HTC 10: Improving what HTC do well
WITH an improved camera and audio capability, it's clear HTC are hoping that the HTC 10 handset will herald a return to their more glorious days.
The handset, which goes on sale in the UK in May, looks to perform solidly - refining and improving existing features, rather than innovating - but that could be what HTC need to get back into the smartphone market.
At the time of writing, only EE and Three say they'll be stocking the phone.
And with prices for an unlocked handset starting at £569.99 for the 32GB model, it's in the same bracket as the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 - both of which provide some formidable competition.
HTC seem to be most pleased with the phone's camera: they claim it's the "best smartphone camera available on the market today".
They point to the fact that it received a score of 88 out of 100 on DxOMark, which provides the industry standard for rating camera and lens image quality.
However, given that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge's camera got the same score, this isn't that impressive.
Similarly, the HTC 10's 12 megapixel rear facing camera isn't all that special - both the S7 and the iPhone 6s boast cameras with the same number of MP. However, the LG G5 trumps all three with its 16 megapixel camera.
One feature that does impress is the optical image stabilisation (OIS) function, which helps keep blurring from shaky hands to a minimum.
Because this allows the shutter to stay open for longer without blurring the picture, the HTC 10 camera is well equipped for shooting in low light conditions.
The front facing five megapixel camera also boasts a wide angle lens and the OIS feature - HTC say theirs is the first front facing camera to do so.
HTC say both cameras can be ready for taking a shot in 0.6 seconds, thanks in part to a laser-based autofocus.
Images can also be captured in the RAW format, which allows more scope for tinkering around with them in photo editing software than the standard jpg format.
However, whether these features are enough to draw people away from the more impressive developments found in phones such as the Huawei P9 is questionable.
HTC have long put in a bit more thought and effort regarding their phones' audio performance than some other smartphone manufacturers, and the 10 continues that tradition.
The audio processor is 24-bit, and allows for 16-bit audio to be upscaled. They've reconfigured the front speakers - the speaker at the top of the screen is now a tweeter, with the bass speaker at the bottom of the handset.
Both have their own dedicated amp, giving clarity and volume beyond that offered by phones with a single speaker, which tend to distort at higher volumes.
For those who do their listening through headphones, the HTC is Hi-Res certified - meaning that it supports higher-definition audio - defined as having a higher sampling frequency and bit depth than we'd find on a CD, which is 16-bit/44.1kHz.
While most streamed music is relatively poor quality, some downloaded songs come in the FLAC format, which is one of the accepted hi-def audio formats - and as already mentioned, the HTC 10 can upscale some recordings.
It's not the only phone to support higher definition audio - Sony Xperia phones from the Z3 on all do.
But while those rely on us providing Hi-Res compatible headphones, HTC are bundling a set in with the handset - which makes a nice change from the usually low quality headsets we might otherwise expect.
The look and feel
While the handset's all metal uni-body is a nod to the premium market, its relative thickness may put some off. The Galaxy S7 Edge, for example, measures 7.7mm compared to the HTC 10's 9mm.
What help it look and feel slightly slimmer are the HTC 10's rounded edges and bevelled back panel - which should also feel good in our hands - as well as the fact that it's a little longer and wider than its rivals.
The familiar HTC logo has been banished from the front of the phone to the back, making the full glass front seriously minimalist; while there's a return for the menu and back buttons, they're on either side of the home button / fingerprint sensor.
That frees up space on the 5.2-inch display, which according to HTC, is 30% more colourful than its predecessor and twice as responsive to touch.
This latter feature is down to the quad-core Snapdragon processor having a little extra that HTC call "Boost+". This feature helps manage internal processes, thus also increasing available memory and battery life.
For example, apps that use excessive power can be detected and automatically shut down.
Although the handset has the same 3000mAh battery as found in the Samsung Galaxy S7, it betters the S7 in that it has the Quick Charge 3.0 feature, which can get the battery up to 50% in just 30 minutes.
HTC say that their battery will last longer anyway because they've reduced the number of preloaded apps - the dreaded bloatware that plagues many of our phones.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, HTC have seemingly decided to let others - namely, Google - provide the apps. For example, the HTC 10 uses Google Photos rather than an in-house gallery app.
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