HTC

HTC One M8 Review

HTC One M8 Review

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By now you must have seen the HTC One M8 commercials with Gary Oldman going “blah blah blah – Just ask the internet”. Well, it’s time for RFMAG to contribute to the internet grab bag of opinions on HTC’s latest flagship phone. They already set the bar in 2013 winning Best Smartphone of the Year at the Mobile World Congress with the HTC One (“M7”). So what did they add to the M8 to push the bar even further? RFMAG dives into the HTC One M8 with this product review.

First, the obligatory spewing of specs…

External Build Specs:
Dimensions (LxWxT): 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
Weight: 160g
COLORS: Gunmetal Gray, Glacial Silver, Amber Gold
DISPLAY: 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

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The HTC One M8 takes the already beautiful and unique design of its predecessor and takes it just a tad bit farther. Whereas the M7 was 70% metal, the M8 is now @ 90%, making it sleeker and just that more scratch resistant. Metal now wraps the sides which were previously plastic – where nicks were more prevalent. While the back of the phone was made to be more “curvy” for the sake of the M8′s grip-ability, the phone is just a slippery as its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and I’ll take brushed metal over plastic any day, but the curvature didn’t really “improve” the grip for me. The screen has been improved from Corning Gorilla Glass 2 to now Corning Gorilla Glass 3, giving you that added protection – up to 3 times more protection per Corning.

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As the phone is bigger, the screen is now bigger as well, which explains why the “back” and “home” buttons are no longer perma-placements on the phone itself. They only appear when contextually applicable or if the user places their finger in that area. The display of the screen is quite pleasing and colors are vivid. Combine that with the now bigger screen and you have a device that makes video watching comfortable. The indicator led that sits in the top speaker is brighter than the M7’s and is much easier to notice now. The power button still sits on the upper right and the 3.5 mm headphone jack is now at the bottom of the phone.

Internal Build Specs:
CPU SPEED: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801
2.3GHz quad-core processor
RAM: 2 GB DDR3
MEMORY Total storage: 32GB, available capacity varies
Expansion card slot supports microSD™ memory card for up to 128GB additional storage
PLATFORM ANDROID: Android™ 4.4 with HTC Sense™ 6

This phone is a power house, using the latest in Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series processors and backed up by the almost standard 2 GB’s of RAM. With all of this power, the phone boots in 30 seconds, snaps between apps and tasks smoothly and does not skip. I struggled to stress the phone out, running multiple apps at once, and the phone did not falter. Definitely friendly to the power users that forget to close out what they are not using. I’m personally happy with return of the expansion microSD card slot allowing you even more storage possibilities.

More Internals:
GPS: Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS, Digital compass
SENSORS: Gyro sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Barometer
CONNECTIVITY: 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, NFC, Bluetooth® 4.0 with aptX™ enabled Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) Micro-USB 2.0 (5-pin) port with mobile high definition video link (MHL) for USB or HDMI connection (Special cable required for HDMI connection.) Support consumer infrared remote control
BATTERY 2600 mAh Li-polymer

Camera Specs:
Primary Camera: HTC UltraPixel™ camera , BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3”, ƒ/2.0, 28mm lens.
Secondary camera: capture depth information
Front Camera: 5MP, ƒ/2.0, BSI sensor, wide angle lens with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording

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The cameras are one of the big selling points for the HTC One M8, just as it was with the M7. They continued with the back-facing UltraPixel camera which focuses on improving low light pictures. This is now coupled with a BSI sensor to assist with determining the amount of light in the area for better assessment. So far, the darker lighting pictures do look a little better on the HTC One M8 than on the M7. Below is an example of the same picture taken with both phones fully zoomed-in. The M8′s picture (right) came out warmer and less grainy.

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Overall pictures continue to be beautiful with the HTC One M8 as they were with the M7. Low light pictures were simply more solidified. The images even come out well on full zoom.

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The latest addition on the M8 is a secondary camera along the back. No, we are not going back to 3D pictures like with the HTC EVO 3D. Instead, the second camera complements the UltraPixel one by capturing depth information. This allows for the HTC One M8’s latest features such UFocus, Foregrounder, Dimension Plus, and Seasons. Seasons change the hue of the images and add a precipitation effect that takes the depth perceived in the image into account. The more impressive features lay in UFocus, Foregrounder, and Dimension Plus. With UFocus, you can apply focus effects after the image has been taken. Take this picture taken below.

