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Deep-dive review: The HTC 10 -- not flashy, just really good

Dan Rosenbaum | April 18, 2016
The HTC 10 is the nicest phone that HTC has made: solid, fast, great sound, good camera and a non-obtrusive UI.

HTC offers the ability to download and create themes for its UI; if you're more whimsical than I am, you might be interested in HTC's Freestyle theme. Available (like many others) for a free download, Freestyle puts a cartoony skin on Android, hiding app icons in "stickers" like a windmill for YouTube or a hot air balloon for Weather.

More my speed is the Boost+ app, which lets you manage the phone's memory and storage as well as lock apps. It's a handy and centralized place to get granular with your phone.

Sound and vision

The Snapdragon processor performs well enough, and the LCD screen is reasonably visible in bright outdoor light. But what I found remarkable was the sound performance.

As I mentioned before, the HTC 10 has two separate speakers, one for higher frequencies at the top of the phone and the other for lower frequencies at the bottom. The phone sounds terrific, given the physical limitations of the smartphone form. No one will mistake the HTC 10 for a HI-Fi or even Mid-Fi audio system, but it sounds better than any other phone I can recall.

HTC put some good work into headset listening, too. You can create a playback audio curve to suit the frequency response of your headphones and your own hearing. It makes a difference; music on the HTC 10 sounds great through headphones.

Camera

The HTC 10's camera got an upgrade as well. The testing company DxO gave it top marks of 88 out of 100 -- the same as the Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge and several notches better than the Nexus 6P or the iPhone 6S. The main camera shoots 12 megapixels with an f/1.8 aperture and a 1.55-micrometer pixel size. It can shoot 4K videos and RAW format stills. The front camera is less capable, of course: 5 megapixels, an f/1.8 aperture and 1.34-micrometer pixels (remember, bigger is better) and mere 1080p video recording.

Both cameras have image stabilization, which HTC claims is a first. As with other phones in this class, there are features such as panorama, pro (manual mode), hyperlapse and slo-mo capture. HTC adds a Zoe Capture function, which takes three seconds of video before snapping a picture, not unlike Apple's Live Photos.

HTC has been continuing to update the camera software through the review period. During testing, focusing was reasonably quick and picture quality was okay, if not remarkable. Low-light performance was about what you'd expect from a high-end phone.

Pricing

An unlocked GSM version of the HTC 10 is available for preorder at the company's website for $699 (vendor price) in either silver or gray, for shipping in early May. That includes a one-time replacement for a cracked screen or water damage during the first year. HTC says the phone will also be available through Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, but at press time, pricing through those channels wasn't available.

 

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