HTC 10 Review


We all love us an underdog. But the story of HTC doesn't quite qualify it for the role. At the height of its power, the Android pioneer was responsible for one out of four smartphones sold in the United States, and not by accident. But like so many other of the giants of old—think Nokia, BlackBerry—the company's fortunes took a turn for the worse. Rock bottom was last year in August, when the once high-flying brand's stock was trading below cash reserves, meaning it was essentially worthless in the eyes of investors.


HTC 10 Review
HTC 10 Review
Things have gotten better since. But HTC is still an unwilling prisoner of the spiral of death, with every successive failed, or even indecisive, quarter making a resurfacing next time around even less likely. And despite the initial success of its new Vive virtual reality arm, one has to wonder just how much sweat and worry—but also passion—went into the planning of its latest flagship phone, the HTC 10, to ensure a success.


With the 10, HTC must prove to the world that its wares are worth the dough. And theirs have been a tough sale lately, largely because of objective shortcomings that the HTC 'style' of doing things—a style we've always been attracted to—wasn't enough to cover for. So the 10 needs to be rock-solid both on the inside and outside, while also doing a splendid job getting us through a busy day of life acrobatics.


Let's see how it does.


Design

Design isn't just about looks. The HTC 10 proves it.

Ask a person what they think of the design of anything and they're likely to start yapping about looks. And sure, looks are important and very much a part of design. But they're far from the be-all and end-all. And sometimes, we need devices like the HTC 10 to be reminded of that.


The HTC 10 not only looks great—it also feels great. In the hand, it's substantial and pleasantly heavy in a way that few phones are. From the chamfered edges on the back, through the solid aluminum body, the 10 is a smartphone with style. And it's also cleverly engineered.


Front view | Side view
HTC 10
HTC 10
5.74 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches
145.9 x 71.9. x 9 mm
5.68 oz (161 g)

HTC 10

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s



For example, those aforementioned chamfers aid handling ergonomics and help you forget the specs—the specs that list the HTC 10 as 0.35 inches-thick (9mm), or more than any competing flagship. And while the _phone_ is rather chunky, it feels like its thickness is a statement just as much as an engineering necessity. Also helpful is the ridged power button, which is centered on the right side, with the volume rocker a bit higher for a perfect, secure grip.


Turning our attention to the front, it's where HTC's design team lets us down the most. Adopting many of the characteristics of the HTC One A9, the 10 isn't exactly striking when looked head-on. Probably the biggest offender here are the weird proportions of the top and bottom bezels, along with the home button which sits strangely off-center.


Available in silver and dark-gray mattes, the HTC 10 strikes us as a rather masculine device. And while in terms of looks it's not the prettiest _phone_ out there, it's a glaring example of macho design—and that, to be fair, is not a bad thing at all.


 

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Display

Better than most.

One thing we used to appreciate HTC devices for were the display panels the company used. They were bright, mostly color correct and without the gaudy colors typical of AMOLEDs, and never went for stupid-high resolutions, trading efficiency for just a tiny bit more clarity. Up to a point, this remains the case with the HTC 10.


HTC 10 Review
Things have changed, though. Perhaps most importantly, after sticking to 5-inch displays for three consecutive generations, HTC has now moved up to a 5.2-inch Super LCD 5 screen that packs 1440 x 2560 pixels. That's a density of 565 ppi, or more than sufficient to ensure everything you—or even a fighter jet pilot—end up looking at will be extremely sharp. As for the 'Super' part, it simply denotes that there's no air gap between the front glass and the display itself, helping prop the image closer to your finger.


Speaking of the image, it's a good one overall, but not perfect. Due to a disbalance between the primary Red, Green, and Blue (or RGB) colors, with the latter two towering above the former, there's a leaning towards a colder color temperature. In layman's terms, this means that the screen is bluer than it should be. As for overall color fidelity and gamma response, we're mostly pleased, even in the context of comparing the phone with other flagships.


A little bit of a disappointment after this showing was the brightness of the phone, as it peaks at a little over 370 nits, which is definitely on the lower end of the high-end spectrum. Still, the screen is legible under sunlight, if less so than competing solutions. Luckily, at 7 nits, minimum brightness is sufficiently low for nighttime usage.


