HTC One M9 Review: Lollipop, Octa-Core Snapdragon, Boomsound Impress

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Design and Build Quality

We didn’t anticipate that a 5-inch phone would feel “a touch on the small side,” but after handling many 5.2 and 5.5-inch devices as of late, the One M9 does indeed seem petite. It’s not, of course, but compared to some of the phablet monsters out there, it’s amongst the smallest of the flagships. Strangely, that could be something of a competitive advantage. For those who aren’t looking to completely fill their pockets with a phone, the M9 strikes a sweet balance. Its 1080p panel is large enough to feel roomy, but it enables the phone as a whole to be very useful and comfortable with one-handed operation.

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Design-wise, the M9 is much like the M8 before it. It’s slick, sleek, and metallic. Our silver test unit was rigid and sturdy, though certainly not heavy. The rear has a smooth brushed aluminum vibe, with the 20MP camera sensor taking up residence towards the top. A pair of speaker grills adorn the front, while a black edge-to-edge display dominates. Along the right edge, you’ll find the power button as well as the volume up/down keys (which are too close to the aforementioned off/on, in our opinion). The bottom is home to a convention 3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port, while nanoSIM and microSD slots find their homes along the edges.

The phone’s backside is slightly curved, which makes it great to hold but awkward to use when it’s sitting flush on a table. Tapping the screen on the left or right inevitably initiates a sway to one side or the other. The on/off key also sits too flush to the edge, making it tough to judge whether or not you’ve pressed it. Thankfully, we rarely used it to turn the screen on, as a simple double-tap on the LCD wakes the handset from dormancy.

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As you’d expect from a top-price flagship, the phone is built tough and exudes a premium feel. There aren’t any cheap plastics in use, and the screen looks absolutely marvelous from all angles. 1080p isn’t the standout specification that it once was, but the pixel density is still high enough here that it’s impossible to view the individual pixels per se. Colors pop without being over saturated, games look fantastic, and movies are a joy to watch. As you’d expect with a Snapdragon 810 under the hood, the screen is crazy responsive, with no perceptible touch lag to speak of.

That said, the One M9 does get warm with extended use. Granted, we were hammering on the phone in testing more than you’d typically do on a given day, but the octa-core within is clearly a power-hungry chip, and thermal output is definitely going to be a byproduct of that. It never became uncomfortable, but heavy gamers should expect to feel a tinge of warmth in extended use.

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In what can only be described as a reversal of course, HTC has removed the 4MP UltraPixel sensor from the rear (as was on the M8 from last year) and implanted it on the front. That makes the One M9 one of the best selfie cameras going, but where does it leave the rear? There’s a strong 20MP sensor back there, and while you’ll certainly be able to print posters with that resolution, the HTC One M9's optics still don’t match the mighty iPhone 6 in terms of overall clarity and sharpness. (We’ll address camera specifics on a forthcoming page.)

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All in all, there’s a lot to love about the M9’s design. We’re fans of its understated nature, and HTC really has the fit and finish down to a science. Plus, though the interior aesthetics deserve their own heap of praise; an octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, and support for 2TB of storage via microSD? Not too shabby.

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