Introduction

One of the hottest bodies in business just got hotter, in time for next season. Touched-up and brushed-down, the HTC One M9 arrives spot on time third year in a row, looking like a celebrity and acting like a pro. There's an engine boost and upgrades in both the camera and sound department to go with the latest Sense over Lollipop, packed in a gorgeous glass and aluminum case.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 Official photos

This is the One we've come to know and love and this is HTC taking no risks. If it wasn't for the large square glass lens on the back, the casual observer would've been hard-pressed to recognize the new model. A minor, but welcome, tweak helps reveal the smartphone's true identity. The power button has, at long last, been relocated to the side.

Under the hood, several notable improvements ensure that the One M9 won't face its 2015 rivals unprepared. Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chipset is backed by a bump in operating memory. The questionable UltraPixel camera has been moved up front, to make room for a proper 20MP sensor at the rear. It can even do 4K videos, a feature the One (M8) didn't offer last year.

Unfortunately, there is no change in screen size or screen resolution.

Key features

  • 5" 1080p capacitive touchscreen with 441pi; Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with dual quad-core processor: 2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 plus 1.5 GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, Adreno 430 GPU, 3GB of RAM
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with HTC Sense 7 UI
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz); DLNA, WiFi direct, hotspot
  • 20MP AF camera with a 1/2.3" BSI sensor; 27.8mm f/2.2 lens; dual-LED flash; 2160p@30fps video capture
  • 4MP fixed-focus UltraPixel front-facing camera with BSI sensor; 26.8mm f/2.0 lens; HDR; 1080p video recording
  • 32GB of built-in memory; microSD card slot; 100GB of free Google Drive storage for 2 years
  • LTE Cat.6, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, IR port, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio; microUSB 2.0 port, MHL, USB host
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated microphone
  • Front-facing stereo speakers with BoomSound and Dolby Audio
  • 2,840mAh battery; Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 support

Main disadvantages

  • Screen has the same specs three years in a row
  • Non-removable battery
  • No water and dust protection
  • Camera lacks OIS or digital video stabilization
  • Not particularly slim or compact

OK, there's no escaping it - the HTC One M9 is a rather cautious, measured upgrade of the previous generation. Some may argue that the industry is long past the point where we can expect revolutions - let alone one every year.

By going for the latest Android and the latest Snapdragon, and perfecting the stereo speaker setup, the One M9 is leaving nothing to chance. On the other hand, it seems like HTC is a bit too much on the safe side.

Considering the toll on battery life, a QHD screen is still a risk and HTC argues no one needs resolution this high at this size. The dual-tone finish makes a difference but it's essentially the same design. Fair enough. HTC chose to not follow the crowd and the One M9 is still a compelling smartphone package.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 in our studio

Enough teasing, join us on the next page where we kick off our usual review routine with a close look at the One M9 from all sides.

HTC One M9 360-degree spin

The HTC One M9 measures 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm, which makes it marginally smaller than the previous generation's 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm. The miniscule increase is thickness is not noticeable and the new frame in fact makes the device feel slimmer in hand.

The One M9 also remains quite hefty for a 5-incher at 157g, although HTC has managed to shave off 3g off the predecessor, all the while fitting a higher-capacity battery.

Screen-to-body ratio has never been among HTC's features that lend themselves well to comparison but the One M9, like its flagship siblings, has a better excuse than most - the pair of stereo speakers. The recently reviewed Samsung Galaxy S6 is about the same size (a millimeter shorter) and packs a 5.1-inch display. It's got a hardware Home key / fingerprint scanner at the bottom, where the One M9 accommodates a speaker.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 flanked by the One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S6

Design and build

Despite the lack of innovation in the design, we won't get tired of repeating it - the One M9 is simply gorgeous. True, we have here a somewhat questionable color combination that may not be universally appealing and would have a hard time on the Western market. Even so, the aluminum unibody remains unmatched for a third generation in a row in terms of both looks and feel in hand.

HTC deemed it unwise to mess with a design that won the One numerous awards and kept the new model's styling largely unchanged. That's not to say that the One M9 doesn't have its characteristic features and refinements, though you'll need to look closely to find them.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 design

Our review unit came in Silver and Amber Gold attire and the two-tone design is markedly flashier than the conservative Gunmetal Grey One (M8) we have for comparison. The sides shine in a more pronounced golden color, while the front carries a paler tint.

Another new design feature, introduced with this generation HTC flagship is the distinct border between the front panel and the sides. It gives the impression of a layered design, the screen overlaid on top of the aluminum casing. It also makes the _phone_ feel thinner when you hold it in your hand.

Controls

The HTC One M9 right side is now pretty crowded. From top to bottom, the layout features the microSD card tray, which requires a pin to pop out. Moving down, we get two separate volume buttons, as opposed to the predecessor's rocker style controls. Then comes the newly-positioned power button, which is nicely textured to provide tactile feedback and set it apart from the volume controls.

The left side is pretty bare and only features the nano-SIM slot, the same design as the microSD tray on the opposite end.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Button-packed right side • Lone SIM card slot on the left

The top houses only the infrared blaster, behind a large black strip reminiscent of TV remotes of old. On the bottom we find the micro USB port, slightly off-center, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack further to the side.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

IR blaster on top • Bottom with micro USB and headphone jack

The front sees little change, compared to the One (M8), with reportedly a different number of pinholes in the speaker grilles (one reviewer actually counted 33 columns of 4 holes on the top speaker of the One M9, versus the 38x4 layout of the One (M8), but couldn't muster enough patience to examine the bottom grilles).

You still get front firing stereo speakers on both ends of the display, the top one shorter due to a cutout for a light sensor and the 4MP UltraPixel selfie camera.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Speaker with sensors and camera beside it • Bottom speaker

The large rectangular piece of sapphire glass on the back, the single most distinguishable design element of the One M9, protects the camera assembly and has the familiar dual-tone LED flash alongside. Gone is the dual-UltraPixel camera arrangement of the predecessor, now replaced by a standard-issue 20MP Toshiba sensor.

The two plastic antenna strips that allow the antennas to do their radio magic make for nice accents over the scratch-resistant brushed aluminum finish. The top strip also houses the tiny hole for the noise-cancelling microphone.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Brushed aluminum back with a sapphire glass bump protecting the lens

Handling

The relocation of the power button works miracles in terms of usability, we can't stress it enough. It was way out of reach at the top on the One M8 and waking up the _phone_ was a less than elegant exercise when operating single-handedly. The double-tap-to-wake feature was a decent compromise, but once unlocked, the phone still needed a press on the top to be put back to sleep.

