Reviewing HTC One M9 - The Hidden Gem Of The Smartphone World


Android 5 Lollipop, HTC Sense & Bundled Apps

Out of the box, the HTC One M9 runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop, but its operating system is upgradable to Android 5.1. The manufacturer branded this smartphone with its own user interface, called HTC Sense. This user interface has come a long way since its first versions on the old HTC smartphones running on Android and has developed into a full-fledged, beautiful and efficient user interface with minimalistic design and useful shortcuts and features. It offers a clean and fresh user experience, without trying to take your breath away using unnecessary animations and power-consuming effects.

HTC Sense's most obvious feature is the home-launcher, offering all the classic features, like the possibility of adding shortcuts and widgets on the home screen and arranging several home screens to choose from by swiping to the sides. On top of that, HTC has prepared a few really nice widgets for it, like the adaptable shortcuts folder that follows your location (at home, at work or on the move) and changes its contents to match your needs. The classic HTC Flip Clock widget is also present.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

The default clock and weather widget are looking great - we especially liked the way the digits update, stretching vertically while changing.

One other feature we loved is the ability to change the default navigation buttons on the bottom (Back, Home and Recent Apps) or add a new one along the three already present (the navigation bar supports a maximum of four buttons). Among the optional buttons are the Turn Off Screen button, an Auto Rotate toggle, Notifications, a Hide navigation bar toggle, and a Quick Settings button.

The quick settings panel is nicely designed, using the same approach of solid colors (mostly black and white with accents of light blue, which is configurable depending on the chosen theme) and straight lines.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

The lock-screen of the device is simple and resembles the original lock-screen experience of Android Lollipop. The only visible alteration (apart from the clock and weather widget) is the configurable shortcuts bar at the bottom, which clones the icons dock of the home screen.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

Arriving at the bundled apps section, HTC is known to be pretty mild at pre-installing apps onto its devices. While you'll find several of HTC's proprietary apps installed on the HTC One M9, there aren't that many useless apps that you usually can't get rid of without rooting your phone. The device we had in for testing was branded by Telekom Romania, a Romanian mobile network provider, which also added a layer of customization to this device, so many of the apps you'll see in these screenshots are installed by the mobile network provider.

Obviously, you'll have available the full range of Google apps, such as Hangouts, Maps, Google and the Play apps - Music, Newsstand, Books and Games. Besides those, the pre-installed apps you'll find are as follows:

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance
  • Zoe - a photo and video editing app that combines photos and videos into digital memories
  • Music - HTC's own music player
  • Twitter - the Twitter client app
  • Car - an interface designed for using your smartphone while driving, featuring large buttons and text for easy operation
  • Scribble - a note taking app
  • POLARIS Office 5 - a popular mobile office suite
  • HTC Backup - a useful cloud backup app offered by HTC
  • HTC Dot View - an app designed to be used with HTC's Dot View screen covers
  • Peel Smart Remote - an infrared remote control app
  • Fun Fit - a fitness monitor app
  • Power to Give - an interesting power sharing app, that "lets you contribute your phone's unused processing power to crucial, scientific, environmental, medical and extraterrestrial research projects around the world", as the app itself states. You only need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network and your smartphone will start processing data, as part of a global research network. Well, isn't this fun?
  • Kid Mode and Parent Dashboard - a child-friendly interface that protects the phone from your kids and offers them a fun way to interact with the device while playing games, together with the accompanying parent dashboard
HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

Over the last years, HTC's own user interface, HTC Sense, has developed into a beautiful and ergonomic user interface, featuring a minimalistic design and successfully avoiding all those unnecessary bells and whistles that consume much-needed resources. What we also loved about the HTC One M9 is that the manufacturer decided to keep the bundled apps to a minimum, avoiding the bloat of the device with useless apps that you are usually stuck with and never use.

Performance In Benchmarks

You already know that the components found under the hood of the HTC One M9 are all high-end components. Between the Snapdragon 810 CPU, the Adreno 430 GPU and the 3GB of RAM memory, it's easy to figure out that the smartphone is quite powerful, but exactly how much power are we talking about? Let's put the HTC's latest flagship to the test and find that out.

