I normally do not believe in “Love at first sight” and that generally applies to gadgets too, considering I have been using a plethora of phones for the past 5 years, right from the dead Windows mobile to current Windows Phone 8.1. I have come across certain beautifully crafted devices like the HTC Touch Diamond, iPhones and a lot of function-first devices like the Note series of Samsung. Heck, I have even used the Water proof Sony Xperia Z1, but nothing comes close to the beauty we are going to see here today. The new HTC One M8 not only shattered my belief about love at first sight, but also made me form a new belief – love at every sight and every time. If that sounds like a fanboy talk, I suggest you read on to find the reason.
- IPx3 Certification– splash resistant body
- Snapdragon 801 quad core processor at 2.5Ghz*
- Adreno 330 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- Dual Front facing “Boomsound” Stereo speakers by Harman/Kardon*
- 5” 1080p display with 441 PPI
- Unibody Metal construction
- 4 ultrapixel rear camera coupled with “Duo” camera
- 5MP front facing camera with 1080p video recording
- Motion gestures
It is natural to compare the new HTC One M8 to the last year’s model (M7) since this builds upon what its predecessor introduced – the absolutely gorgeous unibody Aluminium build. The new One features 90% metal body while compared to the 70% metal body and hence the slight increase in the weight. The M8 we have for the review comes in Gunmetal grey, which looks superior to the other color options due to the brushed aluminium finish. But before we go all objective, its subjective review that matters the most here. You need to actually hold the device to feel what metal can bring to your phone – Class. I am surprised why other manufacturers (read :Samsung) do not want to head this way when this clearly feels superior while compared to any other device that is currently available in the market.HTC One M8 Build HTC M8 Display HTC One M8 Unboxing The IR and Power button HTC One M8 Build HTC One M8 Build
The body of the HTC One M8 screams quality and the build is top notch. Due to the more rounded corners, single handed use is more welcoming than its predecessor. The rear of the phone is complete metal save for two stripes of plastic on top and bottom of the phone for antennae. I also like the fact that the camera is of recessed type rather than protruding like in One X or Samsung S5, since you don’t have to worry a lot about the lens getting scratched easily. The attention to details HTC has given here is simply amazing and this easily takes the crown of best built Android phone ever, of course from its elder sibling, M7. This might even be the best built smartphone ever, but it purely comes down to personal choice between this and the iPhone 5S and my vote definitely goes to the One.
The M8 features a 5” SuperLCD3 1080p screen, up from 4.7” from the last edition. This also marks the birth of on-screen buttons from the HTC camp, which I believe looks even better than the current implementation in Nexus phones. I particularly like how the buttons are small and pretty rather than the big ugly logos in current crop of phones. The screen is bright and tops out at 577 nits which is pretty high, has good contrast levels and excellent sunlight legibility. The screen is one of the best in a phone and it is to be expected of HTC as it is known for its LCD displays in its droid army, right from the brilliant One X.HTC One X vs One
THE BOOMSOUND SPEAKERS:
I thank deeply from my heart to whoever came up with the idea to put the speakers in the front of the phone and it quite frankly amazes me why the experts never figured it out in the first place while building a phone. If you thought the old One (M7) had the best speakers in a phone, you might want to reconsider it, because the M8 is louder, richer and much improved, thanks to its dual amplifier and modification of the aesthetics which helps it produce 25% more sound than its predecessor. Even better news is the speakers are made from the highly regarded speaker manufacturer – Harman/Kardon. Though this is not confirmed officially, few leaks and tweets from HTC made it clearer. No wonder the speakers sound extremely clear even at the highest level and puts other phones to shame when played next to this. There is also respectable bass and even though the company parted ways with BeatsTM , the sound quality is richer and better than ever. The phone’s BoomSound option cannot be turned off when using the internal speakers.
The HTC One M8 is nothing short of innovative, right from its metal body to having the fastest touch response in a phone till date. As normal with HTC, they have yet again gone out of the usual ways to bring something new to the table – this time in the form of “Duo Camera”. But is it just a gimmick or has some real use? Dive in to find out more.
The HTC One M8 features two cameras on the rear. A primary camera with bigger sensor which takes the pictures and a secondary camera whose job is to get the depth information of each picture. I am not going to explain the nitty-gritty of the One’s camera architecture here and entirely focus on the picture quality and the actual use of the second rear camera.
