I remember when HTC was synonymous with Smartphones. While most of us were still pressing the ď3Ē button twice to enter in the letter ďeĒ, HTC was making Smartphones with HTML web browsers, email, MS office with WiFi and Bluetooth.
However, their 2015 flagship, the HTC One M9 left something to be desired. If I was to describe it in one word it would be ďunderwhelmingĒ. On paper it was an improvement over the 2014 M8, but in the real world, it was more of a sideways step rather than a step forward.
The camera had beefy specs but it wasnít really that great, the processor should have been formidable but wasnít really any faster than last yearís model. It just didnít stand out.
Fortunately, HTC isnít messing around with their 2016 flagship; the HTC 10 lines up much better with its competitors.
In Canada, the HTC 10 is available unlocked from HTCís website for an eye-watering $999 Canadian. Otherwise, itís a Bell exclusive. At $349.99 Canadian on contract itís $50 more than the LG G5, $50 less than the GS7 and $150 less than the GS7 Edge . Letís check it out:
What about the Samsung Galaxy S7?
There are 2 GS7 models to consider but theyíre similar enough, Iíll just discuss both at the same time.
Iíd say the HTC and the GS7ís represent the pinnacle of Android flagships. They have 2 of the best cameras ever on a Smartphone, good audio chops, and lots of performance
Both GS7ís have much nicer looking displays which are much, much brighter than the 10 with nicer more natural colour too. Thatís really the big difference between the 10 and the GS7ís.
The Samsungs also possess superior battery life and have slightly more powerful displays.
The HTCís camera takes better pictures though the GS7ís has noticeably faster focusing, plus, the camera can be launched quickly by double tapping the home button. The front-facing camera with optical image stabilization is a plus.
What about the LG G5?
The LG G5 has a removable battery, a brighter screen, a second rear-facing camera with an extremely wide angle and a much more powerful speaker.
The HTC 10 counters with a phone that feels much, much fancier in the hand, a better rear-facing camera and better sounding speakers.
Between the 2, itís a tough choice. While I like the 10ís better sounding speakers, I think the G5ís more powerful speaker makes it a more practical choice. Theyíre so loud you can even use it for mapping in the car with the windows down on the highway.
As for imaging, I think the 10ís rear camera is clearly better, in that it takes cleaner pictures. However, the G5ís second wide angle camera opens up a lot of interesting possibilities. Here Iíd say itís a draw. I wouldnít use the G5ís wide angle camera that often but Iíd use it occasionally.
Then again, the 10ís stabilized front-facing camera is a unique feature.
The G5ís display is much brighter than the 10ís. There is a difference between it and the HTC when youíre outdoors in direct sunlight.
The G5ís wildcard over the HTC is its removable battery. Whether if youíre a power user and need to carry an extra battery or if you plan on keeping it and just want to replace it quickly and cheaply down the road, a removable battery is a plus.
Oh, I also find that the on-screen menu buttons also make the G5 a little easier to use.
What about the Huawei Nexus 6P?
Last yearís Nexus 6P is another viable competitor. It has a larger display and better sounding and more powerful speakers. Itís also not quite as obsessed as being as small as possible so itís a bit easier to handle.
I also find that the 6Pís fingerprint reader is a bit more reliable though the inconvenience of having to reach around the back balances things out a little.
Then thereís the updates, while HTC has been very good with keeping their phones up to date, they still lag Nexus phones by a few months so take that into consideration.
The 10 has better performance and a better camera that records much better video.
Of course, the Nexus 6P is now considerably more affordable than the 10 which is priced a bit too high.
- 5.2Ē Super LCD5 display
- 2560x1440 resolution
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB storage
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
- 12 and 5MP rear cameras
- 12MP rear camera with 1.55um size pixels
- Optical image stabilization on both cameras
- 5MP front camera with 1.34um size pixels
- 3000mAh battery
- BT 4.0
- Android 6
- Fingerprint reader
- LTE bands: 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/28/29/30
- Separate woofer and tweeter
- 145.9 x 71.9 x 9mm
After 3 consecutive generations of similar flagships, the HTC 10 takes their design in a new direction. The 10 loses the speaker grill stickers in favor of a more minimalist all-glass front. Iím guessing this is to help accommodate the front-facing fingerprint reader/home button.
