HTC 10 review — almost a perfect 10/10
+ Great build quality and stunning design
+ Excellent performance
+ Very ergonomic design
+ HTC Sense UI is one of the best Android skins in the market
+ Vastly improved camera, finally on par with recent flagships
+ Audio experience is amazing
- Device gets warm easily
- Software features lagging behind the competition
- Camera features a little lacking
- All-aluminium body prone to nicks; Gorilla Glass 4 collects fine scratches easily
I really have some sweet memories with HTC. My very first Android device was the HTC One X. Yes, the very first of the One family. The One we were all waiting for. Not exactly, but it was the device that set my expectations for HTC. And let us not forget, the whole Nexus line started with the Nexus One, by HTC. And of course, the latest Pixel is also manufactured by HTC, heralding the beginning of a new series of Google smartphones. So yeah, my expectations for HTC is high, and I finally have the HTC 10 (which has already been in the market for some time) is the perfect beginning after ending their faltering One series.
The HTC 10 comes in a standard squarish box, with the HTC 10 branding right in the middle and a cool embossed texture. It looks good and simple, but if we are talking about the premiumness of it, many manufacturers ship their flagships in packaging that outclasses HTC.
Opening up the box allows you to immediately lay your eyes on the very sleek HTC 10. As is pretty standard for smartphone packaging nowadays, the rest of the package will be under the tray the smartphone was found in, and lifting it up reveals a few more compartments.
HTC did a great job labelling each and every compartment with the contents. However, I was very disappointed to find my review sample to not come with the Hi-Res Audio earphones that will and should take advantage of the audio capabilities of the HTC 10. The compartment with the tray ejector pin stores the documentation.
So here we have the entire package sans the earphones. The cable is a USB Type-C cable, but is only wired for USB 2.0. As the HTC 10 supports USB 3.1 connections, I have no idea why HTC did not bundle one that would allow us to take full advantage of the faster transfer speeds that the newer standard can offer. The charger offers Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 and is capable of outputting [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]
The HTC 10 carries on HTC’s signature look, which is pretty much a monolithic slab with curved corners and straight lines. However the HTC 10 loses the BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers, instead going for a different configuration. You still get stereo audio, but they are no longer blasting at you from the front of the device. The fingerprint sensor is in front on the HTC 10, not my favorite location, but at least it is solid state instead of a button. The top and bottom bezels are kinda thick for a 2016 flagship too, and with the missing front facing speakers, are now made even harder to justify. The notification LED and proximity sensor are embedded very well in the top bezel, hidden from view, until you get a notification.
The rear of the HTC is clean, and HTC is again back with their smoothly curved sides and seamlessly embedded antenna lines. However on the HTC 10, you get the extra treat of some of the widest chamfered lines I have ever seen. The camera is a new Ultrapixel 2.0 one, with laser autofocus to aid autofocusing. Two antenna lines run along the top and bottom of the device, being both functional and also aesthetically pleasing. HTC really did a good job making the HTC 10 look clean while maintaining their signature design language.
On the right side we have the very noticeably textured power button, the smooth volume rocker and the SIM tray slot. Over on the left there is the microSD tray.
Over on the bottom, we have the microphone hole, the USB Type-C port and the better half of the BoomSound audio system on the HTC 10.
The top edge is home only to the 3.5mm jack. HTC apparently dropped the IR transmitter found on every HTC One device since the M7 because very few people use it. And oh, the call speaker also doubles up as a loudspeaker, completing the BoomSound system on the HTC 10.
|CPU:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (2 x Kryo @ 2.15 GHz, 2 x Kryo @ 1.6 GHz), Adreno 530 @ 624 MHz|
|Display:||5.2″, QHD (1440p) SuperLCD 5 display|
|Storage:||32GB internal (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera||12MP f/1.8, 26mm, 1/2.3″ UltraPixel 2, OIS, laser AF, dual LED flash|
5MP f/1.8, 23mm, autofocus, HDR front camera
|OS:||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with HTC Sense UI|
|Battery:||3000 mAh (non-removable)|
Qualcomm really knows what they are doing, and the Adreno 530 is definitely one of the fastest GPUs out there. As expected, the scores here are the highest we have seen here in our labs. However if we refer to 3DMark’s rankings, the HTC 10 is one of the slower devices among all the smartphones packing the Snapdragon 820.
HTC 10 blazes through Antutu, once again being the fastest phone we have tested. Despite being just a quad core CPU, the powerful performance each core is capable of, along with one of the strongest GPUs in the market helps it to attain such high scores.
