Analysis of New HTC Flagship, the HTC “HIMA”
New leaks provided by @upleaks point towards a new HTC device, codenamed “HIMA” (model HTC6535LVW), that sports an interesting set of specifications. The source provided a screenshot of an AnTuTu benchmark information sheet that gives us insight on what to expect from HTC’s latest and greatest. It is assumed this will be a flagship device, as its interior will be made of some of the highest end specifications planned for early 2015. Let’s see what’s inside:
The sheet states that the operating system version benchmarked was Android 5.0.1 Lollipop. This is, however, most likely not going to be the one that makes it to the consumer release, considering that Google is currently rolling out its 5.0.2 OTA for its Nexus lineup, and looking at the changelogs from this and the rumored future releases, Google’s new brainchild of an OS still has some maturing to do and some bugs to squash. If past flagship history is to be followed, the final product will most likely contain the latest version given at the time of its launch. Given the rapid speed at which Google seems to be iterating Lollipop updates, though, even history is subject to change. Even then, there’s plenty of time to work out a great ROM and just like Samsung, LG and Sony managed to fix some quirks of initial Lollipop code in their versions, HTC’s software (new Sense perhaps?) could be delightful regardless of the decimals of it’s version number.
Moving on, we have one of the most-awaited chipsets in the history of smartphones, the fabled Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC. The 810 will be their first flagship-level octa-core chipset. They had already delved into this model of processors with their Snapdragon 615, which was the first consumer ready octa-core chip with 64-bit support. The Snapdragon 810 however features many improvements over any current Qualcomm chipset that allegedly allows it to be more power-efficient, while also providing the performance boost we expect out of each new generation of flagships. The Snapdragon 810 comes with more than just raw processing power, though. The chipset aims for giving better audio and voice recognition with directional sound recording, and more power-efficiency for always-listening technology. With voice-assistants such as Google Now becoming more and more integrated into the mainstream consumer’s lives, this will certainly prove advantageous. It will also come optimized for better 4k video recording and, most notably, 4k media streaming. Qualcomm is placing its bets on 4k screens on phones hitting the market as early as 2015. Do we need this resolution on our phones? More on that on following paragraphs.
If performance is your thing, however, fear not. The big.LITTLE ARMv8 architecture of the SoC features 4 “small”, low-power Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 1.9GHz for more intensive tasks. The real star of the show is the fact that this is Qualcomm’s first 64-bit chipset to make use of Android 5.0’s native 64-bit support. The performance gains should be noticeable in this regard. The GPU is an Adreno 430 clocked at 650 Mhz and given Qualcomm’s stellar GPU performance track record, we should expect no throttling here. Early benchmarks put it slightly above the Tegra K1 chipset (found in the Nexus 9) with an AnTuTu score of 52,275 over Nvidia’s still impressive 51,000. But with the competition from Samsung’s Exynos and Apple’s in-house chips getting more and more impressive, we’ll have to wait to have it in our hands to judge its real world advantage.
The very, very notable and attention-grabbing aspect of this phone is its resolution. The 1080p panel is becoming an oddity in flagships nowadays, with phones even slightly above or at 5 inches diagonal screens getting the 1440p treatment. There is heated debate among enthusiasts as to whether we really need 1440p on a phone, or even the ridiculously sounding 4k resolution that seems to be approaching our handsets. My opinion is that, for the form factor the HIMA adopted, 1080p is more than sufficient. We have approached a ppi way past the touted retina, which has also seen corporate-biased revision lately. LG, for example, claims that phones should strive for 540 ppi to get a magazine print quality image. I disagree, as I am more than comfortable with looking at 1080p panels, especially when most consumer-available media is in this resolution – thus not gaining real benefits from the push for higher resolutions.
A 5 inch flagship is also a rarity these days, and a welcome one at that. Sony proved that there’s still demand for “smaller screens” (isn’t it funny how 4.7 or even 5 inch screens are the “smaller” ones now?), and the compactness of these devices are a personal necessity for some smartphone users. HTC has provided amazing panels for both its M7 and M8 models, with their IPS LCD displays sporting dynamic contrast that makes color distinction, black levels and image clarity very pleasing. Its color reproduction has also been some of the best, rivalling the Apple panels which are praised among image purists. Another very interesting, but often overlooked, point is that a lower resolution display can be beneficial for performance, in particular graphics performance, and even battery life. Less pixels to push means less overhead stress on the GPU. We’ve seen with the LG G3 that a 1440p screen can be quite taxing on chipsets not designed for the task, but with a GPU and CPU as impressive as the ones found in the 810, a lower resolution screen could lead to even more stellar performance, something HTC never had a problem with in the first place. Whatever HTC has in store for us looks rebellious in all the right ways, and I’m eager to hear more on this point.
The optics of HTC devices have always been a topic of debate. With the M8, most reviewers come to the same conclusions: It’s a neat idea to have this double-lens technology, but it ends up being gimmicky. Now, it has very useful advantages over conventional set-ups, what with the double exposure allowing for refined low-light quality, and the double-lens you can get a very natural looking DSLR-like focusing and out-of-focus blur that can make for some beautiful photographs. But the problem is that the lens’ found in the M8 suffer from the other gimmick introduced by HTC – the UltraPixel. Now, this concept was introduced claiming that the pixels would be “richer” in information – larger pixels basically – and it’d allow for more defined images (especially in low light, HTC’s fetish). But the 4 MP cameras of both the M7 and M8 have disappointed nearly every critic. It doesn’t mean that they are bad – they do a fair good job for social media pictures, where the resolution takes a back-seat. And again, the low-light quality is very good, and the images do look crisp enough… but just crisp enough, and you can only get so crisp with 4 MP. The double-lens focusing feature was also adopted by both Google and Samsung through software implementations and they do a remarkable job. Nonetheless, some speculate that double-lens will become widely accepted and implemented in the future. But enough about HTC’s past: they have changed their game.
A 20.7 MP camera, in practice, sounds great. We usually see 13 to 16 MP in flagships, some better than others. But only manufacturers like Sony and Nokia seem to go out of their way to include such rich pixel count in their optics. Could HTC have learned from their mistakes? At this point, without more specific details, we can’t even begin to speculate on the real image quality. But a good MP count never hurts (unless you have 16gb of storage and no SD card, which should be a crime at this point). What’s most impressive is the 13 MP front-facing camera. HTC introduced the idea of a “selfie phone” with its HTC Eye, but I don’t think anybody expected such a camera on their main flagship. This should be a welcome addition to many high school girls. OEMs, take note: this is how you diversify your user base!
Finally, we see the now-standard 3GB of RAM which is more than enough for any current smartphone operations. There’s not much to be said other than the fact that it is a great thing to have, especially with a more-optimized Android. Nowadays, 3GB phones see very little redrawing, although more than they should given how aggressive Android’s memory management can get.
All in all, it’s fair to say this will be a device to keep an eye on. The unconventional display, the top-of-the line chipset, the radical change in optics, and the latest and greatest of Android sounds like some of the best we have heard about for upcoming handsets, and definitely makes (in theory) for a package that seems worthy of a flagship name. Technology is about moving forward, but I think HTC knows that it’s also about knowing when to go back to older paradigms, or to stay with the ones that work when there’s no need to change them. Let us know your thoughts on HTC and their upcoming flagship in the comments below.