Tech Review: HTC 10 – HTC emerge as a true competitor with their latest flagship

HTC haven’t exactly been leading the race when it comes to the ongoing battle of smartphone supremacy, attracting both considerable praise and criticism with their previous releases. Their 2016 flagship is here to focus on the former, highlighting the progression at HTC headquarters which has been informed by a closer relationship with customer feedback and a determination to bring the company back to form. The HTC 10 is the phone to do it for them; a return to the spotlight which has been fixed and brightened by their recent smartphone camera review on authoritative independent website DxOMark – HTC 10 scored an 88, putting them in equal first place with the celebrated Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

There’s little wonder as to why demand is buzzing for the HTC 10 right now – plain and simple, this is the best smartphone HTC have produced to date, this time going far beyond their well-received design acumen. It’s an improvement in almost every way on the good-not-great M9, presenting an exceptional sturdy build with sexy contoured chamfered angular edges, and enough substantial features to justify the brand’s confidence. It has a solid grip and maintains the design philosophy HTC have been improving on over the past few years – sleek and attractive with the perfect size for the average consumer, even though it would have helped to offer the phone in different sizes to truly bring them up to speed with their more salient competitors.

The home button – more like a tracking pad – feels premium to touch, and the other buttons on the phone – the volume and power controls on the side – are smartly distinguished by touch so you can easily pick them apart if you’re fiddling around without looking. The power button has an attractive rough texture that slightly curves while the volume buttons are smooth and long. Heading up to the top of the phone is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and back on the right side, is a nano-SIM slot while a microSD tray is over on the opposite side. The USB port on the bottom supports USB Type-C cables which means that you’ll enjoy very speedy data transfers on the HTC 10.

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HTC have separated the front-facing audio speakers of the past and spread the sound out a bit more, with the front-facing tweeter and amp on the top and the more bass-y bottom-facing woofer down below, it too with its own amp.

Sound has always been a significant strength for HTC with their BoomSound Audio tech consistently hitting the mark and outperforming competitors. The case is very much the same here, and although it seems like actual volume was a little sacrifice for the new design, the depth and quality of the crispy output is evident when you watch videos or play music on this handset. The bass is substantially more powerful than mostly any other phone on the market, and clarity has been maintained to a consistently high standard, though there may be some loss of bass depending on where you hold the phone (as the bass is facing down while the tweeter is facing the user) but this is very minimal and only slightly noticeable with complexity like an old record by The Roots or Massive Attack.

What’s more is that software includes the HTC Pro Studio, which lets you shape different audio profiles for earphone/headphone use, a philosophy driven by customer choice that spills over into the general design of the phone, offering you customisation at almost every level.

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HTC’s push into convenience can also be a setback at times though; the sensitivity of the home button – since you don’t have to actually push it, just touch it – can lead to a few mistakes at first, similarly to the function of launching Google Now with a longpress. It can get annoying having Google Now pop up at times when you’re just not paying much attention to where your fingers are on the phone.

Display is via a beautiful and vibrant 5.2-inch SuperLCD5 panel that’s working to a Quad HD resolution, slightly saturated (not not overly so) with bright, big colours that look attractive at any angle (30% more colour according to HTC). The auto-brightness is fairly consistent across conditions as well and there’s always the option to customise the display settings. The look is so vivid at times, you could easily think this was an AMOLED display.

With such a gorgeous display it’s a wonder why the phone isn’t waterproof like some competitors out there; I would have thought that feature would be standard across new smartphones in 2016. However, it is effectively splashproof, so taking this out in the rain should bring you no problems.

Performance wise, HTC have obviously thrown a lot behind this new flagship, equipping it with Qualcomm’s impressive Snapdragon 820 with when paired up with a sizable 4GB of RAM and 32GB/64GB storage pits the phone up with the best of them. Storage space may not be the biggest on the market, but it can be expanded through the use of a microSD.

For those who are a bit more active than moderate users, HTC’s valuable Boost+ app runs in the background and monitors app use, allocating CPU and memory as required with a priority to maximise battery life, which runs off a 3,000mAh fixed internal battery that is unfortunately not removable (though this shouldn’t be an issue for most consumers). There’s support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 tech as well, which works rather rapidly for those constantly on the-go (a rapid charge is included in stock).

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HTC claim that battery life is up to 2 full days on normal use, but of course this should be taken with a grain of salt seeing as “normal use” is fairly uncommon among average users. This isn’t much of a deal-breaker though, as very rarely will the average user find themselves needing 2 full days of battery without a charge (which is quick enough anyway). HTC have gone slightly overboard here, and while their “PowerBiotics” is largely unnecessary it’s still appreciated (and you may just as well end up needing 2 days battery life in some rare situation).

As mentioned above, the HTC 10 scored an impressive 88 on DxO Mark, a site which has been known to be strict and vigorous when it comes to rating smartphone cameras. This places the HTC 10 as having one of the best cameras on the market, a big change for the often derided camera that held the HTC M9 back.

The “UltraSelfie” front facing camera takes 5MP images with optical image stabilisation and the same f/1.8 aperture as the rear facing camera. Paying equal attention to the front-facing camera is a smart move from HTC, and younger users will definitely start to see the difference from the laser autofocus to how well this works in low-light conditions. Storage of those photos has also improved with the switch to using Google Photos. It’s also a good move seeing as Facebook Live and Snapchat are two of the biggest growing social media uses right now, both requiring a good front facing camera.

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The 12MP rear-facing camera is the biggest and most significant improvement here for HTC, and it works especially well for video, producing sharp seamless video with 4K capture and 24-bit audio. It’s valuable alongside the returning HTC Zoe option, which is a user-friendly way of splicing short video clips and images together, throwing in some music, and making social media ready presentations, bringing in enough features so it’s actually fun to play around it.

There are a few things I’d like to see HTC improve on in with their next phone, with examples being a more seamless way to multitask (as some other smartphones have), different sizes, and full water proofing, but as it stands this is hands down one of the best smartphones on the market right now and something which I feel finally brings HTC to the forefront of the game.

Specs

  • Display: 5.2-inch, Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels), super LCD 5
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • Platform: Android 6.0 with HTC Sense
  • Memory: 4GB RAM, 32GB/64GB storage expandable up to 2TB via microSD
  • Rear Camera: 12MP (HTC UltraPixel 2), laser autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), f/1.8 aperture, Pro mode, Auto-HDR, Zoe Capture, hyperlapse, 12X Slow motion mode, 4K video recording with Hi-Res Audio
  • Front Camera: 5MP (1.34MICROm pixels), autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), f/1.8 aperture with ultra wide-angle lens, Live Makeup, Auto-HDR
  • Sound: HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition, Dolby Audio, Personal Audio Profile, Hi-Res Audio Certified, Hi-Res Audio Earphones, Three microphones with noise cancellation, Hi-Res Audio Stereo Recording
  • Connection: USB Type-C
  • SIM card: Nano SIM
  • Connectivity: NFC, BT 4.2, Wi-Fi@: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
  • Sensors: Fingerprint Sensor, Sensor Hub
  • Battery: 3000 mAh

To learn more about the HTC 10 head to their official website HERE. The smartphone is available now from all carriers in Australia, with varying prices, although outright you’re looking at around $1099.

Photos supplied and used with permission