Electronista has had the opportunity to get hands on with the (so far) Asia-only HTC One M9+ and the HTC One E9+ while visiting the Mediatek booth at Computex Taipei. Mediatek, for the uninitiated, is a Taiwanese company that designs ARM-based chips that, up until recently, have been found more commonly in low-end or mid-range smartphones. Its latest chip, the Helio X10, its first truly high-end chip and is good enough to to go head-to-head with better known chips from Qualcomm and Samsung.
The Helio X10 SoC, like the Samsung Exynos 7420 found in the Galaxy S6 and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 found in the HTC One M9, is a 64-bit octa-core design using ARM's big.LITTLE architecture. However, Mediatek's implementations differs slightly. While the octa-core chips from Samsung and Qualcomm pair four high-performance ARM Cortex-A57 cores with four low-power ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked up to 1GHz lower than the high-performance cores, all of the Mediatek X10's eight cores use the ARM Cortex-A53 architecture.
Although not possessing as much bandwidth as the Cortex-A57 cores, Mediatek has four cores clocking at up to 2.2GHz. This means that in single-core performance the Helio X10 is slightly off the pace of its competition, but its multi-core performance is excellent. It is so good, that it actually outperforms the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 in the Geekbench 3 multi-core benchmark and is only bested by the Samsung Exynos 7420. Where it falls down is in its GPU performance with its PowerVR G6200 well off the pace of the GPUs in its competition, but will perform just fine for most casual 3D games.
For a company like HTC, which has been struggling with profitability in the past few years, the Mediatek Helio X10 is a good choice for at least some of its alternative high-end smartphones. The Mediatek chip is a cheaper option, but is still competitive and will keep customers interested in high-level spec sheets interested. The HTC One M9+ is also sold a premium over the regular HTC One M9, which HTC clearly feels it is justified in charging thanks, at least in part, to the slightly larger 5.2-inch display, which is also a higher resolution quad-HD type. Build quality and fit and finish of the HTC One M9+ is exactly the same as the M9, which is to say that it is excellent.
HTC has been struggling to generate the same level of sales interest in the global HTC One M9, despite offering a Snapdragon 810 and support for a microSD card, which Samsung dropped from its Galaxy S6 line. Although currently only for the Asian market, HTC One must be tempted to roll out the M9+ to additional markets - at least those where it is critical it regains traction, like North America.
Even though we agree with HTC's decision to ship the M9 with a 1080p display, which results in better graphics performance without detracting from display sharpness to the naked eye, there will be those users who will simply opt for the Samsung just because of its quad-HD display. Releasing the M9+ could address this. However, the downside is that the GPU in the Helio X10 SoC is will lose even more performance in a 3D gaming context with the additional pixels it needs to push. However, it you're like me, and rarely play mobile games requiring serious horsepower, the M9+ may well still hold more appeal than the standard M9.
The HTC One E9+ is a larger 5.5-inch phablet that follows similar design cues to the M9 and M9+ as well as signature features like HTC's Dolby-powered Boomsound dual front facing speakers. Like the M9+, it also centers on a quad-HD display, although it obviously has a slightly lower pixel density, not that it matters in the slightest. Where it differs the most though is in its build materials, which in this case is mostly plastic for the case, even it it retains metal elements in its chassis and a couple of the front inserts. Like the M9 and M9+, the E9+ runs Android 5.0 with the latest version (7.0) of HTC's Sense UI. Although we are not fans of Android skins, HTC has tended to do a pretty good job with its overlay.
Both the HTC One M9+ and HTC One E9+ are appealing devices, although the M9+ is without doubt the more premium of the two. The Mediatek processor is a very good overall performer and will provide plenty of performance for the vast majority of users. Both devices, although not officially on sale in North America are available through importers and other online resellers. If you really want one of these handsets now, we recommend you shop around for the best price as prices can vary quite widely.
- Sanjiv Sathiah