Finally, it should be noted that the HTC 10's software allows you to tweak display metrics through two distinct screen modes: Vivid and sRGB (on which we've based our analysis above). The former is your typical, overly saturated, AMOLED-like mode, though both modes offer the option to manually adjust color balance—which we did in order to compensate for the bluishness.


Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia Z5 672
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1256
(Excellent)
7688
(Average)
2.62
3.79
(Good)
6.19
(Average)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
HTC 10 372
(Average)
7
(Good)
1:1594
(Excellent)
7442
(Good)
2.13
2.62
(Good)
5.11
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
HTC 10 82%
85.7%
71.4%
7.4%
6.1%
2.3%
27.8%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
Sony Xperia Z5 83.9%
75%
82.1%
17.7%
1.1%
2.6%
28.4%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

HTC 10 Review


We all love us an underdog. But the story of HTC doesn't quite qualify it for the role. At the height of its power, the Android pioneer was responsible for one out of four smartphones sold in the United States, and not by accident. But like so many other of the giants of old—think Nokia, BlackBerry—the company's fortunes took a turn for the worse. Rock bottom was last year in August, when the once high-flying brand's stock was trading below cash reserves, meaning it was essentially worthless in the eyes of investors.


HTC 10 Review
HTC 10 Review
Things have gotten better since. But HTC is still an unwilling prisoner of the spiral of death, with every successive failed, or even indecisive, quarter making a resurfacing next time around even less likely. And despite the initial success of its new Vive virtual reality arm, one has to wonder just how much sweat and worry—but also passion—went into the planning of its latest flagship phone, the HTC 10, to ensure a success.


With the 10, HTC must prove to the world that its wares are worth the dough. And theirs have been a tough sale lately, largely because of objective shortcomings that the HTC 'style' of doing things—a style we've always been attracted to—wasn't enough to cover for. So the 10 needs to be rock-solid both on the inside and outside, while also doing a splendid job getting us through a busy day of life acrobatics.


Let's see how it does.


Design

Design isn't just about looks. The HTC 10 proves it.

Ask a person what they think of the design of anything and they're likely to start yapping about looks. And sure, looks are important and very much a part of design. But they're far from the be-all and end-all. And sometimes, we need devices like the HTC 10 to be reminded of that.


The HTC 10 not only looks great—it also feels great. In the hand, it's substantial and pleasantly heavy in a way that few phones are. From the chamfered edges on the back, through the solid aluminum body, the 10 is a smartphone with style. And it's also cleverly engineered.


Front view | Side view
HTC 10
HTC 10
5.74 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches
145.9 x 71.9. x 9 mm
5.68 oz (161 g)

HTC 10

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s



For example, those aforementioned chamfers aid handling ergonomics and help you forget the specs—the specs that list the HTC 10 as 0.35 inches-thick (9mm), or more than any competing flagship. And while the phone is rather chunky, it feels like its thickness is a statement just as much as an engineering necessity. Also helpful is the ridged power button, which is centered on the right side, with the volume rocker a bit higher for a perfect, secure grip.


Turning our attention to the front, it's where HTC's design team lets us down the most. Adopting many of the characteristics of the HTC One A9, the 10 isn't exactly striking when looked head-on. Probably the biggest offender here are the weird proportions of the top and bottom bezels, along with the home button which sits strangely off-center.


Available in silver and dark-gray mattes, the HTC 10 strikes us as a rather masculine device. And while in terms of looks it's not the prettiest phone out there, it's a glaring example of macho design—and that, to be fair, is not a bad thing at all.



Display

Better than most.

One thing we used to appreciate HTC devices for were the display panels the company used. They were bright, mostly color correct and without the gaudy colors typical of AMOLEDs, and never went for stupid-high resolutions, trading efficiency for just a tiny bit more clarity. Up to a point, this remains the case with the HTC 10.


HTC 10 Review
Things have changed, though. Perhaps most importantly, after sticking to 5-inch displays for three consecutive generations, HTC has now moved up to a 5.2-inch Super LCD 5 screen that packs 1440 x 2560 pixels. That's a density of 565 ppi, or more than sufficient to ensure everything you—or even a fighter jet pilot—end up looking at will be extremely sharp. As for the 'Super' part, it simply denotes that there's no air gap between the front glass and the display itself, helping prop the image closer to your finger.


