Read First: The HTC One M9 Review Part 1

A good amount of time ago, we posted part one of our HTC One M9 review, which gave a good idea of some critical aspects of the One M9’s performance and design. Unfortunately, due to HTC’s last minute software changes there was a need to redo some of our testing as the changes were quite significant for some key aspects of the user experience, which were effectively any situation where the SoC was in a thermally throttled situation and overall camera performance. I’ve finally finished redoing our testing of the One M9, so we can finish the review and get the full picture of the One M9’s performance. Normally, we’d start by discussing the design of the phone, but much of the review has already been finished with part one. Instead, we’ll start with sustained battery life tests.

Battery Life Continued

As previously detailed, our sustained battery life tests either strongly stress the CPU or GPU. For our GPU tests, we use GFXBench 3.0’s sustained GPU test, which runs the T-Rex benchmark on the display at its native resolution for an infinite rundown test. We didn’t have the modified test to present for a comparison between the two software builds, but we can get a pretty good sense for the changes that have occurred for final shipping software.

GFXBench 3.0 Battery Life

GFXBench 3.0 Performance Degradation

As one can see, the One M9 delivered somewhat impressive sustained performance with the pre-release build, but this resulted in almost dangerous skin temperatures and poor battery life on the order of 1.73 hours. The new update produced acceptable skin temperatures, but frame rate drops rather dramatically as skin temperature rises. The end performance actually ends up being quite similar to the One M8, but performance during the test is much higher than what we saw on the One M8.

BaseMark OS II Battery Life

BaseMark OS II Battery Score

In the Basemark OS II test, we can see that the One M9 seems to perform poorly. One might be able to argue that the A57s provide more performance, but simple logging shows that past the first 20 minutes the A57 cluster is either shut down or throttled to the minimum clock state, although the A53 cluster manages to stay at 1.56 GHz for the duration of the test. For reference, the One M8 manages to keep the active CPUs at around 1.5 GHz throughout the test.

PCMark - Work Battery Life

While Basemark OS II and GFXBench function as power virus tests, I wanted to get a good idea of performance somewhere between these rather extreme tests and the mostly display-bound web browsing test. To do this, I tested a few devices against PCMark’s work battery life benchmark, which shows that the One M9 seems to perform comparably when compared against the One M8. There is a noticeable difference in performance, but the gap isn’t all that big when compared to the M8. More interestingly is that the battery temperature sensor (which isn't necessarily on the battery) gets noticeably higher than the M8, on the order of 5-10C higher.

It’s a bit frightening to see that the gap in performance that we saw with the web browsing test remain. The effects of panel-self refresh would be greatly reduced in these short-running tests, so the differences here are mostly due to the SoC. The level of throttling I’ve seen here is pretty much unprecedented, which doesn’t help with the issue. Overall, the performance of Snapdragon 810 here is bad enough that I would genuinely consider Snapdragon 805 to be an improvement. I can’t help but wonder if this was inevitable though, as leaked roadmaps in the past suggested that Snapdragon 810 would’ve been a very different SoC.

Camera Architecture and UX
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  • Aenean144 - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I wonder if it's HTC chosen phone design architecture that's giving them troubles here, camera aside as who knows why that's been out of sorts.

    HTC sandwiches the battery between the LCD and the PCB (containing SoC, modem etc). This design is fine if all of the components hit their power envelopes, but everything is working against HTC here. When the SoC or wireless modem gets hot, the battery acts like a heat sink plus however much heat is taken out by the back casing.

    Then, a quick charge where you're putting 10+ Watts into charging the battery is going to heat up that battery a bit.

    Just seems like two bad things that can make things worse really fast. I imaging playing a game or doing something processor intensive while quick charging would not be a good thing to do here.
  • Despoiler - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I upgraded from an M7 to an M9. For me the camera is not so important because it all gets uploaded to social media. For me the killer features are the audio. I must have high audio quality from my phone. The M9 has amazing audio quality from all outputs (speaker or headphone). It's mind blowing how good it is. The Dolby mode has some serious mojo going on. It's comical how bad the Beats mode was compared to it. The Dolby mode is so good it works brilliantly on all types of music, which shouldn't be possible.
  • Despoiler - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Also, where is the audio section of the review? Seriously how do you omit one of the biggest selling points of this phone?
  • Dorek - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    Yeah. I can excuse glossing over the external speakers for media, but not for speakerphone; that is a very, VERY important thing to consider. And to not test the headphone output is also very stupid.
  • Digekari - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    What about the internal audio? I was really interested in that.
  • TallestJon96 - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    So the m9 is WORSE than the m8? That's a shame, as I almost purchased an m8, and was hoping a future model could replace my iPhone, but if they are getting worse, than I'll stay away.
  • cryosx - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I have a feeling we're going to need to disable 4 cores, that'll make it run like the S801 and hopefully reign in on excessive heat. Maximum performance will suffer but battery life will hopefully return to M8 levels and or surpass it.
  • melgross - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I don't understand this 8 core crap. Two or three years ago, it might have made sense to have four weak, but low power cores for much of the work, and four high end cores for the latest games, camera processing, etc.

    But that never really worked out that well. When Samsung decided to use all eight at the same time, it was a really dumb idea. Not only are the two core types of differently strengths, but they also have slightly different instruction sets. And as we've already seen in at least one review, sometimes going to the weak cores uses more battery power than using the strong cores because of the time of processing, and other constraints of these cores.

    And using all eight at the same time often results in slower processing because the two core sets can't process exactly the same way, and things get jammed up.

    The problem here is that some manufacturers are just thinking of marketing. It's just SO much better to advertise 8 cores than 4. But Apple gets better performance out of three!

    Something's got to give. They should just drop the weak cores altogether, and work on making the four strong cores better, and more efficient.
  • TrojMacReady - Saturday, April 11, 2015 - link

    Just no.
    The current 7420 Exynos gets better performance than any A8 smartphone SoC (at the same resolution) all around. In practise (except gaming at native resolution) too, despite pushing many more pixels (up to a factor 3.7).

    As for a comparison to the A8X, that's flawed in so many ways. Its TDP is up to twice as high and it's almost twice as large too. People are already complaining about the heat it produces in a large iPad, consider it sitting in a smartphone... The 7420 CPU outpaces it, despite the above differences, the GPU is 10-20% slower. But with much less power consumption and heat as a bonus. I guess those 8 cores aren't so bad afterall.
  • mrochester - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    The Android death knell sounds. This is what happens when you use the same software and ecosystem as your competitors.

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