Firstly, as we do with any device, we'll test the CPU of the device. To do this, we'll use the popular benchmarking app Vellamo, which offers two main CPU tests: the Vellamo Multicore test and the Vellamo Metal test.

In the Multicore test, which is a test that measures the device's ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, the HTC One M9 scored 2228 points, situating it near the top of the hierarchy of devices. Our suppositions are coming true, we're dealing with a powerful device here.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

When we tested it with the Metal test, which measures the device's performance while running single tasks, the HTC One M9 got a score of 2351 points, putting it just below the Samsung Galaxy S6.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

Next, we'll move on to measuring the smartphone's gaming performance. To observe how well the HTC One M9 performs in games, we'll use the GFXBench GL Benchmark app. The tests that matter to us are the Manhattan and the T-Rex, both of them running at a 1080p resolution and offscreen, meaning that the actual display resolution of the device isn't taken into consideration when running these tests.

At the end of the 1080p Manhattan Offscreen test, the HTC One M9 finished rendering 1048 frames, which is a great score but probably expected.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

On the T-Rex test, our device managed to render 2869 frames, another impressive score, proving the outstanding performance of the Adreno 430 GPU.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

The conclusion so far is that the CPU used in the HTC One M9 may not be the most powerful CPU on the market, but the Adreno 430 GPU does its job admirably, giving the smartphone an impressive performance in the gaming area. But still, we have another test to throw at it and a very important one as well. We're talking about the Vellamo Explore test, which tests the browsing capabilities of the device while displaying a web page consisting of HTML, CSS and JavaScript elements. The score obtained by the HTC One M9 on this test is 3888, which is a truly awesome result.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

Now comes the device battery's turn to be put to the test. While using it normally as a daily device, we managed to keep it running for almost two days. But for a more exact measuring, we'll use the Work battery life found in the PCMark benchmarking app. The 2840 mAh Li-Po battery managed to keep the device running for a little over 6 hours and a half. The synthetic tests didn't yield a great result, situating the HTC One M9 on par with most high-end devices available these days. On the other hand, we managed to pull out of the battery an impressive amount of energy on daily use, so take these results with a pinch of salt.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

The last test we'll perform on this device is the network speed. We'll turn to Ookla's Speedtest app for measuring this. With good signal coverage and using the Telekom Romania mobile network provider, the HTC One M9 achieved a download connection speed of 10.72 Mbps and an upload connection speed of 0.34 Mbps.

HTC One M9, Android, smartphone, review, test, benchmark, performance

It is clear to anyone by now that the performance of the HTC One M9 is not to be taken lightly. Impressive as it may be during mundane tasks, the smartphone performs outstandingly in gaming activities. The new Adreno 430 GPU gets its praise for this, while the controversial Snapdragon 810 CPU is to be thanked for the other. It still remains to be seen if the negative rumors regarding it are true or not - we haven't noticed any of the excessive overheating they are talking about.

Product rating 5/5

Verdict - There's A Lot More Than Meets The Eye

At first glance, the HTC One M9 might seem almost spartan in design, being built like a solid block of metal and glass. But once you get to know it better, you'll eventually come to love the minimalistic feel of it. There are no unnecessary power-consuming eye-candy effects, no bright-colored backgrounds or themes, just an extremely useful and ergonomic interface with all you need, right when and where you need it, thanks to HTC's matured user interface, the HTC Sense. The device lacks a few features present in some other devices from the same category, like the fingerprint sensor, for example, but other than a few details, the HTC One M9 manages to battle head-on with the most prestigious mobile devices out there. It is a very powerful mobile device with a lot of computing power, especially in the gaming department. Its photo camera also offers a lot of features not found in other similar smartphones. All in all, you can't deny: the HTC One M9 is a device able to satisfy anyone. Given all that, the price you have to pay for the HTC One M9 is more than fair, so this device is intended not only for select individuals but for the general user. In consequence, our verdict is "Buy for everyone!". You can thank us later.

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