It probably goes without saying right now that HTC has been a troubled company for some time now. With the One M8 we finally saw that they were making a recovery, but with the Snapdragon 810 and One M9 HTC suffered a massive blow as their offerings just weren’t competitive with the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note5 for the time. Realistically speaking, any phone with a Snapdragon 810 or 808 just couldn’t really compete. With the launch of the Snapdragon 820, it seems that Qualcomm had finally launched an SoC that was a real improvement over the Snapdragon 801 and 805, and in the time since then we’ve seen a return to normalcy in the smartphone market.

A a result, HTC has been under fairly enormous pressure to perform this product cycle. Their attempt to meet that pressure is the HTC 10, which is the best of what HTC has to offer distilled into a single package. That distillation starts at the name, it seems, as this phone isn't called the One M10. There’s no One branding anymore, and the phone is just their tenth, and HTC is hoping that it’s a “perfect 10” in every respect.

  HTC One M9 HTC 10
SoC Snapdragon 810
4x Cortex-A57 @ 2Ghz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz
Adreno 430

(TSMC 20SoC)
Snapdragon 820
2x Kryo @ 2.15GHz
2x Kryo @ 1.6GHz
Adreno 530

(Samsung 14LPP)
RAM 3GB LPDDR4 4GB LPDDR4
NAND 32GB NAND + microSD 32/64GB NAND + microSD
Display 5” 1080p
Super LCD3
5.2” 1440p
Super LCD5
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6/9 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 6/9 LTE)
Dimensions 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61mm, 157g 145.9 x 71.9 x 3-9mm, 161g
Camera 20MP Rear Facing f/2.2, 1.12µm, 1/2.4" (Toshiba T4KA7) 12MP Rear Facing w/ OIS and laser AF, f/1.8, 1.55µm, 1/2.3"
(Sony IMX377)
4MP Front Facing, f/2.0, 2µm
(OmniVision OV4688)
5MP Front Facing w/ OIS, f/1.8, 1.34µm
(Samsung S5K4E6)
Battery 2840 mAh (10.93 Whr) 3000 mAh (11.55 Whr)
OS Android 5 w/ HTC Sense 7
(At Launch)
Android 6 w/ HTC Sense
(At Launch)
Connectivity 1x1 802.11a/b/g/n/ac,
BT 4.1, (BCM4356),
USB2.0, GPS/GLONASS, NFC
2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac,
BT 4.2, (BCM4359)
USB-C, USB3.1,
GPS/GLONASS (US, JP)
GPS/GLONASS/Beidou (EU, Asia)
NFC
Fingerprint Sensor N/A Capacitive
SIM NanoSIM NanoSIM
LTE Bands Global: FDD 1/3/5/7/8/20/28
TDD 38/40/41
US: FDD 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/28/29/30
JP: FDD 1/3/5/7/13/17/19/21/26
TDD 38/41
Asia/EU: FDD 1/3/5/7/8/12/20/28/32
TDD 38/40/41

To figure out whether it really is we can start with the basic specs. HTC 10 shares quite a bit on paper with the Galaxy S7, but even here it’s obvious that HTC is putting their own sort of spin on things, going with LCD rather than AMOLED. I suspect that HTC is limited by what they can get from suppliers here though, as we’ll soon see. The other notable changes include the camera setup, as HTC goes with a larger sensor with laser AF rather than the somewhat exotic dual pixel system seen in the Galaxy S7 for PDAF on every pixel. If you were to just look at the spec sheet and play with the HTC 10 for a few days you might be inclined to think that it’s basically identical to the Galaxy S7, but as we’ll soon see there is a fair amount of differentiation when looking at the details.

Design

To start our examination of the HTC 10 the easiest place to look is the external design, which is probably something you’ll notice as soon as you take it out of the box. The HTC 10 is pretty much the first time since the original HTC One that HTC has done a major design refresh of their flagship. While it is still an aluminum unibody, with the HTC 10 the phone is basically all aluminum and glass to the touch, which is a noticeable contrast to the One M7, M8, and M9 which were all noticeably plastic in some way. While the One M8 may have seemed to be all aluminum, the speaker grilles were very obviously plastic if you looked too closely, and the One M9 had a very obvious and somewhat cheap-feeling plastic cover on the front of the phone.

