HTC 10 Evo review: How to ruin a solid flagship’s good name
The HTC 10 was a return to form for the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer, and a sign of great things to come. But the company has decided to take a match to all that goodwill by releasing a far weaker smartphone under the same branding. The HTC 10 Evo is a demonstrably weaker handset in (almost) every way, and while its retail price is a touch lower, at £450, the chances are you can find a better deal on the original than this.
Let’s make one thing clear from the start. This is not a good phone. Any handset that lags on the keyboard from a fresh boot of Android sets off alarm bells; the last one to do that for me was the equally underwhelming HTC Desire 530, by the way.
You can save yourself a lot of time by just making a mental note not to buy one, but if you want to find out exactly how weak the HTC 10 Evo is, then read on…
HTC 10 Evo review: Design
The problems begin with the way it looks and feels. The HTC 10 Evo shares a lot of design cues with the company’s flagship. But while the HTC 10 was a 5.2in handset, the Evo swells to a larger 5.5in. Now, I like a phablet, but this is not comfortable to hold, feeling too wide to sit comfortably in the hand. This is partly to do with the fact that HTC has flattened out the back, leaving the sides feeling uncomfortably angular in the palms.[gallery:2]
Despite growing in size, the HTC 10 Evo follows in the footsteps of the iPhone 7 and Lenovo Moto Z by abandoning the 3.5mm headphone jack. This was an unpopular move for those handsets, but at least they had a reason for it: a thinner, more discreet phone. The HTC 10 Evo, on the other hand, seems to make the move for the sake of it, which won’t win it any popularity contests.
As a result, there’s just one port on the HTC 10 Evo: a single USB Type-C jack. To HTC’s credit, it does include a special pair of its own adaptive USB earbuds in the box (more on this later, but as a spoiler, they’re very good), but I think most people would still prefer not to be forced away from the headphone jack just yet. Unlike with the Huawei Mate 9, there’s no micro-USB to Type-C adapter included, making the transition extra painful.
It has a fingerprint scanner on the bottom edge – again, in the same position as the HTC 10. Unlike the HTC 10, however, this phone has dust, water and splash resistance to the IP57 standard. That’s a big improvement, bringing the handset in line with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7, among others.
HTC 10 Evo: Screen
But that’s the only aspect in which the HTC 10 Evo improves on the HTC 10. Everything else is worse, and the screen is the worst culprit. On paper, the 2,560 x 1,440 IPS screen should be as great as the HTC 10’s, but just because it’s bigger, doesn’t mean it’s better.
First the good: it does go a little bit brighter than it’s predecessor, reaching 521cd/m2 compared with the HTC 10’s 449cd/m2. But that’s where the improvements end. While the HTC 10’s display delivered impressive 1,793:1 contrast, and covered 99.8% of the sRGB space, the HTC 10 Evo drops to 1,040:1 and a distinctly unimpressive 78.4% sRGB coverage. None of the handsets we’ve looked at this year have been quite so poor at replicating sRGB, and the result is a duller, less vibrant onscreen image. At this price, you can do better.[gallery:3]
For comparison, the OnePlus 3T provides an AMOLED display with a brightness of 421cd/m2 (AMOLED is generally less bright), perfect contrast and 93.2% coverage of the sRGB gamut. And it does so for £50 less than the HTC 10 Evo.
HTC 10 Evo: Performance
That’s not a great start, but things get worse when you start using the HTC 10 Evo. In 2016, no fresh install of Android should lag on the intro screens, or slow down when using the built-in keyboard. The HTC 10 Evo does both of these things.
Looking at the specifications, the culprit becomes pretty clear. The HTC 10 Evo uses the 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip to power it. There was a time when the Snapdragon 810 was a decent mobile chip – class-leading, in fact. The trouble is that that time was around 2014. HTC knows this. It was the chip that powered the HTC 10’s predecessor, the slightly underwhelming HTC One M9, so it’s no surprise that it feels like a step backwards here. The amount of RAM also takes a dip, dropping from 4GB to 3GB.
These weak specifications are reflected clearly in benchmark tests. Here’s how the HTC 10 Evo performed when compared with a selection of its rivals:
In short, this is no HTC 10… and it’s actually overall slower than 2015’s HTC One M9, especially in terms of graphical performance. A quick Google search tells me you can get an M9 for around £200, which I wouldn’t recommend you do in 2016, but by the same token nor should you consider the HTC 10 Evo.
The two other candidates are both handsets from this year. The OnePlus 3T should need no introduction: it’s Alphr’s favourite handset and offers startling performance for £399, giving all flagships a run for their money at a comparatively low price. The Lenovo Moto Z Play is a touch slower overall, but at £370 it’s a good £80 cheaper than the HTC 10 Evo. It also offers modular add-ons alongside the best battery life we’ve ever seen (23hrs 45mins).
Which neatly brings me to the HTC 10 Evo’s stamina. It’s no Lenovo Moto Z Play, that’s for sure. At 11hrs 8mins in our standard test (a looped 720p video played in airplane mode with the screen set to a brightness of 170cd/m2), it’s an hour weaker than the original HTC 10 and a bit below the average we’ve seen this year.