HTC One M9 review

Comparing the next HTC flagship with smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, Lenovo and so on, few people remember how it all began and what position HTC occupies today. Yes, perhaps understanding that HTC is a small but very proud manufacturer against the background of the brands listed above will not make you treat One M9 differently, but this is the secret of some successful and, on the contrary, unsuccessful solutions embedded in HTC One M9. I will try to tell you about all the features of the smartphone and start with a short story about the history of the company.

A long time ago, in 1997, HTC was born - one of the galaxy of Asian ODM manufacturers of portable devices. The headquarters was located in Taiwan, so it is customary to consider the company Taiwanese. At that time, HTC was engaged in the production of personal digital assistants (PDAs) for various brands, later the production was expanded and they also began to produce smartphones based on Windows Mobile. The company was a Microsoft partner in the development of mobile devices (Hardware platform development partner) and was not deprived of contracts. For a long time, HTC's largest customers have been brands such as Hewlett Packard, Dell, Palm, Fujitsu Siemens and others. Later, the largest mobile operators became partners, and HTC began to produce products for Vodafone, T-mobile, O2, Orange.

Thus, by the beginning of the 2000s, HTC was one of the leaders in the ODM market for devices based on the Microsoft platform (then still on the first versions of the PocketPC mobile OS) and therefore decided to release smartphones under some brand of its own in order to sell them directly. So in 2002, the Qtek brand appeared to promote its products under its own name, albeit a fictitious one, and in 2004, the Dopod brand for sales in Asia. Technically, everything that was produced under the Qtek and Dopod brands was HTC products, and after a while both names were simplified, and HTC continued the production of communicators and smartphones already under its own, focusing on this direction and gradually leaving the ODM production niche.

In this short story, as you noticed, there is no large corporation or additional directions that the company would develop in parallel with the creation of smartphones under the HTC brand. I want to point out a simple idea - against the backdrop of Apple, Samsung, LG, Lenovo, you can list for a long time, HTC is a small manufacturer and brand. Of course, this does not need to be remembered when we compare the next flagship from Apple or Samsung with the flagship of HTC, because we are talking about the same segment. But it's worth keeping in mind if looking at the One M9 you're wondering "why is last year's design here and where is all the innovation?". Yes, from time to time HTC comes up with really cool ideas, including the design and body of the One line, the Sense shell and Dot View cases, for example.But keep in mind that the company does not have the same resources for "innovation" and a constant race in this area as diversified large manufacturers have. And that's why it's wrong to say that HTC out of spite or lack of new ideas takes the design of the old One M8 and implements it in the new M9. The reason is more prosaic - in order to remain a company that manages to compete on equal terms with huge corporations, HTC at some points adheres to a conservative position. And when it comes to a successful solution, which I think you won't argue is the design and general idea of ​​the case in One M8, the obvious choice is to reuse a proven formula, rather than inventing something new.

Delivery set

The device comes in a flat box, which is usual for the new models of the company; the previous HTC One (M8) was exactly the same. Inside, in addition to a smartphone and a couple of paper instructions, there is a charging unit, a wired stereo headset and a microUSB cable. The silicone case that was with the M8 is not here.

Design

The HTC One (M8) was a different design from the One (M7), although the models were generally made in the same style, and the M9 is in many ways a copy of the M8, if you don't look closely. The shape of the body, dimensions, outlines - all this has remained unchanged, and it would be correct to say that in terms of general appearance, the HTC One M9 resembles the M8. However, there are also differences.

Firstly, in One M8, the screen with protective glass is flush with the side edges, that is, it is neatly built into the aluminum “bath” of the case, while in the M9, the screen with glass is slightly raised above the aluminum base of the case. From the point of view of the perception of the device, this change does not play any role, we see just a different implementation of the placement of several body elements relative to each other. From a practical point of view, there is one drawback - dust may remain in the side formed as a result of this type of connection of the body halves, and from time to time the side will have to be blown.