In PCMark, it falls behind some of the lower end devices that have entered our labs. In our experience, PCMark prefers more cores, which can be one of the reasons the HTC 10 fails to be a killer here.
The HTC 10 with us is a weird outlier in the Geekbench Benchmark. It scores on par with the other benchmarks I see online in the single- core test, but the multi-core scores are a far cry from what other reviewers managed to squeeze out of their HTC 10. I have no idea how they do it, as I have enabled high performance mode and the scores did not change.
Battery life of the HTC 10 is decent, with 4 hours of on screen time, over around 20 hours away from the plug. It is good, but you will definitely have to charge it every night. This was obtained with an active data connection and quite heavy usage of Facebook, Messenger and Whatsapp with the random Google search here and there with Chrome.
Let’s start off with the nano SIM and microSD trays. HTC has decided against the increasingly popular hybrid dual SIM solution here, instead going for a honest to God single SIM tray. For some reason, HTC’s engineers or designers decided that it would be a good idea to put the slots on opposite sides of the device. I would advice loading the trays one at a time, as you can be prone to mixing up the two trays if you take both of them out together.
Holding the HTC 10 was a most enjoyable experience. The ergonomic shape feels extremely comfortable in my hand. It feels absolute exquisite to hold it. The large chamfered lines, curved back and flat edges meshes perfectly into a surface that is so comfortable to hold, I could not imagine it to be possible. The weight is also well balanced, allowing the HTC 10 to sit securely in my hands all the time. I really love holding on to it. Which then leads me to my main grouse with the HTC 10: the warmth. While its shape was very comfortable to hold, it does get warm quite easily. Even doing simple tasks like replying to messages via the FB Messenger app, Whatsapp and Facebook can cause the phone to warm up. I do understand that the aluminium chassis will wick heat away from the internals faster, but I wish HTC had a better place to dump the heat than directly into my palm.
Over my time of use, I noticed that the screen picked up quite a lot of really really fine scratches, as did the body. Quite a lot of small bits of paint was chipped off the edges of the chamfered lines, which can get quite frustrating to see. However, it did survive drops better than any other aluminium device I have used, with a very slight dent formed, compared to the catastrophic deformations that is observed on phones with thinner aluminium. Regarding the glass, the scratches are very fine and can only be seen under close scrutiny, but to avoid the heartache, just slap a tempered glass on it.
Front-mounted fingerprint sensors are not my favorite kind, but at least the one on the HTC 10 is a solid state one. And it also functions almost like rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, allowing you to wake it up by resting your thumb on the sensor and simultaneously unlocking it. It is responsive to even the slightest touch, but the HTC 10 takes quite some time to wake the screen. If the screen is on, the fingerprint sensor shows that it is quite capable of being fast, but then, who is going to wake the device either via double tapping the display or the power button, then press their thumb onto the home button to unlock it? Flanking the home button-cum-fingerprint scanner are the capacitive keys, which are a great idea to reduce wasted screen real estate. The back and multitasking keys are where they should be, and I really find them great to use. They light up for mere 3 seconds when you tap them, conserving energy, but when they are off they are truly invisible, thus not affecting the visual appeal of a clean black bezel.
HTC Sense was one of my favorite Android overlays, and it still is. The UI is clean, and there is no bloatware to speak of. Most of the common apps like the music player, gallery, calculator and calendar are all replaced by their stock Google counterparts. This should help HTC push out updates faster. HTC has promised to push out Android Nougat updates to the HTC 10 by Q4 2016, so it should be arriving quite soon. While it looks absolutely clean in its classic layout, checking out the Themes app will reveal a Freestyle Layout, allowing you to be as
messy creative as you want to be with your homescreen’s arrangement. Oh and there is the Blinkfeed on the left most homescreen page, which gives you a feed from News Republic, Twitter or even your Calendar so you will not miss your day’s agenda. It was a lot more comprehensive back in my HTC One X, even allowing me to add my Facebook feed into my Blinkfeed, so I guess there must have been some updates on Facebook’s side that disallows this now.
Well, let’s be honest. HTC had a really bad run with their cameras in the recent years. The HTC One M7’s 4 MP UltraPixel camera was remarkably short of pixels when most other brands were pushing into the 13 MP region. They continued to gamble with their UltraPixel camera, adding the Duo camera system in the HTC One M8 for fancy depth-detection effects, which also did not gain much traction among consumers. For the HTC One M9, it was as if HTC finally gave up on their UltraPixel technology, going for a much more “normal” 20MP sensor which also, did not perform that well. In certain markets like in Malaysia, HTC marketed their HTC One M9+ which combined the 20MP sensor with a Duo camera system. That’s the short history of HTC dabbling in their camera department, and here, we have the improved Ultrapixel 2 camera, with 12MP worth of 1.55µm large pixels. Coupled with a bright f/1.8 aperture, OIS and also a laser autofocusing system, it should be great, right? Hell yeah.