The sharp edge surrounding the front is another notable difference when comparing the One M9 to the M8. It basically guarantees that the smartphone will never slip out of your hand, but some users may find it uncomfortable to hold it for extended periods of time.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 in the hand

Other than that, it's the typical One experience with an unrivaled upmarket feel. The phone is a joy to handle and the less than stellar thickness is not an issue as the smartphone is markedly thinner towards the edges than those 9.6mm in the middle.

Excellent display carried over from the previous generation

The HTC One M9 packs the same 5-inch screen as the One (M8) and that is no bad thing. It's a high-quality IPS panel of 1080p resolution, which delivers 441ppi. While not record-breaking numbers, individual pixels are nonetheless indistinguishable to the naked eye, and HTC maintains QHD would be an overkill at this diagonal. We are somewhat inclined to agree.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 display

The panel features a standard RGB matrix with equal number of subpixels for each color. The display is covered with the latest Gorilla Glass 4 for scratch and shatter protection. A dedicated glove mode can be enabled to improve touch sensitivity, but as always that comes at the expense of battery life.

HTC One M9

We ran our typical testing routine and the numbers proved our initial suspicions that the panel in the One M9 has been carried over from the predecessor. And that should be taken as compliment.

The One M9 posted great scores in the contrast department, even if maximum brightness is slightly lower. The 50-percent setting delivers almost precisely a third of the maximum brightness while contrast remains solid.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC One M9 0.15 175 1180 0.44 534 1221
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Samsung Galaxy S6 208 473
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
LG G Flex2 152 398
Motorola Moto X (2014) 167 358
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 0.17 208 1197 0.52 705 1361
Sony Xperia Z3 - - - 0.65 866 1333


Sunlight contrast ratio on the other hand was less impressive. The One M9 posted average results, just like the previous generation.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    3.799
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Oppo R5
    3.678
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Nokia Lumia 735
    3.547
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3.543
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • LG G Flex2
    3.465
  • YotaPhone 2
    3.453
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active
    3.406
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Lenovo S90 Sisley
    2.892
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • HTC Desire Eye
    2.815
  • Gionee Elife S5.1
    2.812
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Meizu MX4 Pro
    2.765
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro
    2.416
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 820
    2.372
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Meizu MX4
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • HTC One M9
    2.334
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Oppo N3
    2.181
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia C3 Dual
    2.12
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Lenovo Vibe X2
    1.952
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Sony Xperia E3
    1.943
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
    1.935
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • ZTE Blade S6
    1.927
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    1.887
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1.507
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Sony Xperia E4
    1.467
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Microsoft Lumia 535
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • HTC Desire 510
    1.34
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can read more about our standardized display testing procedure.

Battery life test

The HTC One M9 comes with a slightly higher-capacity battery than its predecessor, which in turn improved over the original One. The latest generation's cell packs 2,840mAh of juice, a good 11% more than the Samsung Galaxy S6's 2,550mAh.

The One M8 posted excellent scores on Android KitKat, and the Lollipop update brought massive improvements in web browsing, even if video playback and talk time took a hit. So we kicked off our battery testing routine expecting solid performance, having in mind the larger battery that needs to light up the same-sized screen.

In the end, the results turned out less than impressive. While 3G talk time is solid at almost 21 hours, the seven and a half hours of web browsing longevity raises eyebrows. Remember that the Android 5.0 update brought the predecessor's figures in this department to twelve and a half hours and even on KitKat it managed a good 9 hours.

The One M9's video playback stamina was underwhelming as well, and the 8:21 hours are close to 2 hours less than the previous generation.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S6 lasted 10:24h in video playback and 8:44 in web browsing, while packing a smaller battery and feeding a significantly higher-res screen. The Galaxy didn't fare as well in talk times though, where the HTC One M9 beat it by over 3 hours.

All that said, the One M9 should last you around two and a half days if you do an hour each of voice calls, web browsing and video playback per day. Understanding that no two users are the same, we've provided a handy tool that will give you a clue what autonomy you can expect with your specific usage pattern.

HTC One M9


Our routine also includes a standby battery draw test, which is not on our battery test scorecard but is calculated in the total endurance rating. Our battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you want to learn more about it.

Connectivity

You wouldn't be surprised to find out that the One M9 comes packed with connectivity options. For starters, there are quad-band 2G and 3G radios and Cat.9 LTE for download speeds of up to 410Mbps over 10 bands.

Naturally, a GPS receiver is also built in with GLONASS support, which utilizes Russian satellites and helps in pinpointing your location thanks to the extra satellites in the sky. There's an FM radio receiver as well.

Local connectivity features include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands) with Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Hotspot.

The HTC Connect feature works over the DLNA protocol to provide smoother integration of your phone to your home-entertainment setup, for supported devices of course. Those include multi-room speakers adhering to the Qualcomm AllPlay standard; DLNA and Miracast-compatible devices, Bluetooth speakers, as well as HTC-certified devices carrying the HTC Connect logo.

If you prefer the old school way of controlling home appliances though, the IR blaster along with HTC's PeelSafe Remote app are up to it.

Bluetooth 4.1 is on board, which sorts LTE interference issues. Version 4.1 is said to be more power efficient and supports direct communication between connected peripherals, keeping your smartphone out of it.

The One M9 comes with the necessary hardware to support NFC, but the functionality will be market/operator dependent, and HTC advises prospect buyers to check beforehand if the feature is a top priority.

An MHL-enabled micro-USB 2.0 port sits on the bottom of the phone and lets you stream video to compatible TVs via an appropriate MHL HDMI dongle. USB host is enabled, for connecting external storage. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack lets you plug in your headphones of choice.

The One M9 accepts nano-SIM cards. The microSD slot lets you extend the 32GB of built-in storage to up to 2TB, although we are yet to see such a monstrous card in the real world.

Much like on the One M8, you also get the entire lot of sensors, including ambient light, proximity, accelerometer, compass, gyro and magnetic sensor, and a Sensor hub for discrete capturing the motion data, relieving the main hardware from this responsibility.

The One M9 comes with Lollipop mixed with Sense 7 UI

The HTC One M9 runs on the latest Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, with HTC's own Sense 7.0 UI layer on top. The new seventh revision of HTC Sense is as feature-rich as always, offers a more feature-rich Blinkfeed, homescreen and theme support, and promises a smooth and fluent user experience.