The back on the other hand is an evolution of the previous generations. Itís still all metal with 2 antenna bars across the top and bottom but now the chamfered edges are much wider.
The wider edges are very striking but at the same time, I think narrower edges are more elegant. I guess you could say itís nice in the same way a huge watch is nice so itís a matter of taste.
Another change is that the curve on the back isnít as dramatic. This will make it more well behaved when you put it on a table because it doesnít wobble as badly.
While the flatter back makes the 10 a little easier to hold, Iíd still say itís one of the less friendly to hold phones on the market.
As youíd expect from an all metal back, the 10 is very solid phone with no flex or give. Unlike the M7, 8 and 9, everything lines up as it should. Itís easily the most solid 2016 flagship so far.
The buttons have some nice detailing which gives them a sense of occasion. They also stick out just enough and press with a satisfying click.
HTC has brought capacitive menu buttons back to the 10. For what itís worth, Iím usually neutral on the topic of capacitive vs on-screen menu buttons. However, the 10ís buttons are located really close to the bottom of the phone. Most phones would place the buttons halfway down between the bottom of the screen and the bottom of the phone.
The problem with the 10ís setup is that being too close to the bottom makes them easier to press by accident and indeed, I do find that this happens when Iím using it with one hand.
Thereís a USB Type-C connector at the bottom. Iíve said this a few times but for now Iím donít consider a Type-C connector to be a good or bad thing. On the plus side, Type-C supports very fast charging rates. Itís also easy to use because you can plug it in either way. It can supply power to other devices. For example, noise cancelling headphones which can plug into the Type-C connector and don'tí require a separate battery to replace.
On the downside Type-C cables are more expensive plus chances are, you donít have many Type-C devices. If youíre like me you already have a bunch of Micro USB devices like headphones, speakers, peripherals, cameras and charging accessories so Type-C phones will require a further investment in new accessories.
You get a 5.2Ē 2560x1440 display. Just to compare, the GS7 and GS7 Edge have 5.1 and 5.5Ē displays, the LG G5 has a 5.3 while the Nexus 6P has a 5.7Ē.
Given that that 10ís more affordable brother yearís A9 had an AMOLED screen I was a little surprised that they went with a LCD - actually a Super LCD5 on the 10. I was told that they went with the A9 because AMOLED display allows for a slightly thinner device.
These days, itís given that flagships come with really nice displays so Iím a little disappointed with the 10ís.
It comes with 2 color settings; Vivid and sRGB. Vivid makes the colours horribly over-saturated to the point I canít stand to look at the screens. Reds and greens glow fiercely, it annoys the hell out of me.
The sRGB setting sounds like a good idea but Iím not fond of it either. While the displayís colors are more well-behaved, somehow they manage to look washed out with a reddish tint at the same time. Each display setting does allow you to adjust the colour temperature via a slider but I wasnít able to dial in a setting that I liked.
Then thereís the brightness; the HTC 10 at maximum brightness is similar to the GS7 or iPhone 6s Plus at around 60 or 70%. So at times it lacks that extra Ďoomphí when you need a bit more brightness.
While itís certainly not a bad display by any means, itís the one area where it lags behind competitors which is a shame since the display is the one feature you use most on a phone. I wonder if they would have been better off sticking an AMOLED or a different LCD panel in the 10.
The sensor on the 10ís predecessor, the M9 had way too many pixels for its size, which resulted in a camera whoís indoor performance wasnít up to snuff. Fortunately, the 10 brings the megapixel count down from 20MP to a still usable 12MP.
The idea is that all else being equal, too many pixels on a sensor results in too much noise and lower image quality. I also find that too many pixels makes a sensor susceptible to heat generated from the phoneís processor.
Anyways, itís a 12 megapixel sensor with 1.55um sized pixels. Hmm, sounds a lot like the sensor on the Nexus 6P. In addition, the HTC adds optical image stabilization - a critical feature missing from the 6P.
