HTC 10 in-depth review - The perfect smartphone?

HTC 10 is a unibody metal smartphone with beautiful build quality, upscaled high-res audio capabilities, great camera and best in class processor. But does it have enough to storm back to the top of the charts? We find out in our in-depth review here

 HTC 10 Review - The perfect smartphone?
4.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/18/2016 9:18:27 PM

9

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

9

out of 5

Features

9

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Beautiful built quality | high res audio | Good battery life

Cons:

No always-on display | camera not brilliant

-By Sunetra Chakravarti

Is this the perfectly formed smartphone?

As soon as you take it in your hands, you realise that the 10 has had a lot of attention. HTC have stayed with the curved back design of their previous handsets and added chamfered edges wherever they have been able to. The result is a beautiful metal device which catches the light and gleams as you hold it and turns it in your hands. 

My silver review device has a beautifully matt-silver back, not unlike the magnesium alloy of the Microsoft Surface Book and three chamfered edges which make up the sides anre are polished to absolutely gleam. The HTC 10 is weighty at 161g and although it can be as slim as 3mm, at the middle of the back, it is a sizable 9mm thick making it feel super chunky in a sea of slim delightful numbers.

The HTC logo on the back is printed and not etched and the only thing that distracts from the silky smooth metal back is the slightly raised rim around the camera lens. 

The front of the phone has changed too, HTC have put in a lozenge shaped capacitive Home button with a fingerprint reader built into it and the back and tabs buttons flanking it either side. Although not clickable, the button marks a departure from the design of the HTC One M9 where just the two speaker grills marked the front of the phone.

Is the display on the HTC 10 perfect?

The 5.2-inch display is very very good, but is this the best display on a phone? I dont think so, the Super AMOLED of the Samsung Galaxy S7 is still the best out there. But the HTC, as always, is never too far behind. The quad-HD resolution stands it in good stead and the 564 pixel per inch is one of the best, but although viewing angles are above average, and the colours sharp, when compared next to the Galaxy S7, there is a light fuzziness in the colours. Images and videos are not as punchy but it is also important to remember that the 2560x1440 resolution is the same if not better than a lot of televisions out there. 

The one element that HTC seem to hve missed out on and one that's present on both the LG G5 and tge Samsung Galaxy S7 is the always-on display. A great way to stem battery discharge, and although not critical it is a very good to have feature that would have been a great to have on the 10.

Does the HTC 10 have the best processor, battery life and grunt power?

The processor is the beating heart of a smartphone and the LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10 have the same heart. They also have the same 4GB RAM under the hood so usage-wise there is no difference between the three. They are all very fast speed machines and promise to deliver the best performance on a phone, money can buy right now.

The battery on the HTC 10 takes advantage of its large size and is a 3000mAH one. This translates to a day and a half's worth of medium to heavy usage involving social media, whatsapp and emails and the occasional texts. During my video test where I played HD quality video over 4G with 100% brightness, the HTC 10 lost 5% power over a period of 15 minutes. Pretty good, huh!

When I ran a Geekbench test, HTC 10 only scored 2313 in the single core test and 5226 in the multicore test, behind the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7. Antutu test result was 149766 which was more than one of my favourite phones, the Huawei Mate 8, Samsung's Note 5 and the predecessor of the 10: HTC One M9.

On the 32GB memory on the review device, a shade over 22GB was available and the phone is charged via the USB-C port at the bottom next to the audio grill.

How good is the high-res audio on the HTC 10?

The best feature of the HTC 10 according to the manufacturer is its high-res audio capabilities. Not only does the phone personalise your music to your ears, because everyone hears music and sounds differently, but is also one of the few phones with certified high-res audio.

On the phone, they have added a separate tweeter at the top and woofer with dedicated amplifiers for a better listening experience and it does sound amazing.

Clearer higher frequency sounds owing to the tweeter are instantly discernable when you listen to music without headphones and HTC are bundling certified high-res headphones with the phone in the UK and after having used them for over a week, I am a huge fan.

 

How's the HTC Sense overlay on Android 6?

HTC have pared their custom UI right back and gotten rid of all bloatware so it is an absolutely minimalist number. There are themes available with associated icons, background, sounds etc that you can customise to the very last detail. You are also able to carry out these customisations based on a photograph or pick and mix elements of different themes according to your likes and more. Boost+ makes the phone more secure, gives the user greater control over the phone.

An App Lock function deep dives into the furniture you have on it and allows you to lock individual apps, so you can password protect the notes app where you might have jotted inforamtion that you dont necessarily want others to see. 

And the camera? Is it a perfect 10?

HTC have improved the camera a lot. For starters, there is optical image stabilisation as well as an f1.8 aperture in both front and rear cameras and a Pro mode- but then that's become de rigeur for most high-end smartphones. The revamped UltraPixel sensor translates to better low-light photography and a DxOMark of 88 seals its position as one of the best out there. 

Another great feature of the camera is its ability to capture high-res audio while recording 4K video. 

Should I buy the HTC 10?

I really liked the HTC 10. It has a beautifully solid metal body, really good audio capabilities and pared back Android and an infinitely customisable freestyle theme app. However niggles remain- the camera lacks oomph when compared with the ones on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Huawei P9 or even the LG G5, it is terribly expensive and there isnt anything in particular that I would be able to put a finger on and say this is its USP. 

HTC have lost market share over the past year and they needed to do more than amp up the audio capabilities and tweak the camera. They needed to step away from the chunky design and come up with something superbly spectacular with not just the grunt power, which the 10 has in shedloads, but also the kind of build quality that Samsung and Huawei are wowing customers with these days.

There are plenty of newer flagships that cost half as much, offering the the same, if not more than the HTC 10. Android isn't a hallowed space where handsets are revered, it is a battle ground where reinvention is key and every manufacturer has to fight tooth and nail to prevent themselves from slipping off the top position.

The 10 is the best phone HTC has ever made but it is a tough market and I am worried the HTC 10 doesn't have enough for the top spot, but it is still in the top 3.

HTC 10 Specifications

Price: From £569

Operating System: Android™ 6.01 Marshmallow with HTC Sense

Dimensions: 145.9 x 71.9 x 3.0 - 9.0 mm

Weight: 161g

Resolution: 2560 x 1440, 564PPI

Display: 5.2-inch quad-HD Super LCD 5 Curve edge Gorilla Glass

Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820, Quad Core, 64bit, up to 2.2GHz 4GB RAM

Camera: 12-MP (HTC UltraPixel™ 2 with 1.55μm pixel) ; 5-MP front-facing camera. Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)

Memory: 32/64 GB internal storage; 
Expandable storage via MicroSD slot

Battery: 3000mAH

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: NFC, Type C; 4.2 BLE; Wi-Fiac, LTE, Bluetooth 4.2; 4K video recording with Hi-Res audio