HTC 10 review - refreshing with spectacular audio


HTC 10 review - refreshing with spectacular audio

The HTC 10 is here and there are big plans for this brand new flagship. Find out how it fares in our full review.

The HTC 10 is the follow up to 2015’s HTC One M9 but the streamlined name has significance. This model is about pushing the brand up to 10 in every way possible, and it’s a way to break from the awkward naming convention and refresh after the somewhat disappointing previous model.

To that end, HTC has spent a serious amount of time listening to customer feedback and focussing on important elements like camera, audio and design.

The HTC is a 5.2 inch smartphone which recalls the unibody design of the series but refreshes the form factor with a chamfered edge that’s easy to grip and also scatters light in a very attractive way.

No other manufacturer is producing phones that look like this, which continues to be a positive point amid a sea of similar looking handsets. The matte finish back feels good and the branding is subtle and understated.

It all feels very solid, and the 5.2 inch size makes it perfect for one handed use – something that we’ve almost forgotten in a world of 5.5 inch handsets. The wake/sleep button handily falls to the thumb and the action on the volume rocker is good.

HTC has included a fingerprint scanner which is located under the home button and it’s one of the fastest we’ve tested. Setting up a digit takes less than a minute and you can wake and unlock the phone in a single smooth motion.

Work has gone into lowering the touchscreen lag and every input certainly seemed faultless, no doubt helped by the high quality specs under the hood. That includes the latest Quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor and a massive 4 gigs of RAM.

Really that means you’ll never have to worry about slowdown – there simply isn’t an app or game out there that can make the 10 struggle. That’s made even less likely by the handy app called Boost+.

This performs duties like cleaning up un-needed files and freeing RAM that’s not being used properly. It also kills errant processes and can be used to get better performance out of games by lowering the resolution. It’s a genuinely useful process to run at regular intervals.

HTC has been talking up the camera and audio performance of the 10, so let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.

The rear camera is a 12 UltraPixel model which sees the return of the larger pixels with a much higher resolution. Together with an f1.8 aperture, laser autofocus, optical image stabilisation and a dual tone flash this is a comprehensive camera package.

HTC submitted this camera to the DXO site ahead of release where it scored a pretty stunning 88, putting it level with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge at the top of the pack.

That score is all well and good, but how does it fare out in the real world?

Pretty well, all things considered. One of the best parts of the camera experience is that the app opens quickly and is very streamlined – just tap to focus and press the shutter to take a picture.

Additional options, like the returning Zoe camera plus panorama, hyperlapse and slow motion video are all a tap away and zooming and adjusting exposure on the fly is a breeze.

There’s a full manual mode which offers white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and focus, though it’s a little finicky to get things sharp. It can also shoot RAW files for extra editing options later and do some basic enhancements on the fly which were very impressive indeed.

Low light performance is the holy grail of smartphone photography and the HTC 10 makes many great claims. While it’s certainly more capable than some mobile cameras, the results are still likely to disappoint some users.

So while you might be able to grab that shot, there’s a good chance of excessive noise, especially if you’re zooming or cropping. Focussing can still be tough and that flash remains next to useless at any distance.

It isn’t a bad camera by any means, and the pro mode and RAW capture are welcome additions. You can take very impressive shots with the HTC 10, just don’t think it’s going to replace your DSLR or even a point and shoot any time soon.

The front-facing camera has its own trick, being the first selfie cam to include optical image stabilisation. That means better shots in all lighting even when you’re moving around and a steadier image during video capture, which all works really well.

On the video side, there’s 4K video capture which looks smooth and eats up storage and also includes manual touch focussing on the fly. And the slow mo video at 120 frames and 720p is particularly sharp and retains that lovely distorted audio.

Speaking of audio, this is where the 10 really excels. Despite rumours of its demise, BoomSound is back and with a few changes.

There are still two speakers located at the front at the top and on the bottom side. The first has been reconfigured as a tweeter while the second now works as a woofer, bringing high notes and bass in equal measure.

The result is some seriously meaty audio straight from the device, which manages to remain clear even at the highest volume. It’s great for watching YouTube videos or sharing a bit of music, just don’t do it on the bus as we will hate you for it.

HTC is also bringing 24-bit audio to the party and offering Hi-Res tunes for those with the right setup. Upscaling is possible for your existing tracks and the built-in amplifier will deliver it via your own phones or the high quality pair in the box.

Music, movies, podcasts, whatever – it all just sounds better with this set up. And you can get a unique experience with the Personal Audio Profile system. This plays a series of tones at different frequencies to find out exactly how you hear, and adjusts your profile accordingly.

The headphones are great too, with a nice level of bass and clarity without blowing out the details. If you’re into music this handset could see you ditch your dedicated player, especially for Hi-Res offerings.

Battery is a big issue in modern smartphones and HTC is tackling it in a number of ways. Firstly they’ve added their biggest cell yet, rated at 3000 mAh and loaded on features which smartly regulate powerflow via Boost+.

There’s also an extreme power saving mode which limits your functionality and really extends the staying power. With these extras, they’re promising two days of normal use.

Now I’m not a normal user, I’m constantly online and was also pushing the phone pretty hard while testing – using the camera, watching videos, browsing the web and keeping notifications constantly churning.

The result, more or less a full day of use from 7am to 9pm and still some juice left, though not enough for a second day. One other element is the Quick Charge 3.0 which uses the USB 3.0 port to give you almost a full day of charge in 30 minutes.

That claim may be a bit exaggerated but fast-charging is my new favourite feature in any smartphone, and the plug is included in the box here – an all-too rare event these days.

It feels like a lot of thought has gone into the HTC 10 – from responding to customer issues with the previous generation to providing expected features and little extras to ensure smooth performance and accessibility.

Boost+ is a great addition, as is the streamlined Sense UI which cleverly does away with multiple apps for the same purpose. Extra RAM, huge microSD expansion (up to 2 TB) and included high quality charger and headphones are all designed to give customers a little more.

All of these elements together have produced a highly capable handset, and the best HTC flagship to date. Every aspect of the phone quite simply works well, performing admirably and leaving out the frills for a streamlined experience.

The phone doesn’t come to market with flashy features, beyond the admittedly stellar audio performance, and the camera isn’t quite the revolution the PR spin would have you believe but a solid refresh is exactly what HTC needed and that’s what you’ll find in the 10.

The HTC 10 is coming exclusively to Three in Ireland in May 2016.


-Daniel Anderson

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