In contrast, the HTC 10 basically only has plastic injection molded to demarcate the external antennas, and a plastic RF window on top of the phone for its GPS antenna. The top and bottom “strips” of aluminum function as the antennas for all cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC connectivity. HTC has also gone back to a circular camera cutout, which is definitely more HTC-like than the square cover lens seen in the One M9. In addition to an LED flash, there’s also an STM VL53L0 time of flight sensor which is used to help guide contrast AF search. However, unlike the dual pixel arrangement of the Galaxy S7’s sensor it’s important to note that distance cannot be mapped to focus in an open-loop fashion so a focus sweep is still needed to reach the final focus target.

Moving past the camera, the back cover’s curved design ends with a fairly exaggerated glossy bevel that is unique for a smartphone. I thought that it wasn’t a particularly elegant design at first but with time it’s been growing on me as there’s a nice contrast between the sandblasted matte surface of the back and the glossy chamfer. The side and back of the phone are all integrated into a single piece, and side is a flat sandblasted surface with yet another glossy chamfered edge that meets with the glass. However, unlike an iPhone 6s the edge of the metal is slightly higher than the edge of the glass, which does cause a noticeable felt edge if you swipe off the edge of the phone. I suspect that this is done for durability reasons or something similar because the edge of the cover glass is curved, so it would be fairly easy and probably cheaper to have completely flat cover glass that wouldn’t have the felt edge. It's also worth mentioning that the 2.5D glass only begins to curve after the end of the display and capacitive buttons so a flat screen protector will cover pretty much everything important on the cover glass. While I'm not sure this is really intentional on HTC's part, it's helpful for those that use screen protectors after my experiences with the Galaxy S7.

When it comes to ports and buttons, pretty much everything is along the sides of the phone. The top has the 3.5mm headphone jack, the right side has the power and volume buttons, and the bottom has the USB-C port and one of the two speakers. The feel of the buttons is dramatically improved relative to the One M9 which were rather soft and uncommunicative, and while the power button is still a bit too low for my taste the ridged design and increased resistance of the buttons means I’m no longer accidentally pressing the power button when I pick up the phone. The buttons themselves are also made of aluminum and break more cleanly when you press on them, which helps to make the phone feel more solid.

The front of the phone is now all glass unlike previous designs, and honestly as a result it looks much cleaner than before. The top of the phone contains the second of the two speakers and the optically-stabilized front-facing camera. Under the display, there is a Fingerprint Cards fingerprint sensor that is purely capacitive and functions as a home button as well as capacitive buttons that are enabled by a Cypress CapSense controller. HTC retains their traditional layout with their display driver on the bottom between the display and fingerprint sensor/capacitive buttons, but due to a move back to capacitive buttons the typing ergonomics of the HTC 10 are dramatically improved and on par with the One M7. While it is possible to enable front-facing speakers without the kind of bezel requirements seen in the One M8 and M9, for a ~5” class device it seems that it’s realistically only possible to fit in one front-facing speaker, while phablets generally have more internal volume in the x and y directions to enable more creative speaker placements to enable the second front-facing speaker without major increases in bezel. It’s notable that HTC has finally eliminated their logo from the cover glass of the HTC 10, which is something I’d say is worthy of mention here as it makes the design of the phone much cleaner from the front. It would be pretty impressive if HTC could move the fingerprint scanner under the cover glass for next year here to have a truly seamless design.

While simple description of the design is one thing, after a few months of use one thing that really sticks out to me is just how incredibly solid the design of the HTC 10 is. It’s just incredibly stiff and doesn’t seem to give like any other phone. I usually can feel or hear the back cover or the display assembly flex slightly when I’m applying pressure to these areas on most phones, but the HTC 10 is basically completely free of flex. I don’t really mind if a phone isn’t completely solid, but it is still impressive to see how strong the HTC 10 is. I don’t think this has an impact on drop protection but I don’t think you’re going to accidentally bend the HTC 10 putting it in your back pocket or something similar.

