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HTC One M9+ review


HTC One M9+ review

TOP FEATURES

- Vibrant QHD display
- Responsive fingerprint sensor
- Great build quality

It is difficult to talk about an HTC One phone without recounting how the first iteration of the device set the benchmark for build quality and design among Android flagships. HTC has safely decided to stick to the formula with the second and now, the third generation One.

In India, a market which is extremely price sensitive, the Taiwanese giant has made the tactical decision of launching the One M9+ and not the One M9. The former sports some new features including a fingerprint sensor and a bigger QHD display while the latter is just an incremental update.

Keep in mind that HTC has also used a new MediaTek processor instead of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 which powers the One M9. MediaTek processors are majorly associated with budget phones but the One M9+ is run by the new Helio X10 processor, a high-end chip. Another reason for this decision could be the major heating problems being reported with the Snapdragon 810. So the One M9+ essentially addresses the One M9's shortcomings and adds more features. So can the new One M9+ compete with the latest flagship phones be a worthy successor to the One M8? We spent a few weeks with the One M9+ to find out. 

Build and design
The HTC One M9+ follows the legacy of the original One and sports almost the same design which won accolades for its premium, all-metal construction and unique design. However, this also means that HTC has chosen to stay in its comfort zone and has not taken the risk to experiment with the design language of its flagship phone. It's true that in the past, even the likes of Apple and Samsung have chosen to stick with the same tested form factor and design for their flagships but beyond two iterations it really becomes boring as people expect some novelty.



The only major change that you'll see in the One M9+ is the dual-tone colour scheme with the edges sporting a different shade. Our review unit featured a silver body and gold edges. The difference in colour is not really stark and you may even ignore it at first glance. Besides the two-tone colours, if you observe carefully, you'll notice that the phone's back is less curved near the edges unlike the One M8's back. Since the M9+ sports a bigger 5.2-inch display, the phone is wider (151mm) and taller (72mm) than the One M8 and weighs slightly more(168gram).



Another difference is the addition of a new Home button that also integrates a finger print sensor. While the phone retains the dual-front stereo speakers, the bottom one is now split into two. Interestingly, the HTC One M9 (the international version of the phone) doesn't feature this button.

The power button has been moved to the right edge, placed at the middle, while the volume rocker has been split into two different buttons, placed above it. At the top of the right edge you'll find a tray for the microSD card while the nano-sim tray is at the left edge, towards the top.

The phone features on-screen navigation buttons, so there are no hardware capacitive keys at the front. The QHD IPS LCD display of the phone is flanked by a speaker grill, a sensor and the 4MP front camera lens at the top and the other speaker grill and Home button at the bottom.

The front panel that houses the display, feels like it's stacked on the back panel and is not flush with it, with a very minor difference in the width.



The all-aluminium chasis has white polycarbonate inserts at the back. The back of One M9+ includes not one, but two camera lenses, part of the phone's Duo Camera set-up. The camera lens is accompanied by a dual-colour LED flash similar to iPhone 6.

The Infrared blaster covers the entire top edge while the bottom edge features the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headset jack.

HTC has made some changes to optimise the phone for one hand use but you'll find it slightly cumbersome to reach the top edge of the display if you have small hands due to the tall design.

The HTC One M9+ is still among the best looking Android smartphones around but we expected a fresh design which it fails to deliver.

Display
HTC One M9+ sports a 5.2-inch, QHD(1440x2560p) display that looks bright, offers great viewing angles and more natural looking colours. Just like its predecessors, colour reproduction is among the best in class (and we're saying this after comparing it to other 2K IPS LCD displays).

Pictures and text look crisp and sharp especially with the new pixel packed 2K display that offers an enhanced level of detail. While most people won't be able to distinguish between a full-HD and 2K display unless they observe carefully, we'll have to say the One M9+ sports one of the best displays we've seen off late.



It's the only other phone besides the Galaxy S6 to come with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection to guard against minor scratches. Touch response was also great and we never encountered any issues.

Software

The HTC One M9+ comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop along with HTC's Sense 7 UI skin on top. Visually, Sense 7 is very similar to Sense 6 but includes some new features including themes that change the complete look and feel of the phone. Another new feature that the new software includes in Sense Home, a behaviour-detecting home screen widget that senses your location and provides apps based on where you are, as well as usage preferences.



If you love customizing your phone, you'll adore the Themes app. It let you edit all elements of the current theme, download more themes, fonts, wallpapers,icon packs and ringtones. It even lets you create your own theme. Sense Home is essentially stays as a widget housing a smart app folder that detects your location and shows apps according to your location. There's some room for improvement when it comes to suggestions and the ability to learn your location. This functionality is also offered by some Android launchers so it's nothing out of the world.

While the interface looks very different from stock Android with only a few visual elements from Lollipop, we quite like the Sense 7 interface. It doesn't look very different from that of the previous version of Sense except for material design.

