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HTC 10 hands-on review

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THE HTC 10 is here, with the firm hoping that with its high-end specs and ‘market leading’ camera, the handset will help to boost its diminishing position in the smartphone market. 

We were given some hands-on time with the HTC 10 ahead of its official announcement, and you can read our first impressions below. 

Design
There’s no doubting the engineering prowess that’s gone into the HTC 10. The body has been made from a single sheet of metal, the edges have been chamfered and it really is a beautiful thing when the two-tone finish catches the light. 

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HTC wanted to maximise the real estate on offer, which is why we find only a fingerprint scanner on the front of the device. We were impressed with its super-quick recognition (a quoted 0.2 seconds) which made unlocking the handset a breeze.

The HTC 10 measures 145.9×71.9×9.0mm, and 3mm at its narrowest point. HTC hasn’t shrunk the design in the 12 months since the One M9, and at 161g it feels weighty in the hand.

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The power button is now ridged, but the volume controls are in the same place above. A dual slot on the left side houses SIM and microSD ports, and there’s a 3.5mm headphone port (with built-in headphone amp) on the top. The bottom has a USB-3.0 port and BoomSound Hi-Fi edition stereo speakers.

The HTC 10 will be available in 32GB and 64GB variants, but you’ll be able to supplement this to a maximum of 2TB via microSD.

We were shown three colours – Topaz Gold, Carbon Grey and Glacial Silver, but a Camellia Red version has also been spotted in the wild.

Display
The HTC 10 has a 5.2in Super LCD display that supports 2560×1440 resolution. At 564ppi, it falls just a fraction short of Samsung’s latest efforts, but we observed bright, punchy colours that match the high-clarity displays on the Galaxy S7 Edge and LG G5. We were also pleased to learn that it comes with Gorilla Glass 4 protection.

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HTC claimed that the display is the fastest and most responsive touchscreen ever. It certainly was no slouch, but whether this is quantifiable and noticeable during daily use is anyone’s guess.

Performance
HTC said that there will be two hardware variants of the handset, but that both will use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. The UK/Europe model has a Snapdragon 820, offering a quad-core 64-bit array at up to 2.2GHz, and 4GB of RAM.

Audio
We’re quite excited by the promised audio experience. BoomSound is back, this time in the shape of a new Hi-Fi edition. This means that you’ll find a woofer and tweeter inside the dual speaker system.

The dedicated amplifier in each speaker provides a louder, more detailed sound profile. The handset has also been certified for Hi-Res audio, so if you plug in a pair of cans to the double-powered headphone amplifier you’ll be treated to professional level sound quality (24-bit, 96KHz).

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There’s also the ability to record 4K video and capture Hi-Res audio, of which we were treated to a sample. It was hard to distinguish between audio recorded live and a studio recording in the small testing room, but we were impressed.

We’re intrigued by HTC’s introduction of personal audio profiles. We’ve played with similar systems in the past with moderate degrees of success, so we relish the prospect of tuning the sound perfectly to our ears.

It was nice to see that HTC will bundle a new and improved headphone design with the handset. These incorporate a larger 13mm driver that should be welcomed by anyone infuriated with the usual tinny experience.

Camera
Like Huawei and its P9 smartphone, HTC wants to make a lot of noise about the camera technology making its debut in the M10.

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The handset has a second-generation HTC UltraPixel sensor, this time with a 12MP camera packing in 1.55µm per pixel which can absorb more light. You get everything you’d expect with this evolution. For instance, autofocusing was faster and smoother on the HTC 10 than on previous HTC devices, but whether it has the likes of Huawei and Samsung beat remains to be seen. HTC said that the camera launches in just 0.6 seconds and it certainly seemed nippy during our hands-on.

HTC has also added optical image stabilisation to the rear- and front-facing cameras, so the ultra-wide 5MP selfie snapper is in itself quite the performer. But we’ll need to wait until our review proper to see whether this makes a difference to our ugly mug.

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We were also pleased to learn that HTC has redesigned the UI around the camera experience. It now sports a cleaner design which will hopefully prove more user friendly to the more casual photographer.

Battery
HTC has included the third-generation Rapid Charger with the new handset, so in theory you’ll be able to charge the HTC 10 to 50 percent capacity in just 30 minutes. The firm claimed that this is equivalent to a day’s worth of juice, which could be a bit of a stretch. However, the HTC 10 comes with something called Boost+ which ensures that the phone uses less power and automatically optimises the battery.

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HTC’s new PowerBiotics system will keep a careful eye on your apps and shut down any that cause excessive power drain. It will be interesting to see whether these innovations bear any fruit, and we’ll report back as soon as we’ve learned more.

Software
In a move we didn’t expect, HTC has worked with Google to streamline and tweak the Android experience for the HTC 10. What this means in reality is there’s no duplicate apps, and Google-specific apps are directly integrated with the phone’s functions. This should make for a cleaner experience at the very least and do away with the UI-specific annoyances that plagued the Huawei P9.

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HTC has also introduced a new freestyle layout that eliminates the conventional grid system that’s long dictated how we organise our phones. This is probably just window dressing, but it’s a nice thought nonetheless.

Price and availability
We’ll update this article with price details as soon as we have them. HTC expects to ship the HTC 10 before the end of April. The HTC 10 presents itself as a solid Android contender on first impressions, but does it have enough to rise above the competition in 2016? We’ll have to wait until review day to see whether it can score a perfect 10.  µ

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