We've highlighted the new Sense 7 features in orange throughout the text, so it's easier for you to spot them.

Here you can see a quick video of the Sense 7, running on the HTC One M9.

The lockscreen hasn't changed much since Sense 6 - it features a clock with weather info plus four shortcut slots. Missed calls and incoming messages are duly displayed, too, of course. Lockscreen widgets aren't available this time around though.

The lockscreen in Sense 7 offers a brand new type of notification - mealtime, courtesy of the new Blinkfeed. The Blinkfeed will learn your lunch breaks and dinner times and it will pop up suggestions for nearby restaurants shortly before the time comes.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC Sense 7 lockscreen

HTC One M9 supports both swipe up and double tap to unlock, meaning you won't have to rely on the power/lock key all the time.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Sense 7 homescreens • Editing homescreens

The leftmost homescreen pane of the HTC One M9 is once again reserved for HTC Blinkfeed, which is now more powerful.

Much like before, Blinkfeed aggregates content from your social networks (Flickr, Foursquare, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, Zoe), as well as from over a thousand news sources. You can pick the topics you're interested in and Blinkfeed will automatically pull relevant content. You can also search for specific content.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Blinkfeed combines social updates with news articles

The Blinkfeed service, with the help of the new Sense Home feature will now suggest nearby places to eat. Blinkfeed becomes aware of your eating habits and will eventually begin poping up restaurant suggestions on your lockscreen shortly before your lunch break or after you leave work. And if some of your friends have left reviews for those places, those will be shown as well, thanks to the Yelp and Foursquare integration.

Homescreens are fully customizable with links and widgets. If you don't find Blinkfeed particularly useful and don't want it lingering on the front you can do away with it just like any other widget.

Speaking of widgets, there is a brand new default widget called Sense Home. It looks quite ordinary with eight shortcuts - six of them are app shortcuts, while the last two are folders for recent documents and recommended apps you may want to download.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Sense Home widget

You can't configure the shortcuts, Home Sense chooses them for you, but you can opt to remove the smart folder. After you input your home and work addresses, the widget changes the visible shortcuts depending on your current location - work, home or outside. It learns what you are using the most and puts those apps up front. The Home Sense locations are also used by the Blinkfeed for mealtime suggestions.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Configuring Sense Home - setting locations, folders

Wallpapers, lockscreen style, ringtones, notification sounds and alarms can be customized via a dedicated menu. Themes are also supported, richer and customizable than ever.

HTC highly praised the new themes support and they were right to do so. A theme now changes your lockscreen and homescreen wallpapers, the app drawer background, the default messaging app wallpaper, the system color scheme, the icon package for apps and settings, all ringtones and the system font.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Theme Store offers various customizations including icon and font packs

There is a dedicated Themes Store for downloading themes, but you can also get fonts, pictures and ringtones separately and apply them to your current theme. You can even build your own themes very easily and if you think they are really good, you can upload them to the store for others to use.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Applying different themes

One finger swipe from the top of the homescreen will open the notification area, which features a cleaner look in Android 5.0 Lollipop. An additional swipe reveals the quick toggles area that include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, screen auto-rotate, flashlight, location on/off, and the option to cast the screen. The quick toggles are configurable, of course.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The new notification area

The default layout of the app drawer is a 4 x 5 grid of app icons. A 3 x 4 mode is also available but that's a waste of a 5" screen. You can sort app icons alphabetically, chronologically or manually and you can hide the ones you don't need though, you can't uninstall any of those.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The app drawer

HTC has remodeled the task switching interface - recent apps are displayed in a 3 x 3 grid of thumbnails. Unlike before, there is no limit of 9 visible apps - once you pass 9 recent apps, a new page pops up to hold even more shortcuts. The default Card switching from Lollipop is available too, you need to enable it from the Task Switcher Settings.

There is also an option to pin an app and it will stay always in recent apps at the state you closed it.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Custom app switcher complete with the default card-view

HTC Sense has a dedicated Car mode screen, which can be preset to launch automatically when the phablet connects to your car's Bluetooth.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Car mode with big, easy to hit buttons

HTC One M9 comes with the Zoodles app, which serves the purpose of a restricted access Kid mode. You set up a profile for each of your kids - with a photo and birthdate - and pick which apps they can have access to. You can also download new fun videos and games straight from within the app.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Kid Mode

HTC One M9 performance

HTC One M9 runs on Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 810 chip, which utilizes an octa-core processor with four Courtex-A57 cores ticking at 2.0GHz and four Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.5GHz. The GPU in charge of graphics is the Adreno 430 and there is 3GB of DDR4 RAM to ease multi-tasking.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9 isn't the first device to come with the now controversial Snapdragon 810 platform. The latest Snapdragon chipset is frequently accused of heating up excessively under load causing performance throttling.

Unfortunately, the HTC One M9 had every Snapdragon 810 issue you may have spotted online - its all-metal body quickly became unusually hot when running a game or a benchmark, or even when browsing for a while. There was a performance drop when the One M9 got hot, as we confirmed by running extra benchmarks.

HTC's response to the overheating allegations has so far pointed out that the software on these pre-production units is not final.

The phone received a big OTA update last week while we were in the process of preparing our review. Could it be the final firmware to fix all heating issue, we wondered. We went ahead and redid the whole benchmark session. What you would read on this page is based on the scores we got after the update.

We did notice a difference in regards to how hot the phone got under use. It took a longer time for the the One M9 to get hot, but ultimately, it still did get as hot as before.

Another change that we did notice after the update is the measurable performance of the smartphone. Before the update it got 4020 points on GeekBench (down to 3761 after the update) and 57900 on AnTuTu (down to 51727 after the update). The single and multi-core CPU scores as calculated by BaseMark OS II 2.0 were slightly higher before the update, too. On the other hand, the GPU benchmarks showed no change at all so we suspect HTC has changed the main CPU throttling policy in relation to the internal device temperature.

As we suspected all along, the initial heating woes that the HTC One M9 experienced were only fixable through applying a more aggressive throttling policy which comes with a performance penalty. This seems to be the case after this major OTA update. Of course, perhaps more updates will follow before the phone reaches the market.

Ok, so here are the actual benchmark scores.

