Phones

HTC 10 ticks right boxes, but doesn't stand out

If there's one thing HTC has stood out with historically, it's sound quality, and that tradition carries over to the HTC 10.
If there's one thing HTC has stood out with historically, it's sound quality, and that tradition carries over to the HTC 10.PHOTO: HTC

HTC has made some useful tweaks for its latest model

After months of delay, HTC's latest flagship, the HTC 10, has finally come to Singapore.

The phone ticks all the right boxes required of a smartphone, but it doesn't really stand out amongphones in a similar price point.

It retains the premium, all-metal unibody of HTC's previous flagships in the One range, which makes it a joy to cradle in the hand. But this is also what makes the heat generated by the phone all the more noticeable, especially when running anything graphic- or processor-intensive.

Size-wise, it sits in that sweet spot where it feels nice and snug in the hand while having enough display spaceto make watching videos or playing games a great experience, especially with its stunning quad-HD display.

Performance stutters a little in the few seconds after the phone boots up or restarts. Luckily, that doesn't last, and the phone is very smooth in day-to-day use, with apps opening quickly and running smoothly.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $898

    PROCESSOR: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (1.6 GHz dual-core, 2.15 GHz dual-core)

    SCREEN: 5.2 inches, 2,560 x 1,440pixels (565 ppi pixel density)

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)

    CAMERA: (rear) 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, OIS, laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash; (front) 5 MP, f/1.8, 23mm, OIS, autofocus, 1,080p, HDR

    MEMORY: 32GB (expandable microSD up to 2TB), 4GB RAM

    BATTERY: 3,000mAh


    RATING

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I'm not a big fan of Android skins, as I prefer my phone experience to be as stock as possible. HTC has kept its Sense skin to the barest minimum in the HTC 10, and it is refreshingly sparse and as stock as you can hope for.

Plus, HTC did make some useful tweaks, such as a new Freestyle Layout that lets users adjust icons, stickers and widgets on the home screen whichever way they like, with no grid restrictions.

Another nifty feature is the rapid charging through USB-C, which takes the phone from zero to 50 per cent battery in about 30min. But its 3,000mAh batterygave me only about 3hr of screen-on time, while connected to Wi-Fi or LTE.

The HTC 10 takes good, but not great, photos. This is in part due to HTC's stubborn commitment to its UltraPixel technology, which drops the overall megapixel count in favour of larger individual pixels.

In theory, larger pixels let in more light, resulting in better low-light performance

But the HTC 10's low-light shots are only decent, blown out with artificial exposure compensation and are noticeably grainy.

It does, however, take good, usable shots in outdoor lighting, but that's the norm these days for modern smartphones. The phone also tends to slightly exaggerate the colours in photos.

While it's not the best camera in the market, it is still one of the best cameras HTC has had on its phones, and the added functionality of a Pro mode that allows users to shoot in RAW format is a welcome addition.

If there's one thing HTC has stood out with historically, it's sound quality, and that tradition carries over to the HTC 10.

The phone is capable of playing 24-bit high-res audio, as HTC managed to fit a standalone digital-to- analog converter and headphone amp in the phone.

But I miss the two front-facing speakers that are so iconic of HTC phones. These have been replaced instead by speakers on the top and bottom.

The HTC 10 is available only in a carbon grey colour from online retailer Lazada until Aug 15, and at authorised HTC outlets and resellers from Aug 16.

There have been reports online of several flaws making it past HTC's quality control. Among the more baffling defects is the phone emitting a very noticeable high-pitch whine when the brightness setting is below 40 per cent, which I experienced on the first review set I got.

Updating the firmware fixes the issue, so it appears to be a software flaw. However, it won't hurt to do a thorough check of your phone when you get it to ensure it is in good working condition.

•Verdict: Overall, the HTC 10 is a solid phone, but doesn't have any strong selling points other than its audio finesse and build quality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'HTC 10 ticks right boxes, but doesn't stand out'. Print Edition | Subscribe