/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

HTC 10 review: Stunning audio, slick aluminum design, first selfie cam with OIS

matthew-miller
Written by Matthew Miller on
htc-10-hw-11.jpg
9.5/10

HTC 10

Spectacular
$169 at Amazon
Pros
  • Refined aluminum uni-body design, fit, and finish
  • Stunning headphone audio experience
  • Return of excellent HTC BoomSound speakers
  • Reliable and quick fingerprint scanner
  • Long battery life
  • Cool freestyle theme personalization
Cons
  • Rear camera not as good as the Galaxy S7, G5, or iPhone 6s
  • Cannot customize Quick Action shortcuts
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The HTC One M7 was the best smartphone I have ever used as of 2013 and I was hopeful that the HTC 10 would take that title in 2016. While I am extremely pleased with the hardware and audio experience, I'm not quite ready to award it that title.

The cameras work well and I've captured some great shots. Feel free to judge its performance yourself by browsing through my full resolution Flickr album containing photos from the HTC 10, LG G5, LG V10, iPhone 6s Plus, and Galaxy S7 Edge.

The cameras are better than anything we've seen on HTC devices before, but Android manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and many offer amazing camera experiences. The HTC cameras (front and rear) may satisfy most users, but the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge and LG G5 appear to provide better results more consistently at this time in full auto mode.

While I take and share photos, it's not the primary usage of my smartphone. Audio experiences are more important to me on a daily basis since I use my phone for listening to music on my 2+ hour commute and during my workouts. In this area, nothing beats the audio experience of the HTC 10.

I could not believe what I was hearing from the HTC 10 when I plugged in the inexpensive HTC Active earphones. I heard drums, guitar, and other elements of music that I forgot were there and was taken back to the days of my youth with classic rock tunes blasting in my ears. The HTC 10 brings an amp that provides more than twice the power of a conventional headphone amp, along with 24-bit audio support. I also tested out the HTC Hi-Res audio earphones that are an optional accessory in the US, included in the package in some other countries, and while they are good earphones they are quite heavy on the bass.

Specifications

It's great to see Android flagships all launching today with nearly the same high-end specifications. HTC decided to go with a smaller LCD display, which makes it easier to carry in your pocket.

Top ZDNET Reviews

Raspberry Pi 4
raspberry-pi-4-model-b-header.jpg

Top ZDNET Reviews

Raspberry Pi 4

9
Raspberry Pi 400
raspberry-pi-400-header.jpg

Top ZDNET Reviews

Raspberry Pi 400

8.5
OnePlus Watch
oneplus-watch-3.jpg

Top ZDNET Reviews

OnePlus Watch

5.7
Samsung Galaxy Xcover Pro
samsung-xcover-pro-7.jpg

Top ZDNET Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Xcover Pro

8.4
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.2 GHz quad-core
  • Display: 5.2 inch 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution Super LCD 5 curved-edge Gorilla Glass
  • Operating system: Android 6 Marshmallow with HTC Sense
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB/64GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 12 megapixel rear UltraPixel 2 with f/1.8 and front 5 megapixel with f/1.8 and both with OIS
  • Other: BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition stereo speakers and Dolby Audio 4, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2 with AptX, 802.11 a/b//g/n/ac WiFi, front fingerprint scanner, NFC, GPS + GLONASS
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh with Quick Charge 3.0 through USB Type-C
  • Dimensions: 145.9 x 71.9 x 9 mm and 161 grams

The only specification that someone might have an issue with is the use of a non-removable battery, but HTC gave that up years ago as it went with a focus on iconic design rather than having a removable battery. Given my experiences of using it as a daily driver over the past couple of weeks, users will be satisfied with the integrated 3,000 mAh battery.

It's also difficult to integrate water resistance with a metal design so you won't find that here on the HTC 10. HTC stated that the HTC 10 has an IP53 rating, which means it is resistant to spray, rain, mist, and other typical daily usage. Don't dunk it, swim with it, or take a shower with it. It's pretty much rated to survive a sneeze and that's about it.

While we see crazy commercials of celebrities dumping champagne on the Galaxy S7, water resistance ratings generally apply to fresh water so be careful with your device. I look at water resistance as a feature to provide peace of mind that my phone could survive an accidental dunking or something like that and not as a green light to go diving with my phone. These flagships are too expensive to risk hundreds of dollars if a seal fails so use caution when using your phone in adverse environmental conditions.

