Emphasis on design, poor performance

By the time HTC launched its first One Edition phone in 2013, the company remained at the top of the Android segment. Android handset with metal unibody, it was the only device that was as good as the iPhone in look and feel and it was also the primary competition of this product. However, there were some drawbacks, such as the low-resolution UltraPixel camera, due to which the handset was not very successful.

After this the company launched new models, but could not repeat the appeal of the original handset. Every time for one reason or another, we couldn’t wholeheartedly applaud HTC’s efforts. Last year, the HTC One (M8) lost out due to the unsatisfactory duo camera feature and the rest of the variants could not deserve praise due to the look and design.

HTC surprised everyone by introducing the One M9+ in India before the One (M9) smartphone. It has a bigger screen, a different processor, a fingerprint sensor and a duo camera feature, which was not included in the M9. In this way, it is not necessary that this handset is better or worse than M9. We are also curious to know how is the performance of this smartphone.

look and design
We expected to see a handset like the HTC One Max, which was oversized and a plastic version of the original One, but it was clear that HTC had learned from its mistakes. The One M9+ has a metal body and has been given a premium two-tone finish. It is available in Grey, Gold and Silver-Gold colors and we got a unique Silver-Gold version for review.

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Sadly, HTC hasn’t used the unibody style of its older handsets. The M9+ looks as if someone has fused two different parts together. Where the front and rear parts meet, there’s a ridge on which we just couldn’t stop flailing our fingers. The front of the review handset was completely dull silver, while the back is brushed silver and gold color was used in the side parts. We can’t say that we liked this look, but it is different, quite a bit of a splurge. The remaining two variants are expected to be more popular.

The black glass on the front runs to the edge, but the screen is smaller in comparison as there are black borders on the end of the handset. The grille of HTC’s trademark BoomSound speaker remains at the top and bottom, though this time around, there’s a fingerprint sensor in the middle of the grille at the bottom. The front facing camera at the top mounts itself.

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There is a Nano-SIM slot on one side of the phone and a microSD card slot on the other. The power and volume buttons are on the right side. One is already all the buttons are lower than normal, but HTC has put the power button at the bottom for some reason. Its location is in such a place where your thumb would not normally go or near the location around it, it is very annoying. Despite the slight texture, we were repeatedly pressing the volume button by mistake. The good thing is that you can use the fingerprint sensor to activate the phone from sleep mode. However, its placement is also very low.

Micro USB and 3.5mm audio port are located at the bottom. A dark plastic strip has been used in the top, which is the only place in the entire phone where plastic has been used. In this place, space has been made for the infrared emitter and antenna, so that communication can be done through the metal body. Apart from two cameras and dual LED flash in the back of the phone, there is nothing worth mentioning.

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The HTC One M9+ is a bit awkward to hold and the weight of 168 grams feels a bit unbalanced. The curvy back is helpful, and at least it doesn’t slip out of hand like other phones. However, the edges of the phone are a bit sharp. It was a bit uncomfortable to drag the thumb to reach the edge of the phone, a similar problem occurred during phonecalls.

Specifications and software
HTC has used MediaTek processor in M9+ instead of Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC used in One M9. The device is powered by Helio X10 processor, also known as MT6795T. It has eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores based on 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set and is integrated with PowerVR G6200 GPU.

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The slanted edge of the screen measures 5.2 inches and the handset has a great resolution of 1440x2560pixels, compared to the 1080×1920 resolution of the One M9’s 5-inch screen. It has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of inbuilt storage, which is expandable up to 2TB via microSD card. However, as long as you use the phone, there is little hope of such a large capacity SD card coming in the market. Support for USB-OTG is also available in the phone.

Support for dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, infrared, NFC, GPS and FM radio is also available on the phone. 4G LTE also works on the 2300MHz band used in India. The 20-megapixel rear camera with secondary sensor for creative 3D effects is icing on the cake.

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The UltraPixel sensor has returned in the front part. One thing that is not impressive is the battery of this phone, which has a modest 2840mAh capacity. The new version of HTC’s Sense UI has been used above the Android 5.0.2 operating system. It doesn’t look much different from last year’s version but there have been attempts to do something new, such as the themes app and more customization options. HTC has also integrated location-related app suggestions, BlinkFeed news items and alerts about events and deals. The phone has apps from Scribble, Polaris Office 5, Peel Smart Remote, Fun Fit and many more from HTC, none of which are too annoying.

performance
We used the HTC One M9+ for a long time but couldn’t get used to the fingerprint sensor. Its placement is awkward and it doesn’t work well if your fingers are pointed. And we kept trying to get to it habitually, as if it were the home button. The good news is that HTC knew this would happen, so the sensor has been mapped to Home in the phone’s active mode.

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Screens are good and crisp too. The color reproduction of the screen is excellent and the viewing angles are decent, but there is a problem of reflection. We didn’t have trouble playing 1080p video clips, but we had our eyes on the BoomSound experience. Like its predecessor, the One Max, the One M9+ had very loud noises, we haven’t heard louder than this in any smartphone. From classical to electronic dance music numbers, this speaker gave excellent output. The sound is a bit thin and distortion is clearly visible at the loudest volume, yet the performance of the handset in this case is much better than other phones.

The One M9+ gave excellent results in the benchmark test. 51,670 in AnTuTu and 27,401 points in Quadrant test, these results made it clear that MediaTek’s new processor is on par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor used in Motorola Google Nexus 6.

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However, graphics scores were quite weak. The 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test came in at 12,300, which is almost half the result of the Nexus 6. Apart from this, the result of 8,549 came in Ice Storm Extreme test, which is equal to the results of old phones of this price range.

We didn’t have any problems during normal use, but we did find that the phone got quite hot when pressing for benchmarks and HD video. This happened even after using the camera continuously for some time. Phone call quality was good, but battery life was disappointing. The battery lasted for 5 hours 33 minutes in the video loop test. We expected the battery to last for at least a day during normal use.

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camera
We were excited about how the duo camera setup and front UltraPixel camera would perform, and did HTC find the right formula after years of experimentation? The camera app gives you the option to switch between Duo mode and Hi-res mode, while Duo mode captures additional depth information for Hi-res mode using another sensor.

Frankly speaking, we could not use the Duo Camera feature. One M9+ gives you the option to change the focus point after taking a photo, through which you can blur out the foreground or background of the photo. Apart from this, the camera app has interesting features like faux 3D shift effect, double exposure, shape and pattern overlay and face fusion to blend two faces. We got poor results using every feature and some were of no use.

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The Hi-Res mode didn’t impress us much either. The One M9+ took average photos even at 20 megapixels, these photos had a lot of compression. Photos taken with the camera in broad daylight looked good, but when transferred to a desktop monitor, the flaws became apparent. As expected, photos taken in low light were even worse. There was too much noise in these pictures and the subject definition was also wrong. Video output was disappointing, despite the default recording of 1080p.

our decision
The HTC One M9+ faces tough challenges, especially with Chinese phones offering similar specifications for half the price. The look of the phone will make people turn once and it gives a very solid feel, but sadly, this handset is not very good in any one feature. For example, Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 will beat this phone in almost every department. The Nexus 6 and Motorola Moto Turbo are good options and so is the less expensive Oneplus One.

The HTC One M9+ looks great, but for us its appeal ends here. We were expecting HTC to come out of its experimental phase and come out with a great handset, but that was not to be the case. If looks aren’t the most important issue for you, you have many other options.

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