HTC One M9 review

HTC One M9 retains the bespoke build quality we loved about the earlier One M8. It will appeal to people who care about quality, but it’s hard to see a better phone on the market.

It ditches the maligned 4MP Ultrapixel sensor of its predecessor in favor of a whopping 20.7MP sensor that is sure to attract those who value more pixels on their sensor.

And it’s getting paired with Dolby to refine the tweeter and woofer arrangement in the engine room.

The M9 came with a hefty price tag right at launch. In Australia, the handset started at AUD 1,299. In the United States, it was priced at USD 649 without any device subsidy. Nowadays you can find it starting at prices much lower of course.

The HTC 10 is the successor to last year’s model and has been out for a while now. You can grab last year’s HTC One M9 for a little over $400, which is still pretty expensive, but if you’re after quality this handset contains top-end components.

The internals remains potent: an octa-core Qualcomm 810 chipset, 3GB of RAM, and a 2840 mAH battery powered by the Super LCD3 screen. This latter component is not as well renowned as Samsung’s Super AMOLED display, but it’s still color-rich and provides a great viewing experience.

The HTC U20 5G is the first 5G-enabled smartphone in the world. With a Snapdragon 855 chipset and a 4,000mAh battery, it has more than enough power to handle any task. It comes with a 6.2-inch, 1080p display and has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

It also features three cameras on the back and two on the front, allowing you to take photos at all angles with ease. The phone also features Dolby Atmos sound capabilities for improved audio quality.

Although this new HTC isn’t a radical redesign over its predecessor, there are some points where it does improve. The screen is now 5 inches instead of 5.5 inches, making it easier for you to use the phone with one hand. This resolution of 1080 pixels is enough, but of course, some would disagree. QHD isn’t needed if you don’t plan to use it with a VR headset, which is hard on battery life.

The metallic chassis is back & bolder than ever. It’s a two-tone design with a contrasting band around the side for some colors and not for others, with the Silver/Gold and Gold/Pink versions featuring contrast whereas the Gunmetal Grey and Gold on Gold versions don’t. it feels like they put more effort into the packaging than they did with previous HTC phones.

A powerful battery, decent camera, faster, wider-sized display, and a potent processor make the OnePlus 3 a tough competitor to beat in the $400 range. However, when looking at the latest updates to its mid-range cousin, you may notice that some of those improvements have.


The design is by far the highlight of this phone. HTC says it took “jewelry-grade” to a new level and it shows.

The one-piece fascia is complemented beautifully by the two-tone metallic rim (on my review unit, the silver and gold variant). The grey and gold versions will look less impressive, given they’ve lost the two-tone appeal, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look good.

I think they’ll be nicer than this model. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but the design = right now just isn’t doing it for me. Maybe is the back edge is feeling a little sharp in the hand? While it won’t cut you, I can tell you that it felt much closer to the One M8 during my hands-on session in Barcelona back in early 2015. Its contoured design is quite comfortable to hold and features a gunmetal grey finish.

There’s no confirmed explanation for this, but I think it might be due to the different colors.

Whatever the case, it’s worth noting that HTC went away from this two-tone effect and the associated beveled edges for their latest device, the HTC 10.

Now the power button is on the right-hand side of the phone, which isn’t as convenient when you’re using it with one hand.

This is a more natural place for it to live, making it easier to turn the screen on and off. However, HTC has inexplicably made it the same size and shape as the volume buttons above, so feeling for it without explicitly looking means I often hit the volume key instead.

The HTC 10 has a very different button balance when compared to the M9, which can be seen as an admission that the M9’s design might not have been perfect.

The MicroSD slot is separate from the buttons and it’s slightly indented, so you can easily mistake volume for power.

While many improvements seem to have been made to make the M9’s design better, it is still very clear that this is a finely crafted phone.

The two-tone paint job still gives it a distinctive look and feel, and the weight balance is better than ever. The precision of driving is what got me as this Jaguar F-Type

The sharp edges of the BoomSound speakers are well-defined, and while it’s heavy at 157g, especially compared to contemporaries like the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, Apple’s is the only device that can come close to beating the attractive packaging here – and I prefer the weight and balance HTC has created.

I’d chuck it in a case though. After two days I’d already dented the bottom through it falling a foot onto the floor, and those nicks are noticeable on the premium casing.

I also checked out an M9 handset more than a year on from launch and, while generally in decent condition, there were tiny stress cracks in three of the four corners where the display glass meets the metal.

Yet another M9 handset I tried recently didn’t have this latter problem, but there were visible scratches around the micro USB port where the metal edges of the charger connector had made their mark. It seems you pay a price for such a fine metal finish, then – though that’s hardly a unique criticism for a modern smartphone.


One aspect of phones that HTC has been criticized for is the space around the screen. Many people have said that the logo doesn’t need to be there, surrounded by a black bar that many think is just for looks.

No, it’s not. It’s packing up things that need to go somewhere as HTC is producing the One M9 longer to include two decent sound chambers – this way you get Boom Sound, which I prefer over a lightweight smartphone that looks like every other phone out there.

The M9 may look the same on the outside, but it’s a little smaller this year. It has a 5-inch screen and is covered in Gorilla Glass, like last year’s model.

However, it’s worth mentioning improvements have been made since the old model. The colors on the screen are vivid and it has a sleek design with a low bezel to glass ratio. It also has efficient performance where touching the touchscreen causes immediate feedback.

While we did test the Auto setting, it can make your screen seem a bit too dark sometimes. The colors can also seem washed out at times and the HTC One M9 doesn’t pack quite the same ‘punch’ as some other flagship phones on the market such as the iPhone 6 or LG G4. It’s not terrible at all, but it begs the question of why HTC didn’t update this key component.

I don’t want to harp on about the HTC One M9’s successor too much here, but it’s difficult to argue that the HTC 10’s QHD Super LCD 5 display didn’t arrive a year too late.

Still, the M9 screen’s 441PPI is perfectly sharp and doesn’t offer a lot less than the QHD screens that are starting to flood the market.

The only functional reason I can see to stick a super-sharp display into a screen below six inches in size is to allow for virtual reality headsets, which magnify the screen and can cause pixelation. HTC’s new Vive headset doesn’t use the phone as its base, but it still holds plenty of promise.

Google announced that their ambitious new VR headset for Daydream will be released in late 2016, however, not all smartphones on the market are compatible with it.

The HTC One M9 has a 5-inch screen, which is slightly smaller than most other smartphones on the market. But with many brands going for 5.1-inch screens, the 5-inch screen is still a good choice.

At around 160mm x 78.7mm x 9.5mm, the One M9 is significantly larger than other flagship devices like the LG G4 and Galaxy S6, but this is accentuated by the extra metallic lip that runs around its front edge.

But the fact that HTC’s latest device offers a more ergonomic grip means that there is little need for edge-to-edge displays.

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