Second, the One M9 has different colors, and one of them has a different method of processing the aluminum case. In the dark gray and gold M9, the transition between the rear plane and the side ribs is smooth, just like in the M8. The third color is a combination of a silver “back” and golden hue side faces, here the transition between the planes is made more sharply. For some, this option will seem more interesting, for others, on the contrary, they will like the smooth back, as in the M8.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I liked the HTC One M9 the most in gold. It's a shame, because just a couple of years ago I myself laughed at the golden "iPhones" and such a coloring seemed too pretentious and bright to me. Now, looking at the M9 in gold, I see a cool, bright, juicy color of gold-painted metal, and I just want to pick up and start using my smartphone.

And, I almost forgot, the new M9, like the One M8, perfectly disguises itself as a thermos!

In my opinion, the work that HTC has done to update the case design in the new flagship is quite sufficient. Yes, many will say that HTC is lazy and that the new device should have had a different design, but at the same time, do not forget that there are many people in the world who, having chosen something they like once, remain true this choice. The design of the HTC One M8 was undeniably successful, as was the choice of case materials and assembly. The company has taken the quality of workmanship and perception of mass smartphones (I'm not talking about Vertu and Tag Heuer now) to a new level, and in One M9 it simply adheres to this level.

Body materials

The main body material in the M9 is aluminum. The basis of the smartphone is made of it, electronics, a display and other elements are placed in it, above and below the screen there are inserts made of plastic under aluminum. Also, an insert is made of plastic on the upper end, where the “window” of the infrared port is located.

The problem with the placement of antennas in the device is solved in the same way as in the previous smartphone. They are located outside the case in small plastic grooves on the “back” of the device.

As for possible scratches: if they remain, they are almost imperceptible in everyday use. My HTC One M8 for many months of operation has almost not lost its original appearance and looks exactly the same as on the day I took it out of the box, if you do not peer, of course. Due to the use of aluminum on the case, traces and prints from fingers and hands are invisible. From a practical point of view, the case in the HTC One M9 was a success: it is not only beautiful and spectacular, but also does not force you to buy a case so that the device does not slip out of your hands or accidentally become covered with a grid of clearly visible scratches.

Assembly

The use of a unibody body with no removable elements (except for nanoSIM and memory card trays) makes the next HTC One good in terms of build quality. There are no loose and creaking parts, no backlash of individual elements. The disadvantage of this design is not the best maintainability.

Dimensions

The new HTC One M9 is almost identical in size to the company's previous device, the M8. Accordingly, the difference with the Samsung Galaxy S6 is also small, the latter is thinner, but slightly wider. Switching to the M9 after huge shovels with screen sizes in the region of 5.5-5.7 inches is a pleasure. However, in terms of dimensions, there is something to scold HTC for. While most other manufacturers are already making smartphones with thin side bezels and compact areas at the top and bottom of the screen, HTC continues to use the proprietary “triple border (TM)” layout, the margins on the left and right are almost 5 millimeters, and the top and bottom are almost 2 centimeters.

Hopefully, the company will make every effort to optimize the layout of elements and fit the screen into thinner frames in the next One. A great design option for the M10, by the way, "surfaced" even before the release of the M9 as expectations for the new flagship.

Now let's compare the dimensions of different smartphones so that you can roughly understand what the HTC One M9 is compared to other devices:

  • Apple iPhone 6 (4.7”) - 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm , 129 grams
  • HTC One M8 (5”) - 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm, 160 grams
  • HTC One M9 (5”) - 144.6 x 70 x 9.6 mm, 157 grams
  • Meizu MX4 (5.4”) - 144 x 75.2 x 8.9 mm, 147 grams
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 (5.1”) - 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm, 138 grams
  • Xiaomi Mi4 (5”) - 139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm, 149 grams

The device is quite comfortable to carry in the pockets of outerwear and in trousers or jeans, the smartphone fits comfortably in the hand, does not slip.

Compared to HTC One M8

Compared to Meizu MX4 Pro

Compared to HTC One M7

Compared to Huawei Honor 6 Plus

Compared to LG G3

Controls

In terms of the location of the keys and the general organization of control, the new HTC One M9 practically does not differ from the M8. The smartphone has three on-screen buttons - "Back", "Home" and "Recent Applications". There are only two actions for the Home key, in addition to the main task of returning to the main screen, holding it can call up the Google Now service.

