The HTC One M9 is HTC’s latest Android flagship, taking over from the M8 and improving upon it with the latest specs but that same similarity that people know the One series for.
Featuring the same sleek and well-shaped design, the M9 is clothed in a high quality metal finish that has been cut precisely to make the M9 a thing of luxury.
The M9 also features a similar software experience to the M8, running on the latest version of Android but still with a similarly designed HTC Sense UI.
But is this all enough to push the M9 ahead of the M8 and the rest of the high-end smartphone market?
If there is anything to do that it will be the design, that does look more or less the same as the M8 so it hasn’t really been pushed forward in that sense, but the HTC One M9 is definitely one of the best looking devices available within the Android smartphone market.
Compared to the M8 it does have a slightly sharper finish, with a ridge around the sides that joins the back and the front of the smartphone together.
This edge does show how well the M9 has been manufactured, but can mean the phone looks a little strange at times, collects debris from your pocket, and can be a little awkward to hold at times.
On the back you will also find more of a lip to its design, making it easier to grip despite the edge.
In terms of its size, the HTC One M9 measures 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.61mm, and weighs 157 grams which is only 2mm smaller, 1mm smaller in width and 0.2mm thinner than the M8.
The phone also uses anodised aluminium in its design, which means that the M9 should stay fairly fingerprint free. The front of the device has also been slimmed down, featuring a dual-town finish that is the result of hours of hand polishing, which does mean that the front of the phone sticks out from the back even more, but does add more of a luxury design to the phone, something which we aren’t used to with Android phones, although the S6 does look pretty sleek (you can read our Galaxy S6 review here).
The M9 also features a new camera placement that is now a single square that is a little on the large size and is sat next to the phone’s LED flash.
On the top and the bottom you will also find the awesome BoomSound speakers, with the standby button now finding its home at the right-hand side instead of the top, which is now a common feature in large phones as it makes pressing it a lot easier, well somewhat easier, in our opinion the button is just too low and we often found that we were hitting the volume down button instead of the standby button, forcing us to look at the side of the device instead of simply hitting the button.
This is only made worse by the placement of the SIM card and microSD card trays that are situated on both sides, because they are at the top of the device it removes from the clean design somewhat, and we can’t help but think that if they were somewhere else the standby button might find a better placement, but at least it does have a microSD card slot.
The HTC One M9 packs a decent 5 inch display that features a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 440ppi, which is not quite as high as some of the M9’s competitors but the display is definitely sharp enough and clear enough to make it a great display for viewing a range of different types of content, with clear text and sleek video playback.
The LCD3 panel is also topped with Gorilla Glass so it should remain somewhat protected from scratches and dents, but without too much added thickness and a remained focus on quality. The display produces clean whites and we find it a lot more realistic than some of its AMOLED competitors. We did find that colours are slightly muted however.
Despite that viewing angles are great, and there is enough brightness to make the display easy to view in most situations.
And thanks to a new glove mode you can also control it whilst wearing gloves.
To keep things running well HTC has opted to continue including Qualcomm’s chips in their smartphone, adding the Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor in the smartphone with 3GB of RAM and support for Android Lollipop’s 64-bit compatibility.
We often find that this processor works brilliantly in most phones that it is included within, and the M9 was no different with a fast experience that is continuous throughout the device’s features, apps and games open extremely quickly and when they are running they do so smoothly. We did find that the phone would overheat slightly upon excessive use however, something which is only made worse by the phone’s metal body, we found this was a prevalent problem with intensive games like Real Racing 3.
During our tests we ran some performance tests with the AnTuTu, 3DMark and GeekBench 3 applications, the results can be seen below.
|Single-Core Score||Multi-Core Score|
|Ice Storm Unlimited|
Inside of the phone you will also find 32GB of internal storage, which can be expanded upon with the included microSD card slot.
We found that during an average days use the One M9 would easily last an average day without much struggle, but if you are using the phone for a little longer than an average days use then you can enable the battery saver mode and grab a few extra hours.
