HTC 10 review (hands-on): Improvements herald a return to form for HTC


In the world of the smartphone, 2016 is the year of photography. With performance all-but topping out, the leading brands are putting all their effort into snappers, and we’ve seen plenty of innovation so far. In the battle for imaging supremacy, the new HTC 10’s big play is outright quality, while boosting the capabilities of the front-facing camera.

In a bid to convince the waiting public, HTC has already submitted the HTC 10 to the imaging benchmark specialists at DxO Labs. The results speak for themselves: the HTC 10’s “Ultrapixel 2” camera scores an overall 88, putting it on a par with the superlative Samsung Galaxy S7 camera. It’s a huge step forward from last year’s disappointing HTC One M9, which scored a mere 69.

What makes it so special? The sensor is behind much of it. The HTC 10 has a 12-megapixel sensor, with the same size pixels as the Nexus 6P (1.55μm). The difference is that this camera has optical image stabilisation, a brighter f/1.8 aperture, plus support for RAW image files. HTC says it has completely revamped the image processing algorithm as well.

The big news for the front-facing, 8-megapixel “Ultra selfie” camera is that it’s the first on any phone to get optical image stabilisation. This should improve quality in low light conditions and smooth out selfie videos, which HTC says are becoming increasingly popular on social networks. The f/1.8 aperture and 1.34μm pixels ought to help keep the quality high, too.

HTC 10 camera

HTC 10 review: Design, look and feel

The HTC 10 isn’t a huge departure in terms of its design but it does – in typical HTC fashion – look great. It’s built from rigid-feeling aluminium and comes in gold, “carbon” grey and “glacier” silver colours.

Like the HTC One M9 of 2015, there’s a curved rear panel with an attractive, brushed metal finish while the camera is mounted top-centre, alongside the dual-LED flash and laser autofocus sensor. In fact, this part looks so similar that from a distance you might mistake the HTC 10 for a One M9.

Get a little closer, however, and you’ll quickly discern the big design change; the HTC 10 has a whacking great chamfer surrounding the whole of the rear panel, with a broad, exposed, polished metal surface. It looks great, and the detailing around the edges, with the textured power button, and volume rocker on the right, headphone jack on the top and USB Type-C port on the bottom, is spot on.

HTC 10 Ultrapixel 2 camera

One other difference you might notice between the HTC 10 and its forebear is that there are no longer twin speakers facing forwards, flanking the display.

The 10’s speakers are still BoomSound-branded, but this time, it’s BoomSound Hi-Fi, with a front-facing “tweeter” above the screen and a downwards-firing “woofer” on the bottom edge.

The idea is to mimic traditional speaker design but the result isn’t a revelation. It’s loud for a smartphone, but still sounds tinny, and after my first listen I prefer the sound from the One M9’s speakers.

HTC has returned to capacitive buttons for this iteration of its flagship smartphone, with LED-backlit back and recent apps keys flanking a physical home/fingerprint reader button.

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HTC 10 fingerprint sensor

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