Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The HTC 10 should be amazing.
This is, after all, HTC’s big gamble in the smartphone market. It’s the culmination of years of design iteration; the last valiant attempt from a company whose smartphones have gotten less and less appealing as those years have passed. Today, HTC is better known for its virtual reality hardware, and if the 10 isn’t a rousing success, we probably won’t see many more phones from the Taiwanese company.
To be fair, the HTC 10 is very good. It delivers great benchmark numbers, makes quite the splash with its cameras and is more impressively built than any previous HTC device. Yet it feels rehashed, like its designers took a look at all the popular phones on the market and tried to tick as many of those boxes as they could.
The HTC 10 is one of the top smartphones of this generation, and it’s going to make a lot of owners very happy. But don’t be surprised if this is the last major phone HTC releases. The company needed to surpass every expectation, and once again, it has fallen just a little short.
Never has HTC made a phone of finer build quality than its HTC 10. The rigid aluminum chassis is svelte and hardy, broken only by two plastic lines for the phone’s antenna. More noticeable is the beveled edge along the back cover, a design choice that marks the phone as an HTC just as much as its logo. The camera, mounted in the center of the rear cover, protrudes slightly, but it isn’t a nuisance and doesn’t make the phone wobble when you set it down.
From the back, the 10’s angled grace and weighty elegance make the phone a looker. From the front, everything feels generic. The device’s rim is a bit too wide, which makes the bezels around its screen feel wider – and therefore cheaper – than they actually are. The shape and placement of the phone’s fingerprint scanner is ripped from the Galaxy S7. Even the headphone jack is weirdly placed, in the center of the top edge instead of along the bottom. I had to tangle with stray headphone cords more than once during testing.
The screen itself is a Super LCD display, offering 1440p resolution across 5.2 inches of real estate. That adds up to a more-than-palatable pixel density of 565 ppi. Expect crisp images, good colors and plenty of pixels to go around. Keep in mind, though, that this is no AMOLED screen, and its brightness in direct sunlight suffers.
Like all HTC phones, the 10 runs HTC Sense, a propriety skin that’s overlaid atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow. As skins go, Sense is wonderfully low-key; only a few differences separate it from stock Android. They’ve made an effort to shape their various apps around Google’s Material Design philosophy, which makes for a fluid app-to-app experience.
By the numbers, The HTC 10’s camera is a looker. Its 12MP sensor is on par with what the Galaxy S7 offers, while the phone’s f/1.8 aperture is huge – not quite as big as the S7’s, but it trounces everyone else in the category. There is one rare inclusion: Both the front- and rear-facing cameras have optical image stabilization, which makes for crisp selfies when you jostle the phone around, trying to get all your friends in a shot.
DxO, a company we’ve come to rely on for unbiased camera analysis, gave the HTC 10 a score of 88, tying the phenomenal Galaxy S7. While we normally agree with its image quality experts, this time around it feels like they didn’t get it quite right. There’s a noticeable difference between the HTC 10’s camera performance and that of the Galaxy S7’s – at the time of this review, Samsung’s smartphone still sets the bar for speed and clarity.
The HTC 10’s wide aperture makes it decent in low-light scenarios, but the phone’s relatively weak image processing leaves photos a tad blurry, especially given the built-in optical image stabilization. On the flip side, the 10’s front-facing camera is fantastic, offering 1440p video recording, 5MP photos and beautiful shots in good lighting conditions.
Unquestionably the strongest attributes of the HTC 10, the phone’s internal components are superb, matching the Galaxy S7 spec for spec. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor runs incredibly fast and much cooler than Qualcomm’s previous system on a chip, so you can expect blistering performance.
We ran the HTC 10 through 65 separate benchmark tests, and it tied with the Galaxy S7’s performance. To be fair, this was expected, since they run the same chip and pack the same 4GB of memory. Even the storage options are the same: The HTC 10 comes in 32GB and 64GB models and lets you plug in a microSD card for up to 200GB of additional space.
Practically speaking, the HTC 10 is one of the two fastest phones you can buy today. I didn’t find a game that chugged on its processor or notice a single missed frame as I scrolled through its menus and apps. That’s bound to change over time as apps get more intense and your phone gets bogged down by lots of background processes, but it’s not something to worry about right now.
A 3000 mAh non-removable battery powers the HTC 10. Despite being the same size as what you find in a Galaxy S7, the 10 actually beat the Galaxy S7 in our web browsing stress test by well over an hour. We suspect that’s thanks to the 10’s LCD screen drawing slightly less power than an AMOLED display. Web browsing tests tend to reflect real-world use better than processor-intensive stress tests, and in most cases, your screen is the biggest power-draining culprit in a phone.
I’ve compared the HTC 10 to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 a lot in this review, but for good reason: The two phones are going after the exact same buyers. Both offer equal specs and performance, both have solid cameras and sharp displays, and both are extremely expensive.
If the HTC 10 cost $100 to $200 less, it would easily be the best smartphone you could buy on value alone. At full flagship price, though, it’s competing directly with Samsung’s heaviest hitter. If you can find the phone on sale – or if you just want tons of power without having to deal with an overbearing Android skin – the HTC 10 will delight.