So howíd it do? Pretty damn well. I just want to point out that when I compare camera phones image quality, Iím always talking about how their JPEGís look.
Now, I realize that itís 2016 and most Android flagships come with a RAW model but the way I see it, I use my the camera in my phone because itís convenient and good enough. Convenient means itís fast so aside from very minor editing or filters, I donít want to spend the time messing around with RAW files since Iím happy with ďgood enoughĒ.
With that in mind, I think the 10 takes the best looking pictures out of the GS7 Edge, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5 and the Nexus 6P.
It ties the iPhone with the most accurate looking colour with the 6P not far behind. The Samsung and LG both saturate colors a bit too much which makes for slightly obnoxious looking photos.
The 10 also takes the cleanest looking photos. It has the least amount of noise and in case youíre wondering, itís not a case of it having overly-aggressive noise reduction. It still maintains a lot of detail. The GS7 and Nexus 6P are a close second. I also like the iPhone because next to the HTC it looks the least processed. It doesnít try to sharpen everything like crazy and if the scene is dark, it doesnít try to make it look like it was lit like the LG and Samsung do.
One thing that doesnít get talked about too much is the cameraís focal length or rather, how ďwideĒ or ďtightĒ the lens is. Phones donít typically come with a zoom lens so youíre stuck with whatever length it comes with. If a lens is too tight, youíll find yourself constantly trying to take a step back to fit your scene. If itís too wide, youíll find that portraits arenít always that interesting because the camera captures too much of the background.
Itís a trade off, you donít want something too tight or too wide. With that in mind, I find that the 10ís camera is a tad too wide. I mean, the wide lens makes it more versatile but at the cost of sometimes taking less interesting photos.
While the 10 takes the best pictures, I think the GS7 takes is much more convenient to use for 2 reasons: First off, you can double press the home button from any screen to launch the camera. On the Nexus 6P, you can do the same with the power button, so itís actually a Marshmallow feature. Why HTC would remove this feature is beyond me (LG did this too to the G5).
The GS7 also focuses much faster than the 10. Itís not to say that the 10 focuses slowly but it sure does compared to the Samsung.
So, while Iím mildly annoyed by the GS7ís wild colors, itís speed and convenience make up for it so Iíd say the 10 and GS7 are neck-in-neck camera wise.
As for 10 vs 6s Plus, again I think the 10 takes better pictures but I prefer the iPhoneís camera app over the HTC one which is a bit cluttered in my opinion.
As for Nexus vs 10, Iíd pick the HTC 10 times out of 10. The Nexus takes an awesome sensor and pairs it with mediocre software. It focuses as slowly as a blind man and is just a terrible pairing.
The G5 is a much more interesting match up. The G5ís ďmainĒ camera, a 16MP sensor youíll find on last yearís LG G4 and GS6. Itís not as good as the sensor as in the 10 but Iíd still characterize it as good enough.
To make up for the less capable sensor, the G5 also packs a second camera with a wide angle lens. And when I say wide, I mean itís super wide. I havenít figured out exactly but itís roughly equivalent to a 16mm lens on a full frame camera. You wonít use it all the time but itís interesting enough that youíll probably use it some time. It has itís own 8MP sensor which isnít as capable as the main sensor. When it comes to the G5 Iíd say itís a draw, take the HTCís better camera or the G5ís more interesting pair of cameras.
Video looks good but it sometimes suffers from overly aggressive metering so if youíre shooting a scene with tricky lighting you, might find that the colour is constantly changing. Itís also able to record audio in high definition (presumably 24bit/192hz). The microphone is really good though Iím skeptical the high def makes any difference.
One trick the 10 has that I havenít seen on any other phone is an optically stabilized front-facing camera. Rear cameras with OIS are quite common but a front may be the first.
To test this, I flicked the my Nexus 6P with my finger and then did the same with the 10. Just from looking at the preview you can see the difference between the 2. The 6P shakes badly while the 10ís dampens it a lot more.
