What will it take to put HTC at the forefront of the smartphone market? Since 2011 their stock price has plummeted 90%, leading them to be pulled off the main Taiwan stock exchange market; TWSE 50. Is it pompous ignorance, bad marketing or just market strategies? A sharp fall from grace that has seen them at one time, account for 24% of all smartphone shipments when their stocks were valued at the highest.
Meant to be the (slightly) larger affordable alternative to its flagship, HTC One M9+, the One E9+ occupies the under 2k category by being priced at RM 1,899 – RM 700 less than its more premium sibling. Other than that large screen what do you notice almost immediately? The lack of the fingerprint sensor on the front and the dual-camera set up on the back.
Does the price match its sacrifices?
In short, yes but has the HTC name suffered too much to revitalise itself? Many questions that require many answers. Hopefully we’ll address each and every one of them in our review. At its price point it faces competition Samsung Galaxy A8, the OnePlus 2 (if you can get your hands on it), Mi Note, and Oppo R7 Plus. Has the HTC One E9+ have what it takes?
[nextpage title=”Build and Design”]
Off the bat, you’ll realise how light it is, at 149g it rivals almost every other phone at this 5.5-inch screen size. Another thing you’d instantly notice would be the plastic/polycarbonate build; so much so that if you hold and press it in different orientations you’ll get some worrying creaking. Definitely something to consider if you’re prone to dropping your phone.
It won’t help either, since the Classic Rose Gold’s back is slippery, the type that fall on your face while you’re lying down. Not only is it slippery, but since the back is a matte white, it picks up dirt and smudges quite easily.
The textures of the Gold Sepia model also has its own appeal, while both finishes might attract different individuals – hence, we’d recommend that you take a look at both models and feel them in your hands before you made the decision. There’s another colourway, the Meteor Grey variant but we didn’t manage to get our hands on that colour.
Although only at being a 5.5-inch smartphone, it feels way taller, mainly due to the huge bezels on the top and bottom. The two black bars and the “HTC” logo has drawn the manufacturer a lot of flak, since the unmatched BoomSound speakers already add to the size on opposite ends. In comparison, the LG G4 dwarfs the One E9+ while still having the same screen real-estate. In retrospect, the device measures 156.5 x 76.5 x 7.5mm vs the (smallest in class) G4 at 148.9mm tall. Being nit-picky about one thing, the rear camera protrudes a little bit but shouldn’t worry most.
Button placement of HTC’s One E9+ are nothing unfamiliar to those who’ve held smart phones before. On the right you’ll find the volume rockers and the textured power button slightly below. Move over 180 degrees, you’ll only see the (nano-only) LTE dual-SIM + microSD slot that’s covered by a flap, a rather hard to open flap at that; a blessing or curse depending how you look at it. Simiarly, in opposite orientations are the 3.5mm headphone jack, on the top, while the bottom gets the lonely micro-USB slot.
[nextpage title=”Performance and Battery Life”]
Bigger is better, that’s what HTC thought when packing a vibrant 5.5-inch IPS QHD (2560 x 1440) screen, giving you 534ppi. Viewing angles were pleasant and there was no clear yellow/blue/green tint as far as we could tell. Its display doesn’t get blisteringly bright and there may be some issues when viewed under the Malaysian sun, but once you jack its settings up to 100%, you’ll be able to see what you need to.
On paper it carries a Octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 processor clocked to 2GHz together with a PowerVR G6200 GPU and 3GB of RAM. A powerful combination, that would allow itself to slot somewhere within the flagship specs listings.
Here are the some benchmarks:
It held up well during day-to-day stress only disappointing us when it came to multi-tasking on Chrome, forcing the app to close when multitasking between video content on the browser and normal web pages. Under use it never got extremely hot to touch on the back, with the plastic being one of the benefiting factors.
Only issue with once you’ve used a HTC device, at least the newer ones, is you’ll be accustomed to using BoomSound speakers. If you have never used them before, you need to find someone you know with a HTC device, because once you’ve used them, nothing else will come close in pleasing your ears.
