HTC One M9+ Review

HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
Introduction


Stuck in a downward spiral for what seems like an eternity, troubled Android _phone_ maker HTC has been actively diversifying its portfolio this year. Sure, there was the mandatory One M9 flagship, as well as a bunch of Desire mid-rangers, but we've also seen some more or less unexpected entrants, such as the HTC One M9+. 'Ah, an M9 in a super-sized form,' you might think. Not exactly.

The M9+ is slightly bigger than the M9, but not really big enough to call it a phablet. At the same time, it bumps some of the specs up, like the resolution, but also turns things down in other areas, such as the chipset. It's really difficult to determine the exact position of the One M9+ relative to the M9, which is why we won't even try. Let's just review it for what it is.

Design


During the last year or so, we've gotten used to associating the word “plus” with “phablet”, but this is not the case with the HTC One M9+. It's a big handset, we'll give it that, but with a display size of 5.2”, it stays safely within the 'phone' realm, and far enough from anything approaching a mini-tablet. Typically for HTC, though, the _phone_ is a bit larger than average considering its screen size, due to the generous upper and lower bezels, where the stereo speakers are housed, along with some other goodies. The One M9+ also happens to be thicker than the average iPhone or Galaxy, which gives it a very substantial, solid appearance.

Traditionally strong in the build quality department, HTC is delivering yet another phone that's very well put together, albeit a bit top-heavy. The smooth, brushed-metal back plate feels good in the hand, and tends to be just a tad less slippery than the average metal smartphone, due to its very smooth, polished finish. It's still definitely on the slippery side, though, so it should be handled with care. Unexpectedly, the front panels covering the speakers are actually made of plastic, not metal, but that doesn't really stand in the way of the classy feel.

Interestingly, HTC has equipped the M9+ with a fingerprint scanner, which is situated on the lower bezel, right below the display and “mandatory” HTC logo. As a result, the bottom speaker grill has been split in two, making for a less symmetrical, less thoughtful kind of look.

Overall, the One M9+ bears the marks of HTC's signature design language, but we wouldn't necessarily say that it's as attractive as the One smartphones we've already seen. Build quality is pretty high, though the power and volume keys could have been a bit clickier.

 

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Front view | Side view
HTC One M9+
HTC One M9+
5.94 x 2.83 x 0.38 inches
150.99 x 71.99 x 9.61 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)

HTC One M9+

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
5.69 x 2.74 x 0.38 inches
144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

HTC One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

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


HTC One M9+ Review

Display


For those who don't remember, HTC used to be a top dog in the display field. A few years ago, the One X flagship was universally acclaimed for its beautiful LCD display, with natural, yet attractive colors.

Whether due to the long list of high-profile executives who eventually left HTC, or something completely different, we don't know, but those times are long gone now. When it comes to its latest high-end devices, including the One M9+, screen quality has been, and continues to be an issue. Outdoor visibility is fine, due to sufficient brightness output, but when viewed in darkness, the display tends to be a bit more difficult to enjoy, because its brightness can't go low enough. The automatic brightness control is by no means perfect, but it tends to get the job done most of the time. Our biggest gripe has to do with the overly cold color reproduction – it's as if the Dementors from Harry Potter have come to suck the life out of the display. The result of that are colors that look decidedly bluish or even greenish, in comparison with most high-quality display you'll find out there. Seriously, HTC, find your Patronus to scare them Dementors away!

Perhaps HTC has thought that it'll be able to make up for the lacking colors by stuffing more pixels into the One M9+'s display. After a few days of use, it took a quick look at the device's specs sheet for us to realize that we're dealing with an actual Quad HD display here, and not a 1080 x 1920 one. That's because all of that time, we thought it's a just a normal, 1080 x 1920 screen, which, in turn, is because at this screen size, Quad HD looks like HD. HTC is trying to play the specs game here, but this isn't what we've been looking for at all. It makes us blue.

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
Samsung Galaxy S6 563
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6584
(Excellent)
2.11
2.02
(Good)
2.94
(Good)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
HTC One M9 508
(Excellent)
10
(Average)
1:1347
(Excellent)
8114
(Poor)
2.21
4.40
(Average)
8.24
(Poor)
HTC One M9+ 464
(Good)
11
(Average)
1:2079
(Excellent)
7756
(Average)
2.12
4.55
(Average)
5.36
(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 S6 56.1%
50%
unmeasurable
0.7%
1.9%
193.1%
216%
HTC One M9 78.7%
80%
83.4%
13.9%
3.2%
20.9%
18.8%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
HTC One M9+ 86.9%
87.3%
87.7%
7.7%
10.8%
11.4%
36.9%
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 One M9+ Review

HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
HTC One M9+ Review
Introduction


Stuck in a downward spiral for what seems like an eternity, troubled Android phone maker HTC has been actively diversifying its portfolio this year. Sure, there was the mandatory One M9 flagship, as well as a bunch of Desire mid-rangers, but we've also seen some more or less unexpected entrants, such as the HTC One M9+. 'Ah, an M9 in a super-sized form,' you might think. Not exactly.

