HTC 10 review: HTC 10 brings the noise, but it's not a Galaxy killer

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The Good The HTC 10 has an elegantly chiseled design, brilliant audio quality and a highly customizable user interface.

The Bad The handset's non-removeable battery doesn't last as long as its competitors and its camera doesn't always render exposure correctly.

The Bottom Line Get the HTC 10 if you want a phone that delivers great audio. For all your other needs, look elsewhere.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 7

If there's one thing the HTC 10 can do, it's deliver great sound. Its dual speakers, coupled with some fancy software technology, means your music and movies are going to sound fantastic. It also looks pretty damn good too -- a hard feat to pull off in a world filled with black slabs.

But at $699 unlocked, £569 in the UK and AU$1,099 in Australia, it fails to offer the same hardware performance and value as its Android rivals. For instance, its performance is comparable to the Google Nexus 6P even though the 6P is cheaper. Its battery doesn't last as long as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5, and there are times when its camera exposure misses the mark.

While those competing handsets could stand to have better audio quality like the 10, HTC's flagship phone ultimately doesn't have all the other things that elevate a good phone into a great phone.

Design: Handsome and refined

The 10 has an aluminum construction with angular edges that adds to the polished, industrial aesthetic HTC is famous for. Its unibody design does mean you can't take out the battery, but the phone feels solid and looks handsome.

With its high-end look, the 10 is a stunner when it comes to design.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

HTC got rid of the dual front-facing audio speakers seen in previous years. Now the phone has one speaker grille on the top bezel and a home button (which doubles as a fingerprint reader) on the bottom bezel. The second speaker is still there though, except now it lives on the bottom edge.

As for the fingerprint reader, it provides extra user security and it launches Google's digital assistance service, Google Now, after you longpress it. Though it's not a deal breaker, this Now shortcut can get irritating. There were a bunch of times when I accidentally launched Now just from resting my finger on this home button and it was no fun having to quit it constantly throughout the day.

Software: More fun at your fingertips

The 10 runs Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system with HTC's Sense user interface skinned on top. HTC has gone for a deeper integration with Google, meaning the only web browser you see is Chrome, the only music player you have is Play Music and the only gallery you have is Google Photos.

I love getting rid of bloatware as much as the next person, but I wish HTC kept the native gallery app. I'm super wary about cloud security, and even though you can turn Google syncing off, I just don't want my personal photos linked in any way to any cloud or Google service.

The HTC BlinkFeed (left) and a playful theme option with "stickers" as app icons (right).

Lynn La/CNET

There are some welcomed software goodies though. HTC's signature BlinkFeed gives you a feed of your news and social networks. And Themes lets you customize parts of your interface like the layout, wallpaper and app design. The cool thing about some of these themes is that their home screens aren't restricted by any grid lines, so you can place apps and widgets anywhere.

Apps also don't have to look like labelled, uniform icons. Instead, HTC calls them "stickers" and they come in different size and shapes. If you play around with Themes long enough, your home screen can end up looking like a page out of a children's storybook, with little objects that launch apps only you are privy to knowing.

Sound and audio: Here comes the Boom

A marquee feature of HTC flagships is an emphasis on audio quality, which the company brands as BoomSound. Music through the dual audio speakers definitely sounded louder and clearer than the usual thin and sharp audio I get from other devices.

But what really impressed me was listening to music through the included earbuds. To get the most out of the buds, I configured my "audio profile," which tested the frequency range that I could hear in each ear, and optimized audio output accordingly.

Music through the earbuds sounded amazing -- bass was deep without becoming too overwhelming and I could discern each layer of instrumentation. (If you're curious, I was listening to Gallant's "Ology" album. Do yourself a favor and go listen to it.) Undoutedbly, the audio quality is one of the strongest features of this phone.

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