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Rediff.com  » Getahead » HTC One A9: The all-rounder

HTC One A9: The all-rounder

April 15, 2016 13:03 IST

A finely crafted phone, a brilliant display, a very impressive low light camera performance, and the polished OS with guaranteed updates makes the One A9 an option for those who value quality all around, says Himanshu Juneja.

HTC One A9

HTC has been facing rough weather for far too long now. Some bad decisions here and there combined with some slacking resulted in the once poster boy for Android lose its grip on the market share rapidly.

The think tank has finally decided to arrest the slide and plug some gaping holes in the market by offering quality handsets. While HTC 10 maybe hogging the limelight, another of HTC's phone has positioned itself as quite a capable contender in the mid-range segment.

While its construction has been the point of debate, the HTC One A9 boasts of many advantages. From an incredible camera to a very impressive display to guaranteed updates, the package sounds very enticing.

Here is a detailed look at the stunner from HTC. 

Construction

HTC needed a good product in the segment, and as soon as one lays eyes on the handset, there is instant recognition that HTC has done the job admirably. 

A design language consisting of metal, glass, and antenna lines, and some of the other aspects, may force people to believe that HTC has copied Apple's iPhone 6. This however, couldn't have been further from truth, as it is a simple case of HTC paying the Cupertino based company back in their own coin.

HTC was first to use an all metal design, complete with plastic antennas for better signal reception. Apple took the 'inspiration' from HTC back in the day. The HTC One A9, in effect, looks like an evolved piece of hardware from its M series of handsets.

HTC has made the One A9 thinner, flatter, and any doubts about these are put to rest after looking at the One M7. There are also the curved corners, which assist in gripping. The 2.5D glass seems to be all the rage these days, and not surprising that HTC opted for the same. The matte finish texture goes nicely with the overall design.

The One A9 measures 145.8 x 70.8 x 7.3 mm and weighs a decent 143 gms. As for the buttons, the right edge sports the textured power button, and the volume rocker. The left edge carries the nanoSIM and the microSD card trays. The bottom of the phone is seen hosting the microUSB charging port and the loudspeaker grille. Oh and the audio jack too is at the bottom edge.

The omission of the BoomSound speaker will be disappointing for many.

Display

HTC One A9

Equipped with a Full HD 1080x1920 p display, the 5-inch AMOLED screen's pixel density comes to about 441 ppi, which is very impressive. As a result, the sharpness and the saturation level looked right up there with the best from the word go.

The colours pop and the deep blacks makes up for pretty pictures. For those with a knack for natural hues, there is the option to switch to the sRGB mode. The viewing angles on the display panels are excellent, but the brightness levels just about make the cut. 

The display of One A9 is nowhere class leading, but the users will not feel disappointed or short changed here.

Specifications

The freshness of 617 SoC instead of the now banal 615 makes the One A9 come across as a good mid-range handset.

The octa core processor is clocked at 1.5 Ghz, well aided by the Adreno 405 GPU looks good. There is a generous offering of 3 GB of RAM as well to keep things chugging along nicely. The onboard storage memory of 32 GB sounds assuring, and the users can further expand this by another 2 TB via microSD card.

Connectivity

There is no dearth of connectivity options on the HTC One A9. The LTE enabled device gets WiFi (dual-band, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) option, Bluetooth (v4.1), A-GPS with GLONASS, and the FM radio.

The IR blaster and USB OTG is missing, which may be a source of disappointment for some. It was good to notice that HTC has held back on USB Type C connectivity, as it is yet to go mainstream.

Operating system

HTC One A9

While chugging on the Sense 7.0 custom skin, the HTC One A9 was the first non Nexus device to come out with Android Marshmallow. This went down well with their updates promise.

HTC made the ambitious announcement of providing software updates within 15 days of Google's Nexus line receiving them. Sure enough, they were ready with the revised Marshmallow release as soon as the users powered up their handsets. 

Keeping up the effort to woo the customers and the lost user base, HTC went with minimal tinkering of stock Android, so the Google elements do not get bogged down. This makes the user experience zippy as well. The phone allows for unlocking via the fingerprint sensor, or the double tapping of the screen, which was great. The lock screen allows for the handy four shortcuts, same as before.

