The HTC One M8 comes with several tools and apps that are easy to use, and work well and simply.
HTC's new flagship device, the HTC One M8, is an excellent phone, but does it do enough to set itself apart from the other superb devices on the market, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or Sony Xperia Z2?
Look, feel & hardware
No one could argue that the HTC One M8 is not a really good smartphone, boasting several improvements and added features from its predecessor, the M7. The look and feel is sleek and solid – the casing is brushed metal, with rounded edges, making the phone a little heavy, but giving it a premium feel.
It is easy to handle the device with one hand, as it is 9.4mm thick, but the metal casing does make it feel a little slippery. The One M8 has the headphone jack and micro USB port at the bottom of the phone, which makes more sense to me, and has also moved the speaker to the front face for improved sound quality.
The screen is a little bigger than the M7, and has been upped to 4.7 inches, and is a Super LCD3 display at 1080p, covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The screen is superb – it boasts really good viewing angles, is adequate in direct sunlight. The colours are vibrant and bright – exactly what you'd expect for a device in this price range. The device is also quite a bit taller, and a couple of millimetres wider than the previous version. To be precise, HTC One M8 is 9.4mm thick, 71mm wide, 146mm tall and weighs160g.
The screen bezel is slimmer so the increase in width is negligible. The power button sits on the top edge, but the phone debuts Motion Launch, that lets you wake up and unlock your phone directly to an app or screen. Motion Launch employs a combination of a motion gesture, or lifting the phone, followed by quick double tap. In addition, a special motion sensor chip in the device lets you navigate to the main home screen or BlinkFeed window when the phone is off by flicking from the left or from the right of the screen.
Two issues that brought the phone down in my view were, firstly, the decision to use a nano SIM instead of the usual micro SIM. Few devices make use of these, and this decision made reviewing the phone a bit of a nuisance. Secondly, I really felt this phone should offer some sort of water resistance, as offered by the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2, as I've come to expect this sort of innovation from a device in this price range.
Other hardware improvements to the device include the dual-lens camera and the stereo BoomSound speakers on the front of the phone. The speakers have given the device truly excellent sound – crisp and clear, with none of that 'tinnyness' you usually get with a smartphone. Not only can the phone handle louder volume, but the tone is so much clearer and crisper. Far better than I've heard on any other device.
As expected, the One M8 comes with KitKat 4.4.2 and a newer version of HTC's Sense user interface, Sense 6.0, which is a significant improvement on the previous version.
I liked the layout, is is clean and easy to use. It features HTC's BlinkFeed homescreen, designed to aggregate feeds – social media, news and suchlike. This can be disabled fairly easily, but once I got used to it, I really enjoyed it. There are several improvements, including new on-screen buttons, menus, as well as the lock screen and quick settings, and the app drawer. However, visually it doesn't change that much from Sense 5, so you don't need to reinvent the wheel and relearn how to 'drive' this device.
In terms of the app drawer and the homescreen, HTC has opted for a less is more approach, with a three-panel home screen as the default. The main home panel features HTC's 4x1 Weather Clock widget, the
Under the hood
Unsurprisingly, the One M8 has some fantastic stuff under the hood, and boasts a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU, one of the fastest and best that
The processing power is backed up by a more than adequate 2GB of DDR2 RAM, and 16 or 32GB of internal storage. This can be upgraded to 128GB of microSD storage, for those with heavy picture and music storage needs.
Another interesting feature, although I'm not too sure how useful or practical it really is, is the inclusion of an IR blaster, that allows the user to design custom commands for the home theatre system, almost taking the place of a universal remote. As I said, I'm not sure why anyone would want to do this, but there you go.
In terms of connectivity, the One M8 offers the expected options, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and 4G/LTE, as well as assisted GPS and Glonass.
In terms of battery life, the device got the expected day of 'normal' use. However, the device intros an Extreme Power Saving Mode for times when you need to save power. This mode significantly extends battery life, but shuts down all but the most basic functions.
The device's camera is fairly similar to last year's device, and features the same UltraPixel sensor, that makes up for the camera being of a lower-res than devices of the same level, by making use of larger sensor pixels for far better low-light performance. The rear camera of the phone has 4MP and it also has a front camera of 5MP, the video recording of the device is HD.
HTC One M8 at a glance* Display: 5.00-inch* Processor: 2.5GHz* Front Camera: 5 megapixel* Resolution: 1080x1920 pixels* RAM: 2GB* OS Android: 4.4.2* Storage: 16GB* Rear Camera: 4-Ultrapixel* Battery capacity: 2600mAhShooting performance is excellent, focusing, besides when in 'Selfie' mode, is fast and taking multiple pics speeds are excellent. Several snaps can be taken in quick succession without having to utilise a 'burst' mode. Night mode slows things down somewhat, but not enough to annoy. However, switching between shooting modes slows you down considerably, which I found annoying.
Image quality is good, but not of the same standard as the Galaxy S5 for example, but post-editing features such as white balance, levels, contrast, exposure, brightness, saturation and similar can take care of most problems. In addition, the filters section features some nice filters, as well as the ability to make your own.
The camera also offers the expected digital image stabilisation, face detection, smile detection, exposure compensation, ISO control, white balance, burst mode, geo tagging, panorama and macro mode.
On the whole, I really liked this device. The look and feel is sleek and elegant, the camera takes really good pictures and features some great new modes, such as 'Selfie' and 'Duo Camera' which are fun to use and produce fantastic results. The sound, with the inclusion of BoomSound speakers, is incredible. The screen too, is superbly crisp and clear, and the way the device is laid out just works. I also have no complaints as far as performance is concerned, or with the battery life. The device also comes with several tools and apps that are easy to use, and work well and simply.
Now comes the but … All these things are things that you take for granted with a smartphone in this price range (R8 999). In fact, these features are the very minimum you'd expect from a device that is competing with the incredible Android devices available on the market, but which boast waterproofing or resistance, and have additional features and apps the HTC does not.
I would have liked to have seen more innovation with this device. There are some great apps, but for me, at this level of phone, it's all about the innovation and features. This phone doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from the other devices out there.
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