You get Android 6.0.1 with some slight customizations from HTC. The biggest changes include HTC Blinkfeed which sort of duplicates aspects of Google Now. You also get the usual HTC vertical app drawer and a light skin. Otherwise HTC is trying to duplicate less of the Android apps so theyíve kept it to the minimum. Iím talking the camera app, email client and a few utilities. Basically stuff Google hasnít figured out yet.
HTC is also including a Theme app which is able to make changes that are more than <ahem> skin deep. It allows you to position icons precisely so that you donít need to put everything in a grid, plus you can choose custom icons.
Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC. The 820 is quite an improvement over last yearís 810. Much of this is due to the fact that the 820 is able to stay a bit cooler which allows it to reach itís full potential more frequently.
That said, the 820 runs quite warm and indeed, itís possible to get it to the point that the heat affects its benchmark scores.
I ran GL Benchmarkís graphics tests. You can choose to run just one at a time or run them all consecutively. I noticed that some scores are noticeably higher if you donít run them consecutively which suggests the HTC 10 (and LG G5) are throttling something due to heat. The idea is running them consecutively doesnít give the HTC time to cool off between tests.
Anyways, while the 10 can get quite warm, itís performance is still clearly a step up from last yearís HTC One M9:
I donít have an HTC One M9 handy to compare with by you can find the same SoC in the Nexus 6P.
While the 6P does have a higher resolution display than the M9 which could yield lower scores the 820 out-classes the 810.
As a Phone:
The earpiece and speakerphone both sound extremely clean but their maximum volume is average at best.
RF performance is average.
You get a large-ish 3000mAh battery. Hereís how it did on my Netflix test (50% brightness, 1hr of Netflix via WiFi in my office, maximum volume, power saver settings on default):
The test favors AMOLED displays and indeed, the 10 only manages 7.1hrs on the test. In the real world, Iíd say the result is fairly accurate. Regular users will get a day but power users will have to top off halfway. I guess Iím mildly disappointed because the 10ís display is smaller and much dimmer than the iPhone and the G5ís plus its battery actually has a higher capacity than either phone.
That said, the 10 has a USB Type-C port which allows it to work with 15 watt chargers that can fill the battery very quickly.
The speaker setup is intriguing, like most phones it has a small speaker on the earpiece and a bigger one on the bottom.
However, unlike most phones which can only use one speaker at a time, the HTC uses the earpiece as a tweeter, and the larger bottom one as a woofer. Okay, saying itís a woofer is a bit of a stretch but bigger speakers are better suited for lower frequencies so the science is on HTCís side.
I tested this out by cover each speaker with my finger with interesting results. Covering the top speaker has little effect on the overall sound. However, when I put it close to my ear, I can definitely hear sound coming out of it.
Covering the bottom speaker results in a much more dramatic change. I think the top speaker handles high frequencies only at a reduced volume. The bottom speaker is a bit more powerful and seems to replicate much of the same frequencies the top one does plus it adds a little bit more bottom end.
Overall, the speakers sound excellent with decent range. Theyíre also quite powerful too though not as powerful as the GS7, LG G5 or Nexus 6P.
The 10ís automatically up-converts all sound to 24bit audio.
One interesting trick if you use wired headphones is that the 10 is able to create custom equalizer settings for each one based on your hearing.
As they get older, most people donít have perfect hearing. What the 10 does is it plays back a tones at different frequencies. You tell it the threshold where you can no longer hear each one and then creates a setting which boosts the frequencies you have trouble hearing.
There is 32GB of built-in storage. If thatís not enough you can add a MicroSD.
Overall the new HTC 10 is much more competitive than its predecessor. The area where it shines brightest is its camera which takes the best looking photos out of all the recent Android flagships.
It also has the classiest most solid feeling body out of all its peers.
The rest of the package is very competitive. The speakers, processing power and even the battery is decent.
The only area where Iím let down by the 10 is the display. I just couldnít get comfortable with the color, and even if you can look past that, it just isnít as bright as the G5 and GS7 and screen brightness is one of the big differentiators between a midrange and a flagship phone.
4 Howies out of 5.
- 4GB of RAM
- Metal body
- Nice speakers
- Fingerprint reader
- Good camera
- Front camera is also stabilized
- Lackluster display
- Capacitive buttons are too close to the bottom