REVISITING THE ULTRAPIXEL:
The primary camera is 4 Ultrapixels which is actually 4 Megapixel in resolution combined with larger sensor capturing 300% more light. This is basically the same camera used in the HTC One M7 last year, albeit from a different provider (OmniVision OV4688).
Kicking off with the good stuff – the camera takes stellar pictures in low light conditions. It sees what your eyes can see, and then some. Taking pictures of cloud in midnight? Check. Capturing your quirky dance moves in a dimly lit pub? Check. A beautifully lit up garden on your way back to home? Check. This phone has a brilliant two-tone flash to light up sceneries, if you wish to. But chances are that you won’t be needing them because, simply put – this is one the best cameras to take low light pictures. It has extremely low latency between you pressing the button and the actual picture being taken. The shot-to-shot time is impressive too, I never missed any action that is going on while using this phone.A night shot in the street of Melbourne A lowlight capture The reflections
Some people might argue that Lumia phones (read: Lumia 1020, 1520) takes better pictures in lowlight. The shot to shot time and processing time of photos from those phones are ridiculously long and it is a deal breaker for me. I want to take photos when an action happens, not after it completes.The camera interface is one of the cleanest and intuitive I have used in an android phone. It is simple, yet has overwhelming options. They are not buried deep down or thrown at your face. You also get real time monitoring of the changes you make to the parameters in the camera. You can see how the photo will look before you actually take the picture when you slide the parameters. This is similar to the Nokia Cam app in Windows Phone 8.
Now the not-so good stuff about the camera. Brightly lit scenes are too soft for my liking, lack details and suffer from low dynamic ranges. Whatever improvement you make to the camera’s sensor, you cannot hide the low megapixel count in the photo. The photos do look good in the phone and OK in a 1080p screen. But zooming into a photo is totally out of the equation. If your ultimate aim is to upload pics in facebook or any social network, you will be very satisfied with the pictures taken. Unfortunately, I have a this habit of taking a picture, zoom in to read minute details(thank you Lumia 1020, you made me an addict) and get satisfied doing so.The User Interface of Camera A day shot from the One Ugly implementation of Shutter speed
As mentioned previously, the changes you make in the camera interface reflects in real time. This means that when you try to try to take a photo with 4s shutter speed, you get something like this – which is extremely annoying. The intention is good, but the implementation is not.
THE SECONDARY “DUO CAMERA”:
HTC One M8 features a secondary camera, termed as “Duo Camera” which helps in recording the depth of the photos you take using the primary camera. Interestingly, the camera module used here is the same 2.1 megapixel front facing camera module of HTC One M7. The presence of the extra camera makes changing of focus in photos you take just a matter of seconds and allows you to add “bokeh” effects to your photos like DSLRs. HTC has added few effects of its own in the gallery which can be applied to make the photos look interesting. The UFocus option lets you focus onto any object in the picture, 3D option creates a 3D effect (which can be viewed only in the phone) and seasons which add cheesy effects like snow or falling leaves to a picture. There is also a cut and paste option which allows you to choose a person from a different photo and paste in another. When these options work, I find them very useful and funny!!!
Unfortunately, the duo camera has its limitations. The above said functions work only in photos taken in bright conditions. It is frustrating to find that these options do not work in
- Lowlight photos
- Photos with Flash
Talk about marketing your phone with extreme low light capabilities and adding extra camera which does not compliment it in any way. For me, at least, the duo camera is a waste of space since I use my phone to take more lowlight photos and photos with flash. I do not see a point in adding a camera unit which works only in select situations. Also there is no Cut & Paste nor sticker option in photos which does not have a face which is a bummer.Main features unavailable for certain photos
The front facing camera is a 5MP unit which is capable of recording 1080p video and has a wide angle focus when compared to other cameras. The pictures come out clean and nice. It would have been nice if the pictures turn out to be a little sharp.
To summarize, I have been very impressed with the One M8’s camera on lowlight situations. But unfortunately, the good news stops there. The photos taken in bright conditions lack details and does not look like it was taken from a phone of 2014. The Duo Camera works only in select situations and the effects offered in the gallery is restricted to only pictures which comply with Duo Cam specs.