As usual, we kick off our benchmark spree with GeekBench 3 test. It gauges the CPU multi-core performance and the HTC One M9 did splendid, overpowered only by the new (and more powerful) Galaxy S6. The One M9 turned out slightly better than its G Flex2 sibling, which had some CPU throttling failsafe.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4916
  • HTC One M9
    3761
  • LG G Flex2
    3604
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    3394
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3285
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    3011
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    2970
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    2923
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • LG G3
    2370

Next we ran the 64-bit version of AnTuTu 5, a compound benchmark that takes in consideration CPU, GPU, and memory performance as well. The HTC One M9 score once again is bested only by the Galaxy S6. It still has a significant advantage over the rest of the flagships.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    68896
  • HTC One M9
    51727
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    49803
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    49273
  • LG G Flex2
    47680
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    45660
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    45530
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    43164
  • LG G3
    42038

The BaseMark OS II 2.0 is quite a popular benchmark, which in addition to CPU, GPU and RAM, also tests web performance and internal storage speed. The One M9 did well, but not as good as the G Flex2 and Galaxy S6. Still - it's better than the Snapdragon 805-running Galaxy Note 4 and Nexus 6.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • LG G Flex2
    1726
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    1641
  • HTC One M9
    1365
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    1267
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1267
  • LG G3
    1189
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    1186
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    1176
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1060

Unfortunately, the single-core and multi-core breakdowns of the BaseMark OS II 2.0 test came out quite uninspiring, where the One M9 scores orbit the bottom.

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    6165
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    5977
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    5790
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    5689
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    5624
  • LG G Flex2
    5597
  • LG G3
    5396
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    5235
  • HTC One M9
    4688

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    25549
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    21841
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    21140
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    21026
  • LG G Flex2
    18856
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18386
  • HTC One M9
    18047
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    17532
  • LG G3
    16485

We've decided on including separate storage tests on the internal memory and on the microSD card. We'll be using a very capable Transcend Premium 300x microSDHC UHS-1 Class 10 16GB. It may not be the fastest microSD card out there, but it's fast enough.

Our test showed that the HTC One M9 storage is quite fast, very close to Galaxy Note 4 performance on sequential read and write speeds. Make note that the Galaxy S6 uses a new breed of internal storage dubbed UFC 2.0 and it is the undisputed champ in these tests.

Sequential Read, MB/s

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    317.85
  • LG G3
    239.68
  • HTC One M9
    239.19
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    212.45
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    206.85
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 microSD
    78.41
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    48.16
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 microSD
    43.02

Sequential Write, MB/s

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    126.69
  • HTC One M9
    123.97
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    120.70
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    56.31
  • LG G3
    39.53
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 microSD
    11.25
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 microSD
    10.73
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    8.47

When it comes to random reads, the One M9 is as good as the G3 and it surely impresses on the random write operations.

Random Read, MB/s

MB/s, Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    78.03
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    22.10
  • LG G3
    21.81
  • HTC One M9
    20.27
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    18.79
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 microSD
    7.62
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    7.37
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 microSD
    7.08

Random Write, MB/s

MB/s, Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    20.74
  • HTC One M9
    13.93
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    10.71
  • LG G3
    9.42
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    6.91
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 microSD
    0.69
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 microSD
    0.67
  • HTC One M9 microSD
    0.59

As you can see, the microSD read and write performance fails to impress.

HTC One M9 uses the most powerful Adreno GPU to date - the Adreno 430 - and it has an added performance edge over QHD resolution devices such as the Galaxy S6 because of its lower 1080p display resolution.

We ran the GFX benchmark and found out that the Adreno 430 performs on par with the Galaxy S6's Mali-T760 and G Flex2's similar GPU when it comes to raw off-screen performance at 1080p resolution.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    49
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    49
  • LG G Flex2
    49
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    40
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    38.9
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    27.8
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    27
  • LG G3
    26

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    23
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    23
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    18.6
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    18
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    12
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11.8
  • LG G3
    11

The on-screen tests propel the HTC One M9 skywards since it has 1080p native screen resolution. As such it offers superior GPU performance compared to say, the Galaxy S6. As we said, the 1080p display is quite an advantage here as the graphics chip has fewer pixels to output.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    50
  • LG G Flex2
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    35
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    30
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    28.1
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    27.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    26
  • LG G3
    20

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One M9
    24
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    16
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    13
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    13
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11.7
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    11
  • LG G3
    7.7

Finally, we ran the BaseMark X GPU test, where the One M9 outed a similar score to the G Flex2 (1080p, Adreno 430), the Note 4 (Quad-HD, Adreno 420), and the Nexus 6 (Quad-HD, Adreno 420).

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    22752
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    20901
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    20043
  • HTC One M9
    19848
  • LG G Flex2
    19360
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18297
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    12257
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12190
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11744
  • LG G3
    10580

Unfortunately, the web browser performance turned out uninspiring compared to the current crop of flagships. No matter if it's JavaScript or a complete web script test, the HTC One M9 failed to impress.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    4323
  • LG G Flex2
    4621
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    5181
  • HTC One M9
    5500
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    6043
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    6088
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    6260
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    7023
  • LG G3
    7632

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
    3146
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Lollipop
    2232
  • LG G Flex2
    2086
  • HTC One M9
    1681
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    1562
  • HTC One (M8) Lollipop
    1460
  • LG G3
    1453
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1447
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1398

HTC One M9 is seriously fast, as expected. It is among the best devices when it comes to CPU, GPU, storage and overall system performance. Its web browsing performance is perhaps the only thing that spoils the great overall impression.

As we already mentioned, the smartphone got pretty hot under use, but after the latest update, that takes a longer time. Truth be told, it didn't get unpleasantly hot, but it is winter around these parts and come summer, we suspect it may get worse.

It seems these overheating problems will become the Snapdragon 810 undoing - Qualcomm already announced its successor, the Snapdragon 815, which reportedly, runs cooler than the Snapdragon 810. We wouldn't be surprised to see early 2015 flagships switch to using the newer chipset later in their life cycle.

Nice phonebook

The People app groups the call log, dialer, favorites, contacts, and groups in tabs, which can be reordered or removed. A dropdown allows you to filter contacts by source - stored in the phone, coming from an online phonebook or a social network.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The phonebook

Individual contact info is displayed in tabs too, a Sense tradition. The first tab shows basic contact info like phone numbers, emails, work info plus individual options for ringtones, blocking the contact and adding them to Private contacts. Private contacts is a discrete option that hides the name and photo of a contact when there's an incoming call.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Viewing a contact • Threads • Editing a contact

The second tab, Thread lists all communication history between you and the given contact - texts, emails and calls. The third and final tab displays the contact's social networking updates for easy access. Tabs here can be reordered and hidden, too.

