Not Quite Your Perfect 10

HTC 10. By Liu Hongzuo.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

HTC 10. By Liu Hongzuo.

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DISPLAY 5.2-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, Super LCD 5
PROCESSOR Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core, up to 2.2GHz
DIMENSIONS 145.9 x 71.9 x 3.0 - 9.0mm
PRICE $898

The HTC 10 certainly took its time to come to market, going on sale nearly three months after its official announcement in April. That said, it’s clear that it’s HTC’s best attempt at a smartphone yet, keeping the positive bits from earlier flagships while further refining areas that it didn’t do so well.

The HTC 10 uses a signature metal unibody design that has been a highlight of their One series. What’s changed is a new beautifully curved rear flanked with exaggerated chamfered edges, making it distinctively different from the current flock of 2016 rivals. The HTC 10 is nice to hold, with a comfortable size for single-handed operation. While it is 9mm at its thickest point, the phone does not feel bulky at all.

Our only gripe with the design is how a curved rear and a slightly elevated rim for the rear camera make it impossible for the phone to lay flat on a table, but this design quirk makes it easy to pick off a desk. We lamented the loss of the front-facing speakers though and in its place are a touch-operated Home button at the bottom, and an oversized window for its front camera at the top.

Now, HTC flagships were previously known for their BoomSound audio technology, and while the iconic front stereo speakers are gone, you something new called HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition. In a nutshell, HTC changed the speaker placement, moving one of the front-facing speakers to the bottom of the phone, next to its USB Type-C port. The HTC 10 is also one of the few phones to officially support Hi-Res audio. It boasts 16 to 24-bit audio upscaling, with a built-in 24-bit DAC and headphone amp.

The HTC 10 uses a 5.2-inch Super LCD 5 display with a Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) resolution at roughly ~565 ppi (pixels per inch) density—a significant upgrade from the HTC One M9’s Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) display—but it’s not as bright as we’d have like it to be.

The phone pushes the stock Android 6.0 OS even further by allowing their users to bend app layout rules. By holding your finger on the Home screen, you can now download unique Freestyle-type themes that place your apps, app drawer, and icons under a bunch of themed “stickers”, without the need to follow the usual on-screen grid. You can add more stickers/shortcuts, and rearrange your home screen and stickers to your taste. Expectedly, the phone still supports HTC Themes, and there are thousands of themes to choose from.

The 12-megapixel rear camera comes with optical image stabilization and an improved laser autofocus. Each pixel on their camera sensor has a pixel size of 1.55μm, which gives them “136% more light in every shot”. You can now shoot in RAW too, the option accessible within Pro Mode. Autofocus feels swift enough for our purposes, and we really appreciate the optical image stabilization on the camera. Our only gripe is its color reproduction. While the HTC 10 does seem a little more neutral, vibrant shooters like the Samsung S7 Edge and Sony Xperia X have spoiled us rotten.

As with most 2016 flagships, the HTC 10 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC at up to 2.2GHz clock speed. It also packs 4GB RAM, more than capable at handling multiple processes, on top of speedy load times. With the HTC 10 sitting together with other top benchmark scorers like the Samsung S7 Edge, LG G5, and Xiaomi Mi 5, the HTC performs respectably for its asking price. The phone packs a non-removable 3,000mAh battery that supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, which means it takes just 30 minutes to top up its charge to 50%. Actual battery life is rather average.

The HTC 10 is visually unique and the sum of its parts proves it is definitely a 2016 flagship. However, taken individually, each feature is easily beaten (or matched) by its rivals. For the price it commands, there’s always something else that has a better camera, better battery life or better aesthetic, making it a lesser desirable option in a sea of flagships.


While visually different, the HTC 10 doesn’t stand out enough in such a competitive smartphone market. It’s a good phone, but not a perfect 10.

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The iconic front-facing speakers are now gone, having relegated to a place next to its USB Type-C port.

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The dramatic chamfered edges give the phone character, at the cost of aesthetics.

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