HTC One M9 vs Google Nexus 6
HTC finally gave up on the inferior UltraPixel tech, but now it's obviously outside of its comfort zone. This makes its 20-megapixel snapper an easy meal for the optically stabilized, 13-megapixel camera of the Nexus 6.
For what felt like ages, HTC was adamant about its decision not to participate in the so-called megapixel wars that every other Android maker was part of. Instead of banking on extra resolution, the company focused on pixel size, claiming that that is how smartphone cameras should be done.
Now, whether HTC caved because of the mass market's dissatisfaction with the significantly smaller images that previous One flagships delivered, or because it finally realized that it was packing an objectively inferior shooter, the company is finally in. With the One M9, we're now looking at a 20-megapixel shooter with f/2.2, 27.8mm lens and a dual LED flash – a significant step-up from the One M8 on paper. In Google's camp, we've got a more standard, 13-megapixel camera with wider, f/2.0, 28mm lens, a ring flash with two LEDs., and an optical stabilization mechanism. Up at the front, with the One M9 we've got a 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera with f/2.0 lens, while Google went for something more budget-friendly – an unimpressive, 2-megapixel selfie snapper.
So let's talk camera apps. With the One M9, we have far and away the more powerful solution, with numerous shooting modes, filters, and general photo-editing features included. Most notably, we've got the typical stack – panorama mode, HDR, and Night – but also a Bokeh mode and a powerful Manual mode with controls for ISO, shutter speed, and focus. With the Nexus 6, we're only looking at panorama, HDR, Lens Blur (alike HTC's Bokeh), and Photo Sphere (360-degree panoramas). From a usability standpoint, we can't complain about either – both layouts are good enough and well spaced-out for your fingers to work them, but HTC's solution can get a bit messy at times.
But let's talk about the part we all care about the most: image quality. The first major difference between the two shooters that you're bound to notice are the contrasting aspect ratio in which the two snap pictures in – 10:7 with the One M9, and 4:3 with the Nexus 6. But that's far from where the dissimilarities end.
For starters, it's impossible not to appreciate just how much sharper details appear with the Nexus 6 under any kind of lightning conditions. In comparison, the considerably softer snaps captured by the One M9 are pushing it a bit too far – enough, at least, to obscure finer parts of the scene. Indeed, despite its superiority in resolution, the M9 actually trails the detail depth offered by its rival.
Indoors, the gap between the two isn't so big, but it's still evident that the Nexus 6 manages to produce sharper visuals, while color reproduction is almost identical with the two.
As for poorly lit environments, it's the one area where the Nexus 6 snatches an easy win. The fact that the unit is optically stabilized has a lot to do with that, as it allows the phablet to drop to slower shutter speeds and expose longer, usually without introducing significant levels of blur. In contrast, the One M9's snaps are exactly the opposite – muddy and sometimes incredibly noisy due to the cranked-up ISO. Overall, the Nexus 6's snaps come out a darker-looking than those of the One M9, but probably a bit more life-like than those of the One M9, which tries to boost brightness and colors too hard.
Lastly, let's talk video. Starting off with the standard, 1080p option, we immediately have enough to crown the Nexus 6 an undisputed winner in both broad daylight and during the night. Its superiority can be broken down in several parts – an OIS gizmo that allows for smooth, non-jerky footage, considerably better detail and less noise, and more accurate color tones overall. As for 4K UHD capture, we've got a more even race, though we'd still take the Nexus 6's optically stabilized footage over that produced by the One M9.
If you can be bothered to lug it around, the phablet-sized screen of the Nexus 6 and loud stereo speakers give it a small advantage over the similarly excellent One M9.
Both the One M9 and the Nexus 6 qualify as decent choices for media consumption on the go, but we have to give it to the latter – its larger screen is better suited for the task.
Indeed, watching video on a 6-inch panel isn't quite as bad as you might think, especially considering that you likely have 40-inch plus flatscreen at home. The difference here, however, is that you'll typically be finding yourself using the Nexus 6 just inches away from your face. Obviously, the One M9 can do everything the Nexus 6 can in this regard, but its 5-inch display isn't quite as movie-friendly.
In terms of the apps the two rely on, we're looking at markedly different approaches. As is typical with vanilla Android, the Nexus 6 is mostly limited to the basics, with few extras making an appearance in places like the gallery, while the One M9 is chock-full of those. If you dig feature-rich default solutions, however, do keep in mind that the rest of the multimedia app stack – like video and music players – aren't quite so full of perks.
Turning to audio reproduction, you might be surprised to hear that the One M9's duo of front-firing stereo speakers with HTC BoomSound tech aren't quite as loud as the supposedly less fancy stereo duo present on the Nexus 6's front (72.7 vs 75 dB).