Speaking of the image, it's a good one overall, but not perfect. Due to a disbalance between the primary Red, Green, and Blue (or RGB) colors, with the latter two towering above the former, there's a leaning towards a colder color temperature. In layman's terms, this means that the screen is bluer than it should be. As for overall color fidelity and gamma response, we're mostly pleased, even in the context of comparing the phone with other flagships.


A little bit of a disappointment after this showing was the brightness of the phone, as it peaks at a little over 370 nits, which is definitely on the lower end of the high-end spectrum. Still, the screen is legible under sunlight, if less so than competing solutions. Luckily, at 7 nits, minimum brightness is sufficiently low for nighttime usage.


Finally, it should be noted that the HTC 10's software allows you to tweak display metrics through two distinct screen modes: Vivid and sRGB (on which we've based our analysis above). The former is your typical, overly saturated, AMOLED-like mode, though both modes offer the option to manually adjust color balance—which we did in order to compensate for the bluishness.


Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Sony Xperia Z5 672
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1256
(Excellent)
7688
(Average)
2.62
3.79
(Good)
6.19
(Average)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
HTC 10 372
(Average)
7
(Good)
1:1594
(Excellent)
7442
(Good)
2.13
2.62
(Good)
5.11
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
HTC 10 82%
85.7%
71.4%
7.4%
6.1%
2.3%
27.8%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
Sony Xperia Z5 83.9%
75%
82.1%
17.7%
1.1%
2.6%
28.4%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Interface

We dig the no-nonsense approach of Sense 8!

What we've always loved about HTC is the holistic nature of their devices. So the strapping hardware is complemented by equally no-nonsense software in the Sense 8 interface. Alike to Sony's Xperia theme, Sense 8 on the HTC 10 is more about executing the essentials well, all the while showing apathy for excessive—and largely unimportant—features. Unlike Sony, however, HTC's software design team knows how to create a visually impactful UI.


Based on Android Marshmallow, the HTC 10's software is really the only manufacturer interface where the word 'tolerate' doesn't figure. We kind of like it, actually, and if you're a fan of the Nexus line, this is probably the only custom UI you'll like as well. It's down to the point and beautifully utilitarian, with just essential apps pre-loaded and no duplicates. That said, there are some time-sinks and perks if you're so inclined.


A great example is the Themes app, which allows you to completely redecorate the look and feel of your homescreen. Everything, from app icons through wallpapers, fonts, and color schemes, can be edited to your taste, though we're yet to feel inclined to mess up with the defaults. Another stand-out—but actually useful—feature is the BlinkFeed homescreen, which integrates news, social media feeds, and contextual recommendations (think stuff like where to grab a bite). Best of all, unlike Samsung's very similar 'upday' (previously My Magazine) homescreen, transitioning to BlinkFeed is completely lag-free.


The only other feature worth mentioning is HTC's Boost+ app. As the name suggests, it's supposed to keep the HTC 10 performing fluidly by managing your apps in the background and scheduling regular maintenance to clear out junk files. Boost+ also lets you lock other apps so that they only open through a pattern or fingerprint.


Despite this overly positive experience, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that we're no fans of the TouchPal keyboard that comes by default. It's unnecessarily complex—which runs counter to the rest of Sense 8's UX design—and even improperly localized for western markets in terms of the default layout. Given HTC's commitment to Google apps, we would have liked Google's keyboard app much better.


Fingerprint scanner

Simply exceptional!

HTC 10 Review
The pill-shaped, capacitive Home button on the chin of the HTC 10 doubles up as a fingerprint scanner—a first for the company's flagship line. It's a touch-type sensor and a lot alike to the one Samsung is using with its flagship devices in shape, size, and location.


Granted, HTC could have placed the scanner a little higher on the bottom bezel for easier access, but we can't really complain much—it's easy to reach as is. Better yet, that thing is very fast, and absolutely spot on with accuracy. We haven't staged any intricate tests, but our takeaway is that this is possibly the most reliable scanner we've worked with, right up there with Apple's Touch ID.


Finally, while you can't lock files and photos behind it, the sensor wakes up the screen automatically when you touch it, allowing for very fast access to your phone. If you don't like this, you can turn it off from Settings.