Telephony with Interruptions (DND mode)

The dialer on the HTC One M9 displays the last call with a contact photo so you can easily redial someone. There's smart dialing that looks for both names and contacts. You can even switch to a regular QWERTY keyboard though you have to do this each time you open the dialer and we still find that the dial pad is quicker, it was invented for a reason after all.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The Standard dial pad • a QWERTY keyboard • Large Dial Pad

There's a Large dial pad mode, which predictably makes the buttons bigger but also displays the full call log behind the pad (instead of just the last call as with the Standard dial pad). When you try to scroll the list, the dial pad gets out of the way. For these reasons we preferred this mode over the Standard. It is just a more user-friendly experience.

The Do not disturb mode is now called Interruptions and is part of Android Lollipop. Once configured, you can have it automaticly turn on and off (called Priority mode) or you toggle it manually from the system wide sound popup. You can configure your priority interruptions - all calls, all messages, or calls and texts from specific contacts only.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Interruptions

Contacts can be added to the blocked list to filter out unwanted calls even outside of Interruptions. If you dial an unknown contact, the dialer can ask you if you want to save it to the phonebook (this is disabled by default).

The One M9 has borrowed the front-facing BoomSound speakers from the One (M8). The BoomSound equalizer is always on - you can choose between Music Mode and Theater option. The Theater equalizer is louder, though the Music one provides much better sound quality. They Average performance of the speakers is absolutely identical with the One (M8) result and there is a chance you will miss a notification or two in noisy environments.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Motorola Nexus 6 66.5 66.2 66.3 Below Average
LG G Flex2 66.5 65.8 70.5 Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
Apple iPhone 6 66.6 65.7 72.8 Average
HTC One M9 65.2 64.6 76.1 Average
HTC One (M8) 65.8 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S6 67.0 66.1 75.7 Good
HTC One 69.3 66.6 75.9 Good
Oppo Find 7 69.8 70.3 75.8 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active 73.1 69.3 76.7 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 74.7 73.5 81.6 Excellent


Messaging

The HTC One M9 uses the traditional threaded view for SMS and MMS messages, which share a composer. Some threads can be moved to a "secure box", which requires a password to be opened. There's built-in functionality to block messages from certain numbers, those go in the Block box where you can view them later if you like or set the app to discard them immediately.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Threaded messaging • Messaging settings

The look of the app can be tweaked with color schemes and custom backgrounds, font size and how many lines are used for preview in threaded view.

The Messages app can also backup and restore messages, so you don't need a third-party app for that.

The HTC One M9 comes with two email apps - a skinned version of the stock email app and the dedicated Gmail app. The native one has a combined inbox and supports options for peak and off-peak syncing. For both you can have the app check for new mail after a preset periods or use Smart Sync to learn your habits and automatically figure out the best interval.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The Mail app has a combined Inbox

The keyboard offers big, comfortable keys and you can run a calibration tool if you think the default setup slips up. A Swype-like Trace option is available and you can enable bilingual prediction (vital with so many English terms entering every day speech in most languages).

Other customization options include switching between layouts (e.g. QWERTY, AZERTY), adding arrow keys (for the portrait keyboard only) and a personal dictionary of words that can be backed up to the microSD card or an email.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The Sense QWERTY keyboard • Trace • landscape keyboard

HTC Zoe is here

HTC Zoe is a mini social network centered around sharing photos and videos. A landmark feature is the cool Highlights videos, which are created automatically for each album.

Zoe requires you to sign in with your HTC account the first time you open it. This is to enable sharing with other contacts, who can add their own photos, videos and music to the Highlight videos that are created automatically from your shots.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC Zoe

You can send requests to your friends too, to give them a little nudge to add shots to your Highlights. You can manually create a Highlight video too - you simply choose from the available images, select a theme and soundtrack and you're done.

Gallery with Highlights

The Gallery app uses a Lollipop style navigation drawer to separate viewing modes. Timeline and location group photos accordingly, while Albums work like folders. You can manually create albums, the app will ask you to select a number of photos and videos to either copy or move.

Mass selection of photos seems to be lacking which is rather annoying and photos have to be moved one by one.

A nice little addition to the gallery is the custom search function. Interestingly enough it not only goes through photo meta data, but can also do a sort of reverse image search and find similar photos to a preselected one.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The image gallery • Customizing an album's Highlight video

All albums get a Highlight video as their title image. You can select which items go into the video, in what order and with what effects and music. There are options to go back to the default chronological order, music and theme so don't be afraid to experiment. The start and end clips can be selected manually if you want to create a sort of title card and credits.

The editing options range from basic crop/rotate/flip to frames and advanced effects like simulated lighting, adjusting face contour and eye enhancements.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Viewing a single image • Image editing options

You can also choose an image from the gallery and use it as a base for a custom theme. The theme generator automatically suggests a highlight color, among other things, and you can complete your custom theme in just a few seconds. Of course, you can edit it later through the Themes app.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Creating a custom theme

There's a special Media gesture useful here and in the music and video players - swipe up with three fingers to "throw" the content you're viewing to a DLNA device.

Integrated video player lacks DivX and AC3 codecs

There's no dedicated video player on the HTC One M9, you browse videos through the Gallery or the File Manager. The video players supports the most common containers - AVI, MP4, XviD and MKV and even WMV - but codec support is spotty. DivX didn't work at all, there is no support for AC3 audio either. MOV files are a no-go, too.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The video player interface

As for the interface, you get basic playback controls and the option to snap a screenshot. Subtitles are not supported.

Sensed music player

The HTC Sense 7 changes the color scheme, but keeps the interface - it uses a tabbed layout and as with other apps you can hide tabs and reorder them. The tabs sort your music library by different categories and include the relatively rare Folder view, in case you have a sort of "mixtape" folder.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Browsing the music library

The first time you launch the music player it will ask whether it should automatically download Album art, artist photos and lyrics and you can limit it to Wi-Fi only downloads.

HTC One M9 doesn't offer equalizers. All you get is a BoomSound with Dolby Audio option, which works with the integrated speakers and with headphones. You can choose from the BoomSound predefined enhancements, which work with the newly announced HTC Pro Studio, HTC in-ear and HTC regular earbuds. Otherwise you must select 'Other' and hope for the best. We tried a few earbud headsets and it seems BoomSound worked quite well, improving the overall quality.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Now playing interface • visualizer • notification area music controls

Audiophiles should be glad to hear FLAC is supported (both 16-bit and 24-bit).