The HTC 10 also seems to have a remarkably symmetrical design for an Android device. Visually, the 3.5mm jack is centered both horizontally and vertically. The laser AF module and LED flash join together with a line that appears to bisect the camera lens.The bottom microphone hole, speaker holes, and USB port appear to all be the same distance from the display. The USB port itself is visually centered the same way the 3.5mm jack is. The front-facing speaker on the display is also visually centered, and the front-facing camera is bisected by the speaker grille visually. The one notable area where the design has some asymmetry is the placement of the fingerprint scanner and capacitive buttons due to the display driver. There’s also some asymmetry with the SIM tray and microSD tray due to the pyramidal stack that HTC retains with the HTC 10. I suspect that symmetry would be possible for the home button, but would cost additional bezel that would affect ergonomics. The LED notification and ALS/proximity sensors are not really aligned with anything, but HTC has managed to hide these things fairly well. Regardless, the design feels more thoughtful than what we’ve seen on the Galaxy S7, which is acceptable and doesn't affect function but basically nothing is aligned. I would argue that it's also more thoughtful than the Note7, but your mileage may vary here.

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  • MobiusPizza - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    These results are probably not a surprise if you’ve been following our recent coverage but it’s still worth noting how the use of eMMC 5.1 is not guaranteed to be a huge impediment, although I would say this is probably the last generation where it’s acceptable to ship eMMC in a flagship device as the eMMC spec doesn’t seem to be progressing much further and UFS/NVMe solutions really seem to be the way forward as far as the industry is concerned.


    Gosh that sentence is quite a mouthful
    Reply
  • asfletch - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    Agreed. Also re the content - is it surprising to anyone else that UFS solutions don't have a clearer advantage over eMMC? I mean my 2014 Note 4 gets about 19/7 on Random Read/Write with the same Androbench settings. According to these charts, that's better than the current Note 7. Also the HTC 10 here on test beats all of the UFS phones handily for Sequential Write speed.

    What's up with that? Is it the benchmark?
    Reply
  • Guitahero - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    What happened with the deep audio analysis from anandtech? Reply
  • JKJK - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    Indeed! I miss them too! Reply
  • winjay - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    "for its size I don’t believe there’s another Snapdragon 820 device with better battery life."

    Sony usually does wonders with battery life. Have you checked Xperia XA battery life?
    Reply
  • Vagabondjonez - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    with a 2k display he probably meant Reply
  • winjay - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    Also this phone is said to have an amazing DAC. How is the audio output? Reply
  • Ro_Ja - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - link

    The front looks like a Samsung Galaxy. Reply
  • amosbatto - Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - link

    This review (and every other review I have ever read) doesn't cover the most important issue, which is the longevity of the phone. Here are the issues which I suggest that a review should cover:

    1. We all know that the battery will die after 2 years. Every phone which has a replaceable battery should automatically get a higher rating, just because it will probably last longer than one which doesn't. If a phone has a sealed case, the reviewer should try to open the case and give readers an idea how hard it will be to replace the battery. If the case is glued together, if the battery is glued to the case or if it is impossible to buy replacement batteries on the internet, then the review should let us know.

    2. Reviews should emphasize the amount of storage space a phone has and how expandable the phone is, because this has a big impact on how long the phone will last. If a phone is limited to 32 gigabytes of storage, then the phone will probably not last more than 2 years, because people tend to buy new phones once they run out of space. Trying to decide what apps to uninstall, what music to remove, what photos to delete, etc. is such a painful process, that many people simply buy a new phone. Reviews should really knock phones which don't have a MicroSD slot to expand storage and I would love to see some benchmarking on the difference in speed between the internal NAND and a normal MicroSD.

    Frankly, I wish that smartphone manufacturers would offer us phones with two MicroSD slots, where one is used to expand the storage for apps on the phone and the second is the memory that we can remove to transfer files to our PC.

    Another thing that reviews should cover is how hard is it insert and extract a MicroSD card. On my HTC Sensation from 2011, it was very easy to pop the MicroSD card in and out of the computer, but it can't be done without a special tool on my Moto X Pure Edition. Not a single review ever covers how hard it is to insert and extract the MicroSD card, but this is essential information for people like me who intend to keep their phones for many years.

    3. Every review should mention how good the manufacturer is about offering security updates and OS upgrades to its phones, which are essential for extending the life of the phone. HTC has an excellent track record of offering fast updates when a new version of Android is released, whereas Samsung does not. Every review comparing an HTC phone to a Samsung phone should mention this difference, because it will influence the buying decisions of people who care about the longevity of their phones.

    4. Another way to extend the life of a phone is to install an OS that doesn't come from the manufacturer. If the manufacturer stops offering upgrades, then we have the freedom to install CyanogenMod or another mod to get the new features in the latest version of Android. No review ever covers how hard it is to unlock the bootloader and install a mod in the phone, but this is essential information for a phone buyer who wants to be able to keep upgrading the phone. Does the manufacturer offer for free the code to unlock the bootloader and does it have a policy of voiding the warranty if a mod is installed? Five years ago when I bought my Sensation, HTC had the best mod policies in the industry, but I have no idea who is best today and this review didn't mention it.