Phone


Paradoxical as it may be, when you buy a new smartphone, the phone app is probably your least concern. But it matters, and with the HTC 10, it's executed just right.


For starters, the Material Design-eqsue interface can be customized by removing entirely or just re-arranging your tabs—think call history, favorites, and such. The app offers staples such as speed dial and call blocking, but also speech dial, automatic answering when you pick up your phone, prompts to add unknown callers to contacts (actually useful!), and even Home dialing. That last one means the HTC 10 automatically figures out country codes when you're roaming.


Messaging


If you're into messaging the old-school style, you'll find that the native Messages app is as thought-out as the phone one.


Apart from customization options that let you change the font, background, and chat bubbles' color, there's also support for block lists and even extras such as a personal signature. Incoming texts by default trigger a notification in your status bar, but you can change that so they're of the heads-up style and get layered on top of whatever it is you're doing—alike to Viber.


Organizer


Instead of relying on its own Calendar app of old, HTC has made the switch to Google's Calendar, and that, we've found, is a plus. Not only does Google's solution look great, but it offers perks such as birthday and holiday reminders, but also goodies like integration with Gmail. So things like appointments and flight tickets entering your mailbox will be automatically added to your agenda, and you'll be duly notified as needed.


Calendar is not the only Google app on the HTC 10 you'll be working with, however. Google Keep is also here for all your note-taking needs and to-do lists, and the Google Sheets and Slides apps are also present out of the gate.


System performance

Easily the smoothest-running, non-Nexus Android phone to date.

HTC 10 Review

Despite ranking slightly lower than its peers on synthetic benchmarks, it'd be crazy to even mention sluggishness in the context of the HTC 10. Quite frankly, this is by far the smoothest-running, non-Nexus Android device to grace our offices. Every action is executed promptly, app open times are minimal, and it just feels like HTC has really done its part of the job.


Who else is responsible? Qualcomm, of course, and its flagship, quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor. Paired with it are the Adreno 530 GPU along with 4GB of the fastest RAM available right now. On the downside, when under continued pressure , the HTC 10 does tend to get warm—perhaps dangerously close to uncomfortably warm.


Storage is another matter that caused some arching of brows. In the United States, the HTC 10 is limited to 32GB of internal storage (of which ~23GB user-available), with a 64GB option promised for other, unnamed markets. Don't fret, though, for the 10 comes with a microSD card slot, which is 'adoptable' thanks to Android Marshmallow. In simpler terms, the OS will let you host apps on the card no problem, so that's a relief. And if that's not enough to soften the blow, you're also getting 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years.


Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 136695
LG G5 134074
HTC 10 131088
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
Sony Xperia Z5 51012.33
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 3632
LG G5 3515
HTC 10 3578
Sony Xperia Z5 1667.33
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5339
LG G5 4498
HTC 10 4418
Sony Xperia Z5 4301.66
JetStream
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 62.049
LG G5 52.218
HTC 10 46.453
Apple iPhone 6s 118.91
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 53
LG G5 54.33
HTC 10 47
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
Sony Xperia Z5 53
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 29
LG G5 17
HTC 10 13
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
Sony Xperia Z5 18.3
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1943
LG G5 1913
HTC 10 1806.33
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
Sony Xperia Z5 1575
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 2327
LG G5 2344
HTC 10 2094.33
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
Sony Xperia Z5 1318.6
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5455
LG G5 5442
HTC 10 4381.33
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
Sony Xperia Z5 4167.3
View all

Internet and connectivity

The whole shebang. No Sprint LTE, however (yet).

HTC ditching its own browsing client is nothing new, so like elsewhere, a Google solution—Chrome—is what's available. We're fond of the app, as it offers native integration with its desktop counterpart, making for a more cohesive experience.


Google Chrome is the default browser. - HTC 10 Review

Google Chrome is the default browser.


On the connectivity front, the 10 is rock-solid. Staples such as Bluetooth 4.2, 5GHz Wi-Fi, and NFC are, of course, available, but there are some extras that you won't get elsewhere. A good example is the phone's support for AirPlay—an Apple technology—allowing you to hook up to various other devices who support the standard for wireless video/audio playback. Also worth noting is that the reversible USB Type-C port of the 10 is actually USB 3.1 Gen 1, meaning vastly superior transfer speeds than competing devices.


