HTC One (M8) review

April 2, 2014
43 20 27

    We got our first look at the HTC One (M8) a week ago and while the latest HTC flagship was probably the worst-kept secret in the tech world, we were left impressed just from looking at it. By refining the amazing design and build quality standards set by the One (M7) and adding the obligatory hardware update and improved software experience, HTC has without a doubt put its best foot forward in its comeback attempt.

    The HTC One (M8) tries to capture the same aluminum-accented buzz of the original One. With a slightly taller and more rounded form factor, an extra “eye,” and an updated user interface, does the HTC One (M8) bring enough to the table to capture the imagination of consumers? We find out in this detailed HTC One (M8) review!

    Design

    htc one m8 outdoors (10 of 17)

    There’s one thing that¬†simply cannot be denied about the latest HTC flagship — whether it’s the first time you hold the smartphone, or even the first time you glance at it, it’ll make you want more. This aluminum-built smartphone brings a premium choice of materials and workmanship to a phone that is a little larger overall compared to its predecessor, but still ends up being quite easy to handle.

    htc one m8 outdoors aa (14 of 14)

    Fine tuning the design of the original, the metal wraps around the phone now, eliminating the plastic that wrapped around the sides of the phone on the M7. The brushed metal finish of the gun metal grey version of the HTC One (M8) looks fantastic, but if it’s not your cup of tea, the matte finish of the silver and gold versions could be more to your liking.

    htc one m8 launch aa (4 of 27)

    Coming around to the front of the device, the larger 5-inch display does result in the smartphone being bigger overall, and it’s actually quite tall, but there’s more than just the bigger screen contributing to the height of the HTC One (M8). The front-facing BoomSound speakers make a return, taking up the top and bottom of the phone, with the 5 MP camera also found at the top. Yes, there is a rather large black bar at the bottom of the screen that used to house the capacitive buttons in the previous iteration, but now only features the HTC logo. The company opted for on-screen software keys this time around. Many questioned the necessity of this black bar, and when we asked HTC about it, we were told there’s a lot going on under the hood and that the extra space is a requirement, rather than a subjective design choice.

    htc-one-m8-launch-aa-26-of-27 resized

    As mentioned before, because of the wraparound design, the sides of the device are also completely metallic. While the volume rocker is on the right side, the power button is placed at the top, which might take some getting used to for some users moving from devices from other manufacturers. In fact, the One (M8) is almost entirely metallic, and the only sizeable insertion of polycarbonate is at the top, where the infrared sensor is located.

    htc one m8 gold edition aa (9 of 14) 2000px

    The HTC One (M8) is clearly a very attractive device, but with the overall increase in size, the issue of ease of handling does come into question. The good news is that despite the extra screen real estate and the added girth in the overall construction, handling the phone is quite easy, which is another highlight of the build quality and design. Metal phones do tend to slip around in the hand, but in this case, the rounded metal sides help with the grip. The device is indeed quite tall, but the narrow profile helps with typing and handling. Even when you use the phone with one hand, you can still reach the other side of the device without much trouble.

    Display

    htc one m8 outdoors (8 of 17)

    The Super LCD 3 display with 1080p resolution makes a return on the HTC One (M8), but the screen size is bumped up to 5 inches, resulting in a pixel density of 441 ppi. With Sense 6.0 taking on a more colorful motif, it’s great to see that the display really does it justice.

     

    Colors shine through quite well and is helped by the above average contrast, especially when contrasting them with the darker elements of the Sense user interface. Viewing angles are also really great and color fidelity is preserved even at very steep angles. Even in bright sunlight, everything on the screen comes through nice and clear, though you will obviously have to turn the brightness up to the maximum. htc one m8 outdoors (11 of 17) While I didn’t have anything to complain about the 4.7-inch display of its predecessor, the larger screen of the HTC One (M8) does help the phone handle everything even better, especially with regards to gaming, and I had a great time playing games like Anomaly Korea on this excellent performer.

    Performance

    htc one m8 outdoors (2 of 17) It should come as no surprise that this flagship device comes with the latest and greatest processing package that is currently available, with its quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and¬†2GB of RAM. htc one m8 outdoors aa (1 of 14) While there is no doubt¬†about the power of this processing package, a lot of credit for the phone’s ability to fly through its UI should be given to the updated¬†version of Sense. While we’ll talk about the software in more detail below, it¬†deserves to be mentioned here because HTC has streamlined¬†the software package and clued into my new software user experience philosophy of “keep it simple, keep it fast.” Another highlight of the performance aspect is in the multi-tasking and the inclusion of the new Recent Apps button. Earlier, with the capacitive keys of the HTC One (M7), you had to double tap on the home button to open up the list of recent apps, which is something that always bothered me. Of course, it also helps that multitasking on the M8 is responsive and very fluid.

