HTC 10 Review: We’ve spent the week with HTC’s first 2016 phone, the HTC 10, which boasts a fresh new laser-focused camera, a unique Android experience called Freestyle and some seriously upgraded specs compared with the One M9. Here’s our full HTC 10 review, touching on performance, battery life, camera dependability and more.
As massive fans of HTC phones since the original Desire landed in 2010, it was with very heavy hearts that we awarded last year’s One M9 flagship just four stars. The phone was still solid in many areas and four stars is hardly a poor score, but the One M9 paled in comparison to some rivals, especially when it came to camera tech.
For 2016, HTC has made some big changes, starting with the name; this new flagship drops the ‘One’, giving you the short and sweet moniker HTC 10. Pretty much everything else, from screen to camera, has been overhauled too, to make the HTC 10 a much more competitive handset.
Read next: HTC One M9 vs HTC 10, should I upgrade?
HTC 10 Review: Design
HTC has definitely stuck to the ‘same but different’ approach with this latest flagship’s look and feel, tweaking some important design elements while keeping several of the One brand’s distinct characteristics.
So once again we have a metal unibody, which blends neatly into the front glass panel. But this time the usual curves are replaced with chamfered edges, which feel comfortable in the palm and give the HTC 10 some funky styling. There’s also a glorious return for physical home, back and menu buttons, housed beneath the screen.
One of the benefits of an all-metal frame (beyond the simple fact that it looks the biz) is the rugged quality it lends a handset. And like the One M9 before it, the HTC 10 can definitely shrug off some serious punishment. With no fragile glass surface on the rear, the HTC 10 is much hardier than rivals such as the Galaxy S7 and especially the Sony Xperia Z5, and one of the few recent flagships (along with the LG G5) that we’re happy to rock without a cover or case.
Of course, the HTC 10 isn’t water resistant, so if you want a phone that you can fiddle with in the bath, you should look to the Z5 or S7 instead.
HTC hasn’t really taken any risks when it comes to design, but the 10 is still attractive in its various colour finishes and can just about be used one-handed. And if you’re into your full metal jackets, this is one of the few 2016 handsets that delivers.
HTC 10 Review: Screen and media
One big update over the One M9 (and in keeping with rival phones) is the Quad HD display, a 5.2-inch panel packing a mighty 2560×1440 resolution. That’s almost an identical match for the Galaxy S7 and LG G5 in terms of pure specs.
I’ve really enjoyed the HTC 10’s Super LCD screen over the past few days. You might not get the same funky curved edges as the Galaxy S7, but images are crisp and viewing angles are strong, as is the maximum brightness. Best of all, you get full manual control over the colour gamut and warmth in HTC’s display settings, so you can tweak the display to match your mood.
One of my favourite HTC features was always the BoomSound speakers (partly because that name is awesome to say in a dramatic fashion. BoooooomSounnnnnd). At first glance the HTC 10 appears to do away with the stereo speaker setup of previous flagships, but that’s thankfully not the case. The bottom speaker has merely shifted from beneath the screen to the base of the phone.
The HTC 10’s speakers are as powerful as ever, producing a weighty sound on top volume, with no crackle or distortion. This is definitely the best aural experience you’ll find on any current smartphone, while the HTC 10’s support for Hi-res audio means that music fans will be in heaven. Of course, to really enjoy your Hi-res tracks, you’ll want to plug in some really good headphones.
HTC 10 Review: Features
The HTC 10 follows in the footsteps of the S7, G5 and other 2016 flagship phones, sporting Android Marshmallow with a tweaked design to make the handset more individual. However, while other manufacturers such as Samsung basically did their own thing, resulting in duplicate apps and a heavy sprinkling of its own services imprinted on the S7, HTC wisely decided to work closely with Google and produce a more efficient user experience.
HTC fans will recognise some of the company’s Android additions, such as the Blinkfeed desktop for checking out the latest headlines and social media stirrings. Thankfully you can hide away these little nuggets if you don’t want them, for a mostly vanilla Android setup.
However, one major new addition is HTC’s Freestyle Desktops feature, which we’ve quickly come to adore. This does away with Android’s traditional grid layout and allows you to scatter your shortcuts and widgets all over the place, complete with a choice of themes. Check out our Freestyle Desktops review and guide for more info.
One of the reasons that we now have a physical home button beneath the HTC 10’s screen is that it doubles as a fingerprint sensor, something we expect from a flagship phone these days. Impressively, that scanner is probably the best we’ve tested; not a bad effort considering HTC’s previous flagships didn’t have one.
Once you’ve registered your prints, you can basically press your chosen finger/thumb to the sensor at any angle and it’ll almost certainly be recognised, first time. The unlock time is blisteringly fast too, at around half a second or so.
Read next: HTC 10 tips and tricks
HTC 10 Review: Performance and battery life
Like the LG G5 and some models of the Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. Right now this is one of the most capable chipsets around, offering a smooth everyday performance with no worrying temperature spikes or other issues. I didn’t witness a single crash or stutter in my week with the phone, while the latest games play with dependable frame rates.
As for battery life, the HTC 10 is more than a match for the S7 and LG’s G5. I never struggled to make it through a full day, even with plenty of camera use and frequent web browsing. If you want to stream video non-stop over WiFi, you can expect between seven and eight hours of life; not quite as solid as the Galaxy S7’s performance, but still strong compared to many rivals.
If you’re wanting even longer battery life, HTC has also included a couple of power saving modes; check out our HTC 10 tips and tricks guide for more info.
Thankfully, unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S7, you also get Quick Charge 3.0 support with the HTC 10. Check out our HTC 10 Quick Charge tests for more info, and how the phone compares to its biggest rivals.
HTC 10 Review: Cameras
The HTC 10 aims to right the wrongs of previous HTC flagships with a fresh new 12-megapixel snapper, bolstered by a laser-guided auto-focus. We’ve tested the 12-meg snapper and the 5-megapixel front-facing camera in full, and put it up against the brilliant Galaxy S7 shooter, so check out our HTC 10 camera review for more info.
HTC 10 Review: Verdict
The HTC 10 is a solid all-round package, a phone that has few weaknesses and certainly doesn’t disappoint like last year’s One M9 handset. Media fans will love the gorgeous screen, BoomSound speakers and Hi-res audio support, while the funky Freestyle desktops give Android a fresh new look and feel that’s well overdue.
Sadly the camera tech isn’t quite as strong as some rivals and there’s a lack of real sex appeal, something the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge had in spades. But if you’re more about rugged metal than gorgeous glass, the HTC 10 is reassuringly solid and scratch-resistant.