You can use the three-finger Media gesture to continue playback on a DLNA device. Bluetooth with aptX is another high-quality option to wirelessly stream audio.

The HTC One M9 also packs an FM radio too, though it doesn't have RDS support. It can play through the speakers but you still needs a pair of headphones to serve as an antenna.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

FM radio (no RDS)

The best audio output got even better

Consistently excellent - it's the kind of boring we like to see in our smartphone tests. HTC keeps setting the bar for audio output higher and higher and yet it somehow manages to beat it with each of its next flagships. The One M9 is yet another benchmark setting device, delivering output way beyond the reach of any of its competitors.

The smartphone delivers flawlessly clean output both with an active external amplifier and when you plug a pair of headphones. Even the stereo crosstalk spike that's a permanent fixture in the output on just about every other smartphone out there is nowhere to be seen with our standard headphone set.

Volume levels are equally impressive - the One M8 was already pretty loud, but the M9 blows it out of the water and again that's both testing scenarios. There are only a few smartphones louder than the M9 in the whole history of the industry, but none of them can match its clarity. A top performance indeed and one that even HTC will struggle to improve on.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
HTC One M9 +0.02, -0.06 -94.8 93.0 0.0049 0.026 -93.7
HTC One M9 (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.05 -93.7 92.7 0.0082 0.030 -91.6
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 +0.01, -0.04 -95.6 92.8 0.0024 0.0094 -94.5
Samsung Galaxy S6 (headphones) +0.02, -0.05 -92.6 91.9 0.0025 0.042 -83.4
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1
Sony Xperia Z3 +0.02, -0.08 -86.4 86.4 0.014 0.021 -86.6
Sony Xperia Z3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.10 -85.7 85.7 0.035 0.064 -50.8

HTC One M9 frequency response

HTC One M9 response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Still and video camera

The HTC One M9 is finally taking imaging seriously. With a brand new 20MP BSI sensor, HTC has opted out of the dual-camera setup and there is no OIS here. The camera uses as a 27.8 mm wide angle lens with an aperture of f/2.2 and a sapphire lens cover. The sensor size is 1/2.3" and the maximum resolution is 5376 x 3752 pixels. Although it isn't officially cited in the specs sheet, the 10:7 aspect native aspect squarely points towards a Toshiba sensor.

HTC One M9

The camera lens does not offer optical image stabilization, which according to HTC is mostly due to lack of physical space inside the device, as well as quality control issues, meaning it's hard to mass produce up to high standards.

HTC One M9

Shooting modes

The shooter's interface seems to be absolutely identical to the one in the One (M8), which is in no way a complaint, as it has already proven its worth. Your choice of shooting modes includes: Selfie, Camera, Panorama. You can add more shooting modes though - the available options are Bokeh, Photo Booth (4 snaps in a grid) and Split Capture (dual-camera capture).

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Camera interface • Manual mode • Video modes

The One M9 is also capable of taking HDR stills, macro shots, there is Night mode, and even Manual mode is available. There are also settings for maximum ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and image adjustments.

A long press on the screen will lock exposure and focus. You can set the volume rocker to act as a zoom lever or a shutter key.

The front-facing shooter is a very impressive HTC 4MP UltraPixel module. It is very similar to the main camera of the One (M8), but it doesn't have auto focus. It also comes with a BSI sensor, an aperture of f/2.0, a 26.8mm wide-angle lens and is capable of 1080p video recording.

Image quality

The new 20MP main camera produces nice-looking photos, there is enough detail, but there is lots of luminance noise too. It seems HTC chose not to tune the noise levels down in order to keep as much detail as possible and we can live with that. In good light the photos are really sharp. We are more than pleased with the way the camera picks exposure and colors, even in mixed light. White balance is on spot, too.

Outside of the high noise levels, the less than stellar dynamic range is what bugs about the HTC One M9 camera.

While the images aren't as spectacular as we've expected, the results came out better than other 20MP shooters, say Xperia Z3, and are a huge improvement over the 4MP UltraPixel samples taken with the previous HTC One (M8) model.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 camera samples

And here is great macro sample taken with the HTC One M9.

HTC One M9

A macro shot

The HTC One M9 is well capable of shooting HDR stills and the results are OK. It gets lots of detail out of the shadows, but the highlights might get overblown. Unlike the previous generations of HTC Ones, this time around HTC tuned the algorithm and we often got some pleasing high-detail photos, which is definitely an improvement.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

One M9: HDR off and on

We also snapped some low-light samples.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 low-light camera samples

The panorama resolution has been improved - now it shoots at 1850px in portrait mode and 1080px if you are using landscape view. The images are OK, stitching is very good, but the resolved detail is far from great. Still, it's another improvement over the One M8 and we appreciate it.

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

HTC One M9 panorama samples: portrait and landscape

You can also check the 4MP UltraPixel samples taken with the front selfie camera.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

4MP UltraPixel selfies

Photo quality comparison

The HTC One M9 has a really nice camera. It does resolve plenty of detail, the colors are accurate, and contrast is great too. The luminance noise is the only thing, which might get in the way of the perfect picture.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

HTC One M9 in our photo compare tool

4K video recording

HTC One M9 is capable of capturing 4K videos at 30 fps, as well as taking 1080p clips with 30 of 60 fps (Fast FHD).

The video recording is no longer a dedicated mode, but has its own button in the camera interface. While convenient, this unfortunately, makes framing a video correctly impossible unitl you have started recording. This genuinely annoying issue has to do with the fact that the still camera and the video camera have seriously different fields of view (they don't fit the same portion of the scene) and you only get to see the video field of view after you've started recording.

The 4K videos from the main camera have a 41.9Mbps bitrate and the audio is recorded in stereo with a bitrate of 96kbps. The 1080p videos have a bitrate of 20Mbps, while their audio stream is at 192Kbps bitrate.

The 4K video quality is the same as the still images - there is lots of resolved detail, there is noise too. Colors and contrast are great, as is the while balance. The dynamic range seems a bit lower though.

The 1080p videos at 30 fps seems blurred, while those shot at 60fps are oversharpened. We like the latter better, but HTC has some work to do on both modes.

You can also download the untouched video samples - 4K @30fps, 1080 @30 fps, 1080p @60fps.

