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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  • Ultimitsu - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Some information in your camera review part is wrong. For example:

    1, for the same sensor size, the smaller the pixel size, the more Dynamic Range for the output image. Pixel level DR does not matter.

    2, aperture ratio of "F/x" is a ratio. It is not an absolute number. As such when comparing lesnes of different sensor sizes, F ratio comparison is completely pointless. For light gathering purpose and subject isolation purpose, for the same FOV, it is the aperture width that actually matters. M9's aperture opening is 2.15mm, while M8's is 1.925. M9 clearly has larger aperture. thus your statement "The aperture has also regressed somewhat from f/2.0 to f/2.2" is completely erroneous.

    There are other errors which I would rather not go into more detail.
  • Laxaa - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    But isn't aperture relative to the sensor size?
  • Ultimitsu - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Aperture ratio is not relative to sensor size. Aperture ratio is the ratio of focal length to aperture opening. For example, 24mm F/2 means focal length is 24mm, aperture opening is half that at 12mm.

    M9's ratio is lower than M8 but its aperture is in fact larger.
  • TT Masterzz - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    I fundamentally disagree with the assertion that a user should go to the Play Store to find various applications that they like, as taking this to its logical conclusion basically ends with having to download a dialer application from the Play Store on first boot - I totally agree with you Joshua Ho, Ars Technica's Ron gave hardly any credit to the new M9. I know its hardware has been a let down but software is one place I and probably a lot of people will always give credit to HTC. Its incorrect to bash HTC's software just because it does not do gimmicks like spit the screen for multiple apps.
  • Badelhas - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Why couldnt HTC just create a 8 Ultrapixel camera? I love the camera of my M8, the only thing lacking is resolution...
  • Losaa - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Very sad for HTC. I love my m8, the m9 is an insult to customers which were happy to stay on the HTC ship for a long time.
  • Peichen - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    HTC is done. I was in Taiwan back in November and even at its home everyone know HTC is not going to be around much longer. People with money are buying iPhone at higher than US price. People without money are eying Xiaomi and other budget goodness. Only a group sandwiched in between will pay iPhone money for Xiaomi quality and even Xiaomi is delivering better quality than HTC.
  • ksdphys - Thursday, April 9, 2015 - link

    I know almost nothing of photography, so please do not take this as a sarcastic question: what is wrong with the example photos in the article? They are described as being "horrible", among other things, and I am just not seeing it. They look more or less fine to me. I really want to know what is wrong since apparently I am really uninformed.
  • tackle70 - Friday, April 10, 2015 - link

    I'm really bummed by this... my wife and I are happy M7 owners from two years ago and we're about to be eligible for a cheap phone upgrade, and I was thinking of the M9. Guess I'll wait another year...

    I don't think I could ever go to a phone with rear facing speakers, though. So there's that... don't think I could ever do a Samsung phone until they change that.
  • Martin84a - Saturday, April 11, 2015 - link

    Does wifi speed correlate to wifi range? What is mean is, who cares about the wifi speed as long as it's not cringe worthy bad. If great wifi speed doesn't correlate with a good wifi range, I think people would much rather know how far away from a router the phone can be used, when using the same router.

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