When you touch any of the buttons, the device vibrates slightly.

The power key has been moved to the right side, right under the volume buttons, and this is very correct. Now you do not need to reach for the top end to turn on the screen, if the double tap option does not suit you, the power button is located under the thumb of the right hand, and this is convenient (at least for right-handers).

One of the main control features is the Motion Launch technology. Information from all sensors is transmitted to a special coprocessor, and any application receives this information immediately, without polling each sensor. Firstly, this allows you to save a little battery power, and secondly, to implement new control methods. Thanks to Motion Launch, the M9 has different options for unlocking the screen without the power key. Double tap on the display will take you to the lock screen, “swipe” with your finger from left to right - to the BlinkFeed screen, from right to left - to the main screen, from top to bottom - to voice control, from bottom to top - you will be taken to the screen on which the device was locked (game , application menu, some running program, and so on). All of these actions are best seen by the phone when you hold it in your hand in portrait orientation, although if you rotate it to landscape mode, they will also work, although not as clearly (everything except for double tap, it works fine). In addition, any of the unlock options can be disabled in the screen settings if it bothers you.

Another handy feature is to turn on the camera from a locked state - just turn the device to landscape mode and press any volume key.

The volume key is located on the right edge, I can't say anything special about it - quite a convenient button with a familiar location. Near it is a tray for a microSD memory card. To install or remove a memory card, you need to use a needle or a complete "clip".

On the top left edge is a tray for a nanoSIM SIM card.

A microUSB connector and a 3.5 mini-jack for headphones or a headset are located at the bottom of the case. In my opinion, the location of the mini-jack at the bottom is the most convenient and correct. If you listen to music on your smartphone and carry it in the pocket of trousers, jeans or even a jacket, then it is most logical to put it in your pocket with the top end down, so that later, when you get the device out of your pocket, it would not need to be intercepted for use. And just in this position, the location of the 3.5 mm mini-jack on the bottom is optimal.

On the front side, there are speakers at the top and bottom, there are also light and proximity sensors on top, a light indicator inscribed in the speaker grille and a 4 MP eye for a wide-angle front camera.

Screen

The HTC One M9 has a Super LCD3 display, which is the same as last year's model (M8) in most respects. Screen diagonal - 5'', resolution - 1920x1080 pixels (FullHD), dot density - 441 ppi. Screen with maximum viewing angles. At whatever angle you reject it, diagonally, edges or ends, the picture is not distorted. There is a good margin of brightness, although a little lower by eye than in the M8. In the sun, the display remains readable.

The color reproduction is close to natural, but even more calm than in the M8, and this, in my opinion, will become a moot point for some users. Personally, I like the color reproduction in the new M9, I'm generally a supporter of screens with the most calm colors, and the paler it is, let's say, the better. But, on the other hand, if some manufacturers offer the user the ability to select and manually adjust the brightness, contrast and color temperature of the display, HTC does not provide such functionality. And when choosing One M9, you should understand that the screen will be exactly the way you see it when you first get acquainted with the device, it cannot be reconfigured. Therefore, before buying a smartphone, it will be logical to see it “live”.

Automatic brightness adjustment works, in general, well, although from time to time you want to increase the brightness from the value that is set automatically.

Smartphone screen supports up to ten simultaneous touches, as well as operation with gloves. If you use the device with wet hands, there will be no problems either, the display works out such pressing well.

Below you can take a look at the screen comparison of the old and new HTC One screens.

HTC One M9 on top, HTC One M8 on bottom

Camera

One of the main differences between the HTC One M9 and last year's model is a completely new main camera module with a dual LED flash in different tones and a sensor resolution of 20 megapixels. For those who, having opened the review, immediately went to this point, I will write the following: the camera in HTC One M9 is better than in M8 and M7 in terms of image detail (naturally), still very fast, but slightly worse in auto balance white and work in low light conditions. Yes, One M9 is inferior to such devices as Samsung Galaxy S6 or Note 4 in terms of camera, but, in general, the module turned out to be quite good, and for HTC smartphones it is just excellent. And now let's move on to the story about the camera.

