HTC 10 Smartphone Review: Much-Needed Improvement

by Reads (1,054)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 8
      • Ease of Use
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Value
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.40
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Credible and modern metal unibody
    • Exceptional performance
    • Sense UI eliminates redundant apps
    • Great audio
  • Cons

    • Battery only average
    • Thick and heavy considering the display size
    • Lacks water and dust resistance

Quick Take

The HTC 10 is a huge step up from the HTC One M9, and it fits in well with a market saturated with excellent handsets.

There are such slim differences between flagship smartphones that device makers can’t get away with compromise. Just ask HTC, which has a history of compromising its flagships, and a sinking market share to show for it.

This means HTC’s 2016 flagship, simply called 10, needs to be more interesting, attractive and desirable. HTC played the all or nothing card, making what it believes to be  the ultimate phone. Where HTC once lagged behind the competition, the HTC 10 smartphone now matches or surpasses in most cases.

It sports the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, along with 4GB of RAM, a 5.2-inch QHD display,  redesigned body (finally!), 3000mAh battery, QuickCharge 3.0, excellent built-in DAC, 12-megapixel UltraPixel camera (again, finally!), selfie-camera with OIS, and HTC’s Sense UI largely purified of unnecessary bloatware. Of course, HTC 10 has its flaws as well, but those simply make the HTC 10 an excellent smartphone, rather than a perfect handset. Get the full run-down in this HTC 10 review.

Build & Design

The HTC 10 represents a big step up from the HTC One M9.

The HTC 10 smartphone represents a big step up from the HTC One M9.

HTC handsets have long had credible, modern, and robust designs, mostly with a metal unibody. The HTC 10 smartphone is not an exception. HTC nailed the balance keeping things just familiar enough to maintain the brand, with changing enough to suggest the HTC 10 is a new product. In hand, it’s clear that this is a premium-class smartphone, even more so than with other flagships from 2016.

In designing the 10, HTC mustn’t have been too occupied with crafting an ultra-thin device. The HTC 10 is rather chubby and heavy for a 5.2-inch phone, measuring 5.74 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches, and weighing 5.68 ounces. Its weight is noticeable in hand, mostly due to the metal build that HTC carved from a single piece. This, despite the fact it’s dual-textured, with smooth edges and a sanded back cover. It’s not dust or water resistant, unfortunately.

The front houses the camera, speaker for making phone calls, notification LED, and several sensors above the display, while the Home key sits under the screen with its built-in fingerprint reader. The entire surface is covered with Gorilla Glass 4 and has slightly rounded rims. The fingerprint reader also awakens the phone from stand-by mode and is exceptionally fast and sensitive. This also makes it easy for the user to activate it by accident. But fortunately, the feature can be turned off. The capacitive Back and Tasks keys are located along the bottom display edge as well, and are not on-display icons as found on other Android smartphones.

The HTC 10 is relatively thick and heavy.

The HTC 10 is relatively thick and heavy.

The rear houses the camera lens, LED flash, and the “laser” focus (despite HTC’s label, it’s actually infrared), as well as the HTC logo. The upper portion holds an audio jack, and a black plastic cover which enables antenna signals. It looks like HTC ditched the IR blaster, which was typically located here on previous HTC flagships. The lower portion includes the USB Type-C connector, speaker, and secondary microphone. The Power key, volume rocker, and the nanoSim card slot are located on the right side, while the left side only reveals the microSD card slot.

The HTC 10 has a USB Type-C input.

The HTC 10 has a USB Type-C input.

Display

The HTC 10 has a slick metal unibody.

The HTC 10 has a slick metal unibody.

The HTC 10 smartphone features a 5.2-inch QHD Super LCD5 display (1440 x 2560 pixels), resulting in density of 564 pixels per inch. LCD5 offers richer colors than classic LCD, and this is evident in the more vibrant areas of the spectrum, which appear fuller and feature a more intense saturation. As the case was with the previous HTC models, pastel colors remain emphasized by default, but HTC included software calibration tools for tweaking.

The HTC 10 imaging is very pleasant, generally speaking. It offers immaculate sharpness, as expected, high brightness, and above average contrast. Black tones are very dark, but whites could be whiter. Glare presents the biggest issues, and other flagships do a better job of cutting through direct sunlight.