    You can check out the benchmark test results¬† above, but I don’t need numbers to tell you that you’ll be able to get things done very quickly and easily.

    Hardware

    htc one m8 launch aa (1 of 27)

    While I’ve talked a lot about the great build quality and design of the HTC One (M8), and deservingly so, there’s also quite a lot underneath the surface that adds to the experience as well. First, it has to be said that the HTC One (M8) will be available from all major carriers, so you’ll be able to use this device on 3G or LTE networks without a problem.

    htc one m8 outdoors (3 of 17)

    Many users pine for expandable storage in their devices, and finally, the latest HTC flagship delivers, coming with a microSD card slot that lets you add up to 128GB to the in-built 16 or 32GB of storage. Bringing up design again, the microSD slot is nicely incorporated on the right side of the phone, without compromising the design language. The infrared sensor at the top is for the Sense TV application, that lets you control your TV and offers various second screen features.

    htc-one-m8-launch-aa-8-of-27 resized

    Of course, just like with the original One, the BoomSound speakers are a major aspect of the HTC One (M8). The speakers have been improved to bring 25 percent more volume and even richer mids and lows. And¬†they stand up to the task very well. It’s not hard to hear what you’re playing, even when you’re on a busy street. As a result, sharing media with friends is better on the M8 than on any other device currently out there. Phone calls came in nice and clear, with no drops and strong signals all around, but I have to admit that I found myself using the BoomSound speakers for phone calls as well, more often than not.

    htc one m8 outdoors (7 of 17)

    When it comes to the battery, its capacity alone might not impresses, but the non-removable 2,600 mAh unit found in the One (M8) manages to last for quite a long time. In a couple of instances, I used the phone for hours on end for tasks like navigation and playing music, and never did I feel the pressure to get to a charger, even by the end of the day. The good battery performance can be pushed even further with the power saving features that are available on this device, especially with the super power saving mode that strips down the user experience to the bare minimum, resulting in up to 15 hours of stand by time from a charge of just 5 percent.

    Camera

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    It’s in the camera department that you may find some conflicting information, especially considering that the rear shooter is the same 4 UltraPixel camera from the first iteration, with the front-facing camera getting a boost to a 5 MP sensor with a wide-angle lens.

    htc-one-m8-launch-aa-21-of-27 (1) resized

    The streamlining of Sense UI continues in the camera application, which has a much simpler interface this time around, and is truly geared towards the average user. But what is really great about the app is the level of manual control you find if you dive just a little deeper into the interface. Controls for ISO and exposure compensation are available, alongside other modes like the sweeping panorama. You can also set the volume rocker to function as a camera shutter button, which is something I would recommend using.

    htc one m8 outdoors (12 of 17)

    Photo quality is decent at best, as you can get some pretty great looking shots at times, while other times there’s a clear¬†lack of dynamic range, resulting in washed out pics. In all cases, zooming in really brings to light the limitations of having a camera with a low megapixel count. Video capabilities are quite good, but without stabilization, you’d better have steady hands. Audio capture on the other hand is excellent, as you can hear in the intro and outro of the camera feature focus video below.

    Zoes are still quite fun to use; the feature lets you add your own music to the highlight reel, so all you nostalgic types will be able to create great little mementos using this phone.

    htc one m8 outdoors (15 of 17)

    Of course, the main story here is the addition of a depth sensor located at the top of the device that feeds depth data¬†to the main camera for every shot you take. The main benefit of this Duo Camera setup is the ability to select the focus area in a shot, without having to waste time with multiple photos. After you take the photo, go to the gallery to play around with your shot with effects like UFocus or selective colorization. But it quickly becomes evident that some optimization is still needed here. The software doesn’t perfectly capture the focal point every time, and when this happens you can pretty much see the line that was drawn to create the effect.

    Ultimately, the HTC One (M8) won’t please users looking for the best camera phone. Problems like washed out elements, low dynamic range, smudgy details, and the low megapixel count are major turnoffs. But any average user that likes to post on social media will probably have fun with the Duo Camera effects, and appreciate the creative options opened up by the M8.

