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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  • Dorek - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    He probably means the life of the company? If they keep releasing phones this bad, they WILL go out of business.
  • KiretoX - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I don't really understand why HTC first had a good idea and tried with 4Mpix and then instead of going in the middle between resolution and quality went right away to this terrible 20Mpix sensor? It would have been interesting if they went to something around 8-13Mpix... which is just fine resolution-wise. So now they first failed with low 4Mpix and now again failed with the super high 20Mpix...
  • Laxaa - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    It really seem slike they just rushed as far as they could in the opposite direction when deciding the specs for this camera. Ultrapixels was a good idea and a middle ground would have been nice. Maybe something like the iPhone 6 but with OIS.

    How large would the pixels be on a 8.3 MP(4K capable), 1/2.3 sensor be?
  • pjcamp - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    HTC doesn't have the market share to request a custom sensor like Apple. They have to work with whatever standard parts are available off the shelf.
  • melgross - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    Yes, and they could,d have gotten an 8MP sensor off the shelf, or. 12-13MP version, or even a 16MP. They didn't need to go all the way to 20.

    It almost seems as thought they didn't even look at the specs, just the pixel count. And then they got rid of the camera processor as well. Very bad move.
  • Dorek - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    "And then they got rid of the camera processor as well. Very bad move."

    Yeah, this is ridiculously stupid. I had a dumbphone in 2008 (the Motorola Zine) that had a separate imaging co-processor, and as a result it had autofocus times and shot-to-shot times on par with any 2015 smartphone. An imaging co-processor goes a LONG way.
  • LordConrad - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    I would have preferred an 8 Ultrapixel camera on the M9. More incoming light and plenty of pixels for a phone camera.
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    I'm sad to see this. Did no one at HTC use the phone before releasing it? I was hoping the M9 would be my new Windows phone later in the year.

    May need to switch to Android if no good flagships come out...perhaps the G4.

    Thanks for the thorough review, Josh.
  • J4ckb1ng - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    HTC's are Android phones. Me, I'm happy the M9 is not vastly different from the HTC M8. The M8 is my first smartphone and I don't regret my decision. I wish the M8 battery life were longer, but I'm glad overall that I have no urgent need to ditch the M8 for the M9.
  • Refuge - Monday, April 6, 2015 - link

    HTC Phones are also Windows phones. They have the flagship M8 in windows flavors, go look.

    If the M8 is your first smartphone I can see why you love it, it does feel premium and it is a good phone. Better than this M9 is if you ask me. But I honestly still feel that the ONE M7 was by and far the best phone of their ONE Mx lineup.

    I'll definately be keeping this phone for the time being, HTC has nothing worth upgrading to if you ask me right now.

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