The HTC One (M8) offers a great blend of premium design and performance hardware and is definitely the best looking Android smartphone today. It does however lack in features when compared to other flagship devices. If you are planning to invest in a flagship smartphone, then the M8 is not a bad recommendation. But if you are looking for a beast, then you should probably look at other options.
The Taiwan-based handset maker HTC, is known for producing the first Android devices. But in the last couple of years, the company has been facing major financial losses. Some rumours even pointed that the company might just end up bankrupted. Thankfully, the brand is strong and with bunch of new smartphones including new flagship models, we are seeing HTC bounce back into the game. Their flagship, the HTC One, was probably the best looking smartphone for the year 2013 and won many awards as well. Now we have an upgrade and boy does it look good. The all new HTC One (M8) is bolder and looks as elegant as the last year’s model.
Does it leave a similar impression as its predecessor? Let's find out in our detailed review.
BODY AND DESIGN
Last year’s HTC One was without doubt THE best looking Android smartphone and for 2014, HTC had a huge challenge to make it even better. The HTC One (M8) is exceptionally striking and the metal body gives you a reason to hold it in your hand. The design is quite similar to the last year’s flagship with some welcoming changes including a larger display and a microSD card slot (finally).
The HTC One (M8) has more metal and a more curvaceous design that fits well in the hand. Yes, it is bigger in size than the original HTC One and now boasting a 5-inch display, the M8 isn’t so easy to operate with one hand although it is quite sleek with a thickness of 9.4mm. And thanks to the curved design, it isn’t all that bulky.
The capacitive touch-sensitive keys have been replaced by onscreen ones giving more real-estate for the display. Above the display, we now have a 5MP camera with a wide angle lens to get those perfect selfies. Of course we have the BoomSound equipped stereo speakers on either sides of the display which are now louder and crisper. There is also a notification LED placed inside the top speaker to notify you about miss calls, messages, and so on.
The right side has the volume control keys and the nanoSIM card slot (a pain as everyone doesn’t have a nanoSIM card). The left side has a slot for a microSD card which supports up to 128GB of capacity. The top has the power/lock key while the bottom has the 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port. The back has an elegant brushed metal look housing a new duo-lens camera with a dual-tone flash. The resolution on the camera has not been improved leaving you with 4MP pictures, but lesser pixels does not mean bad quality pictures (more on that later). There is also a distinct laser-cut HTC logo in the middle of the back panel.
The display is a Super LCD3 again and the viewing angles are pretty good for an LCD display. Colours don’t wash out when viewed from various angles and readability under bright sunlight is quite good.
For a 5-inch smartphone the HTC One (M8) is by far the best looking handsets that we have laid our hands on. The detail to finish and quality of materials is so good that one has to put an effort to point out any flaws. Probably the only minor thing we didn’t like is that it feels quite slippery and fragile in the hand. One would be extra cautious when placing the smartphone on their desk or even in their pockets. Also, since there is a lot of metal, there are chances of having scuffs on the edges if you are a rugged smartphone user.
UI AND PERFORMANCE
The HTC One (M8) comes with the new Sense 6 UI which is almost similar to 5.5 with a new theme option that changes the colour scheme of the UI, a new lockscreen with gestures, updated BlinkFeed and Camera apps. We have always loved HTC's minimalistic approach when it comes to the UI. The icons and widgets are same as seen on Sense 5.5 with a very flat look. The new Sense 6 is really smooth and doesn’t show any signs of lag or delay in response time.
The most useful update is the new gestures to unlock the smartphone. Double-tapping on the display wakes up the smartphone and double tapping again on the lockscreen deactivates the display. Once you are on the lockscreen you can then swipe right to unlock and jump to BlinkFeed or swipe left to jump to the first homescreen. Similarly, you can perform these gestures even when the display is not active. The lockscreen has a dock at the bottom that houses icons for 4 apps (dialer, messaging, browser and camera) that can be swiped up to open.
The news and social media aggregator, BlinkFeed, is now more colourful thanks to the added themes options. The app has been updated with new topics and feeds which means you can get more out of the app. Of course there is support for Facebook and Twitter, we only wish that more social networks could be added including Foursquare and Instagram. Apps like the browser, music player, gallery, etc. are all similar to the ones seen on previous HTC devices. HTC, just like Samsung, has added a TV control app which lets you control your TV and set-top box via the the infra-red port on the top. It is a pretty handy feature although getting used to the app takes a bit of your time.
