HTC One M8 Review

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HTC One M8 Review

HTC One M8 Review

There’s only some much you can do with a rectangle. Some observers suggest than the smartphone market has become stale and stagnated and that every year releases look the same and lack imagination. Well HTC aren’t having that, last year the One or the M7 blew critics away with its all-aluminium design and was crowned the best phone of 2013.

That makes it all the more impressive that HTC have managed to do the same again this year with the HTC One M8 and cram more power, more pixels and yes, even more aluminium into an even better looking handset.

Design

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Let’s start with where the HTC One M8 really stands out and where it has gained the highest percentage of praise.

As you can gauge from the introduction, the M8’s  design is a site to behold HTC had to think long and hard about how they could improve on last year’s M7 design, they managed to make the M8 90% metal up from 70% on last year’s model.

It sounds cliché but the M8’s design is something you need to feel to believe, looking at pictures of it you may think it either looks the same as last year’s variant or doesn’t look a great deal better than the competition, but after handling the device you’ll change your mind instantly.

The curved back allows it to comfortably sit in your hand despite it being made of quite a slippery material, the bottom of the M8 is quite simplistic only containing the headphone jack and the charging port, this is due to; the phone’s stereo speakers being on the front of the device above and below the phone’s 5.0 inch display. Not only does this provide an excellent audio experience it also compliments the design further.

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The M8 is noticeably taller and wider than its predecessor, due to it having a larger 5.0 inch screen over the M7’s 4.7 inch display, despite the size upgrade the M8 doesn’t feel too big in the hand, although the phone’s power button which is placed on the top of the device can be difficult to reach from time to time, especially if you’re using it one-handed. Although; HTC have remedied this by allowing you to wake the phone simply by double tapping on the screen.

The One M8 weighs in at 160g, which is a little bit heavier than some of the competition and definitely points toward a trend among manufacturers of making their devices weigh more in recent years. The weight if anything adds to the premium feel the M8 has.

The M8 is available in three different colour options, the metallic grey version which is the one that seems to appear in the majority of promo shots, a silver variant which can be likened to last year’s model  and of course; a gold model.

The M8’s aesthetics and ground breaking design can make it feel a little precious in the hand,  this is definitely a phone you don’t want to drop on any form of hard surface. If you’re the clumsy type HTC have the option of a “Dot view case”  which has the pretty impressive feature of displaying any active notifications/ the time and the weather onto case itself when double tapped.

Display

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The M8’s display has had a size upgrade compared to last year’s device, the M7 was packing a 4.7 inch screen, this year HTC have decided to take it up a notch to 5.1 inches. The M8’s display is incredibly crisp and has a lot of detail.

The M8’s screen has a  resolution of 1920 x 1080 meaning a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch meaning that the pixel count is actually less than the M7 which had a 469 PPI.  Despite the drop, you’re not going to notice any reduction in quality.

The M8 has some pretty good viewing angles and also copes very well in direct sunlight, whereas the S5 and other flagships had a certain glare on them.

One gripe I had with the M8’s screen was I felt that HTC could have squeezed more real estate out of if they’d either got rid of the black bar with the HTC logo at the bottom or it housed the physical keys.  When you take into account the black and bar and the on screen keys it adds up to quite a lot of wasted screen.

Performance

The original HTC One set the bar high in areas other than its design, when the M7 dropped last year, it topped all the main benchmarks with its Snapdragon 600 and 2GB of RAM.

This year HTC have decided to stick with 2GB of RAM again but upgraded the chipset to a Snapdragon 801 which really does scream, the performance is flawless – loading and switching in and out of apps is seamless and I had very few instances of apps crashing.

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On AnTuTu the M8 stands at the top of list of devices although; my particular test unit came in at 33683 which placed it below the S5 and Note3.  On the benchmark platform Quadrant, my M8 got a score of 22361 which placed it at the top of a handful of other devices.

The M8 managed to handle games with pretty intensive 3D graphics impressively well and is an all-round power house of a device, heavy and moderate users a-like will be very impressed with how well the M8 runs.

