When we got the invite to go to the HTC One M8 launch event in NYC on March 25, there wasn’t much left [feature wise] to surprise us with.  But being the tech enthusiasts that we are (and that we know you are), we trekked on over to the event to see what HTC had to say about its brand new smartphone.  Suffice it to say at this point, we’re glad we went to see the HTC One M8 be unveiled and we’re even happier that HTC was kind enough to provide us with a review unit.

So without further ado, here’s our review of the HTC One M8.

Initial Thoughts

Stylish, sleek, premium design.  All things that come to mind when you see and hold the M8 in your hands.  It sports a very nice 5-inch display, has a powerful quad-core processor, a great set of stereo speakers that deliver the best sound out of a smartphone that I’ve ever heard, and it’s all powered by the latest version of Android 4.4.2 (KitKat).

The new HTC One is a tad bigger than the old HTC One.  In fact, it’s nearly a full centimeter taller, a couple of millimeters wider and just about as thick, though that’s tempered by the slope to the sides. You notice the difference mostly in the height.

While I’m mostly an Apple fan and iPhone user, after using the M8 for a while, if I were going to officially make the switch over to Android, this would be the phone for me.

htc-one-m8-vs-iphone5s
HTC One M8 vs iPhone 5s.

Design

As I mentioned before, the M8 sports a premium design.  HTC has really worked some magic here by being able to mold metal into this great enclosure. The phone feels well-built and sturdy, and the review unit I received had the sleek gun metal finish.

htc-one-m8-back
Back of the HTC One M8 (Gun Metal finish).

In terms of size and weight, I felt that at times the phone felt a bit too big in my hand, for example, having trouble reaching my fingers from the bottom of the screen to the top.  It’s also certainly a bit heavier than other smartphones out there.  The M8 weighs in at 160g, whereas the Galaxy S5 comes in at 145g and the iPhone 5S at 112g.  The weight difference can be explained by stylish metal enclosure and isn’t a huge deterrent for me in terms of recommending or liking the phone.

Measuring in at 5.76-inches in height and 2.78-inches in width, the phone is noticeably bigger than my iPhone 5s.  It still fits in my jean pockets, but I don’t think it would fit in my girlfriend’s pockets, or really, or any pockets in a girl’s pair of jeans.  I guess that’s why they carry handbags.  And while I’m all for a bigger iPhone, I’m hesitant to say I’d be a fan of anything bigger than 5-inches.  This certainly seems like a sticking point for me in terms of smartphones.

Hardware & Performance

The HTC One M8 has a Snapdragon 801–a powerful quad-core processor that has been paired with 2GB of RAM.  In my tests, the M8 exceeded my performance expectations.  The phone is lightning fast, seriously, the fastest smartphone I’ve ever used.  It’s snappy.  Apps open in the blink of an eye, menus glide in and out seamlessly, and content loads super quickly.  I think it made my iPhone 5s cry.

 

The M8 is available with two different storage options: 16GB and 32GB.  It also offers an expansion card slot (microSD memory) that can handle up to 128GB in additional storage giving you quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to storing content on your phone.

A 2,600mAh (non-removable) battery provides M8 owners with about a full-day’s worth of battery life.  In my tests, battery life was very good, lasting my entire work day (8AM to around 8 or 9PM) with what I would consider “normal usage.”

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Display

HTC One M8 home screen.
HTC One M8 home screen.

Ah, yes–the 5-inch 1080p HD display.  With a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 441 ppi (pixels per inch), the M8 display is very nice. It’s bright and crystal clear, with rich colors.  I did have some trouble reading on the screen while indoors with my sun glasses on though, something to keep in mind.

At times I felt like the display was slightly too big, for example when trying to move my fingers from one corner of the screen to another.  But then, there were other times when I greatly appreciated the 5-inch display such as when I was watching a movie on Netflix (American Psycho) on the device.  Overall, the bigger display probably has more advantages than not, especially when it comes to viewing content and even in a majority of use cases.

Another issue I experienced, though one could argue this is my clumsiness more than anything, I did find myself accidentally tapping icons on more than one occasion when trying to adjust the way I was holding the phone or when placing the phone down on my desk.

BoomSound

Oh, BoomSound.  How I wanted to love you.  Seriously, BoomSound is a great feature on the M8 when you are listening to any kind of audio using the phones internal speakers.  It really provides a noticeable difference in volume and clarity in the audio.  It just flat out sounds better than any smartphone speakers I’ve ever heard.  That being said, if you plug the M8 into your car or a stereo system, I found that it’s best to turn BoomSound off and let the actual stereo handle the audio.

For those of you with the original HTC One, HTC says total output on the M8 is about 25 percent louder, thanks to a new amplifier and some extra space carved out behind the speakers, which in return, offers a slightly fuller sound.