On the synthetic benchmarks, the HTC One (M8) showed good results matching and even surpassing the capabilities of the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z2. Even day to day tasks including multitasking, gaming, video playback and internet browsing is a piece of cake for the smartphone. The Snapdragon 801 proves to be as powerful as the 800 providing immense power to play high-end games or uncompressed video.
|Benchmark||Samsung Galaxy S5||Sony Xperia Z2||HTC One (M8)|
|3D Mark Unlimited||13032||18383||17925|
The results show that the M8 does have a slight edge over the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z2. Although after testing all the three smartphones, we've noticed that all of them offer a similar bug-free experience.
In our standard battery test, we charged the smartphone to a full 100% and then pumped up the brightness to full and connected the smartphone to Wi-Fi. Next we played a full HD video for one hour to the see the amount of battery loss. The 2600mAH managed to have 88% of battery that was still left after the test, which means that you can play a full HD video for about 8 and a half hours continuously. For daily usage, we found that you get a battery backup of a full day on normal usage and slightly less than a day on heavy usage.
The snapper on the HTC One has been upgraded with the new dual-lens system which allows you to refocus your images and have a shallow depth-of-field giving a natural feel to the pictures. There is also a duo-tone flash which automatically throws a warm or cool beam of light according to the conditions.
The camera app has been redesigned with major modes accessible from the icon on the bottom right. It opens up a large window with big icons to select any shooting modes which include single camera shot, video, Zoe, Selfie (opens up the front camera), dual capture, and a panorama mode. You also get some tweaking options such as ISO, exposure compensation, white balance presets, some filters, and also a scene mode which includes HDR, night mode, portrait, handheld, macro mode, and so on.
There is also a manual mode which gives you total control of your focus, ISO, shutter speeds, exposure compensation and colour temperature. Very few smartphones out there offer such advanced controls.
A number of people have criticized the low resolution of the sensor on the HTC One. Yes, it only supports 4MP pictures but it doesn’t mean that the pictures produced are of low quality. If we go to the technical side, a sensor having 16 million pixels will obviously require more space than 4 million pixels. But since the 4 million pixels will take less space, each pixel will also be much bigger than the one on the 16 million pixel sensor. This means more information per pixel is stored. In short, yes you do get a lower resolution image, but there won’t be compromise on quality.
Coming back to the capabilities of the camera on the M8, pictures come out quite well and the camera app is super quick to take pictures. Thanks to the dual-lens system, when a picture is taken in optimum light (without flash) you can immediately select the picture and refocus on the area you want. There are other post-editing tools including a background shader, seasons effects, 3D dimension mode, stickers and also a neat feature that allows you to cut out parts or people from an image and paste it onto other pictures. You can add filters rotate, crop and even add frames.
Focusing is smooth and fast and the camera manages to focus well in dim lighting conditions. If you are using tap-to-focus in the auto-mode, apart from the focusing, the camera also adjusts the exposure of the area selected for focusing and this is something which is quite innovative. Pictures in low light are decent although we have seen better performance on other smartphones. The duo-toned flash works well but quite honestly we don’t think it is something that can bring in a huge difference in the pictures.
Check out some camera sample shots:
Capturing video is pretty standard on the M8 and you can capture a maximum resolution of 1920x1080. Audio quality in the videos is decent and sounds pretty clear but we wish there was a sound normalization as some high levels of audio sound terrible. Now we know that it can’t shoot 4K videos like its other competitors, but the question here is, do you really need 4K video recording? Full HD videos, in our opinion, are sufficient enough and anything beyond the resolution just seems overkill on a portable device.
We would suggest the M8 for the ones who want to upgrade from last year's HTC One, as you get a slightly upgraded and better looking design along with the new duo-lens camera, and of course a microSD card slot. The areas where the M8 lacks are probably some high-end features that are otherwise available on the Galaxy S5 and/or the Xperia Z2 at the same price point. If you can compromise on the looks but not on features, then we would recommend that you look elsewhere. For those who crave for a stylish looking smartphone, this is the Android smartphone to get. The curved metal body with a brushed metal finish and the detail is just top notch and in our opinion, the HTC One (M8) is definitely one of the best crafted handsets for this year.
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