The rear camera uses UltraPixel 2 technology, which means a pixel size of 1.55µm. The UltraSelfie (aka front-facing) 5 megapixel camera has a pixel size of 1.34µm and also has OIS. OIS in a front-facing camera is an industry first, which we've come to expect from HTC.

Hardware

I admit I'm a sucker for fantastic hardware and as I look at the vast collection of smartphones on, in, and around my desk there is nothing that can match the fit and finish of the HTC 10. From the smooth, seamless 2.5D front glass to the handsome beveled edges on the front and back to the ridged power button and flawless aluminum uni-body design I cannot find anything I don't like about the hardware of the HTC 10. The Galaxy S7 Edge also has an amazing design, but fingerprints drive me crazy on the shiny back glass surface.

The HTC BoomSound speakers set HTC apart from the pack over the past couple of years so I'm pleased to see HTC include BoomSound on the HTC 10. Instead of sacrificing length on the front to create large sound chambers, HTC innovated and included the top stereo speaker into the handset speaker that acts to focus on treble (tweeter) while the bottom facing speaker provides the bass element (woofer). You end up with an awesome stereo BoomSound experience that's tough to beat.

Even better than the HTC BoomSound speakers, for my usage scenarios, is the powered amp headphone jack. Audio is simply stunning through the headphone jack and I have yet to hear any other device with such high quality and extreme volume output. You also get aptX support for audio through the Bluetooth connection.

You would think with such exceptional audio quality that you would experience the same with phone calls. However, I found that while callers are clear on the other end through the phone headset speaker, volume drops significantly on the evaluation HTC 10. Friends of mine in the UK stated the audio is very loud and clear so I did some testing. It turns out turning off VoLTE seemed to correct the low volume issue for me and callers now sound good.

A reader also asked me to compare the HTC 10 with the Galaxy S7 Edge in terms of RF signal. I'm pleased to report that the HTC 10 closely matches the dBm readings of the S7 Edge, which are both better than what is reported on the Apple iPhone 6s Plus.

HTC went with a smaller 5.2 inch display, but for the first time it decided to move beyond 1080p with the 2560 x 1440 display. The Super LCD 5 looks awesome and 5.2 inches is perfect for slipping into your front pants pocket. Kevin Tofel and I have talked about our preference for 1080p displays if it meant a savings in battery life, but with today's display technology and processor tuning I'm not sure if there is much of a loss in going with a higher resolution display.

Every button, opening, and card slot is refined to perfection and unlike the lack of refinement in the G5, the HTC 10 is extremely well designed and assembled. The early production Unlocked edition I am testing is flawless and I could not be any happier with the hardware.

It's refreshing to have such a solid piece of hardware that isn't a fingerprint magnet, that doesn't have removable pieces that don't quite fit together, or mixes different materials in a haphazard manner.

The HTC 10 is a bit slippery in the hand, but the beveled edges help create a solid flat surface around the device that helps me grip it in my hand. The back is curved like a Moto X so it fits well in the hand too. The back chamfer and front bevel give the impression that the phone is thinner than it actually is when resting on a desk.

HTC went with a USB Type-C bottom port, including support for Quick Charge 3.0 technology so you can charge it up quickly. At first I was disappointed since I have so many microUSB cables, but USB Type-C is the future and it's handy to be able to just plug in without worrying about which way is up. Support for QC 3.0 is also great to see as you can top off even faster than QC 2.0 technology.

I'm getting excellent battery life with the HTC 10, more than I've seen with most other modern Android smartphones. I push my phones hard every day and am finding the HTC 10 is performing as well as my iPhone 6s Plus, which is the current king of battery life across my device collection. It helps that the HTC 10 has Marshmallow with its Doze standby power management too.

Hands-on with the HTC 10: Touring the hardware

The fingerprint scanner is lighting fast and has performed flawlessly for me the last couple of weeks. I'm a huge fan of the use of the indented area rather than a button. I also prefer having my fingerprint scanner on the front where I can unlock the phone while its sitting on a desk.

Accessories

HTC is launching the HTC 10 with Hi-Res stereo wired earphones and the HTC Ice View case. Some countries will get the earphones in the retail package, but that is not the case for US customers. I spent a day with those earphones and they do sound great, but I also found the HTC Active earphones to be fine performers as well. The Hi-Res ones provide excessive bass while the Active model is better balanced.

The Ice View case is a matte finish silicone case with a front flap. Place the HTC 10 inside and then close the front flap to activate the case. When you hit the power button you will see a cool neon look clock and weather icon. As notifications come in you will see them appear on the cover, through the screen powering them. While the last case was cool with 8-bit graphics, the new one is even more functional. You can swipe to access your call log and place calls too. You can also swipe twice to launch the camera and even take photos through the Ice View case.

