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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  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    Once you start using double-tap-to-wake, and double-tap-status-bar-to-sleep (some launchers even let you set double-tap-on-home-to-sleep), you'll find yourself rarely using the power button for anything.

    However, if you use your phone a lot for music, you'll really come to love having the power button and volume controls on the back of the phone. You don't have to put your hand in your pocket with the phone to manage the media. Just slide the phone into your pocket with the screen along your leg ... and the buttons are now accessible through the outside of the pocket! So much nicer that way. Especially with the headphone jack on the bottom, which makes the buttons align correctly when the phone is in your pocket (move your finger "up" or straighten it for volume up).

    The other really nice thing about the G2 is that it has a 5.2" screen size ... but the overall phone size is smaller than most phones with only 5.0" screens. They're really done a great job keeping the overall phone sizes down since the Optimus G. I have no issues keeping my G2 in my front jeans pockets, front shorts pockets, or the inside pocket of my jackets.

    Compared to the last 3 HTC and Sony phones, the LG G2 can be considered a compact phone.
  • melgross - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I think a big part of the problem is that Apple surprised the industry with the A7 64 bit SoC. Everyone is trying to catch up. But it seems likely that no one was actively working on 64 bits except Apple. The new Tegra looks good, but has its own problems with thottling, etc.

    Qualcomm was caught with its pants down. That's for sure. The 810 seems rushed, and is far from optimized. Perhaps later in the year, new tapeouts will fix some of the problems. Samsung's SoC is a bit better, but is still behind
  • aenews - Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - link

    Well final versions of products haven't been released for the X1. And take in mind that even though the K1 was released earlier than the Snapdragon 805, even the Snapdragon 810 doesn't come close to matching it. And the X1 is "twice" as fast potentially. Even if the final performance is reduced in mobile settings, it would still be far, far faster than anything else =). And the K1 has no issue with throttling. Nvidia wouldn't let default settings be too aggressive if it meant throttling. The Snapdragon 810 would probably perform more admirably in these new devices with the temperature throttling turned off or adjusted in terms of temperature or reduced clock speeds.
  • sonicmerlin - Saturday, April 11, 2015 - link

    I would prefer a 32 bit A8X with my iPad Air 2 so I could have the increased RAM footprint of 64 bit apps back. Qualcomm was taken surprise by the public hype of 64 bit. Even the Nexus 9 suffers a bit with 64 bit and only 2 GB of RAM.
  • JeffFlanagan - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    HTC has made trading my M8 in for a Samsung Galaxy S6 an easy choice. I was probably already going to do it for the VR, but it's clear that their's no benefit to sticking with HTC.
  • melgross - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Well, the consensus right now is that the S6 is the best Android phone for sure, but that the Edge is gimmicky and overpriced.
  • jabber - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Amazes me that in this day and age a premium smartphone can still screw up the camera. How hard can it be? Forget gimmicks just get the basics right. With so many good off the shelf options...just bizarre.
  • J4ckb1ng - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    But the camera is a gimmick. A phone is designed to make and receive calls. How odd nobody seems to want a phone to do the one thing it is primarily designed to do. When I read HTC was fiddling with the camera on the M9, I heaved a sigh of relief.
  • jabber - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    If you said that 5+ years ago I would have tended to agree but that's no longer the case. The camera for many has become more important than making calls.

    I bet if you asked a survey of 1000 smartphone users what was the top three reasons for having a smartphone I'd be surprised if making calls scraped in at 3.
  • Refuge - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I saw that you are on your first smartphone in another post of yours. So I understand if you haven't converted yet.

    But Smartphones aren't phones. I mean they are, but they aren't.

    They are hubs to the world. This is a communication device, that is meant to be mobile and contain every form of communication we could ever crave.

    Instagram, facebook, youtube, text messaging, instant messaging, skype, Uvuu, phone too.

    I use mine mostly for internet, email, and text. But thats just the nature of my business. Phone calls come through too, but only for things that can't be said one off in a text.

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