HTC 10 review
|Review: May 2016
In a nutshell: The HTC 10 introduces a new style for 2016, but one that makes it look much like a Samsung - at least from the front. It's a beautifully crafted phone, but not one that offers distinctive looks. Inside, it's a high performer, with a Snapdragon 820 processor, good memory, a USB Type-C connector, and an impressive Quad HD screen. The front camera is superb, although the main camera doesn't match it. It it was priced more competitively it would earn a 5 star rating from us here at S21.
Design - remind you of anything?
Three years ago, HTC cracked phone design, with the launch of the iconic HTC One. Then not much happened for a few years. The company rolled out the One M8, M8s and M9, which all looked basically the same. Now it's changed tack, releasing a phone that looks very similar to Samsung's Galaxy S7. We always preferred HTC's industrial look to Samsung's blander, smoother designs, so this isn't something we particularly welcome. In fact, it's part of a broader trend that we dislike - phone manufacturers copying each other. Boo to that! Whatever happened to innovation?
Still, grumbling aside, the HTC 10 is a very nice-looking object. Regard its chamfered curves and dual-textured finish. Feel its sleek, contoured edges. Touch its metal unibody. Admire the attention to detail. But wonder, also, what might have been if HTC hadn't chosen this "minimum risk" design option.
The phone is a very good size, with a "perfect" 5.2 inch screen, tapered edges, and nicely placed volume and power buttons. It's a matter of personal taste whether you prefer the home button below the screen, but it incorporates a fast fingerprint scanner, and is certainly easy to use. We're less keen on the way the camera lens sticks out at the back, although this seems to be all too common amongst modern smartphones.
The macho speaker grilles that always gave HTC phones their distinctive looks have been abolished, although sound quality hasn't suffered in the process. In fact, a pair of Hi-Res-certified earphones are included with the phone.
The screen is a great size. 5.2 inches seems to be just right - not as unwieldy as those huge phablets, but with plenty of space for media. HTC has gone for a Quad HD resolution for the first time, bringing its screen resolution up to the same level as Samsung, LG and even Huawei. The pixel resolution works out at 564ppi, making everything pin-sharp. It uses Super LCD technology rather than AMOLED, making it nice and bright, and responsive to the touch, but not quite managing the vivacity of the Galaxy S7.
There's no doubting that the HTC10 is fast. The Snapdragon 820 processor is quadcore, running at 2.2GHz, and has a massive 4GB of RAM available. It's a noticeable step-up from the slower 8-core processor of the One M9, but perhaps not quite as powerful as Samsung's Exynos processor used in the Galaxy S7.
The phone is equipped with 32GB of data storage, and can be upgraded with a microSD card.
The OS is Android 6 with the latest pared-down version of HTC Sense with fewer pre-installed apps. HTC's new Freestyle Layout frees up your creativity, allowing you to pin icons and widgets wherever you like. It's a welcome change from the usual Android grid, but can get a little anarchic at times.
Ultrapixel camera (is back)
HTC just can't make up its mind about its Ultrapixel cameras. We thought it had finally scrapped the concept when it launched the One M9, but no. Here it is back again, like the monster that just refuses to die, no matter how many times you stab it, shoot it and push it into the vacuum of space.
Still, this is the best version we've seen to date. The camera may just have 12 megapixels, but it does everything it can to capture light - using a 1.55μm pixel size, a huge f/1.8 aperture and Optical Image Stabilisation. A two-tone LED flash is also available, to get the very best night-time shots. Coupled with the fast laser autofocus, auto HDR mode and BSI sensor, we're hardly in a position to complain. The camera is in fact an excellent performer, but we'd still prefer the Galaxy S7 or the iPhone 6s Plus.
Perhaps even better is the front camera, which, although it has just 5 megapixels, is very good at capturing the best shots. It's an autofocus camera and also features an f/1.8 aperture, auto HDR mode and (uniquely) Optical Image Stabilisation, making it one of the best selfie cameras you'll find.
The rear camera can capture 4K video, while the front camera sticks to 1080p.
The HTC 10 has a wide variety of LTE bands covered, so you should be able to pick up 4G in most countries. It has good wireless connectivity, with dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, and support for Chrome Cast, Miracast, AirPlay and NFC.
It also has the new USB Type-C connection, which supports fast charging, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou location services are all here, as well as a large array of sensors, including a compass and magnetic sensor.
The battery is the largest we've ever seen in a HTC phone, with a 3,000mAh capacity. Battery life is quite respectable, and can certainly endure a heavy day of use. You might just make it last two days if you're frugal, and the battery can be re-charged very quickly - by 50% in just 30 minutes.
Make no mistake - the HTC 10 is a beautiful and powerful phone. But does it do anything that rivals don't? We don't think it does. Is it priced competitively compared with those rival phones? We don't think it is. At present, it costs more to buy the HTC 10 than the Galaxy S7, the iPhone 6s or the LG G5.
On that basis, we're reluctant to recommend it. In fact, in a world where smartphones are at risk of becoming a commodity, we have to ask whether the marketplace would be noticeably different if HTC simply didn't exist. Can you imagine a parallel universe in which the Taiwanese company was absent, and would it look very different from our own universe?
To sell in any volume, the HTC 10 needs to be cheaper than the Galaxy S7 - otherwise, what's the point?
HTC 10 features include:
- OS: Android 6 with HTC Sense
- 12 megapixel ultrapixel camera with laser autofocus, BSI sensor, Optical Image Stabilisation, f/1.8 lens, auto HDR, 4K video recording
- 5 megapixel front camera with autofocus, BSI sensor, Optical Image Stabilisation, auto HDR, f/1.8 lens, 1080p video recording
- Display: 5.2 inches, Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels)
- GPS, GLONASS and Beidou positioning
- HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi with Dolby Audio
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 64 bit quad-core, up to 2.2GHz
- Memory: 32GB plus microSD card, 4GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.2, USB 3.1, NFC, Display Port, 3.5mm audio jack
- Networks: Cat 9 4G LTE, 3G UMTS, GSM/GPRS/EDGE
- Size: 145.9 x 71.9 x 3-9 mm
- Weight: 161g
- Battery: 3,000 mAh
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