Some companies like to storm the stage with their announcement of a new product — whether it’s deserving of such grandiose introductions or not. The HTC One M9 is not a barnburner of a smartphone. It’s not here to set the world on fire with new, never-before-seen technology and overhyped features that will never live up to expectations.
Instead, it’s a steady, incremental improvement added to a line of phones that has chugged along with a kind of quiet consistency. It always makes the year’s “Best” lists, and it always leaves consumers satisfied. The M9 showed up at Mobile World Congress this Marccheck almost exactly a year after the introduction of the One M8. The differences are probably not big enough to justify the upgrade in most people’s eyes, but we’ve broken it down for you just in case you’re still debating.
Power and performance
The internals on the HTC One have never been a problem. Being the company’s flagship phone means every model has been equipped with the best processor the market has to offer — a trend that continues with the new One M9. It made the leap from the quad-core processor that is found inside the M8 up to the octo-core processor from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 810. In reality, the octo-core is two quad-cores sandwiched together, each dedicated to different tasks to take the stress off the other. A boost in RAM, now at 3GB in comparison to the M8’s 2GB, also doesn’t hurt.
The Snapdragon 810 is undoubtedly fast, but it does have an overheating problem. During our testing of the device, it ran very hot — especially when downloading apps, streaming video, and performing other intense tasks. The One M9 has really high benchmark scores on just about every test, and the performance boost is clear, albeit, relatively small. The M9 managed a score of 24,300 on the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which is a tad higher than the 20,600 the M8 scored. There was a bigger difference in the Quadrant benchmark scores, with the M9 reaching 34,700 points and the One M8 only got 22,700 points.
Still, the M8 is still more than capable of handling any app or game you throw at it — the Snapdragon 801 remains a high-performance processor even with the release of the 810. Additionally, the questions of increased battery drain and overheating make the Snapdragon 810 something of a gamble. Most users probably won’t notice the difference though, unless they’re playing a lot of games or digging into other intense apps.
HTC’s One M9 has a bigger 2,840mAh battery than the 2,600mAh battery on One M8, but it barely lasted through the day in our testing. For some mysterious reason, the M9 has a bad battery drain problem. We tested the T-Mobile version, and found battery life that was as poor as it was on the iPhone 5S. In contrast, the One M8 lasted through a day, easily. It could be the processor, the network (T-Mobile, in our case), or a fluke that’s causing the drain, but it was significant.
Winner: HTC One M8
HTC could be credited with the trend of making Android devices that aim to compete with the iPhone not just in performance, but in appearance. The company bucked the trend of plain, black plastic that seems to make up the majority of the Android market’s look and instead opted for a sleek, shiny metallic build. It’s paid off, as the One has remained as one of the best looking smartphones around in every iteration.
The M9 continues in this tradition, but there area few key differences that make it an entirely different phone when it’s in your hands. Though the look is extremely similar to the M8, a remapping of some of the buttons has proven to be both a benefit and a weakness of the device. The power button has slid over to the right side of the phone, which is a more natural position for it. However, the volume rocker has been split up into two buttons that are positioned right above the power button.
The new position makes it much more difficult to distinguish between the volume keys and the power button, which is extremely frustrating. Surprisingly, the texture on the power button doesn’t help differentiate the keys enough. Added to that, the buttons are basically flush to the phone’s body, making them hard to press.
The One M9 also has a ledge around the edge, which feels very different from the smooth, unibody of the One M8. Purists (including Malarie, who reviewed the phone) will complain about the new design, but it’s still about as good as you can get in the looks department. Most of its allure is owed to the striking two-toned metal of the One M9, which comes in a silver color options with beautiful champagne gold accents along the edges. The dual-anodized process used to make this color combination is complex, but well worth it — The effect is stunning.
Winner: HTC One M8