In the flesh, we can tell you that in some ways, it feels like HTC is going for that perfected look, with a style that evolves what we saw in last year’s HTC One M8, making it more luxurious and closer to what you apparently get if you buy jewellery.
Beyond a wedding ring, this journalist doesn’t wear much of that, so he really can’t say, but the metal here is definitely highly polished and very durable, chiming in with what HTC told us it was doing to this phone, which apparently includes over 70 steps to make the body, 300 minutes to make, and with every phone being hand polished.
The steps show, and there really isn’t another phone like it. Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus happen to look fantastic, as do Sony’s glass-encased Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact bodies, but HTC’s One M9 looks premium, like a ring and necklace that had merged, and high quality ones at that.
Pick up the handset and you’ll feel that premium quality, too, a big chunk of metal that has the M9 ringing in at 157 grams, 12 grams heavier than Samsung’s Galaxy S5 from last year, and yet three grams lighter than HTC’s M8 before it.
It’s a noticeable weight with a noticeable heft, likely coming from the metal body, but it’s one that screams “this phone was made very, very well” and literally can’t be ignored.
Button locations on this phone are better than they have been before, with all pushed to the right edge and more easily found within grip.
No longer do you have to stretch your digits to the top of the phone to switch it on, and you can grip the textured middle button — textured with a spiral pattern reminiscent of a fingerprint, even (below) — to bring the phone back from standby, while the separated metal buttons above it control volume up and volume down.
We’re grateful for HTC’s repositioning on this one, but there is an aspect to the design we’re not too sure about: the lip.
HTC’s design for the One M9 doesn’t feel like the one-piece metal unibody we saw for the past two years, with the M9 looking more like it was made from two portions and providing a lip to the design. It’s not uncomfortable to hold and it does offer you a little more to feel than just another slick edge, but it’s not as smooth as we’d have liked, and comes across almost like there’s another case around the back of the phone, even if there isn’t.
Not everyone will love this element of the design, that’s for sure, but beyond that, it’s hard to see the One M9 as anything other than pretty. Really pretty.
The screen is the next major element, and HTC hasn’t made much of a change here, keeping the Full HD 5 inch display with excellent viewing angles, and a pixel clarity number of 441 pixels per inch, still lower than what the 2013 HTC One M7 offered with 468 ppi on its 4.7 inch screen, but more than enough for the human eye, so good luck peeping those pixels.
Corning’s fourth-generation Gorilla Glass protects this (Gorilla Glass 4), bringing a little more scratch-resistance and drop protection, though don’t expect the phone to survive a smash with the ground, so try to stop that from happening if you can.
Performance is next, and here in this model, we’re seeing Qualcomm’s latest and greatest make an appearance, hardly a surprise since HTC has been using the Qualcomm processors in its phone for so long, we’ve lost count.
In the M9, we’re seeing the 64-bit Snapdragon 810, a processor backing two quad-core components clocked at 1.5 and 2GHz separately, making it into an eight-core chip inside of a phone which is fairly impressive just on a “spec on paper” level.
With performance, the impressive glances continue, clocking in at a score of 30535 in Quadrant’s benchmarking app and practically blowing our eyebrows off in this synthetic benchmark. In comparison to some of last year’s top devices, that’s a score of 10,000 points higher, telling you what a difference the eight-core processor has against last year’s top-end quad-core chips.
And granted, benchmarks of this kind are really only useful for telling you how much power the system innards have to work with, but operation of the One M9 reveals much the same impressive performance.