC One M9, the HTC 10 has potential to be the flagship for Android OS enthusiasts, as it matches the competition, and in some cases exceeds it. The HTC 10 could also mark HTC’s return to the smartphone market big leagues.

HTC 10 HTC 10

Build & Design

Compared to One M9, the 10 introduces a different and more modern design. HTC has managed to both maintain the recognizable HTC style, and still design a handset that’s aesthetically innovative. Its metal unibody features two textures – sanded down and rounded in the back, as well as smooth edges with a rectangular slope. This provides a high level of ergonomics and a premium effect.

Perhaps in a nod to market trends, the display has slightly rounded edges, very slim right and left rims, and capacitive keys on the bottom to the left and right of the physical Home key, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor. HTC finally ditched the front logo, relocating it to the rear, better equalizing the real display surface and the actual surface.

All physical control buttons sit on the right portrait side, while the serrated Power key is now easy to identify by mere touch. The only design qualm we have is with the rear-facing camera lens, as it protrudes slightly in relation to the back surface. That aside, the HTC 10 is a great-looking smartphone.

HTC 10 SIM tray

HTC 10 SIM tray

HTC 10 power button and volume rocker

HTC 10 power button and volume rocker

In addition, HTC representatives claim they have performed over 10,000 crash, scratch, corrosion, and bend tests, as well as exposed the device to low and high temperatures. HTC devices are already famous for physical reliability, and that should not change with the HTC 10.

Display

HTC 10 has a 5.2-inch Super LCD5 display with 1440 x 2560 resolution.

HTC 10 has a 5.2-inch Super LCD5 display with 1440 x 2560 resolution.

HTC 10 features a 5.2-inch Super LCD5 display with 2K resolution (1440 x 2560), which is a significant step up from its predecessor. This results in density of 564 pixels per inch. HTC claims the display offers 30 percent more colors than classic LCD. Indeed, we noticed intense saturation on the brighter portion of the spectrum. However, pastel coloring is still evident, which is something we’ve noticed with past HTC smartphones. This does in no way result of unrealistic interpretation, however. Quite the opposite in fact, HTC 10 imaging is extremely pleasant, offers immaculate sharpness, great brightness, and a sustainable contrast. Black tones are very dark, while white tones could be a bit brighter. But overall the display matches other devices in this class.

Interestingly, HTC boasts that the display response time is just 120 milliseconds, which makes it the fastest device in the world according to this specific criterion. In practice, you’ll only feel this exceptionally fast response when compared against another device. In everyday use, it’s not noticeable.

Performance, Battery, & Charger

The HTC 10 is supremely equipped on the inside. It sports the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and Adreno 530 graphics, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of data storage. It also has a microSD card slot with support for capacity up to 2TB. In our brief hands-on time with it, the HTC 10 performed fluidly as expected and remained cool.

HTC claims its 3000mAh battery offers up to two days of autonomy, provided average use. With intense use and frequent fiddling about, using various antennas and the camera, the device will always make it until the end of the day, they claim. If true, we won’t complain that the HTC 10 is a bit chunky in the middle, most likely on account of the battery.

The HTC 10 supports one of our favorite technology features, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, and ships with a quick-charge adapter. This means you can charge your battery about 80% in just 30 minutes.

And finally, the HTC 10 supports USB Type-C, the most recent and reversible USB standard.

Camera

Previous HTC flagships had cameras that left much to be desired, which is why we’re happy HTC put much focus on the HTC 10 camera. This Android smartphone has a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, officially called an UltraPixel 2 camera.

UltraPixel camera sensors have larger pixels, with each measuring 1.55 micrometers on the HTC 10. That’s larger than the 1.4 micrometer pixels found the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and S7, which operate on the same principle: larger pixels are better in low light. HTC claims that its new sensor picks up 136 percent more light than One M9, and it pairs with an f/1.8 aperture lens, OIS, laser autofocus (which is actually based on an infra-red beam and not laser) and an optional 0.6-second focus, which is 3x faster compared to One M9.

The HTC 10 has a much-improved camera.

The HTC 10 has a much-improved camera.

The HTC 10 camera has a 12-megapixel sensor.

The HTC 10 camera has a 12-megapixel sensor.

We tested the HTC 10 against the iPhone 6S Plus, comparing the images taken indoors. Indeed, the images are approximately the same when it comes to the sharpness, the level of details, color interpretation, exposure. It should be noted that the iPhone 6S Plus does not have the best camera on the smartphone market (the S7 and S7 edge hold that distinction of this writing), but it’s near the top. If HTC managed to match it, then they’ve remedied the one feature that dragged down previous HTC flagships more than any other.

Speakers

HTC has equipped the 10 with Boom Sound Hi-Fi sound edition, which includes a dual speaker (one in the lower part of the phone and the other in the same perforation as the call speaker), offers 24-bit DAC and, as HTC claims, 50x less sound distortion than the Samsung Galaxy S7 and 8x less noise. The device ships with Hi-Res Audio headphones, and the sound was truly impressive in our limited testing. Sound quality was one thing HTC got right with previous HTC One handsets, and we’re happy to see that continue here. This is also the first Android smartphone to support AirPlay for streaming to AirPlay-certified speakers and Apple TV.

Software

HTC 10Good news: HTC’s latest take on Android is clutter free, with some power-management optimizations for better battery life. Still, there are two nifty software additions.

First, the new HTC Sense comes with the so-called Freestyle themes, as well as icons and widgets that can be placed anywhere on the desktop. This frees them up from the traditional Android grid and size constraints, allowing users to create their own individual chaos. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s unique to the HTC 10.

Second, this is one of a few devices that does not ship with redundant applications. It does not have both Google and HTC applications for image galleries, camera, and web browser. In fact, there are no two apps that serve the same purpose. Of course, many native applications can be replaced by others via the Play Store, but sticking with Google apps keeps the HTC 10 cleaner than some rival devices, which have many duplicate apps that simply can’t be deleted.

Improved Flagship

The HTC 10 is an extremely improved flagship compared to the last year’s model, and it has features that make it a contender in a very competitive market. There are no major gimmicks here, just a solid Android smartphone, which is what we loved about the new Samsung Galaxies. We look forward to taking a closer look when we have a review unit, but until then we are impressed with what HTC did with its latest Android device.

The HTC 10 is now available for preorder for $699 and is expected to ship next month. It is coming to Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, but not AT&T. An unlocked version sold by HTC will work on that network, however. It will be available in black and silver in the US, while a gold HTC 10 will be available in other markets.

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