HTC One M9 Plus review: Not what we expect from a flagship

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HTC has been trying its best to become a mainstay in the high-end market alongside others like Samsung and Apple, but some way or the other things have never truly been perfect for them. Last year, the company won the gongs for building the best-looking Android phone and that’s been one aspect of the brand that has never come under scrutiny.

This year, HTC brought about few changes to its product planning which resulted in the form of HTC One M9 and One M9+, catering to respective markets, wherein the latter was announced for India. Ideally the Plus would imply something bigger and better and one would hope the same for the HTC as well. So has the Plus really been a good move? Let’s find out…

The phone

As we mentioned earlier, the One M9+ looks like an exact replica of the parent device except for some minute hardware changes. It sports a 5.2-inch Quad-HD 2560x1440p resolution display which has become flagship-standard these days and comes running on Android Lollipop flavour over their signature HTC Sense v7.0 . It packs an octa-core Helio X10 Mediatek CPU with 3GB RAM and offers 32GB expandable support up to 128GB at max. They seem to have switched sides on the ultra-pixels by adopting 20.7MP camera sensor for the rear camera, and offering the 4MP shooter on the front. All this power comes loaded with 2840mAh battery.

Design

There is not much to differ between the form size and design dynamics of One M8 and M9+, except for the fact that the construction of this year’s HTC One flagship has been giving more finishing prominence that can be tangibly felt while using it. There’s nothing wrong in minor refinements, but we can’t truly appreciate it either for some reasons.

It doesn’t come across as slim or light as the Samsung Galaxy S6 with 9.6mm thickness and 168 grams weight but for its durability, there should be few concerns. Frankly, it does tend to slip a lot and that’s mostly being pinned on the impeccable finishing standards that HTC always resorts to for its devices.

The BoomSound speakers are another fixture on HTC phones, and they are probably the best in the business right now. HTC has opted for the fingerprint scanner on its physical Home button right below the display and this one feels fairly tactile and responsive to finger touches, essential for unlocking the device. Everything feels good, but One M9+ fails to stand up to the challenge posed by Samsung this year and it seems the Taiwanese brand has opted to stay true to its philosophy. Only if they could have tried their hands with something more different and refreshing with the latest ‘One’ series.

Display

HTC has been neck-to-neck with Samsung when it comes to offering display technology on its flagship phones and that continues to be the trend with the One M9+ as well. We’ve got nothing to complain about the viewing angles and this is where the panels of the 5.2-inch display really show its worth. It’s easy to agree that Quad-HD resolution stands above the levels of what the naked eye can project and analyze but the clarity, sharpness and crispness of the content on One M9+ is hard to ignore. It does help that unlike the Super AMOLED colours, the Super LCD3 panels make for realistic colour-based viewing experience.

Power all around

Snapdragon 810 vs Mediatek Helio X10 chipset has been one of the hotly debated subjects around techomania for some time now i.e.. While the former has been plagued with over-heating issues, which have been well documented by noted experts, Mediatek was expected to take over the reins of flagship community with its high-end SoC range.

Interestingly, Mediatek has managed to iron out Qualcomm’s misgivings in some proportions, while some old habits are still going to have them scratching heads for answers. Purely from raw hardware point of view, Helio X10 has the makings of a top-quality chipset, only if the maker can fix up issues that end up eating a lot of core power, thereby, reducing the chances of device coming through unscathed.

The scores highlighted below put the One M9+ and Helio X10 among the best but we’re highly doubtful as to how the low-powered ones are functioning when the device is not being used at its optimum. It is essential for the cores (8 of them in question) to work in tandem with each other but the mechanism seems to have shifted the other way around.

This becomes apparent with GeekBench tool, which lends out impressive multi-core numbers but the single-core running doesn’t add up to the power available innards. Fortunately this inconsistency doesn’t end up heating up the device, which is why we feel Helio X10 is just a few tweaks away from becoming better than what it is right now.

Camera

If design has been HTC’s core strength over the years, then it’s safe to say their imaging prowess needs more conscience. It doesn’t matter the number of megapixels that One M9+ has been bestowed with (20.7MP so to say) as they don’t show up where it really matters. Either the algorithms don’t add up or somewhere down the line HTC has fluffed its sensor placement in the worst possible manner for a flagship-quality product.

Hazy images were mostly apparent with images, the dual camera feature can only function well if the rest of the mechanism delivers up to its value. It’s easy to expect a high quality imaging hardware on high-end device, and sadly HTC has done it the other way around.

Battery

The life of a device is very much dependent on the cores underneath, and the aforementioned lapses of the core have ensured that One M9+ for all its battery power doesn’t manage to scale up to those levels. Reading of close to 6 hours for a phone is never a good thing on PCMark battery test, let alone for a flagship product. The dependency on power-saving options on the One M9+ is laughable and we’re dearly hoping that whatever magic HTC has promised to offer to resolve issues with One M9, does also make its way to the One M9+ as well.

Verdict

So, just in case you haven’t caught the drift yet here it is. HTC One M9+ has all the attributes to become a classy, powerhouse product but right now it’s nowhere close to its rivals. Barring for the design and built, the Plus ends up paying price for using a chipset which has its work cut out to fight off with the best SoC in business. Average to mediocre level cameras doesn’t help HTC’s case either and the icing on cake comes in form of less-than expected battery life. For Rs 51,990 there is barely anything to suggest which can excite you into buying this one.

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