The notification area looks uncluttered, and a further swipe reveals the do not disturb setting available instantly. Users will also find the quick access to the silent mode with the volume button key.

The all time favourite BlinkFeed is on the leftmost panel to push the curated content. The feature can be disabled, if not required. Users also get to enjoy theming options to change the phone's look and feel. They can even create their own, and upload them to the store for others to enjoy the creation!

Apart from launching of the Now on tap feature with the home button, the RAM management has been made more user friendly, allowing users to keep the system running smoothly. 

To sum it up, the OS never felt overwhelming. HTC has done a good job in keeping things simple and accessible.

Performance

As amply clear by the supplied SoC the One A9 is packing, this is a mid-range handset. Users will be more than happy while going about with their daily tasks of accessing their favourite apps, and enjoying sessions of gaming.

However, they were occasional lags while launching or exiting the apps. Given the capable hardware, this seems like the software issue should be resolved with the next update.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the gaming session. Fortunately, this is not a deal breaker either, but the limitation of the handset is exposed here. Content with heavy graphics like Asphalt 8 exhibit frame rate issues. A quick change to lower frame rate in settings sees the game running smoothly.

Games like Leo's Fortune, Threes, Subway Surfer etc ran without any hiccups.

 

The phone did not overheat during the heavier games or while playing other HD content, and this was good to see.

Speaker performance is admirable, but the BoomSound set up would have been great. The finger print scanner works like a charm and unlocks the phone with good accuracy. Users do not need to wake up the phone for this to happen, and this is a huge benefit.

Camera

HTC One A9

The HTC One A9 needed one area to stamp its class apart from construction, and seems like the camera department it is. Armed with a 13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash sounded good. But, add Optical Image Stabilisation to the mix, and it gets very exciting. HTC has made the rear camera come with the protection of a Sapphire cover. A 4 MP UltraPixel shooter has been supplied at the front.

The rear camera impressed with the quick locking of the focus first, followed by good amount of details captured in the photographs. The colours were accurate as well. The rear camera is especially at ease with the low light photography sessions, which was a big surprise. 

With the auto focus lock again being impressive, the details made their presence felt in the captured results. This is precisely where the OIS comes into play majorly, as the shutter speed gets adjusted and prolonged exposures enabled to keep the shakiness at bay.

While the camera app has not refreshed, this will be an advantage for even the uninitiated to go through the learning curve. There is no dearth of shooting modes though. While panorama was pretty good, the HDR mode made things come out brilliant. Overall, the images had good detailing, and left very little to complain.

The mid-range processor on the One A9 meant that there will be no 4K video capturing, but otherwise, the videos came out good. The 1080p videos from the rear camera will not make anybody cringe about the results, although, they do look a bit soft due to lots of processing. The hyper-lapse video came out very stable and this should encourage people try out the mode often.

The front camera does its job adequately while dealing with the selfies. The wide lens allows for better and bigger group selfies.

Battery

The HTC One A9 comes with a sealed battery of 2150 mAh capacity. The number there itself raised a red flag, and there was eagerness to find out about the performance.

The phone will last a day on a single charge for moderate to power users. Those who are constantly on their phones will find the need to reach out for the charger before the day is done. While this was disappointing, thankfully the phone supports Quick Charge (2.0), and this will come in handy for the emergency situations.

Powering a decent sized screen is no joke, and HTC should have opted for a heavier powerpack. Even with doze mode on, the battery performance is nowhere near standard for a device which is asking for a premium price. Looks like a clear case of aesthetics taking a toll on the battery capacity.

Verdict

HTC One A9

HTC has come up with a good product with the One A9. Those who do not mind opting for a premium built on a mid ranger, this new offering from HTC makes up for a compelling case.

With Xiaomi's Mi5 making an entry in the Indian market, the One A9's price tag of Rs 30,000 should see a price cut soon.

There is no doubt that battery should have been better. The quirky OS should be taken care of with swift updates. The promise by HTC to push updates in about a fortnight is very enticing indeed. 

Overall, a finely crafted phone, a brilliant display, a very impressive low light camera performance, and the polished OS with guaranteed updates makes this an option for those who value quality all around.

Himanshu Juneja