HTC One M9 review

Review

We've finally got hold of the HTC One M9, following its announcement at Mobile World Congress. This is what's new and what you can expect from the handset.
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HTC One M9 review

We’ve just got back from Mobile World Congress, and we can happily report that the new HTC One M9 (without the brackets this time) has beaten us home. Let’s have a look at what the new bit of kit from HTC can really do...

Pros

  • Immaculate design
  • Impressive 20MP camera
  • BoomSound speakers with Dolby

Cons

  • Lack of Quad HD display
  • Chunkier build than the One (M8)
  • Indoor camera quality could be better

Look & feel

Last year, HTC released the One (M8) and the world was rather impressed. The flawless design left competitors looking out-dated almost immediately, and it was all down to that impeccable brushed metal rear. It bagged awards across the board, and in doing so set the bar pretty high for its successor. Enter the One M9.

The M9 features a very similar design to the (M8), although it does feel a bit thicker on the whole. The power button has migrated from the top of the phone to the right hand side joining the volume rocker, which has been divided into two independent buttons. The most noticeable change from the rear is the brighter metal finish and the new square lens. You’ll also see that the additional depth-sensing lens that featured on the One (M8) has vanished - it’s not unheard of for gimmicks like this to not take off.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9Enlarge Enlarge

Looking at the phone side on, it does look a little bit like its been designed by two different people. No longer does the metal rear wrap right up to the edge of the display as it did with the One (M8). Instead there’s a raised lip that runs all the way around – kind of separating the screen from the curved body.

This is emphasised more by the two-tone design. Round the front of the polished smartphone is a 5-inch, Full HD display – which we were quite disappointed to find wasn’t Quad HD. Samsung, LG and Motorola all upped their respective display games months ago, which has unfortunately created a bit of distance between them and the likes of HTC. Hopefully this will be set to change soon.

How it works

To be frank, it works pretty darn well. It runs on Android Lollipop (Google’s most up to date operating system), which runs hand in hand with HTC’s own user interface, Sense 7. Together, the two deliver everything you see displayed on the phone, which is bright, well presented and easy to use.

Swipe to the right to access BlinkFeed, which acts as your personalised news hub, and you can swipe up from the bottom to access Google directly. The user interface update has brought with it a bunch of new features including a range of themes, which can totally refresh how the handset looks. A theme will change the background, home apps and even the clock to give the phone a brand new skin. You can also add more buttons to your navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, which we haven’t seen on any Android devices before.

This move takes customisation to the next level, meaning you can get more personalisation from HTC than ever before. Lastly there’s a new functionality called Sense Home, which is kind of like a control centre for all your widgets, themes and apps. Widgets, by the way, are the things all over your homescreen that display information (and aren’t apps). To add them, hold down on an empty bit of the screen and you’ll be given a list of things to drop in like a Google search bar, or a weather tracker. Use the same method to get rid of things you don’t like – hold down on the unloved widget, and drag it to the bin icon, entitled ‘remove’.

Camera

The UltraPixel camera has been part of the HTC family for a while, having always featured on the recent flagship devices. However, this time, rather surprisingly, it’s not the main attraction. The rear camera comes in at a very respectable 20MP, putting it in the same realm as the Sony Xperia Z3.

The famed UltraPixel camera has made its way round to the front of the M9, for all your selfie-snapping needs. It would have been great to see a flash accompanying the UltraPixel cam, just like the Desire EYE, but you can’t have it all, we guess. When it comes to actual picture quality on the rear camera, there seems to be a reoccurring theme when it comes to HTC: if you appreciate high picture quality, stick to naturally well-lit areas.

When the Sun’s on your back, your photos will look great, however under office lights you’ll notice murky tungsten throughout, dull colours, and that artificial lights blow out. That being said, how often are you going to be taking photos in the office? Yeah… we thought as much.

Performance

The M9 is jam-packed with tech to keep things moving. Inside there’s an octa-core processor, which is made up of two quad-core processors that work at different speeds to look after different stuff. One is slightly less powerful than the other and looks after more basic functionality like phone calls, messaging, and background themes to name a few.

The larger looks after powerful apps, games, watching videos and browsing the web – stuff that needs to run smoothly to be enjoyable. Having two processors saves battery, so it’s all the better for you. On that note, there’s a sizeable 2,840mAh battery on board, which will happily see you through the day and into the night with moderate use.

Our verdict

HTC has created a superb smartphone yet again, but the slightly out-dated screen resolution does let it down a bit. Design-wise however, the M9 is undeniably hot stuff. The meticulous craftsmanship shouldn’t go unrecognised – hats off.

The introduction of a more powerful camera has really brought HTC into the running with the big boys from Samsung and Sony. The higher megapixel count is one thing, but the inclusion of a powerful front-facing camera makes it a very well rounded handset.

We’ll be producing camera comparisons very soon – so keep your eyes peeled. If you're upgrading from the HTC One you'll notice a massive overhaul in almost every aspect. No stone has been left unturned. An upgrade from the One (M8) isn't as world-changing, but it's definitely a positive step.

If you have any questions about the new One M9, drop us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you. And, to be the first to get your hands on the new flagship, there’s more information right here.

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