The HTC One M9 uses a 20.1 MP Toshiba T4KA7 back-illuminated sensor (BSI) for the main camera. Sensor size is 1/2.4", pixel size is 1.12 nm, other specifications can be found here. Specifications are as follows: f/2.2, 27.8mm lens, autofocus, 4k video recording and sapphire crystal as protection for the camera module.

The front camera also has a back-illuminated sensor, it uses a module with a resolution of 4 ultrapixels and proprietary technology HTC UltraPixel, f/2.0, 26.8 mm lens, video recording up to 1080p.

Accordingly, there are no more "ultra-pixels" for the main camera and tiny resolution, and there are no more two cameras on the back of the device.

I'll tell you a little about the modes of operation of the main camera.

Auto shooting mode (Auto). In Auto mode, you can adjust the ISO value, exposure (EV), white balance, and choose from 15 superimposed effects. The camera settings also set the aspect ratio of the frame: wide (16:9), normal (10:7) or square (1:1), grid for easy shooting, geotagging, self-timer, contrast, saturation, image sharpness and retouching strength for pictures. All settings can be saved in a separate profile with your own name and included if necessary. There can be several profiles.

Shots taken in Auto mode lend themselves to the most changes: you can add various graphic effects, overlay one image on top of another, make collages, or even simply draw on top of a photo by hand. In terms of the number of picture settings, the built-in editor in HTC One M9 is comparable to paid apps available on Google Play.

Bokeh. A new shooting mode with a blurred background effect, however, the logic of its operation is not much different from modes with the ability to change focus. The camera takes several shots in a short time, alternately focusing first on the foreground and then on the background, and then gently blurs the background. This creates the bokeh effect. To be honest, I didn't see much of a difference when shooting close-ups of a subject in Bokeh versus Auto. Perhaps with new firmware, the bokeh in such photos will become more pronounced.

Double shot. In this mode, the screen is divided into two halves, the slider between them allows you to make one of the halves larger and the other narrower. On one half of the screen, the image from the front camera, on the other - from the main one. You can take a photo from two cameras at once, or alternately.

Photo kiosk. The mode is only for the front camera, and in it you take a series of four self-portraits, then the pictures are glued together into one frame, square, rectangular or elongated in width. I found this mode very cool, it would seem nothing special, but in order to fool around and take a series of photos, especially with a loved one or friends, it suits just fine.


Manual shooting mode (M). One of the features of the camera in One M8 is implemented in the new M9 - manual shooting mode. In this mode, you can change the following parameters - white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, focus. White balance is adjustable from 2300K to 7500K, ISO values ​​​​are in the range of 100-1600, shutter speeds are in the range from 1/8000 to 2 seconds.

The most important thing is the ability to set the shutter speed and manually adjust the focal length. This is not focusing on an object by tapping on the screen, but rather the choice of a fixed distance at which focusing will occur. Thanks to the manual mode, you can shoot well in low light, compensating for the lack of light with minimum ISO values ​​\u200b\u200band slow shutter speeds. Naturally, in this case it is better to shoot from some kind of support, but the very possibility of such shooting significantly expands the limits of conditions for shooting on HTC One M9. Where a smartphone without manual mode will produce either an overexposed and noisy picture, or a black spot, on the M9, with proper skill, you can take a good shot.

The following are examples of photographs taken in manual mode:

Text shooting mode sharpens the image at the expense of color reproduction and other parameters, and there is also a separate macro mode. I will say right away - in terms of macro photography, the new M9 is inferior to last year's M8 - the minimum focusing distance in the new model has become longer.

HDR mode seemed to me quite working - photos in it do not look too bright or too contrast, on the contrary, excessive interference of electronics is practically not visible.

Below I will give examples of shots in different modes for three smartphones: HTC One M8, HTC One M9 and Meizu MX4 Pro. The latter is taken as one of the standards in terms of shooting. Aside from high-end devices like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, the MX4 Pro delivers very good image quality. In addition, it also has a 20 MP module, so the comparison is quite correct.

Shooting during the day

Shooting at night

Shooting indoors

Text

Macro mode and close-ups

Cropping photos from different modes

I'll also just give some photos taken on HTC One M9 in good sunny weather: