The One M9 is a smartphone of rare class, but the bloody nose it's received at the hands of the Samsung Galaxy S6 clearly rankles with the good folks at HTC - because they've already unleashed an upgraded version.
Should we add an extra chip to our shoulders over the One M9+? Maybe a small one: this is a bigger, even classier phone with some smart upgrades, but that doesn't make it an S6-beater.
LOOKING GOOD, SLICK
To hold the One M9+ in your hand is like receiving a firm handshake. The solid, all-metal design and impeccable detailing that we’ve come to expect from HTC gives the phone a hefty, comfortable feel in your hand.
At 168g, it’s a little heftier than the younger, slimmer M9’s 157g, but an extra 11g seems a small burden to bear in the name of a bigger screen, up from 5in to 5.2in. That extra 0.2in doesn't equate to finger stretching phabletiness in our eyes - the M9+ is perfectly comfortable in the average hand or pocket.
The other notable difference in terms of design comes in the form of a Samsung-esque button at the bottom of the phone, which serves as both home button and fingerprint scanner. With the ability to store up to 5 sets of fingerprints and practically flawless operation, HTC fans can finally experience the nerd-joy that iPhone and Galaxy users have been all gloaty about for the last couple of years.
And let's not overlook the most controversial design departure - a round camera lens! Square snapper, we barely knew thee.
ALL THE PIXELS
Not only is the One M9+'s screen 0.2in bigger, it's also way sharper, with its 2K resolution taking pixel density up to 565ppi. That's 124 more pixels per inch than the original M9 and about a gazillion more pixels than the 326ppi iPhone 6.
That extra sharpness skips hand-in-hand with the HTC's usual screen qualities - bright, natural colours, excellent viewing angles and decent contrast. The extra pop from the extra pixels simply makes the whole user experience that bit more pleasurable.
UNDER THE HOOD
Interestingly, there's also been a substitution in the processor position - the Snapdragon 810, subject of so much internet hysteria, has been replaced by a MediaTek Helio X10. The overheating "issues" of the One M9 were blown way out of proportion, but it's not surprising that HTC has decided to go with a different chip here. It's just such a shame that the M9+ feels a little hobbled by the MediaTek: general doodling about is perfectly fluid, but heavy multi-tasking and graphically intensive games create a smidge of lag that the M9 is immune to.
In the face of everything the M9+ gets right it's far from a big issue, but it is a small step backwards that bears mention.
One area where HTC still reigns supreme is with its front-facing BoomSound speakers, which are by far the best set of speakers to be equipped on a smartphone.
The M9+'s new fingerprint scanner does sit right in the middle of the bottom speaker, but it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on audio quality, with the speakers still giving off a full bodied sound. You might even find the included Dolby Audio Enhancements worth a dabble.
The M9+ comes fitted with the same 2840mAh battery as the one offered up in the M9. Given the increased PPI on the M9+, it's a pleasant surprise that our testing didn’t clock in any marked difference in staying power.
And yet we're still a bit disappointed - given that battery life was one of the nit-picks we had about the M9, it feels HTC has missed an opportunity to shove in a bigger unit.
You can expect to be left with around 60% battery life by bedtime with a solid amount of use, but much, much less if you’re smashing through YouTube videos on 4G and playing processor intensive games - these are the areas that the current One series falls behind the current competition.
The return of the Duo camera
Another surprise: the Duo camera setup presumed dead after it was left off the M9 has reappeared on the M9+, this time in the form of a 20MP standard sensor and a 2.1MP depth sensor, so you can once again go through the process of initially being really excited by being able to take sort-of 3D photos and then getting bored of the whole concept 20mins later.
When taking normal, 2D pictures, the M9+ suffers from the same issues as the One M9. Don’t get us wrong; great shots are possible, but only under certain conditions and with some clever tweaking in the settings.
The camera still has problems with its dynamic range and the way it handles exposure. The smallest changes in where you tap on the screen pre-photo can cause major swings in exposure. When compared to similar tier smartphones like the LG G4 or the Galaxy S6, the M9+ just doesn’t compete.
You do, though, get an UltraPixel lens for the front-facing camera, and while the light-gobbling tech has been deemed unworthy for "proper" photography, it still lends itself marvellously well to selfies and video calls.
A sense of SPACE
As with any good 2015 superphone, the M9+ comes loaded with Android 5.0 Lollipop, paired with HTC’s Sense 7 UI. We still stand by Sense 7 as a brilliant interface for those who love to customise the look and feel of their device.
This is paired with Sense Home, which is a pretty sweet behaviour-detecting home screen widget that pegs your location and provides apps based on where you are.
The M9+ is only available with an internal trunk space of 32GB, but can be expanded by up to 128GB through the use of the SD card slot.
This is actually a downgrade from the M9’s 200GB limit, but unless you've got a rather serious digital media hoarding problem, the combined maximum of 160GB should be more than sufficient.
Pretty much standing still was enough for the One M9 to hit the smartphone top-spot when it launched, but the bold, standard-redefining Galaxy S6 has since put it in its place.
The M9+ is the step forward that perhaps the M9 should have been. With a bigger, more pixel-packed screen and a fingerprint scanner it's much more welcome at the next-gen superphone party, and it's dressed just as smartly as before.
That doesn't make it the new king - that title remains the S6's - but if you love the HTC way, this is the One to get.