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Hands-on with the HTC 10: A focused, gimmick-free premium phone

Jason Cross | April 13, 2016
HTC's reinvented high-end phone doesn't break new ground, but gets the fundamentals right.

The HTC One M9 was a bit of a letdown. It was “only” a very good phone, when we expect top-tier, high-priced flagship phones to be groundbreaking hits. Standing next to the Galaxy S6, there was almost no reason for anyone to pick HTC’s offering.

Enter the HTC 10. The “One” branding and the “M” letter are gone, but the new phone announced today is definitely a continuation of HTC’s flagship series. At a pricey $699, this is a premium flagship phone. My initial impressions are, by focusing on getting the basics right, HTC has made a device far more deserving of that premium price. It’s got the right specs, the right design, and the right software. But if your'e looking for a phone with lots of extra frills, you'll want to look elsewhere.

The right specs

We expect expensive premium phones to offer premium specs, and the HTC 10 fulfills those obligations. It’s got a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 gigs of RAM and 32GB of storage (with microSD support). The 3,000 mAh battery should provide excellent longevity. There’s a 5.2-inch quad HD display (Super LCD3, not AMOLED), making this the first time HTC has gone beyond 1080p in the U.S. It’s got USB-C, with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. You can’t bring a phone to market without a fast fingerprint scanner, and the HTC 10 uses the same one that impressed us in the One A9

The camera, in particular, sounds like a winner. Backing off from the 20 megapixel shooter in the One M9, HTC is back to “quality over megapixels,” a trend you might argue it pioneered. The company calls its rear-facing camera sensor technology “UltraPixel 2.” It’s a 12 megapixel sensor with big 1.55-micron pixels. This sounds to me like it’s packing the same Sony IMX377 sensor found in the Nexus 6P (and that's nothing to complain about). HTC pairs that great sensor with a f/1.8 aperture, laser autofocus, and optical image stabilization. Hell, it even throws in OIS on the 5 megapixel f/1.8 front-facing camera. Yes, the camera module slightly protrudes from the back, but the displacement is minor.

All the ingredients are there for a camera experience on par with the very best phones on the market. In my quick tests, the camera launched quickly, focused fast, and took impressive shots. We'll look at it much more closely in our full review. For what it's worth, HTC claims that DxOMark has rated the camera among the best mobile cameras yet released.

The right design

The design of the 10 is unmistakably HTC-like, but refined and modernized in very welcome ways. It's got a familiar curve to the corners and the back, but a very large 45-degree bezel around the edge really improves ergonomics. While the One M9 was so smooth it felt like it would slip out of your hand, the 10 is easier to grip and feels thinner than it really is. Still, that metal unibody construction feels tight, rigid, and dense, with no visible seams and a very clean back.

 

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