HTC One M8
You could say we were rather fond of the original HTC One. It sat atop the phone page in our gear guide for months and was quite simply one of the best gadgets of 2013. But can HTC’s difficult second album, the One M8, really live up to that lofty praise and high expectations?
Well, the build quality certainly succeeds. The ante has been well and truly upped since last year, with a sturdier metal body that now stretches round the sides of the phone, a bigger screen, more robust buttons and a fancy hairline texture on the “metal grey” version that is delightfully tactile.
The profile is ever-so-slightly thinner, at 9.3mm, and more rounded, meaning the phone sits even more comfortably in the hand. Tipping the scales at 160g, the One M8’s a bit heavier than main rivals, but it’s no whale.
At five inches, the screen is slightly bigger than the 4.7-incher on the original One, with fantastic viewing angles – that extra 0.3 inches of screen makes a surprising difference. It’s full-HD, too, with 441 pixels per inch (ppi), looking every bit as good as the clear, vibrant screen on its predecessor. How does that measure up to the latest generation of smartphones, though? Well, five-inch screens are pretty much the norm now but the M8’s ppi is better than the Xperia Z2 (424), the Galaxy S5 (432) and the iPhone 5S, the latter’s once lauded Retina Display clocking in at just 326ppi. Only Google’s Nexus 5 boasts better, with a pixel density of 445ppi.
When it comes to camera skills, HTC still refuses to be drawn into the megapixel war, even inventing its own terminology while it’s at it. So it sticks with the same four-“ultrapixel” sensor found in the original One. Photo and video results are both excellent and HTC has instead taken the
time to update some of its snapper’s features. The refocus tool, for instance, is a real bonus, giving Lytro-like postpic editing options by calculating data from the camera lens and the new depth sensor.
There’s also a parallax mode, here called Dimension Plus, that produces results which look like the iPhone 5S’s home screen, where tilting the phone gives the image a 3D effect. It’s hardly essential, sure, but it’s still a neat gimmick.
The similarly clever Zoe software is back again, stitching together movie clips automatically from videos and snaps you’ve taken. HTC has promised a Zoe app compatible with all Android phones, too, so soon you’ll be able to make collaborative clips with phone owners of more varied persuasions.
The One M8 has side-stepped many of this year’s buzz/faddy features – no fingerprint scanner here – but there’s one trend that it couldn’t ignore: the selfie. Indeed, the cam now has a dedicated Selfie mode, which is basically a shortcut to the five-meg front-facing cam. There’s also a dual-capture mode, which snaps from the back and front cameras at the same time, stitching the image together.
You get full manual control of ISO and exposure, plus a very reliable auto mode, and there’s a comprehensive selection of Instagram- style filters and Japanese photo booth-style add-ons, ranging from cherry blossom to fake snow (use very sparingly).
Pre-loaded on the One M8’s bespoke Sense 6.0-skinned version of the Android KitKat operating system is a refreshed take on its Blinkfeed news hub, which is fast becoming a genuine alternative to Flipboard. It also comes with the Fitbit app, which uses the builtin accelerometer to count your steps (for more dedicated trackers, head over to p74).
Keeping all of this new functionality running smoothly is the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quadcore processor, capable of handling pretty much anything we threw at it. The image processing is great and it will run absolutely any app on Google Play with minimal fuss. It also doesn’t seem to get nearly as hot and bothered whilst doing it as the original HTC One; the M8’s unflappable.
Along with 2GB of RAM, there’s a standard 16GB of built-in storage that’s
expandable to 128GB via microSD. It also comes with a 2600mAh battery, which is a slight boost over the original One’s already decent 2300mAh one. Over the course of a day, we streamed 4G and Wi-Fi video, played Battleheart and NewStarSoccer, checked Blinkfeed, Pocket, WhatsApp and Facebook repeatedly, yet still had ten per cent battery left come bedtime. That might not sound strenuous, but it’s the sort of usage that would drain a 5S entirely.
The new Instant Access feature means a number of the phone’s sensors are always on alert, ready to do your bidding at a moment’s notice. Swipe left and it shows Blinkfeed; swipe up and it opens your last app; turn the phone to landscape and it opens the camera; a double-tap shows you the lock screen.
the htc one m8 is about style and substance, not faddish features
Want to add an extra, old-school dot-matrix look to the One M8’s lock screen? The brand new Dot View rubber flip case contains magnets that switch on notifications or let you answer calls through the cover. Double tap the cover and you’ll get basic info, such as time, weather and battery status. It looks cool, but is not responsive. Unless you really need a case, we suggest you use the M8 aunaturel.
If you’re first and foremost looking for a phone to show off down the pub, the One M8 boasts fewer “wow” features than the Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2. However, the improvements HTC has made are brilliantly implemented. It does all the essentials, and it does them in style.
It’s tough at the pointy end of the Android tree at the moment, and whether the HTC One M8 deserves a place at the very top comes down to personal taste more than anything else. But there’s no denying that it’s a brilliant piece of kit. $899, htc.com/au
Love Stunning chassis. Lovely screen. Great camera with depth sensor. Very speedy. Blinkfeed is a boon Hate Light on features compared to rivals T3 Says The HTC One M8 is much more than the sum of its upgrades.