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Review

HTC 10 review: Impressive, but shy of being brilliant

HTC has made a great comeback with the HTC 10, but has it done enough to outshine the Samsung Galaxy S7?

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4 5
BGR Rating :
4/5

I’ve been a big fan of HTC smartphones since the company’s early days, starting from the Touch Diamond running on Windows Mobile 6.1 to the Wildfire, Desire HD and the One M8, which I still use as my primary smartphone. Needless to say, I was quite excited to try out the HTC 10. Somewhere in between all these smartphones, HTC lost its way. The One M8 took way to long to come to the market and cost CEO Peter Chou his job, while the One M9 ran on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset and had to bear the brunt of heating issues. The HTC 10 is the company’s ray of hope to revive its fortunes. Priced at Rs 52,990, can the HTC 10 survive fierce competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge? I find out.

Design and build
HTC is known for making smartphones with impressive designs. We’ve seen some brilliant designs from the company – be it the HTC Hero with a raised chin at the bottom, the Desire HD with anodized aluminum body or the One series with metal unibody design to name a few. The HTC 10 is a part of the One series despite the company dropping the ‘One’ from the name. It boasts a metal unibody design, and its premium look and feel speaks for itself. It’s not a completely new design, but HTC has borrowed some elements from the One A9.

On the front, you have the selfie camera module and the earpiece above the screen. The HTC 10 does not have the trademark BoomSound front-facing dual speakers but the company says it has incorporated a tweeter with the earpiece and a sub-woofer at the bottom edge. The new arrangement might have been required in order to accommodate the fingerprint sensor below the display.

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Below the screen, you have the home button which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner, and the capacitive buttons for back and recent apps. Unlike other smartphones where you have to press the home button to wake the screen and scan the fingerprint, on the HTC 10, you simply need to place your finger on the scanner to unlock it. And it’s pretty quick and accurate too.

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Coming to ports placement, the right edge has a nano-SIM card slot, followed by the volume rocker and a power/sleep button. Here, the power button is slightly textured to differentiate it from the volume rocker. On the left edge, you have the tray for a microSD card, the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and the USB Type-C port is placed at the bottom, just besides the speaker grille.

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Turn to the back, and you have a slightly curved design and thick chamfers that run all around the device. It not only adds a dash of premium look and feel to it, but also a good grip to hold the smartphone. The antenna bands can be found along the top and bottom, with the HTC logo in between. You also have the slightly protruding camera module with gold/black/steel ring (depending on the color you choose), the dual-tone LED flash and the laser auto-focus module.

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Display
Back in 2014, the LG G3 came equipped with a QHD display whereas the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 featured a full HD display. The following year, along with the LG G4, the Samsung Galaxy S6 also offered a QHD display, but HTC continued with full HD display on the One M9. It did however release the One M9+ with QHD display, but the poor camera, MediaTek processor and hefty price tag didn’t work in its favor.

Now the HTC 10 comes with a 5.2-inch QHD Super LCD5 display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display is very crisp and color reproduction is quite punchy. However, it can’t match Sony’s Triluminous or Samsung’s Super AMOLED display. Also, my review device had a pink tint to the display – colors appeared good when looking straight at the screen, but on slightly tilting, the viewing angles were bad. Maybe it’s the screen polarizer that caused the pink tint, but it is there and it looks ugly.

Hardware
At the heart of HTC 10 is Qualcomm’s 64-bit Snapdragon 820 quad-core chipset with custom Kryo cores – two clocked at 2.15GHz and the other two clocked at 1.6GHz. It is paired with 4GB of RAM and Adreno 530 GPU. It’s currently the best hardware that you can get on high-end smartphones.

On the storage front, you get 32GB of onboard emmc 5.1 storage and a microSD card slot with support up to 256GB. Connectivity options include 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac and NFC. For charging and data transfer, the HTC 10 comes with the USB Type-C port. It’s a reversible connector, meaning you don’t need to worry about which side is upside down.

Software
On the software front, you have Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow wrapped under Sense UI 8. Unlike the earlier iterations of Sense UI, this time around, HTC has gone with minimal add-ons to bring it closer to Stock Android UI, similar to what it did with the One A9 with Sense 7g UI. One of the major benefits of this move is the fact that it will help HTC to quickly release Android OS updates as and when Google releases it. The interface is really smooth and I never encountered any lag during my daily usage, which included internet surfing, social networking, listening to music, watching videos or while multitasking between apps.