Response time is noteworthy, coming in at just 120ms. That makes the HTC 10 the fastest in the world. This extremely fast response is more apparent in direct comparisons with rival devices than when experienced on its own, which is to say it’s easy to dismiss the benefits. But it does combine with the other HTC 10 features to achieve the smartphone’s high level of usability and user satisfaction.

Performance

The specs are top of the line, as far as 2016 smartphones are concerned. The phone features Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 820, with two cores running a 2.15GHz clock and two running a 1.6GHz clock, all equipped with Adreno 530 graphics, 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of memory storage. Its memory storage can be expanded with microSD cards up to 2 TB.

Its power is unmistakable in real usage, as well as benchmark results. The HTC 10 smartphone scored 2362 (single-core) and 5259 (multi-core) in the Geekbench 3 test, rivaling output from the Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s, and LG G5.

Battery Life

The 3000mAh battery provides only average autonomy. On our HTC 10 review unit, the battery enabled 6 hours and 59 minutes of video streaming over Wi-Fi with the display brightness maxed out. Most rival devices best this by about 10%.  With regular use, the device will have no trouble lasting from early morning until late in the evening on a single charge.

When it does need a charge, it can go from dead to 80% battery in 30 minutes thanks to Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. It also stays cool during charging, unlike previous versions of the technology.

Camera & Sound

HTC 10 UltraPixel camera

HTC 10 UltraPixel camera

Previous HTC flagships had rear camera performance that paled in comparison to rival device output. So HTC did the right thing with the HTC 10 to address this deficiency. The device now comes with the so-called UltraPixel 2 rear camera, with the maximum resolution of 12 megapixels. UltraPixel is a term HTC introduced three years ago that signifies the camera sensor has larger photosensitive cells, technically 1.55 micrometers in the case of the HTC 10. These larger cells have more surface area to capture light, and perform better than smaller cells in low-light situations. Samsung did something similar with the S7 and S7 edge. Furthermore, the camera is equipped with f/1.8, OIS, and “laser autofocus” (which again, is based on an infrared).

Needless to say, the HTC 10 smartphone camera is measurably better than the HTC One M9 camera. This is mostly evident with night photography, and other low-light situations. Here, you see above-average detail and below-average noise. That, combined with the sharpness and color interpretation boosts the HTC 10.

It isn’t perfect, though. Photographs suffer poor dynamic range by default (especially those taken at night). Granted, the Google Play Store is full of apps that can fix this, but it’s enough to keep the HTC 10 camera a step below the LG G5 and the new Samsung Galaxies

We typically don’t put much stock in smartphone sound output. But good sound output can make a decent handset better, and the HTC 10 is great in this category. We’ve long praised the BoomSound speakers as being the best or the mobile device bunch, and now the HTC 10 features an integrated 24-bit DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and headphones amp. It will take a decent set of headphones to hear the benefit, but it’s there.

Sample Picture

HTC 10 smartphone - sample photo

A photo taken with our HTC 10 review unit

Software

Our HTC 10 review unit shipped with Android OS 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), along with HTC’s Sense UI. HTC developed the latest Sense UI in collaboration with Google, with the benefit being no redundant apps. For instance, the Gmail app is the only email client and Chrome is the only web browser. This is great, as it reduces app clutter (a common Android complaint), and we hope other device makers follow HTC’s lead.

The HTC 10 also has Apple AirPlay support for wireless streaming to AirPlay speakers and Apple TV. While other Android OS phones supported AirPlay before HTC 10, it relied on external apps, and it was always poorly executed. The HTC 10 has AirPlay support integrated at a system level, which makes streaming multimedia content from the phone utterly simple and intuitive.

Conclusion

Of all the 2016 flagships, the HTC 10 takes the biggest step forward from its 2015 predecessor. To be fair, it had a lot of room there, given how stunted the line had become in recent years.

The HTC 10 represents a big step up from the HTC One M9.

Given that the competition stepped up its game this year, the HTC 10 smartphone cannot fairly be called the best flagship on the market. Taking into account all its features and flourishes reveals that it’s close though, and much closer than it was at this point in 2015.

Pros:

  • Credible and modern metal unibody
  • Exceptional performance
  • Sense UI eliminates redundant apps
  • Great audio

Cons:

  • Battery only average
  • Thick and heavy considering the display size
  • Lacks water and dust resistance


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