    Software

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    In software, we have a new version of Sense based on Android 4.4 Kitkat, and in the case of the One (M8), this means optimization and speed. For any Sense veterans, much of what you remember from earlier versions of Sense is preserved, such as the vertical scrolling in both BlinkFeed and the application drawer. But HTC added more color accents to the Sense interface on the M8, such as in the color coding of different categories of apps and in the background of BlinkFeed.

    htc one m8 outdoors (17 of 17)

    Users have more freedom to change the look of the UI with a collection of Themes that will continue to grow in the coming months. Other enhancements include the new notification dropdown power widget, which is tiled and brings easy access to a number of quick settings. The on-screen software keys are a nice addition as well, mostly because of the inclusion of the Recent Apps button for easy multi-tasking.

    htc one m8 outdoors (9 of 17)

    Another big feature is Motion Launch, which uses the sensors to determine when you pick up the phone and lets you perform a few swipes or taps to wake the device and jump to certain sections of the UI. The most useful gestures are probably swiping up to wake and unlock the device to the last screen, and the camera launch option, which lets you open the camera app by pressing the volume down button while holding the phone in landscape orientation.

    htc one m8 outdoors (16 of 17)

    And finally, there is BlinkFeed, which has been enhanced and will continue to be enhanced with a new focus on developer additions. What was once a paginated layout is now a smooth scroll of square or rectangular tiles. Content is mostly curated by HTC, but there’s an increased number of sources to choose from now, including social media outlets. Ultimately, it’s a great way to check all your feeds at a glance, but it’s¬†easy to focus on just one source if that’s what you prefer. By opening up its SDK to third-party developers, HTC opened the way¬†for apps like Foursquare and Fitbit to show content in BlinkFeed, making it an even more compelling tool for staying on top of your digital life. You can check out the updated BlinkFeed in the feature focus video below.

    At the end of the day, as far as software on the HTC One (M8) is concerned, it all boils down to one big selling point, and that is the fact that Sense 6 is fast, easy to navigate, functional and stylish.

    Specifications

    Display5-inch Super LCD 3, Full HD (1920 x 1080), 442 ppi
    Processor2.3 Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
    RAM2GB
    CameraUltrapixel Duo Camera, dual-LED flash
    5 MP front camera with wide-angle lens
    Battery2,600 mAh
    Storage16/32 GB, expandable
    Networks3G, 4G LTE
    ConnectivityGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 2.0, WiFi ac, NFC, IR Blaster, Bluetooth 4.0
    SoftwareAndroid 4.4 Kitkat, Sense 6.0
    Dimensions146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm, 160 grams
    ColorsGunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold

    Gallery

    Other Videos

    Pricing and Final Thoughts

    The HTC One (M8) is already available in select markets around the world with a full rollout planned in stages over the next month. The M8 is available from all major carriers in the US at the premium subsidized contract rates, or from major retailers at its full price of $649. You can find out more about the pricing and availability of the device here.

    And so, there you have it, our review of the HTC One (M8). While expectations were understandably running high, for the slew of flagship updates available this year the operative word has truly¬†been “update.” And the HTC One (M8) is an example of a proper evolutionary step. Sure, specifications aren’t groundbreaking, or all that different from other high-end smartphones launched recently. What HTC has done instead is focus on the user experience, crafting a stylish device that appeals to fans of the original One, while providing new users with an accessible and attractive package.¬†Granted, the camera might be a wrinkle in an otherwise great smartphone, but it’s far from a deal breaker.

    What you get with the HTC One (M8) is a phone that I had a lot of fun with while using it as my daily driver, and I’m sure you will as well.

    Next: Best cases for the HTC One (M8).

    Comments

    • TechGuy

      Strange that the Samsung Note 3 does not appear in the top performers chart comparison.

      • Delvin Williams

        I was saying the same thing.. the note 3 still out perform the m8

        • Fred Chiang

          how do you figure? the note 3 has a snapdragon 800… and it has touchwiz which is a much heavier interface than sense

          • Delvin Williams

            Evn with twiz on there the note 3 is a powerful device and so is the s5…. the m8 is well built But sammy is known for have one of the best displays, performance, and camera. .

            • http://nsood.in/ Naman Sood

              That still doesn’t explain how (as you say) a Snapdragon 800 device beats an 801. Now the S5 might be able to beat the M8, but definitely not the Note 3.

          • Damon Adrian

            z1c with sd800 beat z2 with sd801 and 3gb ram

      • Lexc

        Same for GS5…

    • StevenJames

      Great review Josh, love all the videos. I want this device bad. Just, well, I’m afraid of how it will hold up to a few nicks here and there – it is that luscious, beautiful metal after all. And the camera… My God.

    • jack

      a 9.4mm thick phone in 2014………

      • Fred Chiang

        a unibody aluminum phone in 2014………..

      • disio

        As long as handling is good I don’t get what your problem is! Come on, a few mm don’t make such a difference

    • Replicant Jason Booth

      As always Joshua,fantastic article with very in depth coverage. I’m looking forward to sense six on the one and what it’ll bring.

