The HTC 10 should be amazing.
This is, after all, HTC’s big gamble in the smartphone market. It’s the culmination of years of design iteration. The HTC 10 is seemingly the last valiant attempt from a company whose smartphones have gotten less and less appealing as those years have passed. HTC has more recently been known for its virtual reality hardware.
To be fair, the HTC 10 is very good. It delivers great benchmark numbers, makes quite the splash with its cameras and is more impressively built than any previous HTC device. Yet it feels rehashed, like its designers took a look at all the popular phones on the market and tried to tick as many of those boxes as they could.
Never has HTC made a phone of finer build quality than its HTC 10. The rigid aluminum chassis is svelte and hardy, broken only by two plastic lines for the phone’s antenna. Another true mark of the HTC brand is the beveled edge along the back cover. The camera, mounted in the center of the rear cover, protrudes slightly, but it isn’t a nuisance and doesn’t make the phone wobble when you set it down.
Looking at this phone from the back, the 10’s angled grace and weighty elegance make the phone a looker. Viewing from the front, everything feels generic. The device’s wide rim making the bezels around its screen feel even wider, and the shape and placement of the phone’s fingerprint scanner all feel too familiar.
The screen itself is a Super LCD display, offering 1440p resolution across 5.2 inches of real estate. That adds up to a more-than-palatable pixel density of 565 ppi. Expect crisp images, good colors and plenty of pixels to go around. It is important to note that this is not an AMOLED screen, and the brightness in direct sunlight suffers.
The HTC 10 runs HTC Sense, a propriety skin that’s overlaid atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow. As skins go, Sense is wonderfully low-key. There has been a clear effort made to shape the various apps around Google’s Material Design philosophy, which makes for a fluid app-to-app experience.
By the numbers, The HTC 10’s camera is a looker. Its 12MP sensor is excellent and the phone’s f/1.8 aperture is huge. The front- and rear-facing cameras have optical image stabilization, which makes for crisp selfies even when jostling the phone around, trying to get everyone in the frame.
DxO, a company we’ve come to rely on for unbiased camera analysis, gave the HTC 10 a score of 88, tying the phenomenal Galaxy S7. While we normally agree with its image quality experts, this time around it feels like they didn’t get it quite right. There’s a noticeable difference between the HTC 10’s camera performance and that of the Galaxy S7’s – at the time of this review, Samsung’s smartphone still sets the bar for speed and clarity.
The HTC 10’s wide aperture makes it decent in low-light scenarios. However, the phone’s relatively weak image processing leaves photos a tad blurry, especially considering the built-in optical image stabilization. Positively, the 10’s front-facing camera is fantastic, with 1440p video recording, 5MP photos and beautiful shots in good lighting conditions.
Unquestionably the strongest attributes of the HTC 10 are the phone’s internal components. They match the Galaxy S7 throughout. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor runs incredibly fast and much cooler so you can expect blistering performance.
We ran the HTC 10 through 65 separate benchmark tests, and it tied with the Galaxy S7’s performance. The comparability was expected since the HTC 10 and Galaxy S7 both run the same chip and pack the same 4GB of memory.
Practically speaking, the HTC 10 is one of the two fastest phones you can buy today. Games did not seem to drag down the processor. Not a single missed frame was noticed while scrolling through menus and apps. That has the potential to change over time as apps get more intense and your phone gets bogged down by lots of background processes, but it’s not an initial worry.
A 3000 mAh non-removable battery powers the HTC 10. Despite being the same size as a Galaxy S7, the 10 actually beat the Galaxy S7 in our web browsing stress test by well over an hour. We suspect that’s thanks to the 10’s LCD screen drawing slightly less power than an AMOLED display. Web browsing tests tend to reflect real-world use better than processor-intensive stress tests.
The HTC 10 was heavily compared to the Samsung’s Galaxy S7 in this review. The two phones are going after the exact same buyers. Both offer equal specs and performance, both have solid cameras and sharp displays, and both are extremely expensive.
If the HTC 10 cost $100 to $200 less, it would easily be the best smartphone you could buy on value alone. At full flagship price, though, it’s competing directly with Samsung’s heaviest hitter. If you can find the phone on sale the HTC 10 will delight.