Emphasis on design, weak performance

When HTC launched its first One Edition phone in 2013, the company remained on top in the Android segment. A metal unibody Android handset, it was the only device that looked and felt as good as the iPhone and was the product’s primary competition. Still, there were some shortcomings, such as the low resolution UltraPixel camera, due to which the handset did not achieve much success.

After this the company launched new models, but could not replicate the appeal of the original handset. For some reason or the other, we haven’t been able to appreciate HTC’s efforts wholeheartedly. Last year, HTC One (M8) was let down due to its unsatisfactory duo camera feature and the other variants were not worthy of praise due to looks and design.

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

Look and Design
It was expected that we would see a handset like the HTC One Max, which was larger than necessary and was a plastic version of the original One, but it’s clear that HTC has learned from its mistakes. The body of One M9+ is metal and has been given a premium two-tone finish. It is available in grey, gold and silver-gold colors and we received the unique silver-gold version for review.

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Sadly, HTC hasn’t retained the unibody style of its older handsets. The M9+ looks as if someone has joined two different parts together. There’s a ridge where the front and rear meet, which we couldn’t resist running our fingers over. The front of the review handset was completely dull silver, while the back was brushed silver and gold color was used on the side parts. We can’t say we like the look, but it’s different, almost ostentatious. The remaining two variants are expected to be more popular.

The black glass on the front reaches all the way to the edge, but the screen is smaller in comparison as the handset has a black border at its ends. HTC’s trademark BoomSound speaker grilles remain at the top and bottom, although this time there is a fingerprint sensor in the middle of the grill at the bottom. The front facing camera installs itself at the top.

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There is a Nano-SIM slot on one side of the phone while a microSD card slot is on the other side. Power and volume buttons are on the right side. Firstly, all the buttons are already lower than usual, but for some reason HTC has kept the power button at the bottom. Its location in a place where your thumb doesn’t normally go or near a location around it can be extremely irritating. Despite it being a simple design, we found ourselves repeatedly accidentally pressing the volume buttons. 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 remain at the bottom. A dark plastic strip has been used at the top, this is the only place in the entire phone where plastic has been used. At this place, space has been made for infrared emitter and antenna, so that communication can be done through the metal body. There is nothing worth mentioning in the back of the phone except two cameras and dual LED flash.

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The HTC One M9+ is a bit awkward to hold and its weight of 168 grams feels a bit unbalanced. The curved back helps, and at least it doesn’t slip out of hands like other phones. However, the edges of the phone are a bit sharper. Stretching the thumb to reach the edge of the phone was a bit uncomfortable, a similar problem occurred during phone calls.

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

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The screen measures 5.2 inches diagonally and the handset has a stunning 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 can be expanded 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 in the phone. 4G LTE also works on the 2300MHz band used in India. The 20-megapixel rear camera along with a secondary sensor for creative 3D effects is the icing on the cake.

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The ultrapixel sensor has returned on the front. One thing that is not impressive is the battery of this phone, which has a modest capacity of 2840mAh. The new version of HTC’s Sense UI is used on top of the Android 5.0.2 operating system. It doesn’t look much different from last year’s version but an attempt has been made to do something new, like 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 Scribble, Polaris Office 5, Peel Smart Remote, Fun Fit, and a number of HTC apps, none of which are too bothersome.

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 doesn’t work well if your fingers are slanted. And we habitually kept trying to go near it, as if it were the home button. The good thing is that HTC knew this would happen, so the sensor is mapped to Home when the phone is in Active Mode.

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The screens are nice 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 any trouble playing 1080p video clips, but we had an eye on the BoomSound experience. Like its predecessor, the One Max, the One M9+ was extremely loud, something we haven’t heard from any smartphone. This speaker gave excellent output to the sound of classical to electronic dance music numbers. The sound is a bit thin and distortion is clearly visible at the loudest volume, despite this the performance of the handset in this matter is much better than other phones.

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

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

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

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camera
We were excited to see how the duo camera setup and front UltraPixel camera would perform, and whether HTC had found the right formula after years of experimentation? The camera app gives you the option to switch between Duo mode and high-res mode, with Duo mode using a second sensor to capture additional depth information for high-res mode.

To be clear, we could not use the duo camera feature. One M9+ gives you the option to change the focus point of the photo after taking it, through this 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 which blends two faces. We got poor results using every feature and some were of no use.

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The high-res mode also did not impress us much. Even at 20 megapixel resolution, the One M9+ took average photos, which had a lot of compression. Pictures taken with the camera in daylight looked good, but when transferred to a desktop monitor the shortcomings became clearly visible. As expected, photos taken in low light were even worse. There was too much noise and subject definition was also wrong in these photos. Despite the default recording being 1080p, the video output was disappointing.

our decision
The HTC One M9+ faces a tough challenge, especially from Chinese phones that offer similar specifications at half the price. The look of the phone will make people want to turn it around and it feels very solid, but sadly, this handset is not very good in any one feature. For example, Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 will outperform this phone in almost every department. The Nexus 6 and Motorola Moto Turbo are good options, as is the low-cost OnePlus One.

The HTC One M9+ looks good, but for us its appeal ends there. We were hoping that HTC would come out of its experimental phase and present a great handset, but it was not to be. If looks are not the most important issue for you, you have many more options.

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