Overview of the HTC One M9
During the past 12 months, the technology community has seen a lot of changes in the smartphone market. But, after having the chance to experience the One M9 from HTC in some weeks, we have acknowledged that HTC seems not to catch up with some of its competitors, such as Samsung with the Galaxy S6 model. This is a bit disappointing, especially when the predecessor – the One M8 have been rocked in our pocket since it was released in 2014.
In the same year, while other giant manufactures such as Apple, Samsung or GL has a lot of revolutionary changes, why does it seem that HTC has not had revolutionary improvements? The following review will let you know more about this.
Detailed Review of the HTC One M9
Stunning build, odd colours
The three big flagships of HTC seems to pretty similar to one another, so it may not be easy to differentiate one among these three models when looking at it for the first time. The HTC One M7 which was released three years ago brought out a significant change in the design style of HTC and put this Taiwanese manufacturer on the top smartphone company – competing with Apple for the famous sophisticated iPhone.
The design of the HTC M9 One this year is pretty similar to the two previous models – M7 & M8. However, not everything is the same. You won’t find the unibody design in the M9 as found with the M8, now the HTC M9 is built by a lot of aluminum pieces. Because of this, the sides of the phone are slightly raised from the front panel.
The back is covered by aluminum and a bit more curved than previously, so it’s easier to hold the phone in hands. While the HTC M8 was found to dig a little too hard into hands, the related small changes make us more enjoyable in holding it in hands.
There’s one new thing found in the design of the M9: the location of the standby button is not on the top any more, now it’s located in the side. While for smartphones with large screens, it’s pretty common to see power buttons on the top, HTC has put it in the center of the side. However, this is not a good change. As the volume keys are right above the standby button, users often find it confusing to use these two buttons. Meanwhile, this manufacturer could have shifted the volume button to one side and the standby button to the other side, which is very nice. But actually, it didn’t do that.
The 5.2-inch screen of the M9 is as large as that of the M8. The Boom Sound speakers are located on the side. While the addition of these stereo speakers creates one of the longest phones on the market, we’re glad they’ve been kept around. The audio quality is very nice regardless of the sources of sounds: from YouTube, Spotify, or even the alarm sound. Certainly, you will easily wake up when listening to the alarm clock of this phone.
Thanks to the design of multiple pieces, there are more various color options for the HTC M9. We have once reviewed the silver one, with part of rose gold. Perhaps not everyone will be a fan of this color, we recommend that you should select more traditional options such as the all-black or two-tone silver colors.
Sense is starting to fall behind
The Sense UI interface has been one of the greatest Android skins. Although it was not enough to go with the beauty of stock Android, it was nice.
However, currently when many big manufacturers have been changing a lot of things on the Google’s running system, it feels like that HTC has not caught up with the trend. It seems to be that there is not any part of Android 5.01 Lollipop staying alone here. The quick settings make the screen become messy and you may find it confusing to pick up widgets and apps due to the odd app drawer. But luckily, it’s fast to switch from the multi-tasking view into the stock Android Lollipop version.
Overall, the Sense 7 & 6 are pretty similar. In the One M9, you will find a new home screen widget which is assumed to smartly replace the apps for displaying your current location: Work, Home or “On the Go”. However, in fact, just the replacement of a note taking app by the Netfix was found when you come back home in the night. In addition, the “Suggested Downloads” folder attached in the list of Google Play apps was very frustrating. This folder is abundant in the home screen.
The Sense 7 also support the Blinkfeed feature – where all of the social networks or news that you are interested in have been gathered in one place. Beside popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you even can find nice suggestions on restaurants for your lunch. This is very useful and it can be easily disabled when you don’t want to use it.
It’s clear that the most noticeable improvement in the Sense is the new and powerful Theme feature. You can easily change the look of icons, fonts or background colors. In addition to the available themes, you can also create your own theme with any of your photos. This is a great upgrade to the Sense 7.
Plenty of power under the metal
The feature list of the HTC One M9 includes all the top specification in the market, such as: 3GB RAM, Snapdragon’s 810 processor, the storage capability of up to 32 GB and a MicroSD card as well. The performance of the phone is also fast and very smooth and there is not any lag at all.
