HTC are a company known for making high end smartphones such as the Desire, Sensation and Legend. Their premier device of 2013 – the One – has now been uprated and the new version is known as the M8.
The company announced two new devices at MWC in Barcelona but waited until only recently to announce their new flagship device and for a very good reason.
If you want your own HTC One M8 after finishing this review then they are already on sale. in fact they went on sale seconds after the announcement was over. A great move from HTC
So on to the review.
The HTC One M8 features some impressive specs, and under the hood you can expect a 2.2Ghz Quad-Core Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage and microSD support for up to 128GB of storage. There’s also three, yes THREE cameras with a dual LED flash plus much more.
At the top is the larger BoomSound speaker which is 25% louder. Those speaker chambers have been redesigned to give you a clearer sound than the previous model, which was already impressive.
You also have the light sensor and the 5 megapixel camera up front. This also has HDR for really good ‘selfie’ photos in all lighting conditions. This doesn’t have a front facing flash though. The front shooter features a wide angle lens and also records video in 1080p which makes it the perfect phone for anyone wanting to get into video blogging or taking a selfie and sharing via social media sites.
5 megapixels for a front facing camera is very rare, normally 2 is the highest we would see but HTC have really focussed on making this a camera phone for everyone. Below are some sample photos using the 5 megapixel front camera..
HTC have increased the screen from 4.7 inches to 5.0 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and a PPI of 441. This makes it one of the best screens on the market.
Under the screen the company have also done away with the two touch capacitive buttons found on the older model and have gone for all on screen buttons. This creates just a black bar with just the HTC logo. It may seem a little odd and many people have been taking to Twitter about this asking why is it even there?
The reply from HTC was that there is so much going on under the case, they needed the space to hold all the electronics. At least we have an official answer to that question.
You also have the second BoomSound speaker down the bottom for very loud and clear audio. The original M7 speakers were pretty decent and very loud, but these will be even better with the new technology.
On the back is the biggest change between the older and newer models – the brand new twin cameras with a dual LED flash. This should make for some fantastic photos as it has a depth sensor and a lot of on-board effects.
The dual LED flash helps with poor lighting conditions but that is something the Ultrapixel lens on the One M8 can handle very well on it’s own too. This is one of the major advantages of ultrapixels over megapixels.
The camera on the back is the same as seen on the last years’ model – 4 Ultrapixels. This is more than enough for sharing photos and printing off photos too.
Where the M8 will struggle is, once again, convincing the general public that a 4 Ultrapixel camera is better than 16 megapixels on the S5 or 20.7 megapixels on the Z2. Both of these high-end competing handsets are available and are flagship models. Samsung in particular will be spending quite a bit on advertising to make sure you know about that S5 and that camera. It’s going to be difficult to compete.
Where the M8 is unique is that second camera on the back. This allows for some really nice special effects like blurring the background and focusing on the foreground. It’ll make your main object really stand out.
Video on the M8 is still 1080p resolution so not able to match the new 4K video seen on the Xperia Z2 or Galaxy S5 and the reason for this is due to the pixel count.
This is another way the lower resolution camera can have a negative impact on the device. To record 4K you need over 8 megapixels to capture the resolution needed for 4K, and as the M8 is only 4 megapixels it’s half what is needed, so sticks at 1080p.
Whilst this will not bother everyone, for a 2014 flagship, lacking this feature when the competition has it included could be a big deal for many, not because we all have nice new 4K tv’s to play back on but you are able to use 4K recording to zoom in and not lose quality on a 1080p video.
At the top you have the power button, which is obviously used for turning the phone on and off. There’s also the IR blaster used with the SenseTV app once again. It’ll let you control your TV or Cable/Sky box etc. The new updated app lets you get updates on sports results and is far more “social friendly” than the previous version.
At the bottom is the MicroUSB port for charging or moving those photos and videos to a computer.
You also have the 3.5mm headset jack on the bottom, which some people will like. Personally I don’t like the position here and prefer it up top but that is more of a personal preference.
Using a pair of Beats from an older HTC phone I found the sound on the M8 was incredible with crystal clear audio, plenty of bass and just a great experience listening too on the way home from work in the evenings.
On the left side you just have a single SIM card slot with a pin hole to push out the tray. It’s a Nano SIM slot which a lot of new devices seem to be using now to help make maximum advantage of space inside the phone for other things
The reason the slot is larger than before is that there is due to be a dual-SIM version for certain markets. We hear that this will fit the other Nano SIM too but this should not be hitting the UK any time soon. If it did, expect it to lack LTE like the dual SIM version the original One M7 did over here.
