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HTC One M9 deep-dive review: Third time's (almost) the charm

JR Raphael | April 9, 2015
HTC's latest luxurious smartphone isn't a radical upgrade, but it offers subtle refinements that bring it closer to perfection.

HTC has attempted to answer those complaints by equipping the new One with a 20-megapixel primary camera, and the results -- well, they're mixed. The M9's camera is more versatile than the UltraPixel shooter of yore, and its images are significantly larger, which makes them easier to edit.

Their quality, however, is just okay. Shots often look a bit muddied, details aren't always as crystal-clear as they could be and low-light performance is nothing to write home about. The camera also struggles to capture moving objects without adding in a fair amount of motion blur.

(Want to see for yourself? Check out my One M9-Galaxy S6 camera shootout for a variety of samples and side-by-side comparisons.)

Depending on how important photo quality is to you, the M9's camera may be good enough -- which is still the best you can hope for with many Android devices these days. Especially with a little post-capture processing (or even just some help from Google's Auto Enhance feature), most of the phone's images can look perfectly decent and be fine for online sharing or even printing. If you have a discerning eye and are expecting consistently great-looking photos, though, you're going to be disappointed.

On the plus side, the One snaps photos practically instantaneously, with virtually no detectable shutter delay between shots. It also allows you to hold down the shutter button to take a series of rapid-fire photos and then save only the best picture from the bunch.

HTC's camera app remains relatively simple and easy to use, too, with only the basics on screen by default and more advanced options tucked away in menus if you want them. The companion HTC Photo Editor app has a wide range of filters, effects and editing tools for enhancing your images, while a third app called Zoe (a term that's meant several different things on HTC phones over the years) makes it easy to create compilation videos from your camera collection. Zoe is also now the name for a silly HTC-run social network to which the app pushes you to publish your videos -- a mildly annoying and utterly pointless touch, but one that's easy enough to ignore.

The One's camera captures video at 1080p by default and can go all the way up to 4K resolution. The phone's front-facing camera, meanwhile, is the aforementioned UltraPixel camera that used to serve as the One's main shooter. It continues to offer the advantage of unusually good low-light performance -- so if you plan on taking lots of selfies in the dark, you're in luck. It can also capture video up to 1080p in quality.

The software
The One M9 runs HTC's custom Sense software atop Google's Android 5.0.2 Lollipop operating system. HTC's user interface has long been one of the more polished and palatable manufacturer-modified versions of Android, and its presentation on the new One is very much in line with the company's recent past efforts.


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