Especially the performance in playing processor-intensive games such as Dead Trigger 2 or Asphalt can surprise you. Even when you open a lot of apps at the same time, you will still find a very fast performance from this phone.
However, when you charge the phone or play games, the phone body easily gets hot. It’s hot to the extent that there is something wrong with the phone. But actually, the device has not been affected at all.
The sound quality is nice as you may expect. Thanks to the great BoomSound speakers, the loudspeaker chats become extra bit crisper. This is nice. We have tested the phone with the 3 UK 4G sim and the performance is snappy in LTE locations.
Why no 2K display?
All the features included in the HTC One M9 ranks the top of the market, except the screen. While it’s pretty common to find the QHD 2K displays in top smartphones such as Samsung, LG, Motorola and other devices, this kind of display has not been included in the M9. HTC keeps the same screen as found in the M8. Actually, the 1080p screen is nice, but for a smartphone model in such a competitive market, this screen’s gonna make it fall down somewhat.
However, the screen the M9 is still nice. It has the great sharpness and proper brightness, which enables you to view it easily outdoors. The viewing angles are excellent, so you won’t have to worry about the glare problem. With its sizes, the M9 can stay side by side with the Samsung Galaxy (S5, S6, and S6 Edge) and other best smartphones from Samsung in many years.
Certainly, there’s enough grunt under the hood to power the extra pixels, but when HTC decided on the 1080p screen, the battery has not been changed much. The battery still needs to be charged every night and there’s often a red notification at the end of the day.
Ultrapixels weren’t great, but this….
Last year, the M8 used a 4 Ultrapixel image sensor which was located in the back of the phone. But, it was not really good. Therefore, for a new model like M9, an improvement on the camera would be expected the most.
This year, in the M9, HTC decided to replace the Ultrapixel sensor by the 20.2-megapixel Toshiba sensor with the video capability up to 4K. This is an incredible decision. The more megapixels do not always mean greater captures – that’s what HTC wants to prove in its decision.
But after experiencing the HTC M9 for some weeks, we found that it did take time for the settings before we could capture great photos. While it’s pretty easy to open the camera and capture a nice snapshot with the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6, you cannot do this with the M9.
The story this year seems to be kept unchanged.
So, what happens with the photos shot by the camera of the M9? The photos are always of overexposure. The camera results are left useless when you shoot the photos in the daytime with plenty of light. If you don’t capture images under the direct light, the results seem to be slightly better. There is nothing wrong with the details but you won’t get the accurate colors. In addition, because there is no optical image stabilization, shooting under low light struggles, too. This 20-megapixel sensor can’t be compared with the previous Ultrapixel sensor.
It does take a lot of effort for shooting photos with the camera of the M9. And the story seems to be similar for video capturing. The 1080p resolution is nice, just sometimes slightly shaky, but because of the frame-rate problems, the 4K quality brings images which are almost useless.
The only good points go with the available manual options from the camera. Especially if you are a fan of selfie photos (very popular these days), you can use the front camera and shot nice selfie, especially for shooting under low light.
To be frank, this camera is really disappointing.
Verdict – HTC lacks the tricks this year
There were some drawbacks with the HTC One M8, regarding the camera, the software and a bit sharply-built feel. With the M9, these concerns are still remaining, except the fact that the body is a bit curvier. While the speed of the M8 was pretty fast, that of the M9 is even faster thanks to the upgraded processor. In addition, one extra 1GB RAM has been added up in this new version.
One year ago, HTC released one of the most nice-looking Android smartphones in the market. But this year, it’s not really clear. While the Galaxy S6 goes sexy with metal and glass, the LG G4 becomes more premium with the leather in the back and the Moto X from Motorola is the combination of luxury and sturdy construction of metal, the design style of HTC is not the leading one in the Android market any more.
In regard of the software, although the Blinkfeed and Theme feature are super great, the M9 of HTC is still surpassed by other competitors. The heavy Sense 7 seems to face a hard competition from the clean-up interfaces of Samsung or LG, or even with Motorola with stock Android from Google.
The HTC One M9 is still a pretty phone and its performance is fast enough to satisfy you. However, if you want to have a good model with a cheaper price, the HTC One M8 can be a very nice choice.