We’ve had the HTC 10 all weekend, and wanted to share with you our first hands-on look. Of all of the flagship devices that we’ve seen in 2016, the HTC 10 is easily the prettiest.

The chamfered edges on the front of the HTC 10 lend a design reminiscent of jewelry, and the extra wide light-reflecting chamfer on the rear of the phone adds even more flair to the first impression. Have a look at our hands-on preview for a first-hand glimpse at HTC’s 2016 flagship.

Manfrotto 502 Video Head

The look and feel

HTC has always been known for producing refined handsets, and the HTC 10, despite the slight change in its naming convention, doesn’t look to upset this trend in any way. The unibody phone has a solid, weighty feeling in hand, making it quickly apparent that the body was machined out of a single block of aluminum. I’d go as far as to call the HTC 10 the Taiwanese company’s most refined handset yet from a pure design perspective.

Front

Unlike the HTC One M9, the superseding HTC 10 features a full glass front panel that covers the entire 5.15″ display. The display itself is a 1440 X 2560 QHD display, which amounts to somewhere around 564 PPI.

At the top of the display you’ll find the first of two cameras resting right next to the earpiece/speaker. At the bottom of the screen lies a home button embedded in the glass.

Video walkthrough

By doing away with the dual front-firing speakers found on the HTC One M9, there’s now room for a physical touch-sensitive home button/fingerprint sensor, which is flanked by two touch sensitive software buttons on each side. As much as I loved the M9’s front-facing stereo speakers, I’ve always preferred having a physical home button, so this is a welcomed change in my opinion.

Back

The rear of the HTC 10 is one the classiest looking backsides in the business. The beautiful bead blasted anodized aluminum certainly shines here, and outside of the camera and flash, noise-canceling mic, a couple of antenna lines, and the HTC logo itself, there’s not much else to be found. It’s an exercise in design restraint that few companies rival.

HTC 10 Rear

Sides

The left side of the HTC 10 features a microSD slot for expanding the amount of available storage, while the opposite side of the device features a nano SIM card slot, a power button, and a volume rocker.

Speaking of that power button, this isn’t the first time that HTC has put work into texturing the feeling of that button, but it’s one of those small details that makes you appreciate the effort that went into its design.

HTC 10 Power button

On the top of the device, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack located right in the center of the phone. The remaining portion of the top surface features a rubber strip that color matches the antenna lines going across the rear of the handset.

Finally, the bottom of the HTC 10 features a microphone, speaker, and a USB-C port for charging and file transfer. Like the LG G5, the HTC 10 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 tech for faster charging — HTC says you can get up to 50% battery in just a half hour.

Sound

As alluded to earlier, the speaker design of the HTC 10 has changed significantly from the HTC One M9. Gone are the front-facing pair of stereo speakers that flanked the screen in the previous model. Instead, HTC has opted for a more traditional down-firing speaker on the bottom right of the handset’s body.

That’s not to say that HTC’s front-firing aspirations have been totally lost, as the earpiece location features a speaker, adding to the unit’s sound output capability. HTC has again adopted its BoomSound Hi-Fi moniker, and this time delivers a separated tweeter and woofer design, which it says adds to sound clarity.

High-Res audio

Not only can the HTC 10 output high-resolution audio thanks to an improved headphone amp and DAC, HTC claims that its new flagship is the world’s first smartphone with stereo, 24-bit, Hi-Res audio recording capabilities.

Unfortunately I don’t yet have a set of high-resolution headphones to test out this feature, but I should have a pair of Audio Technica’s ATH-MSR7BK arriving soon. These are capable of outputting high-resolution audio, allowing me to vouch for HTC’s claims.

Further, the HTC 10 features an all-new Personal Audio Profile system, which puts each ear through a test in order to optimize sound playback for the type of music that you enjoy.

Camera

The rear camera features a 12-megapixel sensor and the front features a 5-megapixel sensor. Each camera comes with optical image stabilization, and both cameras feature wide aperture f/1.8 lenses.

HTC 10 Earpiece Speaker Camera

The main rear camera includes improved laser auto focus, while the front-facing shooter, which HTC is branding as an “UltraSelfie” camera, features a wide-angle lens and a screen flash for better looking low light selfies.

Like past HTC phones, the HTC 10 comes with all of the basic bells and whistles expected from a flagship release these days. It also comes with a manual “Pro” mode that lends greater control to more experienced shooters.

HTC 10 Camera Shot DOF

By now, 4K video shooting capability has become a mainstream feature, and it’s something that everyone expects from a flagship phone. The HTC 10 doesn’t disappoint in this regard, and can even shoot video with accompanying high-resolution audio if desired.

HTC says that its flagship release comes boasting a DxOMark score of 88, which places it into the upper-echelon of smartphone camera ratings. Only the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ranks as high.

Software and performance

The HTC 10 ships with two processor configurations, but the US version comes with Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor, which is the follow-up to the beleaguered Snapdragon 810. For what it’s worth, the 820 has garnered significantly more praise than the 810, and is the same chip that powers other flagship endeavors like the LG G5 and Galaxy S7 (US version).

As far as software is concerned, the HTC 10 runs Android 6.0.1. I can confirm that users retain access to Android’s iconic App Drawer, which was controversially removed on LG’s most recent flagship release.

HTC specifically mentions that it has worked on reducing the amount of bloatware present on the phone, which is a win for consumer. In fact, the company doesn’t even mention its HTC Sense UI in its press release, although the phone still features some OEM-centric features like BlinkFeed.

HTC 10 Freestyle Layout

HTC has added a new “Freestyle Layout” feature that eschews the typical constrained grid layout found on the home screen for something more unique. When using a Freestyle Layout, users are able to move around icons, stickers and widgets anywhere on the home screen.

Stay tuned for more…

The HTC 10 is the best looking Android smartphone that I’ve seen this year, and touts build quality that’s second to none amongst Android OEMs. It features an all glass front panel, a unibody aluminum shell, and an attention to detail that few can rival design-wise.

HTC starts pre-orders for the HTC 10 today. The Unlocked edition from HTC.com will come in Glacier Silver and Carbon Gray, costs $699, and begins shipping in early May. The device will also be available via Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile carriers in the US.

The HTC 10 is quite a bit different from the company’s previous flagship efforts, but it feels largely familiar. Its 4K video capture abilities and 12-megapixel cameras featuring wide apertures keep it in step with the competition. Needless to say, I’m impressed with this release on a variety of levels.

But is it enough to make consumers desire the HTC 10 and improve the company’s long-term outlook? We’ll be back in a follow-up post to provide deeper commentary as our hands-on time with the handset continues. In the meantime, share your thoughts on the HTC 10 down in the comments section, along with anything particular you’d like to see in our follow-up coverage.

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