HTC One M8

Australian T3 - - RATED -

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.

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