Camera
The One M8 was criticized for its 4MP rear camera lens that missed out on detail. With the HTC One M9+, the company has tried to address this complaint by featuring a DuoCamera setup with a bigger 20MP sensor with a 2.1MP depth sensor. The UltraPixel lens has been moved to the front for selfies.

The second camera lens, part of the Duo camera setup, helps in detecting and separating backgrounds and foregrounds as it scans depth and adds that information to the picture. It doesn't capture images.



The feature allows users to refocus on an object after shooting a picture, similar to Nokia's Refocus app which is available on high-end Lumia phones. The Duo camera feature also allows users to create silhouettes, alter depth and add bokeh effect.

The camera app offers the option to switch to the Duo camera when you want to show depth.


In terms of quality, pictures taken during daylight appeared good but they're not at par with the quality of pictures shot with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge or Apple iPhone 6. Also, we observed that some daytime shots looked overexposed. We even had problems while focusing some times.




Pictures taken indoors looked good with accurate colour reproduction and low noise. The ones shot in low-light also looked decent without the use of flash. We found the quality of low light images shot in the duo mode slightly better. The camera is capable of 4K video recording and the results were pretty good.

HTC One M9 features an iPhone 6-like dual-colour LED flash to balance light. However, we still found that the pictures taken in low light with the flash on, did not look natural.

The 4MP UltaPixel camera at the front is a good addition and enables you to take good quality selfies even in low light conditions.

Overall, the rear camera is among the weaknesses of the phone.

Performance
HTC One M9+ is one of the most powerful smartphones available in the market even though it sports a MediaTek processor. The variant available in India comes with a 2.2GHz Helio X10 octa-core processor and 3GB RAM. There's 32GB of storage and also a slot for the microSD card.

We did not notice any lag while launching and switching between apps, editing photos, browsing the web, clicking pictures, watching high definition videos or playing graphics-heavy games.

There's no doubt that HTC One M9+ offers one of the best smartphone experiences.

We were able to play videos of popular file formats barring MOV, without any hiccups. Additional file formats can be played through third party video player apps. We'll have to say that the sound delivered by the phone's front-stereo speakers (powered by Dolby) is unparalleled in terms of quality but loudness levels are lower compared to the One M8.



Call quality was good but the phone tends to lose network signal in areas with weak signal strength. We also noticed that the phone tends to get a little warm with use.

In Benchmark tests, the One M9+ scored 26,626 in Quadrant Standard, 43,372 in AnTuTu and 60 in Nenamark 2. The phone scored less compared to some recent MediaTek-powered devices such as the Gionee Elife S7 but we'd not recommend a phone based solely on benchmarks as real world performance can be different at times.

The phone comes with GPS and A-GPS for navigation and maps and was easily able to lock a signal.

The One M9+'s fingerprint sensor, integrated with the Home button was very responsive and offers offers a simple, yet effective way to authenticate the phone for unlocking it. There's no third-party app integration at the moment.



It's one of the most easy to configure and use biometric sensor, as it can read fingerprints irrespective of orientation, giving you the flexibility to place your finger in any orientation. In our use, we did not encounter any hiccups while using it.

It also comes with FM radio and NFC connectivity options. The phone also offers LTE 4G connectivity and supports both Indian 4G networks. We were not able to test 4G because of the lack of LTE networks in our city.

We were able to play games like Leo's Fortune, Riptide GP2 and Asphalt 8(with Visual Quality set to High and Engine at 100%) without encountering any frame drops or freezes. The phone tends to get a little warm after long gaming sessions.

HTC One M9+ is backed by a 2840mAh battery with a claimed standby time of up to 626 hours and talk time of up to 13 hours with 3G.

While the phone has a bigger battery compared to the One M8, perhaps the QHD display affects the backup offered by it especially if you primarily use the phone for social networking and gaming.

We were satisfied with the battery backup delivered by the phone. With moderate to high usage, including about one to two hours of making calls, playing games, clicking some pictures, listening to music and browsing the web, the phone will last you a full working day, even if you put the screen brightness at the maximum level and keep 3G turned on.



The phone also comes with an Extreme power-saving mode, activating which will make the phone's battery last for 2 weeks, as per HTC. It also claims that the phone can offer 30 hours of talk time in the mode even when the battery's charge level is 10%. The mode restricts background data and offers access to Phone, Messages, Mail, Calendar, and Calculator apps.

Verdict
The HTC One M9+ is a great Android smartphone with excellent build quality, decent performance and feature-rich software. But it's not a big upgrade over the One M8. The camera still lags behind rivals and the only major addition is the fingerprint sensor and slightly bigger display. The most disappointing aspect, however, is the same old design. While the phone is still one of the best built devices around, we expected some novelty in the design department.

At Rs 52,250, the One M9+ is an expensive buy. We feel you'd be better off buying the One M8 if you're looking for a metal clad flagship Android phone. If you want the latest and the best, and want to invest Rs 50,000 plus, we'd recommend the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. It offers a much better camera and looks stunning.
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