Finally, keep in mind that if you pick up the unlocked HTC 10 model currently available, you won't be able to use it over Sprint's LTE network because of a mismatch between supported and required bands. A special Sprint version is upcoming.

Camera

What do you know! HTC finally caught a break.

For years now, by far the biggest weakness of HTC devices has been the camera. Refusing to give up its 4MP UltraPixel camera for two generations, the company finally moved to a higher resolution, Toshiba unit with last year's One M9. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough.


HTC 10 Review


With the HTC 10, however, we're finally looking at a very promising setup. Not about to mess this up yet again, HTC is going with a 1/2.3”, 12-megapixel sensor with large, 1.55μm pixels and wide, f/1.8 lens. Combined with optical stabilization, these parameters suggest great light sensitivity for when you're shooting in the dark. Up front, we're looking at an equally compelling, 5-megapixel selfie camera, also with optical stabilization—a first with front-facing snappers, and a boon for club photos.


The software is different. You can launch the camera by simply swiping downwards twice—even when the phone is asleep—or by dragging the camera app icon into the middle of the lockscreen. As for the interface, it's more minimalist than ever before and absolutely down to the point. Save for the dedicated Pro mode, which gives you manual control over variables such as ISO and shutter speed, it's a really clean execution overall.



Image quality


While the camera app on the HTC 10 is relatively slow to take a snap, once it does, the results are overall great. On the plus side, white balance is almost universally set correctly despite some slips, so you can expect photos that are true to life. Dynamic range, while not best-in-class, is pretty decent overall.


HTC 10 Review
It's worth pointing out that the 12MP camera produces stills that are pretty soft—perhaps even too soft—and often chooses very fast shutter speeds to avoid blurring, but at the expense of high ISO levels (so more noise). Noise reduction is great overall, but combined with the aforementioned softness of images, detail in trees and foliage can get pretty dirty.


Another problem we noticed is that the snapper sometimes has trouble delivering clarity at the edges of the frame. So while the center is in focus, detail in the corners of the image can be mushy.


In low light, the camera delivers. Even without using the flash, the HTC 10 manages to soak up enough light from the scene to deliver a bright shot, if at the expense of accuracy. That is, the scenes in front of us are actually darker than they appear in the 10's camera reel, which is nevertheless still preferable over the opposite scenario.


In the scheme of things, however, these are simply imperfections. Overall, the camera on the HTC 10 is terrific.


Unsurprisingly, the front-facing camera also does a pretty decent job as far as your selfie needs go. There's an automatic HDR feature, along with auto focus and beauty effects. Selfies come out naturally looking, with plenty detail, and the camera does an awesome job even in complete darkness. In such cases, the screen of the HTC 10 lights up and serves as a front flash, and we've got to say that it does the job pretty well.



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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
1.6
315
281
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
1.9
485
293
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
HTC 10 2.4
3.2
616
534
Sony Xperia Z5 3
3
No data
No data
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Video quality


Capable of 4K video capture along with slow-motion and even hyperlapse video, the HTC 10 is a competent camcorder. Video quality in 4K is terrific, not to mention smooth and well-stabilized thanks to OIS. Our only beef is with the laser auto-focus mechanism on board, which sometimes struggles when having to transition between subjects without manual help.




As for hyperlapse video—very long recordings that have been sped-up and digitally stabilized—we can't say we're impressed. Both Microsoft's eponymous app and Samsung's implementation with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge is superior, with better quality and shake compensation.

Multimedia

All's good.

HTC 10 Review


At 5.2-inches, the HTC 10 is a great medium for video watching, be it streaming or local playback—which is taken care of by the Google Photos app.


In fact, Google Photos is the only gallery app on the HTC 10, and that's absolutely a great thing given how powerful it has grown. Not only does it automate the process of backing up your photos to Google Drive, but you can also search your library through keywords. Better yet, HTC has actually included the editing tools from its old Gallery app into Google Photo, so you get a pretty powerful photo editor out of the box.


For music, you're again relegated to a Google app: Play Music in this case. We can't say we're big fans of the execution with that one, bu t it's what you get out of the box. Spotify is still a Play Store trip away.