      • Michael Stair

        You can already get it if your bootloader is unlocked and have custom recovery

        • Replicant Jason Booth

          Were able to utilize gesture functions on the m7?

          • Michael Stair

            Not yet that has to do with the kernel. Which wasn’t been released. Its ported from the m8. But you can get kernel kernels that mimmick it like elementalx with knock on.

      • Colby Leong

        BlinkFeed is something that I wish I could have on my Z1

        • Replicant Jason Booth

          You will be able to very soon.it’s coming to the play store! It might already be there…

    • Colby Leong

      The only thing is that this is the year of “updates”, trying to improve on previous devices. HTC has definitely beat Samsung in feel and design. While many may prefer Sony’s design, like me, I can’t help wish that Sony’s newer flagship has the superb handling in the M7 and M8.

      Much like the Z2 the M8 feel more like an update than a brand new flagship. Both devices have improved Stereo Speakers, Displays, Chips, and Simple and Smooth OS. What makes it feel like an update, for me, is that a lot of things remained the same, main example being their camera’s. Where many were hoping for HTC to do away or greatly improve their Ultra-pixels HTC fell short, Sony pretty much just tweaked theirs. But to say that both of these handsets are, “a lot of the same”, is wrong, but you can’t really say it’s one of those breakout flagships.

      In terms of updating, Samsung has done a better job. Looking at their new features, new design, new camera, pretty much everything is either upgraded. If you like Samsung or not the S5 shows that Samsung has worked hard in almost every angle to one-up the S4. If it’s enough to be in your pocket over the Z2, M8, or even the Find 7, or G3 is your decision.

    • disio

      It’s a shame that the camera is so bad or else I could have given the M8 a chance. I’ve never had an HTC before but this M8 looks and works great. I still hope they will sell well because their devices a improving a lot as the years go by…maybe in the future :) For me it’ll be the Z2 this year :)

    • Richdog

      Sorry but your battery life analysis is short, vague, and woefully lacking in detail, and I would expect much better from a professional review.

    • nebuneli

      One M7 was one of the best smartphone in HTC history and this is why the
      M8 doesn’t shine as it should. But in terms of performance the M8 mops
      the floor with Samsung and Co.

    • Jonathan TAM

      Pretty good phone in terms of hardware. I wonder how it actually feels like in the hand. Can someone tell me (I am currently using an Xperia Z1).

      • mhero

        how it feels like in the hand? I personally like m8 more than z2. and yes, it’s hard for me to pick out because i intended to buy a z2… but when i hold both of them. i admittedly feel m8 more comfortable in hand.

    • http://www.friendlyphotozone.com/ Friendly Photo Zone

      My wife already bought one to replace her previous HTC One. She absolutely loves it. Battery life is at least 33% better than the previous One, which is now just about perfect for getting through her day without having to recharge before bedtime. And while the rear camera may not be a huge leap forward, it does have MUCH better color fidelity than the previous One, especially in low light.

      Overall, this phone is a winner. And for those people whining about paper specs (thicker, taller, etc), it really doesn’t feel that way in the hand. Remember this thing is smooth and rounded and feels like a single, solid piece. Those paper specs are very misleading. When my wife first held the One (M8), it fit perfectly in her small-ish hands, and she was surprised when she compared it to her previous One and realize the new one was in fact larger.

    • Steff

      Z2 or m8….. Hard decision :/

    • JusMe

      Hey guys, I saw this…

      http://www.quellichetelefonano…a-confronto/

      It’s in Italian… here the translation:

      “Try to see that particular comparison 2 M8 from different backgrounds,
      there are actually 2 versions and bring with them some slight
      differences.

      This video shows the different shades of screens that does not mean that
      they are different, but definitely with other calibrations of the
      color, in fact it can be seen that the photographs have the same tone if
      downloaded to a computer and the small variations below are certainly
      due to the distances and positions slightly different in the 2 photos in
      comparison.

      I would conclude with:

      Made in China has warmer colors on the screen.

      Made in Taiwan cooler colors on the screen.

      This is the first evidence that we compare, others will follow soon on
      other possible differences. See for yourself the original photos and
      videos of both and devices” *End of Translation”

      Obviously it affects the whites a little bit and hence the colors…
      Perhaps some color calibration? Did anyone read about such differences?
      What’s your experience?

    • Tommy

      We really hope HTC sees success with the M8. It deserves to. This is a phone that has been exceptionally well thought out, with a design that puts its rivals to shame. It boasts a clean and simple look that you rarely see from Android. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.

      http://besthtccases.com/2014/06/best-beautiful-htc-one-m8-cases-2014/

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