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After the image is taken, you can focus on any part of the image of your choosing. Not bad at all…

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Dimension Plus is also interesting as you can tilt images to move objects between the background and foreground.

Sound Specs:
HTC BoomSound
Dual front-facing stereo speakers with built-in amplifiers

HTC BoomSound was a surprise as music and sound came across a little more clearer than it did with Beats on the M7. Bass is definitely still present but the instrumentals are a tad more crisp now. Perhaps there was more focus on mid-range this time around since sound felt actually felt improved. The front- facing speakers on the HTC One M8 are now noticeably louder, allowing you enjoy multimedia even more directly from the device itself.

Diving into HTC Sense 6

HTC Sense 6, displaying 19 MB of RAM use in the App Info screen, is handled well by the phones raw power. Snappy and lagless, HTC Sense continues to be my favorite Android skin (if you must have one). The basics such as People, Mail, and Messaging haven’t changed much and are still intuitive and easy to use. HTC Sense screen customizations leave a lot of possibilities to the user save the color themes of the basic apps. So far you only have 4 color preset themes to choose from, which is not much of a big deal and can most likely be enhanced with some over-the-air update in the future. Going past that minor nuisance, you can:

•Customize the apps on the “tray” that sits on the bottom, allowing you to set the main 4 apps you can start up straight from the lock screen.
•Disable / Remove HTC Blinkfeed if it’s not your cup of tea
•Add one of nine specific widgets directly to the lock screen
•Enable/Disable the new Motion Launch Gestures

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Having a widget on the lock screen is an interesting touch, I just wished there were more choices from what you can choose from: Two calculator widgets, Calendar, Gmail, Google Now, Google+ posts, Hangouts, Music, and Twitter. The widgets are there just for the quick view, any interaction with them will force you to unlock the phone and take you right to the app. The only exception is the “Music” widget, shown on the right, that gives you control over the music with the controls you see here.  Additional functions added to the HTC One M8 are the new Motion Launch Gestures that behave as follows when the phone display is off…

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Unfortunately I found myself quickly disabling Motion Launch Gestures as they were often activated by accident when grasping for the phone. Even when enabled, you truly don’t experience the speed of access if you have a lock passcode or pattern set. One good example being the swipe-down to voice call. With a lock screen enabled, you’ll start the voice call function, speak out a name, un-lock your phone where you will either get a confirmation for your call to be made or have to confirm the call to be made. It would have been faster to simply turn on the phone, unlock the phone by swiping up the phone icon, enter password, and manually call. It is a shame that you cannot pick and choose the motions to leave enabled as I truly did like the volume-button-to-camera feature when the phone is held in landscape.

HTC Blinkfeed is still present on the far left screen bringing you a selection of social media and news updates all in one place – saving you from going straight into the specific apps for said content. You get to choose what feeds you want have updated on Blinkfeed, although I couldn’t find a setting for determining how often the auto-refresh actually refreshes. You can only determine whether it auto-refreshed on Wifi and Data or Wifi Only. While I find Blinkfeed  great for social media, I didn’t really like it for news-related feeds. Once you add a news feed, it’s all or nothing in terms of the content that appears. That’s fine for social media, but not so much when you want “focused” news feeds. Example: Did you want New York Mets updates on your Blinkfeed? You can have it. You’ll just have to surf through all other MLB related news to find it.

Conclusion

The HTC One (M7) is a solid product that is hard to improve on. While the HTC One M8 uses the new HTC Sense 6, what actually makes the M8 “more” impressive is what made the M7 the big deal in the first place… Its hardware. The build that was 70 percent metal is now 90 percent covered by it. You even get better screen protection thanks to Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The already solid camera has a BSI sensor that improves its low-light image capturing. Sound comes across event clearer and louder, with and without headphones, thanks to improved speakers and HTC Boomsound. Take that better sound with the larger screen and you have an improved overall multimedia experience.

I currently own an HTC One (M7) and felt there was little room for improvement. HTC stuck with improving hardware and it pays off with the HTC One M8. While I personally struggle with the idea of replacing an M7 with an M8, mainly due to my love of the M7, I wouldn’t be hurt if I did. If you want a phone that has actual enhancements and not just software add-ons, the HTC One M8 is far as you can go.