The M9+ is slightly bigger than the M9, but not really big enough to call it a phablet. At the same time, it bumps some of the specs up, like the resolution, but also turns things down in other areas, such as the chipset. It's really difficult to determine the exact position of the One M9+ relative to the M9, which is why we won't even try. Let's just review it for what it is.

Design


During the last year or so, we've gotten used to associating the word “plus” with “phablet”, but this is not the case with the HTC One M9+. It's a big handset, we'll give it that, but with a display size of 5.2”, it stays safely within the 'phone' realm, and far enough from anything approaching a mini-tablet. Typically for HTC, though, the phone is a bit larger than average considering its screen size, due to the generous upper and lower bezels, where the stereo speakers are housed, along with some other goodies. The One M9+ also happens to be thicker than the average iPhone or Galaxy, which gives it a very substantial, solid appearance.

Traditionally strong in the build quality department, HTC is delivering yet another phone that's very well put together, albeit a bit top-heavy. The smooth, brushed-metal back plate feels good in the hand, and tends to be just a tad less slippery than the average metal smartphone, due to its very smooth, polished finish. It's still definitely on the slippery side, though, so it should be handled with care. Unexpectedly, the front panels covering the speakers are actually made of plastic, not metal, but that doesn't really stand in the way of the classy feel.

Interestingly, HTC has equipped the M9+ with a fingerprint scanner, which is situated on the lower bezel, right below the display and “mandatory” HTC logo. As a result, the bottom speaker grill has been split in two, making for a less symmetrical, less thoughtful kind of look.

Overall, the One M9+ bears the marks of HTC's signature design language, but we wouldn't necessarily say that it's as attractive as the One smartphones we've already seen. Build quality is pretty high, though the power and volume keys could have been a bit clickier.


Front view | Side view
HTC One M9+
HTC One M9+
5.94 x 2.83 x 0.38 inches
150.99 x 71.99 x 9.61 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)

HTC One M9+

HTC One M9
HTC One M9
5.69 x 2.74 x 0.38 inches
144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

HTC One M9

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6
5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27 inches
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S6

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


HTC One M9+ Review

Display


For those who don't remember, HTC used to be a top dog in the display field. A few years ago, the One X flagship was universally acclaimed for its beautiful LCD display, with natural, yet attractive colors.

Whether due to the long list of high-profile executives who eventually left HTC, or something completely different, we don't know, but those times are long gone now. When it comes to its latest high-end devices, including the One M9+, screen quality has been, and continues to be an issue. Outdoor visibility is fine, due to sufficient brightness output, but when viewed in darkness, the display tends to be a bit more difficult to enjoy, because its brightness can't go low enough. The automatic brightness control is by no means perfect, but it tends to get the job done most of the time. Our biggest gripe has to do with the overly cold color reproduction – it's as if the Dementors from Harry Potter have come to suck the life out of the display. The result of that are colors that look decidedly bluish or even greenish, in comparison with most high-quality display you'll find out there. Seriously, HTC, find your Patronus to scare them Dementors away!

Perhaps HTC has thought that it'll be able to make up for the lacking colors by stuffing more pixels into the One M9+'s display. After a few days of use, it took a quick look at the device's specs sheet for us to realize that we're dealing with an actual Quad HD display here, and not a 1080 x 1920 one. That's because all of that time, we thought it's a just a normal, 1080 x 1920 screen, which, in turn, is because at this screen size, Quad HD looks like HD. HTC is trying to play the specs game here, but this isn't what we've been looking for at all. It makes us blue.

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
Samsung Galaxy S6 563
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6584
(Excellent)
2.11
2.02
(Good)
2.94
(Good)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
HTC One M9 508
(Excellent)
10
(Average)
1:1347
(Excellent)
8114
(Poor)
2.21
4.40
(Average)
8.24
(Poor)
HTC One M9+ 464
(Good)
11
(Average)
1:2079
(Excellent)
7756
(Average)
2.12
4.55
(Average)
5.36
(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 S6 56.1%
50%
unmeasurable
0.7%
1.9%
193.1%
216%
HTC One M9 78.7%
80%
83.4%
13.9%
3.2%
20.9%
18.8%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
HTC One M9+ 86.9%
87.3%
87.7%
7.7%
10.8%
11.4%
36.9%
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


User experience and functionality


If there's one Android UI that has managed to retain a sense of purpose and focus through the years, other than stock Android, it has to be HTC's Sense. Not one to try wowing you with cheap tricks or needless piles of “customization” options, HTC is instead focusing on the core experience of its phones. The Sense interface across the One M9+'s Android 5 software is composed in a stylish, coherent manner. Aside from a few absurd apps that come pre-installed on the phone, everything else has been designed around a unified concept: one that is markedly mature and down-to-the-point.