Speaking of music, and given HTC's BoomSound legacy, we need to have a word. First off, the front-firing, stereo BoomSound speakers of old are obviously gone with the HTC 10. In their stead, HTC has gone for a speaker integrated into the earpiece (a tweeter), along with a secondary speaker on the bottom that takes care of lower frequencies. HTC spent a lot of time talking up this configuration, and while it's not quite up there with the iPhone 6s', it is on par with other flagships.


We were also sent the HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones, which are not included with the US model, and we were disappointed. In particular, this is a pair that's absolutely monstrous on bass, and while this may appeal to some, it's impossible for us to recommend such imbalanced sound.


Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 0.986
HTC 10 0.95
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.704
Sony Xperia Z5 0.35
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 69.6
HTC 10 68
Samsung Galaxy S7 72.7
Sony Xperia Z5 73
LG G5 73
View all

Call quality


HTC 10 Review

Call quality with the HTC 10 is okay . The earpiece in particular proved inferior than the microphone, with voices being accompanied by occasional cracking sound artifacts, and overall sound as if the caller has a sore throat.


Kind of surprisingly, the situation on the other end is highly similar, if slightly better. Once again, our voice was transmitted as if we were just getting over a cold, though our callers were spared the sound aberrations that we had to live with on our side.


Given the measly competition in this area, it's fair to say that the HTC 10 nevertheless did better than the average.


Battery life


While flagship HTC devices have never been the best when it comes to longevity, they've been consistently middle-of-the-pack. Not a compliment, sure, but neither is it something to hold against them.


HTC 10 Review
For the most part, this was made possible by HTC's insistence to sticking to 1080p displays for their flagships. But now that the transition to Quad HD has been made, the company had to compensate with a larger, 3,000mAh battery—the largest in the history of the line.


In everyday usage, you can expect the HTC 10 to handle anywhere between a day/day-and-a-half, depending on how much you stress the device. If it's just light browsing and some IM here and there, no games, you can probably even make it to a second day. If you game regularly, however, you'll feel like overnight charges are a must for peace of mind. These impressions are corroborated by our custom battery life test, which had the HTC 10 dead after 7 hours and 10 minutes—a highly competitive result in the current climate.


Speaking of these overnight charges, the HTC 10 comes with a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-compliant, 2.5A charger. In our testing, it takes the 100 minutes for the HTC 10 to get from zero all the way back to full, which isn't as impressive as the LG G5's 76 minutes or the Galaxy S7's 88 minutes. For what it's worth, however, HTC's claim that you can get 50% of juice in 30 minutes held up in our testing, as long as we're talking about the first 50% of course.  


Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
HTC 10 7h 10 min (Good)
Huawei P9 6h 51 min (Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 150
HTC 10 100
Huawei P9 146
Samsung Galaxy S7 88
LG G5 76
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Conclusion


How did we get here? When did flashy gimmicks become more important in driving sales than a solid foundation? Why did removable batteries, modules, and questionable 'innovations' like edge screens become a more compelling reason to buy one phone over the other? And when did we stop caring about great execution—great execution in all matters?


HTC 10 Review
These are the type of questions we were faced with not because we were in a particularly contemplative mood, but because the $699 HTC 10 refused to fit into today's smartphone paradigm. In that world, more is necessarily better, and this philosophy underlies manufacturers' strategy. But it doesn't have to, and the 10 is a glowing example of this.


Despite bleeding money, HTC continues to refuse to play that game, and reminds us that it's a company that has its own style, its own way of doing things. Some may be quick to argue that this is proof of inability just as much as anything else, but we disagree. No matter how much pessimism we try to infuse into our thinking, the HTC 10 strikes us as a device built to specification. HTC wanted it to be that way.


What the HTC 10 isn't? It isn't a toy. It's not pretty or flashy. Instead, it's a tool. And it's built like one. A tool to get the job done and then stay out of the way instead of wasting your time with gimmicks. This cut-through-the-nonsense approach is seriously a breath of fresh air, and a departure of the cookie-cutter Android mentality of the day. And as paradoxical as it may come across as, the HTC 10's lack of 'innovative' features is the basis of its allure for us. Sue us, we'd be happier being seen flipping the 10 out at a business meeting than any other Android phone on the market right now. 


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