This is all provided by the 2,840mAh battery, which isn’t extremely large especially when you consider that the back of the phone does stick out somewhat, leading the mind to wonder what is taking up all that space.
Thankfully the M9 is equipped with the Quick Charge 2 technology, meaning that it is able to charge faster than an average phone, although you will have to pick up a Quick Charge 2 charger in order to take advantage of it.
There’s no wireless charging sadly.
Features and Software
One of the main features in the M9 is the BoomSound speakers, which have now been enhanced with Dolby Audio technology bringing with it two new sound modes that include theatre mode for surround sound effects and music mode for flatter sound.
Theatre mode works really well for watching films and other video content, with noticeable separation between left and right, which also works great for loudspeaker phone calls. If you prefer you can also plug-in the included headphones which have also been tuned by Dolby, with other options that allow you to select the headphone type that you are using for the best performance.
HTC have also added a BoomSound Connect feature that allows you to control all of your multiform AllPlay speaker systems right from the phone.
In terms of software the M9 runs on Android Lollipop (currently) with HTC’s Sense 7 overlay.
Despite having a new number there’s only small additions added to Sense 7, including minor tweaks to the tab layout, some icon revisions and the removal of a lot of previously included bloatware like HTC’s internet browser.
HTC has also included Android’s interruptions system, using the volume controls in order to control your notifications settings and of course volume.
There’s also a new Themes application that allows you to automate your theme settings from any picture you have in your library, controlling the colours, fonts, icon shapes, styles and more with just a few hits.
On the homescreen you will also find a new widget called Sense Home, which is probably one of our favourite features of Sense 7, showing a set of your most commonly used apps within the widget space for three locations, home, work and out. When you use an application in one of these locations it will automatically populate the widget, serving as a great way to add apps to your homescreen without replacing them everytime you want something different.
As with any widget you can easily delete the widget if this is not your thing.
Cameras are often heavily criticised on Android smartphones, and because HTC has focused on its Duo Camera the HTC One M9 is too, with the M9 HTC decided to use a second sensor on the camera that captures depth information.
The rear-facing camera is a 20-megapixel sensor with a sapphire lens cover and a 27.8mm equivalent lens. The camera is also capable of recording video up to 4K resolution, there’s no optical image stabilisation but it does have a dual-tone LED flash.
In high-light conditions the M9 can capture some great looking photos, but we did find that blue skies can turn a little textured with a slight yellowish tinge to the photos. In low-light conditions the image noise is smoothed away by the phones processing which can result in a loss of detail, but we would say that in dim conditions this does work pretty well.
In the darkest conditions the M9 is not the greatest around.
HTC have also added a manual mode and a night mode, the night mode will boost exposure, and the manual mode will allow you to fiddle around with more settings than usual. In our tests we found that focusing was fast enough to not make it annoying, but it is a little slower than some of the other smartphones out there, however touch focusing does offer faster focusing.
In the camera app you are able to change between a range of shooting modes that includes panorama, split screen capture, HDR and more modes to capture photos, as well as options to switch between the front and the back cameras. Within the app you are also the customise the setup for your own liking.
In terms of the front-facing camera we found that it works well for grabbing the odd selfie, with great low-light performance, although as things do get darker images have a chance of producing distorted colour.
Zoe is also still included, allowing you to create video montages of your photos and videos within the applications, and view those made by the people you follow from your phone’s contacts.
All in all the HTC One M9 is a fantastic Android smartphone, it has a brilliant metal build that is constructed from strong anodised aluminium that won’t easily showcase your fingerprints. Then on the front of the phone you will find an awesome 5.5 inch display that doesn’t push the boot out in terms of its pixel count but it does display sharp of vivid images with clean and easy to read text.
The camera is also pretty decent, able to capture images in awesome detail from its 20 megapixel shooter on the back, and provide greatly detailed selfies for your social accounts.
You can grab the HTC One M9 from pretty much every retailer and carrier in the UK, for example Vodafone have the device up on Pay As You Go and on Pay Monthly, you can find it here.
Disclosure: Vodafone sent us a loan sample of the HTC One M9 for the purposes of this review.