Software

The HTC 10 launches with Android Marshmallow and HTC Sense. You will no longer see a version number associated with HTC Sense either. Thankfully, HTC Sense is light on the HTC 10 so you won't see the Sense widget that previously launched on the HTC One M9 or the other suggested apps icon. There's not much here that is different than a stock experience, unless you get into the themes.

Themes are a cool and fun way to personalize your device and make it stand out from all the other phones. It's tough to customize your device today as iOS and Android start to function similarly. HTC included a new themes element called Freestyle that lets you use stickers or application shortcuts placed outside of a grid on the homescreen panels. You can even hide the name of the app associated with the sticker so someone picking up your themed HTC 10 will have no idea what apps are associated with the stickers.

You can still swipe to view NewsRepublic feed data where we used to see HTC BlinkFeed. As before, you can also turn off that home screen panel as well.

HTC worked hard to reduce duplication of apps, which will please many smartphone enthusiasts who hate seeing manufacturers offer duplication in apps. HTC is using its dialer, messaging app, clock/weather utility, and Sense home screen and it's using Google Chrome, Google Fit, Google Keep, and Google Docs/Slide/Sheet instead of other applications. Google Photos is also being used for photos since it now supports RAW images, but I personally found the HTC image gallery to be more useful for editing photos on the go. You can download many HTC apps directly from the Google Play Store in case you prefer using them.

Hands-on with the HTC 10: Unique Sense experience

Given the advanced camera options, HTC has its own camera app with quick access to Zoe Camera, Pro mode, hyperlapse, slow motion, and more. HTC has always done well with camera software and it's again very functional on the HTC 10.

Pricing and competition

As I stated in the HTC release announcement you can preorder the HTC 10 now from the HTC.com website for $699. This will get you a 32GB HTC 10 with the one year Uh Oh protection plan and no carrier bloatware.

US carriers will share availability and pricing over the coming weeks, but it's interesting to note that AT&T was not included in the list of carriers and it never came out with a press release after the HTC 10 announcement. Maybe HTC was tired of AT&T bloatware and didn't want to compromise on the HTC 10 experience.

The competing flagships for the HTC 10 are the Galaxy S7 at $649, Galaxy S7 Edge at $779, LG G5 at about $630, the iPhone 6 at $649, and the iPhone 6s Plus at $749. Keep in mind these two iPhone prices are for the 16GB model that no one should ever purchase. The HTC 10 is priced better than a 64GB iPhone and competitive with other Android flagships.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

When I first held the HTC 10 a couple of weeks ago I knew HTC was still serious about competing in the Android space. The HTC 10 feels wonderful in the hand and I am a fan of the large chamfered back edge, ridged power button, seamless 2.5D front glass, and rest of the design.

The audio experience through the headphone jack is simply stunning and no other device can compare. If using your smartphone as your music player is important to you, then you should run out and order the HTC 10 right now. If you listen to music without headphones, it's wonderful to see the return of the HTC BoomSound stereo speakers. HTC did it in a unique way that ends up sounding great.

The camera hardware with the UltraPixel 2 lens looks great on paper, but I'm still seeing output that is not quite as good as the newest Samsung, LG, and Apple smartphones. Photos are good, but the hardware should be able to give us even better results. In particular, I am seeing light in images blow out areas of the image in some situations. I have been able to also capture great photos, but it's not as seamless to capture good pics as it is with a Galaxy S7 or LG G5. Software tweaks can improve the camera experience and I'm sure we'll see some releases soon from HTC.

I wasn't sure what to expect from HTC this year after a rough 2015, but am very pleased with the HTC 10 and am as excited about it as I was with the HTC One M7. I preordered my own carbon gray model on Tuesday night, using the $100 HTC loyalty coupon code I was sent because of my previous HTC purchases.

Related

Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963): Fast but expensive wireless mesh networking
netgear-orbi-wifi-6e-rbke963-header.jpg

Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System (RBKE963): Fast but expensive wireless mesh networking

NexDock 360 Touch review: Transform your Samsung smartphone into a capable laptop
nexdock-360-5.jpg

NexDock 360 Touch review: Transform your Samsung smartphone into a capable laptop

Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021) review: A highly configurable premium 17-inch laptop
dell-xps-17-9710-header.jpg

Dell XPS 17 9710 (2021) review: A highly configurable premium 17-inch laptop