Thursday, 2 June 2016

HTC 10

HTC 10

You get what you pay for

It’s a cunning plan to call your smartphone ‘10’. Hmm, I wonder how many marks out of 10 we should give this? Well, sorry HTC, we only go up to five.

If only getting a positive review was as simple as sticking a number after the product’s name. In reality, the product has to impress us. That’s not something HTC proved very good at with last year’s M9, which was basically their previous phone with a different rubbish camera and the battery life of a turnip.

Pick up the 10, and fears of another ‘not very new phone’ fiasco are allayed: new chamfered edges catch the light dramatically and give the all-metal body a strong industrial feel. Except for iPhone-style aerial strips across the top and bottom, the case is otherwise plain, but in a good way. The curved back gives very thin edges at the expense of a distinct bulge in the middle, a shape that feels great in your hand.

Besides having lots of pixels and high contrast, the medium-sized 5.2in screen covers 99 per cent of the sRGB colour range with exceptional accuracy. HTC makes a point of catering for ears as well as eyes, and the built-in multispeaker BoomSound Hi-Fi system did sound impressive. A very good pair of Hi-Res earbuds also comes in the box, and for other audio accessories HTC is unusual in supporting Apple’s AirPlay, which gives better sound quality than Bluetooth.

A fingerprint sensor is built into the Home button, iPhone-style. We didn’t find this as convenient as those mounted on the back, and it didn’t work every time for us. But because HTC has no equivalent of Apple Pay, it only serves to unlock the phone. You get a practical 32GB of storage, plus a microSD slot that takes any capacity of card.

Inside, the Snapdragon 820 processor makes the HTC 10 one of the fastest phones around, even if it couldn’t quite keep up with the LG G5 in our tests. Web browsing, games and everything else felt very smooth. At just over 12 hours of video playback, battery life isn’t in the league of Samsung’s 17-hour Galaxy S7, but it’s still perfectly acceptable. HTC’s version of Android 6.0, called Sense, now has even more attractive themes and customisations; other than that, it’s free of clutter.

Finally, yes, they’ve fixed the camera. Instead of 20-megapixel images with poor exposure, the 10 takes just 12 megapixels, using a bigger sensor for each of them. Although its f/1.8 lens aperture isn’t quite as big as on some rival phones, it took superb photos for us in daylight, sharp and with a real sense of presence, despite a slight haze in the brightest areas. If you’re picky, the ability to save Raw images gives you more scope to tweak tone later in an editing app. Indoors, we got fairly dingy shots with questionable white balance, but we’ve seen worse.

The only feature of the HTC 10 that really lets it down is the price: it’s selling for more than the iPhone 6s, more than the LG G5 and more than the Samsung S7. True, the iPhone only has 16GB and no microSD, so you should really consider the 64GB model, at about £30 more than the HTC 10. The G5 is definitely cheaper, but kind of weird. The S7, though, is superior all round, and waterproof too. We did like the HTC 10 enough to give it top marks, but we would wait for the price to fall before buying it.

HTC is ambitious in asking a higher price for this than a G5, S7 or 6s, but it’s a lovely phone with much to recommend it.

5.2in 2560x1440-pixel screen • 12-megapixel rear camera • 5-megapixel front camera • 32GB flash storage • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.2 • 3G/4G • Android 6.0 • 146x72x9mm (HxWxD) • 161g • Oneyear warranty