Once the poster child of Android, HTC has been going through some pretty turbulent times.
Not one to give up without a fight, HTC has returned with its latest One – the A9. Now packing mid-tier specs and missing its signature BoomSound stereo speakers, can it truly compete with the flagships of today?
The design of the A9 takes a bizarre turn as HTC moved away from its famed unibody build. Almost everyone I showed it to thought it was an iPhone 6S – the resemblance is truly uncanny. The phone feels truly premium in the hand. The metal buttons feels responsive, with the power button having a nice ridged design. Worryingly though, mimicking the 6S has led to the A9 has picking up one of the iPhone’s downsides, which is its slipperiness. I’ve had more than one instance where the phone nearly slipped clean off my hands, especially when taking it out of my pocket.
HTC has put in an incredibly capable AMOLED screen with superbly vibrant colors and contrast. Placed side by side with its more capable rival, most would struggle to find a difference.
Rocking Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 617, it’s a far cry from the red hot Snapdragon 810s of its contemporaries but somehow HTC has made it work on the A9. Navigating around the OS is buttery smooth and I was able to multitask between multiple apps without any lag whatsoever.
The only downside is that even when just scrolling Facebook, the phone gets hot. You’ll want to get a casing for this, lest it roast your legs through your pocket.
While design is HTC’s forte, its cameras always seem to be several step behind the competition. It’s certainly the best camera HTC has ever shipped on a smartphone, but their best is only a passing grade when compared with what rivals.
The camera seems incapable of capturing any good detail, with zoomed in photos showing HTC’s clumsy post-processing unable to preserve images to the extent of its rivals. Additionally, sharpness also seems to be an issue, with soft images and blurriness apparent even in the steadiest of shots. This is considering the fact that the A9 is also the first HTC smartphone in a while to include optical image stabilisation.
Its front camera is a far better proposition. Featuring its UltraPixel unit featured on the M8 and M9, its enlarged pixels offers much better performance, even in low light resulting in one of the better front facing cameras on the market.
Is this the One?
The A9 is a pretty exceptionally executed phone. It has a beautiful (if somewhat familiar) design, decent screen, battery life that will last the day and buttery smooth software. The persisting downside of its subpar camera and the missing BoomSound speaker grills could be a deal breaker though.
The biggest offender is its price. For over RM2,000, it’s opening itself to too much higher value competition. With the advent of cheap yet capable midrange devices from Oppo and Xiaomi, the A9 is simply priced too far out of its bracket to justify its capable performance.
Dimensions: 145.8 x 70.8 x 7.3 mm
Weight: 143 g
OS: Android 6.0
Display: 5.0 inches, 1920 x 1080
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
Graphics: Adreno 405
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Camera: 13MP rear camera, 4MP front-facing camera
Ports: microSD up to 200GB, 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB
Sim: Nano Sim
Battery: 2150mAh non-removable Li-Ion
Verdict: HTC’s built a pretty decent mid-ranger – unfortunately it’s priced well out of the market.
Total Score: 7.6/10