The highly rumored (and leaked) HTC One M9 was unveiled yesterday at MWC and we were in the room for Peter Chou’s presentation on stage.
The HTC One M9 looks very similar than its predecessor the One M8, in a slightly more compact package. For its new flagship product, HTC kept the same brushed aluminum back cover with two lines at the top and the bottom, the same BoomSound speaker grille and the same 5-inch 1080p display. The camera modules on the back is placed exactly at the same spot on the M9, except that it is a little larger and square instead of round.
The main hardware upgrade, besides the Octa-Core Snapdragon 810 processor , is the 20.7 MP rear camera. On the software side, the HTC gets Android 5.0 Lollipop and the new HTC Sense UI 7.0.
We got our hands briefly on the HTC One M9 after the press conference, our first impressions in the full article.
- Dimensions 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm
- Weight 157g
- Resolution 1920×1080
- Display Diagonal 5″
- Processor/Soc Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 8-core CPU (2 GHz Quad-core ARM Cortex A57, 1.5 GHz Quad-core A53) Adreno 430 GPU
- RAM 3 GB
- Internal storage 32 GB
- MicroSD up to 128 GB
- OS Android 5.0 Lollipop
- Front Camera 4 MP “UltraPixel”
- Rear camera 20.7 MP
- Battery Capacity 2840 mAh
Obviously, since the HTC One M9 looks so similar to the previous model, it is interesting to list here the new features and different upgrades.
The 4 MP UltraPixel camera that used to be the primary one is now the front shooter while the rear module gets a 20.7 Mp sensor and a squared shaped lens.
The HTC One features Qualcomm’s flagship processor, the octa-core Snapdragon 810, which powers the LG G Flex 2 as well. The LG curved smartphone was the first to be unveiled with the Snapdragon 810 at CES 2015. RAM is increased from 2 GB to 3 GB.
Probably to sustain a decent battery life, the battery capacity has been increased from 2,600mAh to 2,840mAh.
In regard to the dimensions, the HTC One M9 is 2 mm shorter for a similar width, a hair thicker (9.6 mm vs. 9.4mm) for 3 grams less than the M8.
HTC’s goal is surely to remain consistent on the One lineup design, probably to ensure brand awareness using a highly recognizable form factor. However such level of similarity could come across as unsurprising in a world where innovation and design appeal are key competitive drivers.
Although the aluminum brushed chassis and the main components such as the speakers and the camera module, subtle details have been added, such as the dual-tone for the silver version that features golden beveled edges.
Overall the design is elegant, however, it feels like it has not really evolved since the previous model. By comparison, Samsung and LG have offered a more interesting evolution of the built quality of their latest flagship smartphones.
The broad range of colorful perforated case a.k.a. “dot view covers” are one of the most innovative features design-wise. You can display various messages or see the time through these covers while ensuring good protection for the phone.
Quite a number of HTC’s competitors have chosen to offer Quad HD display, so we wonder why the Taiwanese manufacturer still sticks to the 1080p resolution. The image quality is pretty good and the video viewing experience is great, especially with the good audio quality coming from the BoomSound speakers. In the video demo, the noise level of the conference room was quite high and you can still clearly hear the audio track. (see video below)
For quite some time HTC had a quite lower pixel resolution in its main camera, knowing that high pixel count does not necessarily equates higher quality, specifically in a world where almost all pictures are posted online in low resolution.
With the M9, HTC finally decided to keep its 4 MP UltraPixel camera as the front shooter, while bumping the resolution of the rear camera way more than the competition, with a 20.7 MP sensor, a f/2.2, 27.8mm lens and 4K video recording.
I could not really test the camera during the hands on session yesterday, so we will have to wait for the review unit.
On the software side, new photo editing options and photo effects have been added.
Software – HTC Sense 7.0
The M9 gets an update of HTC proprietary user interface Sense with the 7.0 version. There are no major changes of the look and feel of the user interface but a few new features are available.
One of the most noticeable feature is the new Themes app, users will be able to customize the appearance of their phone on the inside a little more. You can select a photo and a range of colors that will be displayed across the device. The process can be semi automated or entirely controlled, and it is possible to change icon shapes, colors, and navigation buttons.
The MSM8994 octa-core Snapdragon 810 is currently the most powerful processor in Qualcomm’s portfolio, comparable to the fastest Samsung Exynos chip featured in the Galaxy S6.
The HTC One M9 is the second handset to be announced as using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. We already have two points of reference, one being the Snapdragon 810 MDP development hardware, and the second one is the LG G Flex 2 (read our LG G Flex 2 review), the first Snapdragon 810 smartphone in the world. Here are the raw numbers:
The numbers show that the HTC M9’s performance typically is a bit higher than the G Flex 2. At this point, we haven’t run the whole gamut of benchmarks, so while the picture is still a little muddy, we know that those two phones are close, with the M9 leading. Keep in mind that both phones are expected to receive performance updates by the time they are made available to the public.
Given how much performance has improved with the G Flex 2 between CES and MWC, we’re hoping that production units will get close to the reference hardware. That said, keep in mind that the MDP is larger, so it may have a more generous thermal budget.
The HTC One M9 is responsive, but out of the box, we didn’t feel a big difference when compared to the M8. Things like user interface (UI) and app loading are the most visible aspect of “performance”, and they are often software-driven. There are however solutions like making the onboard storage faster, like Samsung did with the Galaxy S6. Still, this is not bad by any means, but HTC was once a great reference in terms of responsiveness (in the One M8 days), but that appears to be a thing of the past for this cycle. The next step is to see how all these phones react when they are fully-loaded with apps and data.
With the release HTC One M9, the Taiwanese manufacturer played it safe this year with this highly elegant but unsurprising device. The camera has been improved with a 20.7 Mp sensor and 4K video, however we still need to compare it to the best camera phones out there to really make up our mind. As you know, Megapixels can help with increased sharpness, but they don’t define photo quality.
The HTC M9’s strongest asset with HTC fans is HTC Sense, the company’s proprietary layer on top of Android that brings a number of improvements that are very appreciated by regular HTC buyers.
Since “premium materials” no longer differentiate HTC as it once did, the company will rely on its software such as the HTC Camera apps and other application-level features to dig in and appeal to its customers. Of course, no matter the materials, the HTC One design remains absolutely unique.