Software & Interface

The new HTC One M8 comes with Android 4.4.2 KitKat — the latest and greatest from Google.  In addition to running KitKat, the M8 sports a new version of HTC’s custom user interface — Sense 6.0.  Considering how bad Sense UI used to be, 6.0 is a huge improvement, by default, you have three main home screens: Blinkfeed (which we’ll discuss more in a bit) on the left, a main screen which sports weather and a bunch of Google apps, and the third screen (on the right) is empty and ready to be customized by you.

HTC One M8 lock screen.
HTC One M8 lock screen.

Of course you can easily add and remove screens, too. You can either pinch two fingers together to get to the mini view (along with the widgets drawer), or go to Settings > Personalize > Manage home screen pages. From either one you can remove existing panels, or hit the + button to add more, for a maximum of five (plus Blinkfeed).  And, if you prefer, you can always install a third-party launcher.

HTC has added some additional functionality to the lock screen in Sense 6.  As you would expect, you have the usual app shortcuts — by default they are phone, HTC text message app (which I switched to Google Hangouts), HTC’s browser (which I switched to Google Chrome) and the camera — which you can open directly from the lock screen.

But you would expect nothing less, right?  That’s why HTC added this new Motion Launch feature (and it’s pretty snazzy).  There are five unique actions that will wake the phone:

  • Double tap the display to wake the phone.
  • Swipe left to “wake the widget panel,” which means open to the home screen.
  • Swipe right to wake the phone and launch BlinkFeed.
  • Swipe up to simply unlock the phone and return to whatever you were doing when it went to sleep.
  • Swipe down to wake the phone and turn on voice dialing.

Note: these actions only work if the phone is in portrait mode when done.

I like the execution of Sense 6 on Android KitKat, it’s clean and simple.  It works.  Definite thumbs up.

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Blinkfeed

htc-one-m8-blinkfeed
Blinkfeed on the HTC One M8.

Before you remove Blinkfeed from your brand spankin’ new HTC One M8–give it a chance. If you aren’t familiar with Blinkfeed, it brings news and social information to your home screen in a “Flipboard” type layout.  The new version of Blinkfeed meshes nicely with whatever theme you are using on your M8 and it also offers a variety of different options, including a new exploration that’s neat and can be used to find nearby restaurants you may like (all powered by Foursquare).

If you load a bunch of information in Blinkfeed it may become overwhelming, so finding the right mix of content to feed into it may take some curation on your part.  But really, it can offer a great look into your social accounts and what’s going on in the world.

Cameras

The M8 has something called a Duo-camera on the back.  It’s a 4MP UltraPixel camera that sports a depth sensor.  In short, the Duo-camera is decent, there may be times where you find zooming in on something to take a picture will really show the limits of 4MP.  That being said, between the Duo-camera and the software loaded on the M8 you can do some pretty neat things, including making 3D photos (which worked surprisingly well) and focusing on objects after a photo has been taken (a la Lytro).

Photo of my cat Nala taken with the HTC One M8.
Photo of my cat Nala taken with the HTC One M8.

On the front of the phone you have a great selfie camera with a 5MP wide angel lens.  The camera app even has a special Selfie mode.

Other features of the camera app include panoramas, dual capture (front and back camera), and the Zoe camera (a Zoe is a short video clip from which you also can extract still images).

HTC also has its own Zoe app on the way for sharing and collaborating with friends. It’s not expected to be available until this summer, but you will be able to share your Zoes through the cloud and combine them with others for the ultimate Video Highlight.  The app will also allow you to explore others’ Highlights as well.

Dot View Case

htc-one-m8-dot-view

This thing is cool.  With the release of the M8, HTC also released this awesome case called the Dot View.  We were lucky enough to get one in for review along with the phone and it is neat.  You can double tap on the case (like you can on the phone itself) to see the time and weather information.  You can answer phone calls without having to open the case, simply swipe up to answer a call and swipe down on the case to end it. So cool.

But that’s about where my love affair ends with the Dot View case — it looks cool, it is cool because of what it can do, but practically wise it just doesn’t work for me.  The case opens like a book and I found in my tests that it just wasn’t as easy (or comfortable) to type with this case hanging off the side of the phone.

The Dot View case will also run you an additional $50.

Conclusion

The HTC One M8 is currently my favorite Android smartphone.  HTC really outdid themselves with the brand new One, the area where I think they made a sacrifice is in the camera where they traded resolution for features.

One thing is for sure after using the new HTC One, as mostly an iPhone 5s user myself, I find myself now praying Apple does boost the screen size of the next iPhone.  And as I said earlier in the review, if you are an iPhone user looking to make the switch, look no further than the HTC One M8. And even for existing Android users, the M8 seems more appealing than the Samsung Galaxy S5 or other options such as the Nexus 5 (especially since you can get a Google Play version of the M8).

  • Nicely done review. I’ve had my M8 since the `4th and I’m thrilled with it. I thought my M7 was a beautiful phone (and it was) but the M8 is truly a work of art.

    I’ve set the camera with a little more saturation and contrast and my photos are fantastic. Love the fact you can pause video recording, too. Anyone that thinks the S5 is a better phone, seriously needs help. Really


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