Software

The HTC One M8 as you would expect comes running the latest version of Android which is 4.4.2 KitKat, it has its own skin over the top which is Sense 6, this is probably one of my favourite Android skins (Although; I prefer stock Android all day, long) HTC Sense is one of the least intrusive of Android skins and still has some cool touches and customizations by HTC, with Sense 6 having a variety of new features.

The One M8 has some new motion launch gestures, simply double tapping the screen when it’s locked will wake it up, this does a lot to combat the sometimes awkward to reach power button.You can also unlock the phone by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and activate the M8’s camera app by holding the phone in landscape.  As well as waking up the device you can also swipe left when the screen is in sleep mode and it will open the widget panel and a swipe to the right will open up HTC’s BlinkFeed.

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BlinkFeed is a feature HTC introduced last year with the M7 it’s accessed by swiping right when the phone is either asleep or awake and takes you to a feed of various news, sports and weather updates as well any social network accounts you have synced to it like; Facebook, twitter and Instagram. BlinkFeed is really handy if you just want to quickly look at your phone to check out information.

Camera

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HTC garnered a lot of controversy last year with the inclusion of a camera with 4 “ultra-pixels” this year, they’ve got the same camera specs, but a lot of tricks up their sleeve.  The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the back of the M8 is the fact that there’s two cameras, so let’s look at why that’s necessary.

The main camera which is situated next to the dual LED flash is the same 4 ultrapixel camera that we go with last year’s M7, the ultrapixels theoretically let in more light and make for a better, brighter image.  It does work pretty well, the M8 will take some reasonably good photos in low-light, sometimes giving off the impression there’s more light than there actually was.

The second camera isn’t really a camera at all, its job is to sense the depth in the image, this enables all sorts of new crazy settings and edits which you can put into your picture after you’ve taken it.

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The feature I imagine you’ve heard about the most and probably the only feature you’ll really use is U-focus. This neat little addition allows you to blur a particular subject in your image, either blurring whatever is in the background or foreground of the shot.  It actually works really well, and gives your image a professional look, although it can be hard to get right, you have to have a pretty obvious subject to blur, I tried it with a sweeping shot and it ended up blurring a lot more of the image than I wanted to.

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Another camera feature which relies on the duo-camera is dimension plus, which allows you to move around the picture, giving it a cool 3D like effect. I can’t imagine a practical use for it as you can only do it while the image is on the phone, but it’s definitely something to show your friends.

The camera app itself has had a UI overhaul, it now has a very minimalistic black and white design, giving you the options to capture a panoramic shot , dual capture and access the 5 megapixel front camera by pressing the option titled “selfie.”

Battery

HTC claim that the M8 will last 40% longer than the M7, for anybody who ever used the M7 for a long period of time will know that it was an absolute power-house. HTC really weren’t kidding either, the M8 just keeps on going, you can comfortably get up to 24 hours  of pretty heavy use of; texting, watching video, tweeting, phone calls and playing audio, I rarely hooked the M8 back up with it on any lower than 20%.

If you have all of the connectivity turned on such as; Bluetooth, wifi or any activity tracker apps running you will have to put it onto charge each night, but it certainly won’t die on you half way through the day like a lot of smartphones out there.

If you think you’re an extremely heavy user and the M8 will still probably die on you then don’t fear because like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC M8 has a power saving mode which is activated automatically once the device hits 20%. HTC claim that you’ll be able to squeeze 24 hours battery life from 10% charge. Although; this is with pretty limited use, so that’s calls, texts, emails and a few system apps only but if you just need your phone to last through the night for the basics, this is ideal.

Verdict

The One M8 makes some important upgrades over its predecessor the One M7,  HTC increased the screen size, but kept it feeling comfortable in your hand, they added more metal, somehow made it feel more premium and also managed to make it better looking than its older brother.

They also added important things like a microSD cart slot for increased storage and also made innovative updates to the camera, although; it would have been nice to see perhaps a higher megapixel camera.

With a glorious design, high-end specs and software that makes it incredibly simple to use with some very smart features this is the smartphone to beat this year.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on an M8 and live in the U.K, the phone is available on O2 Refresh and from our friends at Clove Technology who have some fantastic offers on the M8 and its accessories.

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