For the most part, we like the overarching design theme of the phone, messaging, calendar, etc. apps, though we have to say screen space usage is inefficient, to say the least. The large, colorful, Material Design-inspired header bars in most applications, along with the on-screen navigation keys, leave little space for the actual content. In comparison, the iPhone 6s and Galaxy S6 typically display more content in their respective applications.

Looking beyond the surface layer of Sense, we start noticing a number of issues and imperfections that leave something to be desired from the experience. Things like the auto brightness setting, or the rough vibration felt when typing on the keyboard, or even the weird default sounds that HTC has chosen for events like new mail, or notification. Some of these are easily fixable with some tinkering, but some aren't – like that fact that you just can't use the camera flash when the phone is low on battery, or that the One M9+ doesn't automatically disable its power saving mode once it has reached a certain level of charge.

Another issue we encountered had to do with the Fingerprint settings. While the set-up of the fingerprint scanner is mostly quick and easy, disabling it isn't. It took at least a good 5 minutes to figure out that we can't just disable lock screen authentication (or only fingerprint authentication, for that matter), without actually removing the fingerprints we've stored on the phone, which appears to be a very poor software engineering solution. Other than that, yes, the scanner works quickly and accurately enough. Though, we can't seem to understand why it keeps vibrating upon being touched, even when we've disabled every function of it completely. Vibrating should signify that something is going on, and in this case, when we have the scanner turned off, it's just strange for it to continue vibrating when tapped. Well, we guess in some aspects, HTC Sense just doesn't make that much sense.

Still, not all is bad. The internet browser of choice with the HTC One M9+ is Google Chrome, which is a wise choice. This way, HTC can avoid compromising the super-important browsing experience with any custom in-house solutions. The MediaTek Helio X10 chipset does a decent job here, ensuring that things will work well inside the browser.

System performance


So, yeah, no Snapdragons here. Powering the One M9+ is the Helio X10 by MediaTek – a 64-bit 2.2 GHz chipset featuring 8 Cortex-A53 cores. Together with the sufficient 3 GB RAM on board, the configuration delivers enough horsepower to keep Sense running smoothly and efficiently. This goes for basic apps like contacts, calendars and such, as well as heavier ones like the browser.

Users may run into some frame-rate issues more demanding games, because the Helio X10 and its PowerVR G6200 Rogue GPU aren't exactly cutting-edge in terms of raw power, plus the exorbitant 1440 x 2560 resolution takes its toll. Still, performance tends to be adequate most of the time.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
Samsung Galaxy S6 58382
HTC One M9 56896
HTC One M9+ 47862
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 2237
HTC One M9 2218
HTC One M9+ 1536
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S6 5751
HTC One M9 4195
HTC One M9+ 2208
Sunspider
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 217.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 354.5
HTC One M9 721.3
HTC One M9+ 1069.6
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
Samsung Galaxy S6 37
HTC One M9 49
HTC One M9+ 11
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
Samsung Galaxy S6 16
HTC One M9 24
HTC One M9+ 1.5
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
Samsung Galaxy S6 1767
HTC One M9 1413
HTC One M9+ 1041
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
Samsung Galaxy S6 1440
HTC One M9 1209
HTC One M9+ 968
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
Samsung Galaxy S6 5127
HTC One M9 3738
HTC One M9+ 2800
View all


Camera

It's so good to have the Duo Camera back! No?

The 20 MP camera with F2.2 aperture of the HTC One M9+ is a continuation of the one we met in the M9. It's a versatile shooter offering a variety of options and settings for shutterbugs. What's notable here is the Duo camera feature. The duo camera thing that was one of the highlights of the One M8 in 2014 failed to gain any steam. Since then, HTC hasn't used it in its phones, but surprisingly, the M9+ does have it. It comes with an extensive collection of effects and post-editing options, which tend to take a while to get processed and applied, but may lead to interesting results.