HTC has also gotten rid of the duplicate bloatware apps – HTC Mail is replaced by Gmail, Calendar is replaced by Google Calendar, HTC Music is replaced by Play Music, internet browser is replaced by Google Chrome and so on.  However, those who loved the HTC specific apps can download them from the Play Store. Also, apps such as Camera, Sense Home and more have been moved to Play Store, allowing HTC to update them individually, and not as a part of the Sense UI.

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Still, as a part of the package you get the HTC’s BlinkFeed, which can be accessed by swiping to right from the home screen to access. BlinkFeed is home to news feed from across the globe and from your social networks. You also get HTC’s themes in classic and freestyle layout. While classic layout changes the icons, wallpapers and color scheme, the freestyle layout gives added level of customization by assigning apps shortcuts to different stickers. You can have five stickers on each screen and there are a maximum of three screens. It is not very convenient to use though youngsters might like it to differentiate their home screens. You can even hide app labels to create a sleek theme without any shortcuts in sight. Check out some screenshots of what these stickers look like.

One of the most common problems with Android smartphones is the cache that they generate, which not only eats up the space, but also slows down the smartphone. HTC knows this, and to address the issue, it has developed an app called Boost+, which does the needful when required. It a ‘Smart Boost’ feature that kills unwanted background apps, ‘Game Battery Booster’ that optimizes battery life while paying graphics intense games and a ‘Clear Junk’ feature that lets you clear the cache. There is also a feature called ‘Lock Apps’ that lets you keep your photos, contacts and apps locked from prying eyes. You can either use a pattern or your fingerprint to unlock these apps, and it works pretty well.

Multimedia
HTC has always focused on the audio chops of its smartphones. It introduced Dolby Digital Audio with HTC Desire HD, Beats Audio with the HTC Sensation, BoomSound with One M8 and now, with the HTC 10, you get the new BoomSound Hi-Fi edition with Dolby Audio. HTC has also added audio profile to fine-tune your listening experience. You may have come across times where the audio on left channel or right channel is louder / lower than the other, and this is exactly where audio profile comes handy. You have to go through the basic setup – listen to audio frequencies (low, middle, high) on each ear and select the audio balance. If done right, you should be able to hear same level output on both the ears, it worked in my case.

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Listening to music or watching movies on the HTC 10 is a pleasing experience. On a good pair of headphones, the audio sounds the best, something that I’ve rarely heard in smartphones. The quality is excellent, with a good mix between bass, treble and clarity. Even at 60 percent volume, the output is very loud, crisp and detailed. Ramping up the volume to 80 percent was way too much to what my ears could accept, but I never really felt the need of increasing the volume past 50-60 percent.

However, the same cannot be said about the output on speaker. No doubt, it’s detailed, but not as loud as the front-firing BoomSound speakers on the One M8. In fact, I played the same set of songs on Galaxy S7 and One M8, both of which were louder than the HTC 10. While that shouldn’t be a concern for many, but I’m disappointed with the fact that ‘BoomSound’ doesn’t have the same ‘boom’ this time around.

ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: The perfect smartphone money can buy

I transferred a few full HD and 4K videos, which the HTC 10 was able to play effortlessly. The audio output on the speaker was detailed too. You do get two modes to choose from – music and theatre mode. While music mode enhances vocals, theatre mode adds surround sound effect.

That’s not all; HTC 10 also features ‘stereo 24-bit Hi-Res audio recording capabilities.’ I recorded a song playing on laptop speaker on HTC 10, Galaxy S7 and LG G5. The difference in the audio quality was clearly visible, with audio sounding crystal clear on the HTC 10 compared to others.

Gaming
Ideally, with Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB of RAM and Adreno 530 GPU, gaming shouldn’t be an issue at all, but I was left a little disappointed. Casual games such as Subway SurfersTemple Run 2 and Benji Bananas ran smoothly without any hiccups. However, when I ran graphics intense games such as Modern Combat 5Asphalt 8: Airborne, and N.O.V.A 3, I did notice slight framing. First I thought battery saving mode in Boost+ could be the culprit, but even disabling that didn’t work.