As much as I am critical about the still camera performance, I absolutely love the video quality of the HTC One M8. The phone features one of the best 1080p recording at a very healthy 20mbps bitrate. The audio quality is even better than the previous edition, which almost completely shuts off noise and captures crystal clear audio in stereo format. The Ultrapixel camera comes into action here, capturing details ever so sharply and clearly even in lowlight situations, like the sample video which was taken at around 10PM.
The absence of OIS is clearly visible during the video sessions, making the videos shaky if you are moving around a lot. There is a dedicated Anti-shake mode available which reduces the shake to an extent, but it doesn’t come anywhere nearer to the physical OIS. HTC has missed a trick in omitting the critically acclaimed OIS in the M8.
THE SIXTH SENSE:
The new fancy name from HTC does not actually let you foresee stuff, but the software actually makes sense(pun intended) this time around. The version of the Sense is 6 and it is an update from the 5.5 Sense from HTC One M7. The interface even more simple yet elegant and more intuitive than ever. The icons are flat, no flashy stuff and the placements of settings and icons makes sense too. Talking about the software, the All new BlinkFeed is back with a bang. It now features contents from 1000 plus sites and you can actually manage what to see and what to filter, which is a welcome addition. The BlinkFeed looks more structured, clutter free and easy to use, partly thanks to the different available themes you can choose it to wear. The launcher is a usual affair with the ability to change your grid from either 3×4 or 4×5, ability to have a custom sort of apps and create and manage folders. I have been used to side scrolling in most of the launchers but I got quickly used to the new Sense and in fact this is the only launcher I prefer other than the vanilla Android launcher. The notification panel has two settings pane, one with notifications and the other with 12 user manageable quick settings.Homescreen Sense Launcher
ACTUAL USAGE AND BENCHMARKS:
The phone is powered by the latest Snapdragon 801 processor, running at 2.5Ghz (Asian version. US versions run at 2.3 GHZ) and powerful Adreno 330 GPU. Frankly put, this is the fastest phone I have ever used. Everything just flies and there is zero lag in opening applications or during navigation. Everything opens in an instant, very quick and fluid. To back this up, I ran few benchmarks in AnTuTu and the results are nothing short of stellar. The phone ranks 10th overall scoring a mighty 38810.AnTuTu Scores AnTuTu Rank
According to the experiment carried out by LesNumeriques, the new One has the fastest touch response among every phone released till date. Sitting at 46ms, it is the first phone to cross the 50ms barrier beating the likes of Apple iPhone 5s (75ms) and Samsung galaxy Note 3 (67ms) on its way to glory. The test contained former flagships such as Samsung Galaxy S4 and the newly released flagships from Sony and LG.Is this the start of another war among the phone vendors? Only time will tell. But kudos to HTC for improving one of the primary communication method in a smartphone.
The M8 comes with a 2800mAh battery which is 200mAh higher than M7’s. Don’t be fooled by the battery capacity though, the M8 features Ultra low power sensors and thanks to its excellent software optimizations, the phone just refuses to die easily. The phone easily survives all day, and then some with moderate to heavy usage. I tend to use the camera a lot to take stills and videos, plus play some games occasionally and use Whatsapp, 9GAG and Facebook a lot and it gets me through the day without breaking sweat. Though the M8 is featured to come with an Extreme Power saving made, it is yet be available in the place where I live, but even without that the battery performance is spectacular and I had no issues using the phone all day without the need to charge.
HTC has always taken proud in their design and the ability to bring out a phone with unmatched quality.. From the unibody metal construction to the excellent speakers, the HTC One M8 has something for everyone and never fails to impress as you continue using it. If I say this is one of the best built phones, it is an understatement. The HTC One M8 ticks almost every boxes on its way to be the “One Phone to Rule them All”, but is it actually perfect? Few hiccups in the form of mediocre camera and the tradeoffs like lack of OIS for duo camera pull back the phone few blocks below being the perfect phone. HTC seems to be listening to its customers and I am glad that they have included a microSD slot too this time around.
On the other hand we have the flagships from Samsung (Galaxy S5) and Sony (Xperia Z2) competing against the M8 offering a unique set of features on their own. From what I can see, it is going to be one hell of a year for phone enthusiasts and HTC One M8 has kickstarted the year with a bang. I am already very excited for what HTC might have to offer in their next flagship phone which unfortunately not many manufacturers achieve easily. But for now, HTC One M8 stands as the undisputed champion of Android Smartphones.