Stories of love and hate
HTC One A9 detailed review
We’ve all been critical of HTC for playing safe with this year’s flagship design, so the company went ahead and built an iPhone. Aside from the obvious, the design of the HTC One A9 has a lot more to offer than the last HTC phones. This is a phone of choice that you will sometimes hate. Attention to detail is nice, but then again, the lack of attention to obvious things is amazing. This is HTC’s best and HTC’s worst, all in one phone I have been thinking for a while now about how to describe this phone in a review and I have come to a conclusion. This review will be interesting to describe my use of HTC One A9.
Day 1: Get used to the Android iPhone
As much as it looks like an iPhone, the A9 has different HTC components. The sides are flattened instead of rounded, while the power on / off button on the right is placed exactly where your thumb rests. It is textured, making it easy to find and accustomed. As much as I love these design elements, I absolutely hate how casual this phone can be at times. The combination of metal build and thinness makes it a bit slippery, but what disappoints me the most is how big it is for a phone with a 5-inch display. The size is somewhere between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, which many can’t expect from reading the space sheet.
Speaking of displays though, the first time I picked up this phone, I was harping on it. The 5 inch 1080p AMOLED panel is HTC which we all know and love It has the warmth of an AMOLED screen, but it’s not as saturated as Samsung’s Super AMOLED. HTC displays have traditionally been well balanced and it goes back in that direction. The display is bright, but not too lively, it is warm, but not excessive. That’s right, especially for reading. I keep the display of my phone in full brightness all the time and never once did I find the display of HTC One A9 to be too bright or too dim.
Day 2: When it becomes difficult to go
The second day with the HTC One A9 was a real test of its overall performance. I have never been more surprised to see the performance of HTC phones. The company has gone out of its way to optimize performance for everything except gaming on this phone. For those looking for a benchmark, the GFX Bench Manhattan Test offers 420 frames (6.8fps), which is far less than what this price range phones will do. Also, the 66k Plus rating of AnTuTu 6.0 should not be used to compare the results of the new benchmark and other phones tested with older versions of AnTuTu. The new AnTuTu 3D bench test puts the HTC One A9 at 7782, which is less than its competition.
I’m turning off the iPhone 6S, which means I was hoping to get behind, but after the first few hours, I often noticed how smooth the UI functionality is on the One A9. It’s certainly not as good as the iPhone, but I’ve tested that it’s better than any Snapdragon 615-powered smartphone. The Moto X Play is probably the closest to any phone. The One A9 has both stock and Sense UI options and, regardless of what you choose, for regular browsing and apps, it is by far one of the most sleek phones.
That being said, this phone was really tested on the second day. The background app activity was complete and the phone was almost full to the brim with my music, games and apps. I played the first game on this phone right now, Need for Speed: No Limits, when I was surprised. The No Limit almost did not run frame by frame on this device, when Marvel: Contest of Champions was more playable, but there was still stuttering. It’s almost like HTC doesn’t want it to be a phone that mobile gamers like me buy
Disappointed, I quit the game and came back to Pocket and browsing and reading everything stored on the various websites I followed. Within minutes I was again amazed at how well the Snapdragon 615 was performing. It has 3GB of RAM which is very well managed, which allows you to multitask for glory. I had 16 tabs open in Google Chrome, while Apple Music was playing in the background, Pocket Staff finished downloading, and many more apps were running.
Watch the review video
Update: Developer mode on the HTC One A9 reveals that by default, the phone turns off high-performance mode. Introducing it leads to much better gaming performance and improves our outlook on the phone. Although it affects the battery life of the phone and therefore does not change the overall rating of our phone.
Day Three: Notice the details
As it turned out, it took me three days to make sure the HTC One A9’s fingerprint sensor wasn’t nearly missed. The support of Android Marshmallow for fingerprint readers makes this oval fingerprint reader easier to use. For the HTC One M9 Plus’ fingerprint reader I have to keep my finger in an awkward position to get the print, but with the A9, I rarely pay much attention to how my fingerprint sensor is placed. It’s faster than Apple’s Touch ID, but picks up prints in milliseconds from the Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P’s Nexus Imprint and unlocks the phone. Of course, this can be blamed on the processor as well, but the Lenovo Vibe P1 takes much longer than the Snapdragon 615 HTC One A9, which means the software plays a role here.
This phone continues to focus on more fine detail with audio quality. It doesn’t make much of a difference when listening to music through in-ear headphones like the House of Marley Little Bird headphones, but my Audio Technica CKX9 picks up a bit more volume. Although the difference will be obvious for the audiofile, using real high-end headphones, in the range of Sennheise Orpheus. I’m not sure it’s a big bonus for most consumers, but it’s something we’ve all been appreciating about HTC for years.
The third day was also the day when the battery was most tested. The HTC One A9 has a 2150 mAh battery, which is low by industry standards today and while it may not last you a whole day, I hope it lasts much less than either way. On any given day, with so many screens, the HTC One A9 easily got me past 12 hours. This is the industry average nowadays and we still generally aspire for more battery life outside of smartphones, but the fact that the HTC One A9 can meet the standard with a smaller battery pays more attention to detail on the software front and I’m not talking about Marshmallow’s Doze feature. Instead of dropping 10 percent or more of the battery overnight, the HTC One A9 drops about 7-8 percent in five lazy hours, which is more than I would like. Although you should understand that the battery life I got is that the screen brightness is at its maximum and no power saver mode is used, so for most users it will be quite high.
Although this time was more backward. The Gmail app sometimes stutters when switching email, while Chrome and Drive take a little longer to load, but basically, the functionality of the phone was consistent and very preferred. It’s one of those things that just works, no matter what you think from the space sheet.
There are also cameras. A 13MP sensor on the back and a 4MP ultrapixel selfie shooter is very much like the HTC now, and although the HTC One A9’s camera is definitely better than what we’ve got from HTC so far, it doesn’t hold a candle for the most part. There are phones, on the other hand OnePlus 2, Yu Yutopia, Honor 7 and Qiku Q Terra are all fast and good. The One A9 takes a while to focus and the color, detail and sharpness are good the way I like it, but the other phones I mentioned are even better. Also, low light performance is still sub-par. The front camera softens the photos for selfies, but like the M9 Plus, it’s definitely softer.
Camera Sample (LR) Outdoor Normal Light (2), Studio White Light, Indoor Fluorescent Light, Low Light (Click on image to enlarge)
Everything else: Shall I buy this phone?
Honestly, no I won’t, but only because of poor gaming performance. I like to play a lot of games on my phone and HTC One A9 does not allow it. While this is a high end phone for more general and basic users and if you can see that it looks like an iPhone then your money is well spent. But when you ask me how much this phone costs and despite all its goodness, I can’t explain the rupee. 29,990 price points. There are many phones that are much cheaper and better … they only work like the HTC One A9 Names like OnePlus 2, Honor 7 and Qiku Q Terra come to mind and keep me from recommending this phone to my readers. Personally though, I have enjoyed this phone more than Snapdragon 810-powered Yu Yutopia and many other Android phones. The HTC One A9 is not the best phone for the price range and this is a big drawback for a phone that is significantly more expensive than its competitors.
Watch the HTC A9 review video