The One E9+ gave us an average four hours to four and a half hours of screen on time and lasted consistently around 14 hours daily, with around 15% left by the end of the working day. Pushing Quad HD resolution at all times, and having a 2,800 mAh battery, it’s fair to say that this device held up quite well in the battery life department.
It was a welcomed surprise to see the QHD resolution not impact the battery life drastically, HTC’s optimisation of the processor and other internals really made that device a delight to have on a day to day basis.
But, as with any other phone, there are always some thing that has to give – sadly, for the HTC One E9+ it was the charging time. Taking an average 3 and a half hours to 4 hours to get it up to 100%. When you have MediaTek’s Pump Express fast-charging and other forms to quickly juice up, its a really disappointment having to wait so long to charge the device.
The One E9+ utilises a single 20.7-megapixel 1 / 2.3-inch Toshiba sensor, a blessing for the company who used the infamous Ultrapixel dual-camera module. It helped with the bokeh effect but overall the whole thing was a failure.
Capturing images on this camera was still a frustrating endeavour – suffering due to the lack of OIS. Any movement of the smartphone while snapping caused a horrible blurring. The same goes for videos. Consequentially, its front-facing 4-megapixel camera is the same.
Placing number 4th out of 10 in our camera shootout, you can check out some of the photos and compare to the others here. Containing a lot of detail with its 5,376 x 3,744 resolution (in max). Attached below are some sample shots that we took during the top 10 smartphone camera test.
*Feel free to click on the photos to see the true resolution*
Using Sense 7 was a breeze, and setting up the device was no different. Once you’ve manoeuvred through all the terms and conditions (that we didn’t read either), the phone will start up with the bare necessities. The words “bloat-ware” and “Sense” were quite commonly found close by in the past, though its nice to see the Taiwanese company further slim down its UI to accommodate a more stock Android feel.
On a day-to-day basis you’d find some accidental touches while handling this tall phone – big hands are a must, unless you want to go for it two-handed. The device has relatively small bezels at the edges, explaining partly why the screen might register an unintended touch.
The icons were large and clear enough for you to distinguish which of them serve a particular purpose. The Android 5.0 and Sense combo made for a great combo and albeit having Blinkfeed and Zoe, it wasn’t too intrusive. Blinkfeed is basically a distinctive service that helps provide suggestions for places to dine (through sharing information with apps like Foursquare) and user related articles to read for the day.
Permitted that you love to text while driving – we do not condone such behaviours and HTC doesn’t either; so having a built in Car mode, simplifies your experience when selected. Icons are larger and easier to navigate while (illegally) multi-tasking on the road.
It was a bit confusing having so many dedicated gallery apps, as the native one sits aside Zoe. While the app itself is more than a gallery, it is similar to VSCO cam and other image/video related social networks. After you launch the app, it’ll ask you for your HTC account credentials and proceed by running you through how it works.
Once you’ve digested our review, make sure you look at what that you’ve deemed important to help your purchasing decision, at least for us – the One E9+ has enough value to justify its tradeoffs. Priced RM 700 less than its higher end M9+ brother. For RM 1,899 you’re getting a good-looking phablet, while not made out of premium materials, it should help you get a compliment here and there.
There’s much about the device that will leave you feeling glad that you picked it up. Its great 5.5-inch QHD screen, HTC BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers, great battery life (for its size and screen resolution). But keep in mind its tall presence, horrible charging time, and less than satisfactory camera that is hard to handle with moving hands. Another issue is HTC’s refusal to pack their smartphones with a bigger battery – yes, the on screen time was good but imagine if the One E9+ had a bigger battery; being quite thin as it is, users probably wouldn’t bother much if the makers made it a little thicker.
A smartphone is easy to come by in our generation, and we’re often left spoilt for choice but at the end of the day, it really depends on what you’re willing to let go and what you really appreciate. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a smartphone great; is it the price for value? Is it the multimedia experience or the battery life? Let us know in the comments below.