HTC One M9 review: Hands-on with HTC’s best ever smartphone. The One M9 is absolutely gorgeous, with good sound and a fantastic camera
We get a hands-on with HTC’s best ever smartphone. The HTC One M9 is absolutely gorgeous, with good sound and a fantastic camera.
The HTC One M9 will be hitting shops at the end of the month on 31 March and although that’s only a few weeks away, HTC hasn’t given out an official price.
We expect it will get a price tag similar to that of the HTC One M8 when it launched and other typical flagship smartphones. This would place it around the £550 mark and it will compete with the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 –plus the LG G4 and Sony Xperia Z4 when they arrive in the coming months.
If you don’t think you can afford the HTC One M9, the firm does normally offer a mini version (read our HTC One Mini 2 review) but there’s no sign of it yet but don’t worry because HTC didn’t announce them together last year. For now we’ll have to focus on the full-size phone.
As you can see from our photos, HTC hasn’t altered the design of the M9 much compared to the M8 or even the original HTC One. It’s more a case of design evolution which the company likens to the Porche 911.
It might be easy to criticise HTC for having another similar looking smartphone but we can hardly blame it considering how nice the previous generations are. If you look close enough, there are some changes, though.
It’s made from the same metal block as the M8 and uses the same curved shape and hairline finish while using angular features from the HTC One M7 (the original HTC One). The firm tells us the process takes 70 steps to complete.
New features in the design include a scratch-resistant coating (which we’ll have to test over time when we get a review unit), machine drilled buttons and a sapphire glass lens on the rear camera. The power button is now on the side instead of the top which we think is a much better place for it.
Colour options are similar but HTC has employed a new two-tone look with the back and sides getting contrasting adonisation. In our photos you can see the rear cover has a silver finish while the sides are gold. If this model doesn’t float your boat then there will also be ‘gold on gold’ and ‘gun metal grey on grey’.
All in all the HTC One M9 is a very desirable smartphone when held in the hand. It fits nicely and like the M8, is one of the only phones on the market to compete with the iPhone on build quality. It screams of craftsmanship but the stepped design might not be to everyone’s taste as at certain angles it looks like a case.
We were hoping for a thinner and lighter design and although the device is slightly lighter than its predecessor, it’s marginally thicker.
HTC has decided to stick with a 5in screen for the M9 and has also kept the resolution at Full HD (1080 x 1920). There’s no upgrade here so it might seem lower grade than Quad HD devices like the LG G3 but HTC tells us the higher resolution isn’t needed on a display this size and we agree.
There are some other things which remain the same too, such as 32 GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot capable of accepting up to 128 GB cards. However, there are some hardware improvements.
Memory has been boosted by 50 percent to 3 GB and there’s a new processor in the form of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 which is both octa-core and 64-bit. It comes with the Adreno 430 GPU and we’ll test performance properly with a final unit but signs look promising based on our hands-on time.
Wireless setup remains strong with 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, NFC and an IR blaster. If you were hoping for any new features like a fingerprint scanner or heart rate monitor then it’s bad news.
What HTC has done instead is focus on improving existing hardware in the audio and photo departments.
The BoomSound front facing stereo speakers are still a key feature and although HTC hasn’t added support for High-Res 24-bit audio, it has added Dolby Audio. After a quick play the speakers sound good but we need to test them more for a final verdict.
A new audio feature is called HTC Connect and means a simple three finger swipe will send the audio to a connected speaker – a reverse gesture will bring it back. We tested this out with the Harmon/Kardon One will be exclusively bundled with the M9 and it worked first time although with a slight delay.
With BlackFire technology and some more speakers you’ll also be able to have a multi-room setup playing different tunes in different rooms or the same one on everything. Other M9 users will be able to hook into the system and queue their own tracks.
As you’ve probably noticed from the photos, the HTC One M9 no longer has the Duo Camera setup consisting of two camera lenses. Instead, HTC has gone for a 20 Mp rear camera with the same dual-LED flash.
It can record video in 4K resolution and uses a ‘dynamic exposure algorithm’ to mimic the human eye. Despite the lack of a second depth sensor, we’re told it can still produce similar effects to the Duo Camera. The front camera on the M9 is the rear camera from the M8 for selfies and although all of this seems promising HTC has asked us not to comment on photo or video quality as the handset we saw was pre-production and not running the final software.
To go with the new hardware is a software feature called One Gallery which we haven’t been able to try out but will in theory bring all your photos together from the likes of Dropbox, Flickr, Google Drive and Facebook into one place.
As you would expect, the HTC One M9 runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop which is the latest version. However, HTC doesn’t leave it as is so puts its own skin or user interface over the top. The M9 introduces Sense 7.0 which has some new features.HTC largely does things its own way with BlinkFeed to the left of the main homescreen, a grid view recent apps menu and a vertically scrolling app menu. However, the stock dropdown notification bar is in use (with some HTC style added) and the good news is that you can customise which quick settings you want.Talking of customisation, this is the main emphasis of Sense 7.0 so there’s a new Themes app where you can download various user interface themes. However, you can edit details yourself such as icon styles and fonts. The software will also generate a theme for you based on a photo.We’ve already mentioned HTC Connect and One Gallery in relation to audio and photo and another new feature is called HTC Home. It’s another thing which we’ve not been able to test but it sounds great. The software is location aware so you can use a different lock- and homescreens depending on where you are.For example, when at work you’ll get icons for your email and calendar and these will automatically get replaced with a remote control app and Facebook when you get home. You can select what you want for each layout but suggestions will be made based on your habits.