On the right side you have a MicroSD card slot (do not mix this up with the SIM card slot!) and this supports the new larger 128GB storage cards. It’s great to see the return of the microSD and is something that was missing on the original HTC One.
Here you can also find the volume up and down keys which can be used in settings for a camera shutter. This is due to the simple fact that there is no dedicated key like on the Z2 from Sony.
HTC Dot Case
Something worth adding on the end of the review is the really cool accessory also announced by HTC for the M8 and that is the ‘Dot matrix case’ which protects the back as well as the screen, but still gives you access to your calls and alerts.
As you can see in the video and on the photo above, this new case not only protects the phone but gives you a unique way to interact even with the cover on, plus you can take calls with the case closed with a simple swipe.
Other alerts available include calls, texts, alarms plus you can also interact using a swipe motion and your voice if you do not have a lock code on the device which is rather handy.
At the event HTC said this case costs $50 so in the UK we can expect around £35, the same price as some of the Samsung cases which also give you interaction with the phone, just not quite as cool looking as this from HTC.
Sense 6.0 and BlinkFeed
HTC have updated their Sense skin used on Android devices and this is version 6. Most of the improvements are small ones which all add up to a rather different overall experience compared to something running 5.5.
Version 6 includes things like on screen controls as the M8 has done away with the two capacitive touch buttons. It has newer icons, themes, a new app draw.
Motion Gestures are another big change. They do things like lower the ringer volume if you pick up the phone from a desk when ringing. You can double tap the screen to bring out of standby mode, swipe different directions to open different services via the lock screen and also put onto silent when you turn the phone over.
HTC also made some of the key apps such as BlinkFeed, SenseTV and Zoe separate from the OS.
This means that they can release updates to the apps without needing to wait for a whole new version of Android or Sense to be created. This is something Google started to do with their core apps like YouTube, Maps and Gmail a while ago, much to the love of users all around the world.
- Amazing build quality
- Latest version of Android out of the box
- Cat4 LTE so 150Mbps LTE support
- BoomSound speakers sound awesome
- Camera can be VERY hit and miss
- 2nd camera more of a gimmick than sales point
When the original HTC One was announced over a year ago I was blown away by the design and was more than happy to welcome HTC back into making phones from aluminium (like the Legend was all those years ago).
However, with the original One being such a big selling and multi-award winning device, HTC had to really smash it out of the park to make the new one even better.
In some ways I am happy to say they have done a great job in taking the original One and improving it. The speakers are even louder and better, the microSD card support is back and there’s support for 128GB storage cards. The dual LED flash on the back and the 2 cameras plus a very impressive 5 megapixel front facing camera – all very good indeed.
The biggest change between the two models is the dual camera on the back. This will effectively take two photos at the same time and then lets you edit the focus after. Whilst this sounds rather interesting, and believe me it is, this is something other manufacturers have been offering with software enhancements such as on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2. Despite the clever tech and the second camera, the fact that other handsets can do it too (and they have higher resolution cameras) will create a problem for HTC, especially when the camera is the same one found on the original HTC One.
The screen is beautiful and bright as you would expect, and at 1080p resolution your content looks really nice so big plus points for the screen on the M8. Battery on the new M8 seems impressive, HTC state 40% more battery life with the larger battery built in and software enhancements paired together to give you more time on the go. The battery can switch into a super power saving mode to give you a lot longer using the phone.
In testing I was able to get through a day and then need to put the M8 on charge when I got home in the evening to top it up. This is pretty standard on most phones with my use. There’s a few exceptions such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but you can feel happy using the M8 and not have to worry about running out of battery.
The new Sense 6 update is a nice improvement with visual enhancements and BlinkFeed is better than before. I used to hate using BlinkFeed but found after setting up the new version I actually enjoyed using it, although I admit I did not use a huge amount.
So the big question you have to ask is do you get the HTC One M8 over any of the other flagships about to launch on the market? Honestly this is very hard to answer. It’s got an amazing build quality. A full aluminium unibody design so you won’t get scratches and it’s very strong. The speakers are very potent too.
The camera, whilst a nice idea having two on the back, feels more of a gimmick to me than a great selling point. £500 is a lot of money to pay for an unlocked model and even on contract you are looking at £37-£42 a month, a hefty bunch of change in exchange for this new flagship.
Whilst I want to say 100% yes go out and pick up one of these for yourself, I just can’t after using some of the other flagship devices. If you want the best build quality and love your music, the HTC One M8 is for you!
If you want more than that, there are other, and in some cases better alternatives out there, but best take a look for yourself to make your own mind up