This 20 MP camera sure isn't the savior of HTC, because the images it takes are of about average quality. We found most photos to have some haziness to them, and a pronounced lack of definition. Fine details are hard to come by, while color balance tends to be OK most of the time, though some trickier situation easily fool it. Indoors, things are largely the same, with the slight occasional greeniness here and there. The UltraPixel selfie camera, on the other hand, actually does a pretty nice job. It, too, can easily mess the white balance up, however.


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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
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
1.9
485
293
Samsung Galaxy S6 2.2
2.4
No data
No data
HTC One M9+ 2.3
No data
540
464
HTC One M9 3.75
No data
No data
No data
View all

Video recording is more or less disappointing. 1080p recordings are low on actual details, and the footage, as a whole, is quite jerky. That's quite unfortunate, because 4K videos recorded with the HTC One M9+ are next to unplayable on a normal computer, even with a dedicated player, whose specialty is 4K videos. Furthermore, if you're looking for seamless continuous auto-focus, this isn't the phone for you. Looking at its responsiveness and accuracy, it's probably for the better that this feature is disabled by default.


Multimedia

Zombie screen meets above average sound qualities.

In terms of size, the 5.2” display is, naturally, well suited for video watching on the One M9+, but its bluish/greenish tone really takes away from the fun of it all. Of course, this applies to games and any other type of visual media as well.

A long-time signature feature of high-end HTC phones, the BoomSound stereo speakers are alive and well in the One M9+. Their positioning creates a nice, full audio scene which helps get the user immersed in the content they are enjoying. Sound quality could be better, deeper, but at least the speakers tend to sound clear enough, making them a better choice over those of the Xperia Z5, for example. The earphones bundled with the One M9+ are of the in-ear type. They are not too bad, but have that uber-low, bassy, even muddy type of sound that drowns everything in low frequencies, so music doesn't sound as clean and bright as it should. We enjoy bass, but not when it's so out of balance.



Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
HTC One M9+ 1.09
HTC One M9 1.022
Apple iPhone 6s 0.986
Samsung Galaxy S6 0.54
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
HTC One M9+ 70
HTC One M9 72.8
Apple iPhone 6s 69.6
Samsung Galaxy S6 73.7
View all


HTC One M9+ Review
Call quality

HTC doesn't have 'uh-oh' protection for this kind of issue.

A problem we encountered whenever we used the HTC One M9+ for phone calls was that voices sounded strangely distant in the earpiece. We tried finding a better position with our ear, a sweet spot that would fix things, but to no avail. It's a really rare, strange kind of issue, which we feel impacts the experience negatively. Thankfully, at least our callers don't find any problem with the way our voice sounds on their end.

Battery life


HTC One M9+ Review
With a 2840 mAh battery, the One M9+ is rated to have pretty good talk- and stand-by time. During our testing, we didn't find it to be anything that impressive, but it does manage to deliver the standard one or one and a half days.

Our battery benchmark burns through its battery in 6 hours 21 minutes, which is about average. Actually, it's shorter than the Galaxy S6's 7h 14 min, or the Xperia Z5's 7 h 7 min. Meanwhile, charging the M9+ takes quite a bit of time: 3h 5 min, against 1 h 18 min for the GS6, and 2h 36 min for the Xperia Z5.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S6 7h 14 min (Good)
HTC One M9 6h 25 min (Average)
HTC One M9+ 6h 21 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 150
Samsung Galaxy S6 78
HTC One M9 106
HTC One M9+ 185
View all

Conclusion


It's hard to understand what HTC has in mind with the One M9+. Perhaps the key is in the name of the device? The 'plus' should mean it's a better/bigger version of the M9, right? However, that is not entirely true.

Yes, the screen is 0.2” bigger, the resolution is (unnecessarily) higher, and there's a fingerprint scanner, but the chipset and build quality aren't as good as those of the M9. If the M9 is the premium product, the M9+, interestingly, comes off as a slightly cheaper, less exquisite variant, despite the bonus characteristics that aren't present on the flagship. The M9+ has a rather peculiar positioning within HTC's range.

Leaving this puzzle aside, the One M9+, by itself, is a mixed bag. The design is decent, if a bit over-the-top, but the screen's color balance leaves a lot to be desired, just like that of the M9. The chipset here, the MediaTek Helio X10, does a good job with system performance, but isn't quite top of the line. And while Sense 7.0 UI does appear mature and coherent enough, the user experience as a whole isn't as polished or seamless as we'd like it to be. It's a bit rough around the edges. Factor in the mediocre camera and unsatisfying call quality, and there just doesn't seem to be that much in the HTC One M9+ to keep us interested. Come on, HTC, we know you can do better than that!

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 5.0.2 | Software number: 1.88.707.2

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