    Another piece of essential information is how standard the hardware is and how likely mods will be developed for the phone. For example, the SoC on the HTC 10 is a standard Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, so it is highly likely that mods will be made for this phone, whereas it is highly unlikely that mods will ever be created for a custom SoC made by Huawei, Samsung or Apple. Yes, that custom SoC probably processes a couple milliseconds faster, but frankly most people will never notice the difference.

    5. Another way to extend the life of a phone is to turn it into a PC. I frankly don't see the point of buying a flagship phone like the HTC 10 which costs $600, but I might consider it if I know that it can be used as a low cost PC. Kudos to this review for at least mentioning that the HTC 10 supports Slimline and Android 7, but it doesn't explain why that is important. The phone has the necessary hardware and software to be hooked up to a monitor and bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so it can be used as a PC with multiple windows and a mouse pointer. I would have loved to read a review about how well this works with the HTC 10.

    Reviewers spend an inordinate amount of time covering differences in processing speed and other minutiae which most people will never notice when using a phone, but they don't provide the most essential information to help people choose phones with long lifespans. Part of the reason is that reviewers are the type of people who get a new phone every year, so they don't worry about the battery wearing out. However, I think a more important factor is that fact that sites like AnandTech rely on advertising from the same manufacturers who they are reviewing. Manufacturers of smartphones and other electronic devices promote planned obsolescence as a way to increase their sales. A reviewer who dwells too much on the fact that a phone is designed to be thrown away after two years probably won't get much advertising and is unlikely to get free samples to review.

    Apple has always had some of the worst policies in the industry in terms of planned obsolescence, but within the last 5 years the entire phone industry has started to copy Apple in designing sealed black boxes which are difficult to open and even harder to fix. Yet, I have not seen a single review of the iPhone 7 or any of the other recent smartphones which even mentions how hard it is to fix the phone or even replace the battery. If the reviewers don't mention it, then consumers won't think to check and the phone industry will conclude that consumers don't want fixable and modifiable phones, so they will offer more and more Apple-like devices.

    Extending the life of smartphones is not just a way to save consumers money. One of the biggest ecological problems on the planet is the fact that 1.5 billion smartphones will be manufactured this year and most of them will be junked within 2 years. More smartphones are manufactured today than all the other ICT devices combined (servers, routers, desktop and notebook PCs, tablets, gaming consoles, cameras, televisions and advanced wearables). The amount of energy, metals and other vital resources which are wasted every year in making throwaway devices is astounding. If we estimate that the average smartphone and its charger weighs 150 grams, that means we are generating 225,000 metric tons of eventual e-waste every year, which is toxic and needs special treatment.

    Even more alarming is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being generated to manufacture all these smartphones. Apple estimates that 83.6 kg of CO2-equivalent were emitted to manufacture and transport its iPhone 6 to point of sale, whereas using an iPhone for a year emits 3.5 kg CO2-e and recycling it at the end of its life emits 1.0 kg CO2-e. Of course, Apple didn't include all the energy to operate the cell towers, internet servers and routers, etc. that are used by an iPhone, but manufacturing a smartphone clearly has far more environmental impact than using it, so the best way to lower the environmental impact is to make the phone last as long as possible in order to avoid manufacturing a new phone.

    Apple does not explain how it calculates its emissions, but it is highly likely that Apple did not include the SF6 which was emitted in manufacturing its screens or all the other types of greenhouse gases which often get overlooked. It also probably doesn't include in its emissions all the advanced processing to make the ultrapure chemicals, water and gases which are used in silicon and flat screen fabs. Today's crop of smartphones probably have an even higher environmental impact, considering that they are using larger screens, more memory and more processing cores than the iPhone 6, which had a 4.7in screen, 1 GB of RAM and 2 processing cores. Now-a-days, 5-6in screens, 2-4GB of RAM and 4-8 processing cores are the norm, so we can conservatively estimate that manufacturing today's smartphone will emit 100 kg CO2-e. For the 1.5 billion smartphones produced in 2016, that means 150,000 metric tons of CO2-e.
    Reply
  • Allan_Hundeboll - Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - link

    You def. have a point Reply

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