HTC One (M9) review: The weakest One in the trilogy
Is HTC still trying to make the best phone in the world?
- Ultrapixel front camera
- BoomSound speakers
- Powerful processing hardware
- Poor rear camera
- Battery life
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
The third generation One smartphone from HTC has gone on sale in Australia. Changes include a camera that has jumped five-fold in size to 20-megapixels, support for more LTE bands and a meticulous approach to smartphone design.
But are these changes enough to make the M9 the phone of choice in a market where the competition from Apple, Sony and Samsung is savage?
Metal is liberally used for the body of the M9. The fine hairline finish returns and the plastic composite insets — needed for reception’s sake — blend in seamlessly.
If anything, HTC has become masters at manipulating premium materials. It takes twice as long to make an M9 at 300 minutes. The manufacturing process consists of 70 steps and every M9 is hand-polished.
New to the third generation smartphone is a dual-tone unibody. Gold borders the smartphone’s perimeter and a satin mirror finish has been applied so that it glistens in the same way as a fine piece of jewellery.
Kudos goes to HTC for bringing together such fine materials. The only qualm is they have been manipulated to a shape that is less inspired.
Take a look at the older M8. This was a smartphone that looked as though it rested at the core of an aluminium block, and it was there waiting for an artisan to come carve it out. Its entire construction was seamless as it wrapped from one side of the smartphone all the way to the other, uninterrupted and without seams, and, more importantly, it had a shape that was as striking as it was ergonomic.
We fear HTC has fallen from the front of the pack to somewhere in the middle
The succeeding One (M9) doesn’t do enough to uphold this illusion. The front and back are two visible parts. A fat lip highlights where these two parts meet, and it gives the impression these materials, as premium as they are, have been put together. Seeing and feeling this seam makes the smartphone less special.
Then there’s the shape, dictated by function and form, with it resembling more a prism that has had its sides shaved round.
There is a prevailing sense that HTC has been trying to do more with less when it comes to its flagship. Shaking this feeling off is hard because there are other signs concessions have been made.
Stagnating in both size and resolution is the screen. It is remains a large 5-inches and has a rich 1920x1080 resolution. Cramming 441 pixels into each inch means the pixels making up text, photos and videos can’t be seen. When the technology at work disappears into the background, only the content is left.
Clarity doesn’t let down the display of the M9. It’s the brightness that does.
The BoomSound speakers of the M8 led the industry and the M9 upholds that proud tradition
The display settles for mediocrity with its rendition of colours and levels of brightness. Screens drain batteries and companies often discount performance in the interest of battery life. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear HTC has held out on display innovation for the sake of prolonged battery life.
Elevating the viewing experience are third-generation BoomSound stereo speakers. These front-firing speakers are amplified and bear the signatures of the connoisseurs from Dolby Audio. Dolby’s handy work doesn’t make the BoomSound speakers any louder, though the relatively tiny smartphone speakers produce sound with more detail. The BoomSound speakers of the M8 led the industry and those featured on the M9 uphold that proud tradition.
Multimedia in general bodes well for the M9. Older One smartphones relied on low 4-megapixel cameras and the gimmick of re-focussing photos. HTC would’ve poured a lot of money into developing these technologies, and it takes guts to concede they are not working out.Read more: Oppo's rotating N3 camera: innovation or gimmick?
Now a high resolution 20.2 megapixel camera rests on the back of the M9. Unfortunately it is still not enough to compete with the industry’s best.
...small touches make HTC’s version of Android individualistic without bogging the software down
Ditching its prior imaging technologies means HTC has had to start again from scratch, when its rivals continue to invest in cameras generations ahead. This is a third generation phone with a first generation camera.
The problem with the rear camera is that it only works well in a specific range of lighting conditions. Take photos under the natural lighting of the sun and you’ll have a good photo. Add shadows and a narrow contrast range exaggerates the colours. Pop it in HDR mode and you’ll have to keep hands dead still for photos to be clear. Step inside and the light shining through the window will wash out the detail. Wait for the sun to set and the colours under fluorescent bulbs will be flat. Take a photo at night and it will be excessively grainy as a result of too much image noise.Read more: Top 5 reasons why the smartphone market needs Sony
Recorded videos tell the same story. The M9 can record videos in resolutions as large as 4K, and they will suffer from image noise and a slow autofocus unless lighting is ideal.
Redeeming the smartphone is the calibre of its front camera, as HTC has been working on its development for more than two years. It is the Ultrapixel camera from former One (M7) and (M8) smartphones, and its 4-megapixel resolution proves competitive when it comes to self photography. It is attuned to a wide range of lighting conditions and is one of the best front-facing cameras on any phone.
Click over for more on software, hardware battery life and the verdict
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Subaru XV 2017 review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 Kogan Atlas UltraSlim Pro laptop: full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review
Latest News Articles
- Fake heads and robot probes: testing smartphones prior to launch
- Rumor suggests the Note8 will be a bigger S8+ that adds a missing feature
- Xiaomi's Mi6 has the Galaxy S7’s looks, the S8’s power, and iPhone 7’s camera for half the price
- Samsung DeX turns your Galaxy S8 into a shockingly good desktop PC
- Find My iPhone helps nab a thief at Coachella with 100 phones in his backpack
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTTechnical WriterACT
- FTSenior Software Engineer - JavaACT
- FTSenior Capacity Planner | Contract through till DecemberVIC
- CCCitrix SpecialistVIC
- FTPayroll Systems AnalystQLD
- FTSenior MS Dynamics CRM Technical ConsultantVIC
- TPSenior Business Analyst - GISQLD
- CCSecurity Specialist - NV1ACT
- FTBI BA Consultant l Microstrategy, Business ObjectsNSW
- CCCRM Techno FunctionalistQLD
- TPBusiness Project ManagerNSW
- FTScrum MasterNSW
- FTDrupal Web DeveloperACT
- TPTechnical Support Officer (Unix/Linux, Windows and Mac)VIC
- FTLooking for Information Security professional @ CanberraNSW
- FTSenior Desktop Engineer - SCCM / AD / 2012 ServerNSW
- FTSenior Systems EngineerNSW
- FTUX Design LeadNSW
- FTBusiness Analyst- Process (Banking or Insurance or Gov backg)NSW
- FTTest Automation Lead | 6mth ContractVIC
- CCTechnical Consutlant - Entry Level - HPSMSA
- FTCRM Technical Specialist (Oracle Eloqua)SA
- TPService Desk OperatorQLD
- FTHelpdesk AnalystNSW
- FTFull Stack .NET DeveloperWA