HTC One A9 review

HTC's mid-range Apple lookalike finally comes down to a sensible price

Price
£242
  • Excellent build quality; Attractive looks; Much more affordable following price drop; micro SD slot
  • Performance and camera aren't quite as good as the competition

Cheap and mid-range phones from Motorola and Google have been eating HTC's market share for lunch. The Taiwanese company has responded with the HTC One A9, a midrange phone that has substantially dropped in price from its original 430 inc VAT (358 ex VAT) price. It now costs just 290 inc VAT (242 ex VAT), which is attractive whether you're buying for yourself or a workforce of thousands. It's a cheaper alternative to its flagship HTC 10.

Casing, fingerprint reader and display

One look at the phone's design, and it's obvious whose playbook HTC is cribbing from -- the A9 is a dead ringer for Apple's iPhone 6s. In fact, the camera placement and logos are almost the only outward differences between the two.Regardless, the aluminium chassis and curved edges feel as good as they look - the high build quality is obvious from the moment you pick the A9 up.

HTC has added a physical home button to the A9, moving away from the capacitive and software based buttons seen on earlier One-series phones. It also houses the fingerprint sensor, similar tothe Samsung Galaxy S7.The sensor itself is fast, accurate and, like many other modern smartphone fingerprint scanners, can read fingerprints both vertically and horizontally.

The A9 is fitted with a 5in AMOLED panel, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The contrast is excellent and colour accuracy is flawless.If there is a downside, it's that the brightness is a little disappointing when compared with some other screens, but it's a minor quibble -- overall, the A9's display is superb.

Performance and battery life

HTC has fitted the A9 with an eight core 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 processor and 2GB of RAM. It's more than fast enough for running most apps smoothly and onlysuffered in our more GPU-intensive 3D graphics tests.

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Battery life fits firmly into the 'passable' camp, achieving 10 hours and 2 minutes on our video playback test. It's not stellar, and it's lagging behind many of its rivals, but it should be enough to see you through a day.

Camera

HTC made some big claims about the quality of the A9's camera, but has gratifyingly put its money where its mouth is. Proving once again that megapixels are a wholly inaccurate metric to judge cameras by, the A9's 13MP snapper is a huge step up from the M9's 20MP shooter.

Image quality is excellent across the board, despite a fair bit of noise creeping into pictures in dim lighting. HDR is also excellent, and really helps brighten up images with contrasting shadows.

There's also a gaggle of additional features, such as support for RAW capture and processing, optical image stabilization, and the Live Photo-esque Zoe mode. Pro mode lets more adventerous photographers tinker with advanced settings such as ISO, white balance and exposure.

It's not the best camera on the market, but it's still significantly better than the one on HTC's One M9. Even with the price drop though, it's competing against superior cameras in similarly priced phones, such as the Nexus 5x, and losing. It's not losing anywhere as badly as the M9, but it's still losing.

Conclusions

Despite its imitative appearance, the HTC One A9 is a worthy successor to the company's long line of high-quality mid-range handsets. It's a shame the company initially priced it so it competed against other high end premium smartphones, though, as it can't compete at that level.

Now that it can be found for a more reasonable asking price, however, the A9 is very appealing. It's not as fast as the Nexus 5X, nor is its camera as good as the one found in LG/Google's phone. But it does look and feel nicer, plus it has a micro SD slot.

Verdict

The HTC One A9 is an rather fine mid-range smartphone - especially now that it's more reasonably priced.

Processor: Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617

Screen Size: 5in

Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080

Rear camera: 13 megapixels

Storage (free): 16GB (10GB) / 32GB

Wireless data: 3G, 4G

Size: 146x71x7.3mm

Weight: 143g

Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow

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