Not that the framing affects your gameplay in any way, but I clearly don’t expect it from a Rs 53,000 flagship smartphone, where the same games run smooth as butter on the LG G5 and Galaxy S7. But one good part that I like it, the HTC 10 doesn’t get too warm as the One M8 or even some mid-range smartphones. It seems like Qualcomm has really worked hard to keep thermal levels of Snapdragon 820 low, something that was a major issue in Snapdragon 810.

Camera
It’s not just the audio, HTC has always been working on the camera bit too. The One X had a camera module with ZSL (zero shutter lag) feature. Also, the camera app allowed to simultaneously record video and capture photos. For the One M7 and One M8, HTC built an UltraPixel (4-megapixel) camera sensor with focus on better low light photography, but it was a disaster. With the One M9, the company went for a 21-megapixel Toshiba sensor, but the camera image quality was nowhere close to the competitor cameras.

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Now, HTC is giving UltraPixel another chance with the new 12-megapixel (UltraPixel 2) sensor. With a aperture of f/1.8, pixel size of 1.55µm, laser auto-focus and OIS (optical image stabilization), HTC has finally got a good flagship worthy camera. It also supports 4K video recording (30fps) and slow-motion video recording (120fps).

The camera app is very slick and completely redesigned. You get features like Auto HDR, HTC Zoe, hyperlapse and slow motion mode. There is also a Pro mode that lets you adjust the auto-white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed and manual focus. That’s now all, photography enthusiasts will be glad to hear that the HTC 10 camera app also supports capturing RAW photos in DNG, but do note, each image file will be close to 28MB. (Click on the image below for camera samples)

HTC 10 Review - Camera Samples

The camera app is easy to use and focusing is pretty quick too. However, I found the focusing inconsistent at times, especially in low light conditions. I clicked a good number of photos in all types of lighting conditions and was left impressed with the camera performance. Undoubtedly, it’s the best camera I’ve seen in an HTC smartphone so far. In bright lighting conditions, the camera captures really good photos with accurate colors and details. Photos captured in indoor lighting conditions also look pretty good. Close-ups look great with good depth of field.

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Up front, you have a 5-megpaixel selfie camera of aperture f/1.8 and support for optical image stabilization. I clicked a few selfies in different lighting conditions, and was impressed with the performance. Thanks to the OIS, I didn’t come across blurry ones, something that snapchatters and selfie addicts will really love.

ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs HTC 10 vs LG G5: Specifications, benchmarks compared

Battery life
HTC has packed a 3,000mAh battery along with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. It takes the HTC 10 from 0-100 percent in about one hour and 20 minutes. For those expecting a good battery performance may be slightly disappointed – of course the powerful Snapdragon 820 chipset and the QHD display draws good amount of power. During my usage, I found the battery life to be quite inconsistent.

I had three email accounts in real-time sync, switching between 4G and Wi-Fi, GPS on high-accuracy mode, as well as Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I also had Bluetooth connected all the time to a smartwatch. With an hour worth phone calls, music listening for an hour,  web browsing / social networking for an hour and some 30 minutes of gaming – I could fetch maximum screen on time of three and a half hours. I also ran PC Mark battery life test where it ran for 9 hours 27 minutes, a drop from 100 percent to 20 percent. In real world usage, I was barely able to get past the day.

Verdict
No doubt, the HTC 10 is the best flagship smartphone from HTC till date, but it’s not perfect. The gorgeous design, the impressive build quality, superb audio quality and a capable camera are a few things that work in the favor of the HTC 10. If you’re an HTC fan boy looking for the best from HTC, buying the HTC 10 is a no brainer, otherwise, I would recommend the Samsung Galaxy S7 any day.

Somehow, I don’t feel HTC 10 could justify its Rs 52,990 price tag, especially compared to its competitors. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is relatively cheaper by over Rs 4,000 and is clearly a better performer be it in terms of the display, camera or the battery. It also features water and dust resistant capabilities, and a heart rate sensor. Or if you pay Rs 2,000 extra, you could go for the Galaxy S7 edge, which comes with the same features as the Galaxy S7, along with a dual edge curved display.

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  • Published Date: June 27, 2016 8:01 PM IST
  • Updated Date: July 2, 2016 11:50 PM IST