Video quality comparison

The HTC One M9 fares quite well when compared to identically priced 4K shooters, as you can see in our Video comparison tool. Unfortunately, that's only true for the 4K videos, the 1080p came out really poor.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

HTC One M9 (4K) in our video compare tool

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

HTC One M9 (1080p) in our video compare tool

Web browser

HTC One M9 comes with Google Chrome, which is becoming the most popular mobile browser and should be fairly familiar. It has some advantages over competitive browser, including switching between tabs from the Lollipop's Task Switcher interface.

Thanks to your Google account, Chrome can sync the tabs you have open on other devices (desktops, tablets) with the phone. This feature also syncs your bookmarks and favorite sites and can remember passwords and login data across different platforms.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Google Chrome

Other pre-installed apps

The HTC One M9 comes with Polaris Office 5, which can view and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, it can display PDFs too. The app handles files stored locally along with ones in your Google Drive account. The View Together option lets you do a presentation on multiple devices by connecting them together wirelessly.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Polaris Office 5 with cloud integration

HTC has skinned the calendar to match Sense 7 looks. Adding an event lets you specify time (with a warning if there's a conflict with another event), who will attend and where the meeting will be held. Multiple online calendars are supported.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC Sense 7 calendar

HTC Backup can do manual or scheduled backups of your apps, messages (texts and emails), contacts and accounts (mail and social). The data is sent either to Google Drive or Dropbox and you can limit the app to transfer over Wi-Fi only.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC Backup • backup settings

The alarm clock application can handle multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The stopwatch and timer are self-explanatory.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The clock app

There is a cool Weather app as well, which relies on the AccuWeather services.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The weather app

HTC Scribble is resurrected, with optimized interface for both drawing and taking notes. You can make cards, lists, diaries, to-do sheets, among others. It supports various type of multimedia content and comes with lots of predefined templates to get you started. The last time we saw Scribble was in the HTC One Max, and we are happy to see it brought back from the dead and with updated interface and functionality.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

The HTC Scribble app

Google Maps is the default SatNav app and is the only one a typical user needs. It can plan driving, public transport, cycling and walking routes. With a data connection it will also display traffic alerts. It allows you to download offline maps of an area but in this case it would only serve as a digital map and address searching is not available.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Google Maps

Finally, Google Now integrates with your Google account and can access your daily routine, internet searches, email, etc. and give you information relevant to your interests and daily needs.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Google Now

It provides traffic information to your work or home, knows the scores of sports teams you follow and gives you the weather forecast for your location. It's great for at-a-glance info, but can handle voice input as well. It also has a dedicated homescreen/lockscreen widget.

Final words

Latest Snapdragon, latest Android and Sense, Dolby Surround added to HTC Boomsound, very good screen quality. With a proper camera finally on the list, the HTC One M9 is the all-round flagship smartphone the company should have had a while ago. The beautiful aluminum unibody looks as good as ever though and, if nothing else, the two-color design adds an extra bit of flair.

HTC One M9

Hold one in your hand and it gets even better. The brushed aluminum casing delivers an unrivaled tactile experience and the edge around the screen aids in securing a firm grip and makes the phone feel slimmer. The larger than average footprint and weight are not as much of an issue in everyday use and are easy to live with.

It's on the inside where it gets complicated. Qualcomm's misfortunate Snapdragon 810 can be mighty powerful but heats up significantly under load. To address that, HTC tweaked the firmware to avoid thermal issues and performance took somewhat of a hit. So while we know the chip is capable, practical considerations limit what it can actually put out in the real world.

That is not to say, that the device lags or leaves the user waiting. On the contrary, Lollipop and Sense 7.0 team up for a delightful experience, with arguably some of the best Android customizations on the market. The interface is fast, consistent, stylish and rich in features, without being overly crowded. We guess however you'll be able to enjoy that combo on the One (M8) as well, in a couple of months or so.

The single most notable step up is without a doubt the camera. Innovations are welcome, but the UltraPixel concept has its limitations and those should have been foreseen, or at least acknowledged when the original One was released. Little excuse can be found for HTC's choice to stick with the same technology on the One (M8), and a third iteration would have been a disaster.

Thankfully, the company employed a conventional 20MP sensor (admittedly with less than conventional 10:7 aspect ratio) and it performs admirably. Images come out sharp, with great colors and above average dynamic range. We're inclined to forgive the higher than average luminance noise, because the lighter noise reduction algorithms have resulted in plenty of detail.

Audio output, in typical HTC fashion, is exemplary. The One M9 aced our tests both with and without headphones, and we have nothing but praise for it. The stereo speakers didn't break our sound level meter, but did produce excellent quality output, not that we expected otherwise.

Key test findings:

  • Superior build quality, the smartphone is a joy to handle and looks dazzling
  • The screen looks to be the same high-quality unit as on the HTC One (M8) with great maximum brightness and contrast but average legibility under direct sunlight
  • Above average 62h battery endurance rating, but unimpressive screen-on time of less than 8 hours
  • Latest iteration of Sense UI is feature rich, without being overly heavy
  • Performance is top-notch initially but the device tends to heat up after a few benchmark runs and results take a solid hit. New firmware update brings temperature down, but with a drop of CPU performance
  • 20MP main camera produces first-rate images with a wide dynamic range, accurate colors and correct exposure, although on the noisy side
  • Video recording quality is decent, but not chart-topping. There's plenty of detail at 2160p, but also high noise levels. The lower res camcorder modes have their issues too
  • Exceptional audio quality across the board. The output from the 3.5mm jack is stellar whether plugged to headphones or to an external amp. BoomSound speakers deliver high quality output but fail to impress in loudness
  • Standard-issue video player, which lacks support for subtitles and DivX/MOV videos, no AC3 sound either; you'd have to get a third-party player
  • Comprehensive multimedia package with a capable gallery and music player. The Zoe app adds a new dimension to storing and sharing memories

The HTC One M9 looks the part as always, and is a competent overall package. It simply doesn't bring anything particularly new and exciting to the table. Latest firmware installed, benchmarks show performance on par with the best of last year.

The One M9 is trapped between Apple's current smartphone pair in terms of size. Apple was never the one to play the specs game, where the One M9 easily has the upper hand. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus do offer the same superb build as the HTC flagship, and iOS has the rich ecosystem that drives the company's profits - and saves users from the upgrader's dilemma.

Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 • Apple iPhone 6 Plus

HTC must be hoping its loyal fans are quite like Apple's in that they care less for specs and more about looks and the user experience. That's valid tactics but to really succeed, HTC needs the One M9 to be liked by more people than just its faithful.

OK, maybe it's no coincidence that this year's Android flagships invoke comparisons with Apple. The Samsung Galaxy S6 did too, be it for completely different reasons. If it's one droid against the other though, things are looking grim for HTC.

The Galaxy S6 has a pixel-dense 5.1-inch QHD AMOLED stunner of a display, as well as arguably the best chipset on the market, Samsung's own Exynos 7420. The loss of the microSD slot may be the one feature to steer a potential buyer to HTC's camp. Samsung has finally caught up on the upmarket feel this generation and in that department choice now comes down solely to personal preference of glass or metal.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Sony Xperia Z3 is due for a replacement later this year, but can nonetheless stand up to the One M9 today. It sports a bigger 5.2-inch display in a marginally larger footprint, but it is way slimmer. It does pack a 2-generation old chipset though, and that shows in the benchmarks. It more than makes up for it It is the only flagship here with IP68 certification, and that alone should be enough of a deciding factor with a price advantage of about €200/$200 over the One M9.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

LG is on the verge of announcing the G4 flagship in as little as one month and in the meantime, it's the G Flex2 that holds the helm. The G Flex 2 is a bit larger, but has a 5.5-inch screen to show for it and manages a noticeably better screen-to-body ratio at that. Same chipset inside, LG's offering has a 3GB/32GB version that matches the One M9 byte for byte. And while HTC's flagship trumps the G Flex2 in the megapixel race, the LG sports optical image stabilization, which the One M9 lacks. The G Flex2 has a curved body with a flashy paintjob and a self-healing back to put up against the One M9's metal unibody.

LG G Flex2

LG G Flex2

LG's interim flagship and last year's Sony's best are roughly HTC One M9's equals - and in some respects superior. Well, some people may have a problem with that. We think it's still one of the best smartphone designs around and the M9 is the best of the One series. It just feels as if Google, Qualcomm and Toshiba all did their part while HTC's calendar was stuck in 2014. It may very well be the Pirelli calendar of smartphones but still, it's a year behind.

HTC One M9 360-degree spin

The HTC One M9 measures 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm, which makes it marginally smaller than the previous generation's 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4mm. The miniscule increase is thickness is not noticeable and the new frame in fact makes the device feel slimmer in hand.

The One M9 also remains quite hefty for a 5-incher at 157g, although HTC has managed to shave off 3g off the predecessor, all the while fitting a higher-capacity battery.

Screen-to-body ratio has never been among HTC's features that lend themselves well to comparison but the One M9, like its flagship siblings, has a better excuse than most - the pair of stereo speakers. The recently reviewed Samsung Galaxy S6 is about the same size (a millimeter shorter) and packs a 5.1-inch display. It's got a hardware Home key / fingerprint scanner at the bottom, where the One M9 accommodates a speaker.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 flanked by the One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S6

Design and build

Despite the lack of innovation in the design, we won't get tired of repeating it - the One M9 is simply gorgeous. True, we have here a somewhat questionable color combination that may not be universally appealing and would have a hard time on the Western market. Even so, the aluminum unibody remains unmatched for a third generation in a row in terms of both looks and feel in hand.

HTC deemed it unwise to mess with a design that won the One numerous awards and kept the new model's styling largely unchanged. That's not to say that the One M9 doesn't have its characteristic features and refinements, though you'll need to look closely to find them.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 design

Our review unit came in Silver and Amber Gold attire and the two-tone design is markedly flashier than the conservative Gunmetal Grey One (M8) we have for comparison. The sides shine in a more pronounced golden color, while the front carries a paler tint.

Another new design feature, introduced with this generation HTC flagship is the distinct border between the front panel and the sides. It gives the impression of a layered design, the screen overlaid on top of the aluminum casing. It also makes the phone feel thinner when you hold it in your hand.

Controls

The HTC One M9 right side is now pretty crowded. From top to bottom, the layout features the microSD card tray, which requires a pin to pop out. Moving down, we get two separate volume buttons, as opposed to the predecessor's rocker style controls. Then comes the newly-positioned power button, which is nicely textured to provide tactile feedback and set it apart from the volume controls.

The left side is pretty bare and only features the nano-SIM slot, the same design as the microSD tray on the opposite end.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Button-packed right side • Lone SIM card slot on the left

The top houses only the infrared blaster, behind a large black strip reminiscent of TV remotes of old. On the bottom we find the micro USB port, slightly off-center, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack further to the side.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

IR blaster on top • Bottom with micro USB and headphone jack

The front sees little change, compared to the One (M8), with reportedly a different number of pinholes in the speaker grilles (one reviewer actually counted 33 columns of 4 holes on the top speaker of the One M9, versus the 38x4 layout of the One (M8), but couldn't muster enough patience to examine the bottom grilles).

You still get front firing stereo speakers on both ends of the display, the top one shorter due to a cutout for a light sensor and the 4MP UltraPixel selfie camera.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Speaker with sensors and camera beside it • Bottom speaker

The large rectangular piece of sapphire glass on the back, the single most distinguishable design element of the One M9, protects the camera assembly and has the familiar dual-tone LED flash alongside. Gone is the dual-UltraPixel camera arrangement of the predecessor, now replaced by a standard-issue 20MP Toshiba sensor.

The two plastic antenna strips that allow the antennas to do their radio magic make for nice accents over the scratch-resistant brushed aluminum finish. The top strip also houses the tiny hole for the noise-cancelling microphone.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
HTC One M9

Brushed aluminum back with a sapphire glass bump protecting the lens

Handling

The relocation of the power button works miracles in terms of usability, we can't stress it enough. It was way out of reach at the top on the One M8 and waking up the phone was a less than elegant exercise when operating single-handedly. The double-tap-to-wake feature was a decent compromise, but once unlocked, the phone still needed a press on the top to be put back to sleep.

The sharp edge surrounding the front is another notable difference when comparing the One M9 to the M8. It basically guarantees that the smartphone will never slip out of your hand, but some users may find it uncomfortable to hold it for extended periods of time.

HTC One M9
HTC One M9

HTC One M9 in the hand

Other than that, it's the typical One experience with an unrivaled upmarket feel. The phone is a joy to handle and the less than stellar thickness is not an issue as the smartphone is markedly thinner towards the edges than those 9.6mm in the middle.

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