There really is no way of starting the camera up quickly from sleep except with a quick double downward swipe after picking it up, which makes you look like a cowboy fanning the hammer on your revolver. The camera starts up quickly, and you will be shown a very clean interface. A shortcut to HDR mode is just on the lower left corner, and snapping non-HDR images allow you to fire off in quick succession, while HDR shots will take a second to process and save. There are several modes accessible by tapping on the little menu key on the left, including HTC’s unique brainchild, HTC Zoe. It takes a photo with three seconds of 1080p video recording after the shot. I am sure some will find a spectacular use for it, but I am not feeling it. Pro mode will reveal manual controls, but the viewfinder is annoyingly slow to respond to your changes to the parameters, taking a second to reflect the exposure of the shot with the parameters you just dialed in. There is RAW support too if you want to do some post processing later on. You can shoot videos at resolutions up to 4K, with the option of recording 24-bit Hi-Res audio. There are some differences in the field of view between the different resolutions, and there seems to be no option of recording 60 fps videos. With even mid-range devices like the ASUS ZenFone 3 being updated to support 60 fps recording, this is quite a glaring omission on HTC’s part, one which also hopefully see a software update to solve.
Image quality is top notch, and the output is clean at normal ISOs. It’s noise reduction at the upper end of its ISO range does leave some to be desired though. I did my fair share of snapping some shots at Sunway Putra Mall to help my girlfriend with her interior design assignment, and the results look great enough that I stopped using my mirrorless to shoot. That should give you an idea of how great the HTC 10’s camera is. One niggle about the camera is despite the addition of a laser autofocusing system, it still hunts for focus a bit. It will get a solid lock quite fast though, but I do wish it was just that bit faster. Sadly despite the presence of a laser autofocusing system to determine the distance between the subject and the camera, the HTC 10 lacks a depth of field mode for some software bokeh. While enthusiasts frown upon it, it does help you separate your subject from the background very nicely. Maybe we will need to wait for the HTC 11 with the Duo Camera system for that? If you suddenly find your shots looking cloudy or dreamy, you should definitely wipe the lens, as I have encountered poor image quality more than a few times simply because the protruding lens was marked with my fingerprints. Check out the full samples at our Flickr.
Listening to music on the HTC 10 is an absolutely stunning experience. The HTC BoomSound speakers are really impressive, and offer audio that is not only loud, but actually enjoyable. The unique implementation of HTC BoomSound in the HTC 10 sees the driver on the lower edge pushing for the lower frequencies, while the call speaker target the higher ranges. This hardware in combination with Dolby Audio enhancement really delivers a great listening experience. Plugging in headphones allows the Hi-Res audio capability to shine, and HTC even included profiles to suit their in-house earphones, and allows you to tailor the sound for your own pair if they aren’t in the list. Sadly, despite the move towards the future without 3.5mm jacks, the HTC 10 does not enhance audio over Bluetooth.
The 5.2″ 1440p SuperLCD 5 display is sharp, as you would expect from a QHD display, with colors that are as punchy as AMOLED displays. And if the colors are too punchy for you, there is even a sRGB mode for you to have more realistic colors on your HTC 10. 1440p on 5.2″ may be slightly overkill but as a flagship smartphone, it would be a sin not to cram the best they can into it. Viewing angles are wide too, standard for an IPS-based display.
Is this HTC’s saving grace? I would say the HTC 10 has brought the Taiwanese company in line with the other brands in 2016. While HTC once offered unique features no other device had, it now has to play catch up with the other big dogs in the industry. Certain brands like Huawei and Honor have already stepped up their software game, with software features that are still missing in the HTC 10, i.e. long screenshot and screen recording. Still, it is worth applauding HTC for finally giving us a device that is at least on equal footing with the other flagships in the market right now. I would say that the HTC 10 is definitely a great option right now, whereas it was definitely quite hard to pick the HTC One M8 or M9 over the other flagships in the past. For RM2799 (SRP), you are getting a great device for your money, but HTC may be a little too late as their fans may have moved over to the other brands while it was experimenting around. I would give it our Silver Pokdeward, as it is a truly great phone, but misses the mark just ever so slightly.